Friday, July 24, 2015

I am Going to Stop Buying Refurbished Electronics

As a cheapskate (thrifty person), I sometimes buy refurbished electronics.  I look for something that was factory refurbished - refurbished by the original manufacturer. The price has to be right, at least 30% off the price of new.  In the past, this worked well with products like ROKU boxes, a Panasonic camera, a Yamaha sound bar.

But No More!!

I recently bought a refurbished Gopro Hero 3+ and an Asus T100 convertible laptop.  My experience is nothing but small problems that make the products only semi-useable.  I am into my second month of corresponding with a very nice customer support person at Asus.  My problems were intermittent disconnections of the keyboard and screen (still there, but now I know how to detect it), intermittent update problems (still there, but it seems to update itself eventually), occasional periods where it will not turn on (still there).  The Gopro wifi does not seem to work and USB connection to a MAC does not work.  I am waiting for action by Gopro, ticket submitted in their wonky system that tells you to login, but then tells you that you cannot submit a trouble ticket because someone else has an account with that email address (me)!  So I thought, why is this happening?

Modern consumer electronics are complex, with considerable electronic hardware and extensive software.  Many vendors contribute to a product, and the final product is usually assembled in China by someone other than the company selling you the product.  Quality control in China is quite poor, so the selling company like HP often spends considerable effort trying to fix this.

When something goes wrong, it can either be a true failure, meaning the product does not work, or it could be intermittent, like the keyboard does not stay mated to the tablet in my case.  These problems cause returns, which are then tested.

Often, there are no faults found, meaning the test did not find anything, but due to the product complexity, it is impossible to test the entire functionality and to test it for an extended period of time.  These no fault found products probably end up being "refurbished", which means being cleaned up, retested, and repackaged, then resold.

The repaired units may have a single fault repaired, like the power supply, but there may be other faults that were not found, like the power supply connector is loose.  These repaired units end up being sold as refurbished products also.

So these refurbished products have a much higher likelihood of intermittent problems or problems with functionality that is not properly tested in the refurbishment process.  The hassle of finding the problems, dealing with customer service, and eventually convincing them to give you a replacement (which is also refurbished) is high compared to the savings.  So no more refurb for me.

Picture credit: Flickr

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