Shipping Charges: Who Foots the Bill?

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - After you buy a new PC, you hope that it--and its components--will work without a hitch. But sometimes a part goes south before you've even tossed away the shipping box. You're entitled to a replacement part from the vendor, but you may have to pay to send the defective unit back to the company you bought it from even if the warranty is still in effect.

After buying a PC from Quantex Corp., Ken Cranford of Colorado Springs recommended the company to his daughter, who then purchased a computer for herself. Her new PC had a defective modem. Quantex sent a replacement, which also turned out to be faulty. The third modem worked, but Cranford's daughter had to pay for shipping the defective modems back to the company. When Cranford bought his Quantex PC, he had had a similar problem, but he didn't have to pay any shipping costs. "If [a vendor] fails to adequately test products before shipping, [it] should be responsible for paying shipping costs both ways," says Cranford.

A Quantex customer service representative confirmed that the company's policy has long been to require customers to pay for shipping, insurance, and other costs when returning a defective system or part. In the past, Quantex sometimes paid for shipping on returned items; however, some customers abused this process by billing unauthorized and unrelated shipments to Quantex's mail-service account number, so the vendor no longer pays to ship product returns under any circumstances.

Quantex's policy is fairly typical in the PC industry (CyberMax and Micron have similar rules), though some vendors are more flexible. Dell, for example, may cover shipping for both the returned item and its replacement, but at its own discretion and only for addresses within the United States. Avoid surprises by checking the vendor's policy on shipping costs before you order.

At Why.com, You Flooz, You Lose: Why.com--which features Web site reviews written by "real people"--recently made an offer to attract new members: Sign up, write two reviews, and get a $10 Flooz gift certificate (redeemable at online stores--see Flooz.com for details), plus a $5 Flooz certificate for each new member you refer. But when payoff time comes around, there's no Flooz fortune to be collected because several thousand new users set up multiple accounts to inflate their net Flooz worth. Why.com's vice president of marketing Cheryl Alpert explains, "our mistake was not having stringent guidelines at the get-go." Why.com is reviewing each account individually to determine its eligibility, but Floozies who've been denied their certificates grumble that it's too late to change the rules now. Low Point for Hi-Val:

Storage device vendor Hi-Val has filed for bankruptcy. IOM Holdings acquired its assets and plans to sell and support its products. Call 714/953-3000 for more info. Number Nine Is 86ed: A veteran graphics board vendor once known for its Beatles-referenced product names--Revolution IV and Imagine 128, among others--has gone out of business. S3 bought some of its assets. No service or support is available, but users can access FAQs and existing drivers from the Web site (www.nine.com).

I bought a refurbished monitor from auction site UBid.com with a 90-day warranty from "vendor." I assumed the manufacturer or UBid covered the warranty. When I got the monitor, it had a defective, discolored screen, so I called UBid. My invoice listed a third party as the warranty provider, but UBid gave me another number for a fourth party, whose terms were unacceptable.

P. Subriar

San Buenaventura, California

On Your Side responds: Nevenka Todorovic, manager of corporate communications for UBid.com, says the company "doesn't always list the name of the warranty [provider] on the Web site. There are instances where it will simply state 'from vendor' without listing the actual vendor's name. Warranties on refurbished products can be from either the manufacturer or a [third-party] vendor." Make sure you understand the terms of the warranty--and who is providing it--before you buy.

Or a great one? E-mail the details to onyourside@pcworld.com. We'll investigate complaints and publish items of the broadest interest. Anne Kandra is a contributing editor for PC World.

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