Monday, May 21, 2012

Western Digital: Let the Buyer Beware

I bought a new Western Digital (WD) hard drive.  The drive's label indicated a date (of manufacture, presumably) of February 29, 2012.  It was supposed to have a five-year warranty.  And perhaps it did.  But when I went to WD's Warranty Check site and entered the drive's serial number, it indicated that the warranty would expire on July 11, 2012.  That would be a warranty of exactly five months, not five years.

I wanted to ask WD whether this was an error in their warranty check page, or whether perhaps the merchants selling such drives were deceived as to the actual duration of the warranty.  Unfortunately, WD offered no way to do so.  I spent 20 minutes screwing around in their website, trying various possibilities. 

For one thing, I had to create an account, which I was willing to do, though it seemed unnecessary.  Also, the Support link at the top of their webpage took me to a Service and Support webpage, where I tried several possibilities.  The Warranty & RMA Services link on that page led to an End User Customer page that, unfortunately, provided no way to make contact other than those appearing on the Service and Support webpage.  Specifically, the Contact WD link at the bottoms of these pages led to the same phone and email support webpages as were available on the Service and Support page.

Between those two, the email option led to a page that promised an opportunity to ask a question if I was just willing to Continue to WD Support Portal.  But that was false; there was no opportunity to ask a question on the resulting Manage Your Account page.  Meanwhile, the phone option led into a voice tree that provided no option for asking an actual question.

This was all very time-consuming and frustrating.  I appreciate that WD can make more money if it can force everyone to find answers to nonstandard questions somewhere else.  The exception I would point out is that WD will make less money if those nonstandard questions, or their handling, have to do with the purchase decision.  Specifically, (a) I expect to see a five-year warranty when I am promised one, and (b) if there is an error or falsification on that point, I expect to be able to find that out before, not after, buying a drive from WD.  Otherwise, at a certain point, I would fear a run-around and a possible nasty surprise.  No consumer wants that.

In my case, I don't have a defective drive.  So the standard RMA procedure is not applicable.  I have a drive that I am trying to sell.  I want to be able to assure my potential buyers that the drive is under warranty.  WD is not giving me that assurance.  Had I been aware of this sort of problem, I would not have bought this drive.  It may be great, and may last five years.  Or it may not.  In the latter case, I want warranty coverage, not a hassle.

I will have to discount my drive by some amount in order to overcome reasonable worries of potential buyers.  So in my case, it was a mistake to buy a Western Digital drive, counting on its resale value.  Two months from now -- by which time WD may have sorted out its warranty portal -- the situation may be different.  I'll consider that possibility if I feel like buying another drive from WD then.