More than a few years ago now, I finally got fed up with trying to figure out what the hell computer manufacturers were actually stuffing in the boxes they were selling and wondering whether something I had overlooked at the time of the initial purchase would become an upgrade path limitation in the far too near future. Sometimes its just hard to tell whether the SuperMegaLux XLT beige box is really going to cut the mustard in the long hall.
Long story short, a gaming buddy of mine and I realized that with all the time we were spending evaluating what was under the hood for the next prospective game rig purchase could be better spent on simply evaluating the components we’d want in a new computer and then just building the damned thing. So we took the plunge and have never looked back.
Building my own rig(s) has suited both my budget and personality. I like to tinker, I tend to be reductionist in thinking, and I’d rather order stuff online than deal with traffic, crowds and salespeople and with the hours I work, its sometimes hard to get to real stores during normal hours. That doesn’t mean I don’t head down to the local Humongous for the latest game release, but inevitably, if I go there looking for hardware, my analysis paralysis kicks in and I just simply can’t get enough information to pull the trigger.
Enter the wonderful world of online retailing. Very early on in my building career I found Newegg.com and continue to find their service just simply rocks. If I want to spend 59 cents on a single zip tie and want to spend $30 to have it fedexed to me the next morning, they can do it. Of course, I’m seldom that capricious, but I do inevitably find myself surfing their deals pages on Wednesdays for some reason which means if I come across something I want for a weekend project, I have to make the move and maybe throw down a bit extra to make sure I hit the weekend project window.
The one downside to this approach is returns, aka the dreaded RMA or Return Material Authorization. Simply put, some kind of authorization number to stick on the widget you send back so the retailer or manufacturer knows your not sending them a thank you gift for their exemplary service but rather requesting a replacement or warranty service. For some reason, I don’t seem to do RMAs.
Being conflict averse and tending not to suffer fools gladly, I usually avoid customer service interactions to the maximum extent possible. I can usually feel my soul and precious minutes of my life being sucked out of my body throughout the transaction. So, in the natural course of building, rebuilding and continually upgrading the computers around the house inevitably I encounter the occasional but dreaded defective widget I’ve ordered.
All progress grinds to a halt and procrastination sets in. I’ll figure out how to RMA that defective widget tomorrow. I just don’t have the stamina today. Its under warranty. I just bought it. I’ll just box it back up, get an RMA and… oh, the RMA. I may have to call someone to get an authorization… and on and on.
I’m horrible about it. I really am. Its pathological. Some sort of defective-retentive disorder I’m sure. Most of the time its totally unjustified too. The vast majority of these returns is clockwork which is what makes vendors like Newegg a joy to work with. Log in, you can find your old order, click RMA, give some info and voila. Now drop it in the mail or parcel post. If Newegg were a deli, you could even send soup back.
Still I manage to create my own fiascos for some reason. The latest is a saga that’s embarrasing to tell. A while ago (quite a while ago now– like 11 months) I bought a new Viewsonic LCD monitor through Newegg. Per usual, it arrived in tact and on time. I plugged in my new beauty and went off to see what I could see. No dead pixels. I must be blessed.
Well, it turns out a few days later, I start noticing a weird effect kicking in from time to time, sort of like all the pixels of a certain color displaying as white. After running through a thorough battery of tests and swapping lots of bits between machines I come to the conclusion that its simply busted. I got a bum one. Oh well, back to my old reliable for the time being.
Ok, at least I still have all the packing, but a monitor box is going to require a special trip to UPS. I’ll do that tomorrow. Well tomorrow turned into about 10 months with my wife asking “I thought you were going to send that back?” “Its complicated” I reply and it is. She looks confused and wisely changes the subject. Every so often I’d plug it back in to see if it had cured itself through the miracle of benign neglect and bed rest. No go. I guess I better just RMA the thing, but its been quite a while.
Oh No. Faithful Newegg can’t help me now out of my prison of neglect. Now I need to RMA through the manufacturer. No easy web form. I have to call someone. Another month passes before I can steel myself to engage with a call center. Finally, I get fed up and call Viewsonic. 5 minutes later I have my damned RMA and complete instructions for the return. The bastards must be lulling me into a false sense of security. It can’t be this easy.
Reinvigorated by my experience, I actually follow through and send the damned thing in this time. About 2 weeks and I’ll finally have the new monitor I thought I bought last year online. A new spring in my step appears, but alas, it was not to last.
Just as I was beginning to think, “hey, I wonder how long ago I sent that monitor back?” it arrived. Amazingly no more than about a week round trip. Nice job Viewsonic. Woot. Finally my new functioning monitor!
Except that after about an hour, the same thing started up again. Erf. RMA 2.0. I just don’t know if I have another one in me. How do I explain this one to them if they didn’t get it right last time? Two weeks pass of hopelessness, inertia and anxiety, then I call.
Just send it back they say, oh, and here, shipping is on us this time. “Just send it back.” Smug bastards. If they only new the torment their mocking words visited upon me. Its got to be another set up designed to crush my will. I’ll play their little game though. I sent the monitor and now I’m anxiously waiting for their next move in this little shadow play.
Of course, the only thing that’s really defective in this whole process is me. How hard can it be? I’ve known people who’ve had no problem sending back a meal they’ve half eaten and gotten a refund. Fortunately, my wife doesn’t mind that I’m defective, but even so, I think I’m still safely outside of the warranty service period.