In the past month, I personally experienced two instances where used merchandise was sold as new without disclosure. The first time, it was with a brand new Dell Vostro desktop where the hard drive turned out to have been already used for 15,000+ hours! The second time, A-Power.com sold us a used hard drive telling us it was a new unit.
How did I know that these computer retailers sold used hard drives as new? Easy. I used a tool called Seatools by Seagate (a hard drive manufacturer) to read the power-on hours from both hard drives. Most hard drives, when used, will log the number of hours that it has been powered on. This information just requires the right tool to be retrieved.
Dell Sells Used Product as New
The brand new Dell Vostro destop with a hard drive that have been powered on for 15,000+ was a big shocker; 15,000 hours is equivalent to 625 days! After speaking with Dell Canada’s business tech support staff (whom by the way are always very courteous and helpful and were most sympathetic this time), we were directed to Dell’s normal customer care team. Even though we received a used product when we purchased a new one, the first response was that the purchase was more than 30-days old and nothing could be done. Note, the purchase was only 10-days past that mark. To make a long story short, we were finally transferred to a Canadian customer care representative and now have a brand new replacement hard drive in the Vostro machine.
A-Power.com Sells Used Product As New
Not long after the Dell incident, history quickly repeated itself. Being weary of getting a used hard drive again, a call was placed to confirm with a sales rep from A-Power.com that we would receive a new hard drive and not a refurbished one. We received confirmation and purchased the hard drive.
The red flag went up right from the get go. Normally, when you install a new hard drive into a computer, it will not boot up and notify you with a message stating that it cannot find a bootable drive or something to that effect. With the supposedly new A-Power.com purchased drive, it returned a blue screen of death upon boot up instead.
The second red flag came when trying to install Windows XP. Normally when you install XP on a clean drive, it will ask you where you want to install the OS. This time, the installation process found another version of Windows already installed and warned that it might cause problems to install two operating systems on one partition.
Given that A-Power.com has been in business locally since 1999 and that their sales rep had assured us that they only sell new merchandise, we gave them the benefit of the doubt that both the above flags were simply anomalies and probably nothing to worry about.
After Windows was successfully installed, we ran Seatools on the supposedly new hard drive and found that it’s power-on hours show that this was indeed a used hard drive. Not again – two separate instances from two separate computer retailers!
Check Your SMART Info
Most people would never consider or even know how to check power-on hours on their newly purchased computer or hard drive. Because of shady business practices, the customer would have spent hard earned dollars on used merchandise thinking that they had purchase a brand new product. Here is how you can protect yourself.
The power-on hours and even the temperature of your hard drive is stored in the SMART information section (available on most computer hard drives). As I mentioned, Seatools can retrieve and show you this type of information. Another popular program called SpeedFan can also retrieve SMART info as well. For those who just purchased a new computer or hard drive, be sure to check your SMART info!
When is it OK for Computer Retailers To Cheat Customers?
If this sort of sneaky behaviour occurs from the local computer store to an industry leader like Dell, imagine what could be happening at every level in between? To say that I am irritated is an understatement. With large technology retailers like Circuit City and The Source filing for bankruptcy recently, it shows that consumers are not spending in this sector during the financial crisis. But does an economic down turn give computer retailers the go-ahead to cheat their customers? Imagine if pharmaceutical companies decided one day that in order to get through tough economic times, they would sell returned or even expired medications? So when was it OK for computer retailers to start cheating their customers?