The beauty of the warranty

Over the past couple of weeks I have had the fortune of testing the warranty services of three different companies.

First, my 200GB SATA Seagate hard drive began developing bad sectors. Knowing full well that this is always a preliminary stage of drive failure (the variable is how preliminary-it could be hours or months) I hastened to move all of my files onto other avaliable hard drives, of which only a small number of mp3s and (hopefully) unimportant photos were unrecoverable. This first occured during my last week in Taiwan, the last time at which I wanted to be bothered with such irritating tripe, so although the file backup was unavoidable, I waited to call Seagate until a couple of days after I returned home to Jersey.

Since the hard drive is still installed in my computer I couldn’t just look at the drive’s label to see what the serial number was. I had to go to the Seagate website, download Seagate Tools in the form of a bootable .ISO file, burn it to a CD which I then booted off of to run the software and have it check the serial number. I then booted back into Windows, plugged that number into the Seagate warranty check form, and found out that the warranty was still good. I already knew that, since it had a 5 year warranty and wasn’t even two years old, it was still covered, but it seemed expedient to check before getting on the phone.

Calling Seagate was surprisingly easy. I dailed them up and for the first time calling a corporation in recent memory was greeted not by an endless menu of bad computerized voices and touch tones, or even a long ring, but the sound of a real human voice! I explained that I had suffered drive failure, supplied the requested serial number – and that was it. They were going to RMA me a replacement. I was given the option of either sending them the problematic drive first and then waiting for them to ship me a replacement, or paying a fee of about $20 for them to ship the replacement immediately, and then return the old unit at my leisure using the same box and the included pre-paid UPS shipping label. I would have a full 30 days to return it before I would be charged the purchase price.

With my uncertain schedule, the latter option seemed far better, and I started to get out my credit card. The customer service agent stopped me. They were out of stock at the moment, but should have new ones in 24-48 hours, at which point they would send me one. Because of this “delay,” which was already sounding like faster service than I had expected in the first place, they wouldn’t even charge me the fee for advance replacement! Even stranger, he only asked for the name and expiration date of my card-they would not need my full billing information in case I never returned the original drive. The drive came a few days later.

Second, I’ve been a heavy and loyal Amazon customer for years now, and incidents like this one last week just reinforce why. I had ordered a couple of items from Amazon, among them the paperback edition of Chris Ware’s graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

I’d been meaning to check it out for a while[sample review] and I had some other books to get, so I just tossed it into the order. As is always the case with Amazon, despite choosing the free shipping option, it was still here pretty quickly. And the book was great. At least, the art, design, story and so on were great. The book itself, that is the physical object consisting of sheets of paper glued together on one edge, sucked. As soon as I opened the cover, the aforementioned glue failed and pages started flopping out all over the place. I read it anyway, carefully and in one place, with the book resting on a table so as not to scatter the pages, myself scrunched over it like I was studying in a library and not reading a comic book in my own living room. I emailed a complaint to Amazon customer service, and they responded promptly by both overnighting me a replacement AND refunding my original purchase cost!

Last, my Logitech® MX™1000 Laser Cordless Mouse.

I first bought this mouse almost as soon as it came out and it’s served me well ever since. Until, that is, this week, when it started behaving as erratically as an old ball-mouse clocked with years of crusty black dirt. And that’s in addition to the fact that the middle button, which had gradually gotten somewhat unresponsive, suddenly stopped responding to any force short of that which felt like I may be spraining my finger. By now we all know the drill. I called Logitech, read them the serial numbers off the back of the mouse, and they agreed to send me a new one. The twist? They didn’t even expect me to return the old one!

Lessons learned?

First of all, while a generous warranty may seem like a drain on a company’s coffers-money spent on replacing or repairing failed goods that could pad the profits margins-it is in fact money very well spent. I can say without a doubt that having recieved hassle free and prompt replacements for the problematic items, I am now far more likely, nay committed, to patronizing these same companies in the future. In the case of Amazon, who did not merely replace the defective book but also refunded the money from my original purchase, the affection is doubled. While with the replacement of my Logitech mouse I have no particular reason to buy anything else from the company in the near future, the experience of their warranty service only make it more likely that they will be my provider of choice next time.

And as for Seagate? Shortly after having had them replace my 200GB SATA drive, I needed to buy two brand new large hard drives. I ended up going with a pair of Seagate 400GB EIDE drives. They don’t offer a 5-year warranty just to please customers when their stuff breaks, they do it because they know that their products are statistically unlikely to fail within 5 years in the first place, so the gamble is worth it for them. In fact, when I first bought the original 200GB drive that failed, the 5 year warranty was actually a contributing factor in my decision to go with Seagate. It worked out well for both parties-I got a new drive when the original failed, and Seagate got (and will continue to get) a good amount of repeat business.

And the other lesson? Well, Seagate is the only one of the three companies that actually wanted me to return the defective item, and even they were willing to ship me a replacement unit in advance, free of charge, and without even taking down my full credit card information. I had asked the Logitech representative on the phone whether I would be sending the defective mouse or they would be sending the replacement first, and he dismissively told me to just keep it. So if you already have warrantied item from any company, the odds that you can report it broken and get a second one for free are surprisingly good. I’m not recommending the behaviour, but I am rather surprised that they don’t really demand any kind of proof.