I recently rebuilt my workhorse PC at home after a contractor fried my old one by plugging a sheetrock saw into my UPS. One of the new components I bought was a Hitachi Deskstar 1TB hard drive. The drive comes with a three-year warranty.
Less than six months later, the drive began to fail, and my computer told me to back up and replace the drive immediately.
The first sign that getting Hitachi to replace the drive under warranty was not going to be entirely straightforward was when I entered the drive’s serial number into Hitachi’s “Is My Drive in Warranty?” form and got back “Invalid serial”. Um… no. [I later learned that this was because the serial number returned by SMART has extra characters at the beginning that aren’t in the serial number printed on the drive label, and the web app doesn’t know what to do with those extra characters. Stupid!]
Fortunately, Hitachi provides an actual email address for contacting their technical support department, so I emailed and asked how I was supposed to open an RMA if their Web site was rejecting my serial number. I specifically said in my email that this was the primary drive on my computer and I needed them to send me a replacement drive first, so that I could transfer my data onto it, and then I would send back the defective drive.
They responded quickly, explained how to open an RMA, and ended with, “Please Note : For our RMA procedure we do not have a crosshipment process. We need first to receive the defective drive before we can ship the replacement drive.” Um… no.
I sent back a nasty email in which I explained, again, that this was the primary drive for my computer and that I did not have any other drive large enough to hold all the data on it. I also explained that my computer is the firewall, router, DNS server, DHCP server, and email server for my house. In short, if they didn’t send me a replacement first, I would lose data and no one in my house would be able to use the internet for weeks. My message read in part, “I’ve never heard of a hard-drive company being unwilling to cross-ship a replacement drive. What the f*ck do you expect people to do with their data?” I also threatened to bash them all over the Internet if they didn’t cross-ship me a replacement. Yeah, I was a little pissed.
Note: Seagate and Western Digital both cross-ship replacements for drives under warranty. Seagate does it for free; I believe WD charges a small fee.
A day later, they responded, “Hitachi GST grants an exception to your case for an advanced replacement based on current stock availability and the warranty terms of your drive and purpose for which it is used.” I contacted them to arrange the replacement, and it arrived two days later.
- Fast response times from warranty support department.
- Real email address for contacting support.
- Replacement drive arrived quickly.
- Company relented and cross-shipped replacement when I raised a stink and threatened to badmouth them.
- Drive failed less than six months after purchase.
- Broken RMA web app doesn’t accept valid drive serial number.
- Denied cross-shipped replacement despite the fact that I explicitly asked for it.
- Company cross-shipped replacement only when I raised a stink and threatened to badmouth them.
Cross-shipping warranty replacements when requested is the minimum level of acceptable customer service for a hard-drive vendor. There’s no legitimate reason not to do it, since the customer provides a credit-card number to guarantee that the defective drive will be returned. The fact that Hitachi apparently has a policy of denying requests for cross-shipped replacements unless the customer is pushy about it is completely unacceptable, and I therefore encourage you to avoid Hitachi when buying hard drives.
A couple final notes:
- I’m not the first person to document Hitachi’s policy, so I don’t think what happened to me was an aberration.
- After Hitachi told me they wouldn’t cross-ship a replacement, I called Micro Center (where I bought the drive) and ask them what to do. They told me buy a new drive from Micro Center, copy all of my data onto it, send back the defective Hitachi drive, wait for the replacement, copy all of my data onto the replacement drive, and then return the new drive to Micro Center for a refund. “Doesn’t that screw Micro Center because of Hitachi’s replacement policy?” I asked the Micro Center associate on the phone. “Yeah, I guess so,” she replied, “but there’s not really anything else you can do.” Kudos to Micro Center for trying to do the right thing even when it would cost them some money.