Black November – Good Ol’ Newegg :-)

Interesting commercial… and promo too.  🙂

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A Good Hard Look At The Newegg Linux RMA Fiasco…

I’ve been at wit’s end with a lot of things in the past week and a half, but sadly no thanks to this little situation Newegg’s now one of them.  :-\  This is really a bad thing because November 1st is the 10 year anniversary of when I placed my first ever order with them, so to have all this stuff coming up right before this big milestone is really a humongous slap in the face.  =(

Earlier this week, the “Take It From A Geek” people sold a “geek” a laptop, and like many geeks out there, said geek put Linux on it.  Apparently, that rendered the laptop unreturnable according to Newegg’s policies, except at the time this happened, had one taken a look at Newegg’s return policies, they’d see that said policies mentioned absolutely nothing about a laptop that had its OS changed.

Here’s the Consumerist articles thusfar:

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/newegg-installing-linux-on-your-computer-is-basically-the-same-as-breaking-it.html

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/newegg-no-well-totally-take-returns-after-you-install-linux.html

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/so-does-installing-a-new-os-violate-newegg-return-policy-or-not.html

Apparently the latest update as of this blog entry is that Newegg made an exception because of what happened, but it’ll just be an exception, and I checked the return policies for computers before typing this, and they still say nothing about installing Linux on a laptop.  With these things in mind though, I decided to do some thinking of my own on this and chime in on the situation.

If I were Newegg, I would update my policies, and set a new policy that if the user changed the OS on a computer, they’d need to restore the original OS before returning a laptop in order to be able to return it.  Basically, Newegg is all about “geeks” according to all their marketing stuff these days, but it’s fully understandable that geeks might want to mess around with Linux from time to time (the running joke I keep hearing is, “I even put Linux on my wristwatch!”  :-D), but if they have the geek skills to mess with Linux in the first place, they should be more than capable of reimaging to the original OS before sending a computer back.  Even if the computer doesn’t come with a restore CD like most machines these days I’d still say use whatever the built-in utility is to back everything up in case the machine needed to go back.

It’s fully understandable that Newegg would want returned computers to have their original OS.  Newegg of course has B-stock or refurb sales from time to time and it’s good that they keep their unopened stock and returned/opened stock separate.  Some places out there don’t, so it’s good that Newegg is on the right side of the ethical divide here and not one of those cheesy places where buying something “new” runs a sizable risk of the customer getting someone else’s return at a new price.  Therefore it’s quite understandable that for testing purposes when machines come back or to be assured that the device could be sold at a B-stock sale that the original OS is running on the machine, including the original license key, etc.

If the customer put Linux on a machine, what’s stopping them from taking it off?  Linux is synonymous with geek in terms of OS installations, but if the original OS can be reinstalled before returning a computer, why not?  If the hard drive seizes up and the machine completely won’t boot then that’s a completely different story, but if there’s any way to reinstall the original OS, someone who can put Linux on a machine should certainly be able to handle a Windows reimage job.  🙂

Newegg should, however, update their policies to cover OS changes and allow for restored machines to be returned after being restored to the original OS.  The biggest source of the drama here is the computer return policy that only covers hardware.  At the same time, software should be treated as software, able to be removed and restored if need be, kind of like reinstalling an OS after the wrong part of it goes corrupt, etc.  Once that is updated, if the customer had a chance to restore an OS before returning a PC and didn’t then it comes down to simple laziness on the customer’s part and Newegg would be a lot more justified in refusing a return like that once they put everything in writing.

Hopefully Newegg can get past all of this and return to the service-oriented eTailing that has made them what they are.  These kinds of incidents though sometimes get me wondering whether Newegg has started to drink too much of the big company bureaucracy Kool Aid or not.  :-\

Newegg Picks Up The Ball… QUICKLY!!! :-)

Okay, so the title doesn’t make very much sense, but Newegg apparently has recognized that yes geeks will sometimes put Linux on computers they buy.  😛  Now they’ve landed on The Consumerist for better reasons than what happened yesterday.  🙂

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/newegg-no-well-totally-take-returns-after-you-install-linux.html

Wish I could work for these folks.  I’ve been a fan of this company for years and they’ve been a big inspiration in how obsessed I am with customer service.  It’d be cool if I could “give back” at some point.  Not so sure about living out in California or New Jersey though…  :-\

Eh well.  Kudos to Newegg yet again.  🙂

Newegg Drops The Ball … HARD >:-(

With the kind of company Newegg has been over the years, I should *NEVER* see them in The Consumerist, and if I do, definitely not for something like this.  😛

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/newegg-installing-linux-on-your-computer-is-basically-the-same-as-breaking-it.html

Ouch.  Are you kidding me?  The “take it from a geek” folks can’t handle selling a computer to a …. *drumroll* …. geek  *cymbal* who then puts Linux on their computer?  Who exactly do they think their customer base consists of?  😛  Wonder if they’d process the RMA if the customer put Windows back on the machine and tried sending it back.

The worst part is the lack of language in the Returns policy to cover this kind of stuff.  Ouch.  That brings the lawyers a-runnin’ from far and wide.  😛

I hope The Consumerist follows up on this story.  😛

Dear Radio Shack and Best Buy – If Folks Like You They Will Come…

Well now.  I’ve managed to combine consumer electronics brick and mortar dinostores and a Field Of Dreams reference.  What could I possibly be up to…..  🙂

I’ve recently been following the woes of Best Buy in the news, but now Radio Shack apparently is in trouble too:

NASDAQ – Can Dinosaur Radioshack Evolve?

Radio Shack?  A dinosaur?  Since when?  If I recall one of Best Buy’s proposed early solutions to their woes that I heard about earlier was to try some smaller store formats to reduce overhead, a.k.a. try being like Radio Shack.  I’m guessing that didn’t work out?  😛

Quite frankly, what these two companies have in common as far as I’m concerned is bluh service.  I don’t know what this NASDAQ article’s talking about with Radio Shack supposedly having “impeccable customer service.”  If they’re really that good I have yet to see any of it around here.  Same with Best Buy.

For example, I’ve always been able to count on Best Buy over the years for miserable service, and things haven’t gotten any better over the years.  They were responsible for selling me the first and worst computer I’ve ever owned that drove me to get into PC hardware and build my first homebrew machine halfway through college when the PC they sold me kicked the bucket then they blew me off when I tried to invoke the service plan we bought for it.  Several years later, my Dad wound up in the same boat.  I haven’t been in one of their stores in years and am in no rush to ever return of course.

Radio Shack, on the other hand, has at least tried to provide decent service once in a blue moon, but for the most part I can usually count on Radio Shack to be quite consistent with things such as taking cheap parts and cranking up the price on them, being out of stock on something I’m looking for, or just plain not having very good stuff in stock to begin with.  During the “You’ve Got Questions – We’ve Got Answers” days I jokingly went around saying, “You’ve Got Projects – We’ve Got Stockouts” because that’s usually how it went with them.  I’d need something and oopsie-doopsie, the local Shack didn’t have it.  😛  Not a good thing when I was working as an in-house tech guy in some local warehouses at the time and was picking up some warehousing knowledge on the side, such as the idea of “stockout” being a swear word to logistics and supply chain folks.  😉

Radio Shack also has the dubious honor of having sold me the worst keyboard I’ve ever had.  Back in the mid-1990s I had picked up an interest in playing keyboards so my folks got me a Radio Shack Concertmate 575 with reduced-size keys in case that turned out to be a phase I went through.  It wasn’t, so they got me a Concertmate 1100 with normal-size keys for Christmas that year, and by the following Christmas, we had to replace the whole thing because keys kept snapping under normal use.  My folks got me a Casio WK-1250 for Christmas that year, and I still have it to this day.  🙂  Here’s a YouTube video I did about it.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPiX3FSepE8

Nowadays, it’s kind of hit and miss with them.  I usually go there as my “nerd convenience store” of course for geek supplies, but last time I tried going there for electronics stuff I walked in and the store clerk was being hassled by some rude customer who couldn’t get her smartphone working properly.  Yeah sure the customer was annoying and by the time I went to check out the clerk had to step away from her for a bit to ring everything up, but the clerk gave me a bad attitude even though I wasn’t the one being snotty.  =(  Not too good to take out their frustration on other customers.

All this is beside the point though.  What’s missing from these two companies is decent service and a desire to treat their customers like something other than mindless sheep.  I know a lot of B&Ms like to point at eTailers as a perennial scapegoat for not doing well, but is price really everything, or does service matter?  The worst service I’ve received over the past few years in almost all cases has had one thing in common – brick and mortar stores.  Sure there’s bad service online too, but for the most part it’s offline stores where I run into the most service shenanigans.  Gee.  You think that could possibly be influencing where I want to buy things from?  😉

These two companies shouldn’t disappear – especially Radio Shack, but what they need to do is focus on getting local customers to actually like them again.  Sure some people buy things exclusively based on sticker price, but service still counts for something these days.  That’s why I buy electronics from various eTailers.  I used to play the price games with lists like Pricewatch.com back in the day, but after barely keeping myself from getting swindled on a sound card purchase by an unethical eTailer in Ohio who now thankfully appears to have gone out of business, I started finding good eTailers and sticking to them.  I’d do that with good B&Ms too if there were any around here, but I find most of them around here to leave me feeling neutral/average/ho-hum in terms of service.  It’s the Neweggs, B&H Photo Videos, Monoprices, etc., whose service makes me enthusiastically want to go back even if they’re not the cheapest pricewise.

Hmmm….  Getting people to like you.  Where does that fit in amidst the various quantifiable business metrics out there these days….?  :-\

eTailers Who Don’t Care About Shipping Should Close Up Shop

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely fed up with the sorry state of shipping options in the eTailing world these days.  Apparently eTailing has gotten mainsteam enough now that eTailers can become dysfunctional just like other types of businesses and forget the simple idea that they built their businesses and made their money that got them to where they are today by sending stuff to people!!!

Take Newegg for example.  I’ve been a Newegger since 2002 and during their initial first few years of growth they were my inspiration for how to do business. Newegg and FedEx were a match made in Heaven, and packages would arrive on time or even early in great shape like they never left the warehouse, as opposed to UPS, very much known as the United Package Smashers at the time since I could always count on UPS packages looking like someone played soccer with them on the way to their destination.  Eventually, Newegg became primarily a UPS eTailer because of dollars and cents, and though UPS shipping was annoying at the beginning, in more recent years it has become rather tolerable.  My fanatical emphasis on customer service comes from those Newegg glory days when it wasn’t uncommon for Newegg stuff to arrive early.  😛

The real trouble that I’ve been having with Newegg though began a few years ago when they expanded their operations.  Formerly a West Coast company with everything shipping out of California – Newegg came to the East Coast and opened up a fulfillment center in Newark, New Jersey, and the Jersey operations have been the source of all the problems I’ve had with Newegg since.  Whereas Newegg shipments traditionally arrived in bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts packed very well on the top and bottom, New Jersey packages often arrived with paper bag stuffing, but most importantly, ALL ON ONE SIDE!!!  Often, sensitive components are tossed in the bottom of the box and the stuffing is put on top so the product essentially protects the packaging instead of the other way around.  The first ever computer that I built that didn’t work on the first try was my 2010 revision of Tuxedo, built with Newegg parts, improperly shipped from Newark, NJ with the motherboard box and processor on the bottom and the stuffing on top.  The mobo and processor wound up getting RMAed, but the replacement didn’t work all that much better.  Even today, sometimes my graphics card slot glitches out and the driver has to restart after freezing for 45 seconds.  Not impressed.  My next computer upgrade is probably coming from somewhere else.

Then recently I started at a job with 8:00-4:30 hours Monday-Friday.  At the same time, the USPS cut back on hours because the people who determine what the USPS does don’t want to deal with the fact that they’re slowly strangling the Postal Service to death with rules like needing to pre-fund lots of employee healthcare, etc. at a time when the rest of America is tightening its belts.  To add insult to injury, the people who cut the hours of my local Post Office gave day shift workers the middle finger and instead of giving the office workers a longer lunch, they made it so the office closes earlier.  Oh that’s nice.  I work 8:00-4:30 Monday through Friday, and the Post Office is open 8:00-4:30 Monday through Friday, so unless I sacrifice my lunch break I have ZERO chance of picking up a package at the Post Office unless I set the alarm to get up on Saturday morning.  If they eliminate Saturday delivery, that’s it.  >:-(

This Postal Service mini-rant serves as a good segue to the next major problem I’m encountering with eTailers – nontransparent shipping options!!!  For crying out loud, when I order from a site I want to know who the carrier is so I can plan for how I’m going to receive the package, and the name needs to mean what it is!  Recently, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc., have started offering crossover shipping options where items ship UPS/FedEx/DHL, etc. but get dropped off at a local post office and then it’s treated like a USPS shipment so even if a site tells me UPS/Fedex/etc. a package can still end up being affected by the USPS nonsense I’m currently dealing with!

Amazon.com is the worst when it comes to this stuff.  Amazon has very much become big enough these days to share some things in common with “big and dumb big box chains.”  Slow shipping, bureaucracy, customer service issues, etc., and most importantly, unclear shipping options.  I want to know who the carrier is when I order “Standard Shipping” or “Saver Shipping.”  I’ve had times where I’ve had something go to a Post Office when it should’ve come to me directly and vice versa that has gotten packages returned to sender because of this nonsense, and now with private carrier crossover services simply getting what I order is becoming a chore these days!  Not to mention I already knew Amazon to be not the fastest shipper in the world and have canceled orders from them to place them with other eTailers because their shipping would be too slow.

My latest, and last example for this entry in terms of unclear shipping is ConstructionGear.com, a subsidiary of Online Stores Inc. from the looks of it.  I tried ordering some work supplies for my new job from there and once again got burned by crossover shipping.  It was supposed to go UPS but wound up at my local post office.  Woohoo, so I had to wait until the Saturday after ordering instead of just having a box dropped off on my porch.  Then the work shoes I ordered were the wrong width so I had to return them, and when I inquired about the order I basically got a boilerplate response from a rather cold customer service rep so after this order I probably won’t be back.  I’ve gotten much better attitudes from CS reps before at other eTailers, so why should I put up with anyone who doesn’t give a darn?  😛

Still though, what is it with eTailers these days?  Is making money by sending stuff to people in a timely and orderly fashion so taboo that eTailers now have to start racing to the bottom to catch up with brick and mortar dinostores?  :-\

Ye Olde Pricing Rollercoasters

I’m guessing February TV Sweeps is going to make for some really juicy headlines this month.  I mentioned the three back-to-back investigative journalism stories on local Connecticut TV stations, but The Consumerist caught one from out in California.

The Consumerist – Is Kohl’s Marking Up Prices Before It Puts Items On Sale?

It’s funny, or maybe it’s not, because I used to have a joke as a kid that went, “Buy One Get One Free Sale Going On!  (Prices Doubled).”  Quite frankly, I don’t buy the official Kohl’s explanation of the rising cost of cotton being the reason why some of the inventory shown in the video was marked up.  I think that’s just maximizing profits as usual if you have something you buy for price A but doesn’t sell then the price goes up so you reticket it to sell for Price B even though you got it for Price A some time ago.  😛

I know full well that Kohl’s is not the only retailer who does things like this.  This kind of behavior assuming it’s going on in the first place is a symptom but not the problem.  Once again, the Internet is the big wildcard here.  Sales that aren’t really sales may have worked in the days before people could hop on Google to see if a sale price was worth it, but not anymore, especially when smart shopper smartphone apps are bridging the gap between the two setups bringing some of eTailing’s accountability to the brick and mortar world.  eTailers could never get away with this kind of stuff since with today’s tabbed browsers and search engines in the address bar all someone needs to do is flip through index tabs to see if a sale was really a sale, and it’s good to see mobile technology bringing this to the B&M stores as well.

Whether brick and mortar or anything else, one thing these companies in these older business models need to accept is that the “good old days” are over and everyone has to deal with change.  The question is, how will these organizations adapt?