Where the story goes to suck is what they did once they said it was hosed, and all that was left to do was to return it. We couldn't provide the original sales slip? Well, ok - give us the serial number instead and we'll track it and give you a return job number. Not having a lot of time to dink around with misunderstandings, I did my usual and repeated all the instructions back to him, got a thumbs up, and went off to get the SN.
When I called back with the SN, the story started to change. Oh sure, no problem, no problem at all. But you have to talk to Arnie first, since you don't have the paperwork, and HE'LL give you the job number. No, we don't need your SN, you'll tell that to Arnie. "Who the heck is this Arnie guy?" I ask. "Oh, he's like our uber tech support person who handles all the more difficult stuff." Huh? We just established definitively what was wrong... what is Mr. Uber-Tech-Support-Guy going to be able to do that you can't? If he's just your supervisor and you have to get clearance to do a warranty return, why are you insisting that I call him rather than you getting the okay and calling me back?
Of course, Arnie was not in the building. Arnie is away a lot, I'm told. Hmmm...
Several days of calling later, I'm told that it's easiest to get a hold of Arnie through email. They give it to me. I email him with the entire story, including the testing we've done and my conversations with the tech support people. Nothing. Not a peep. No phone call (I asked for a call and gave the best times to call and my phone number) and not even an email for several days.
I call them back again, explain that I'm getting a little irritated that Arnie won't return a simple email, much less the calls, and ask to speak either to him or to someone else in the company who can deal with my warranty return today. Suddenly, I get "Arnie? Someone told you to talk to Arnie?" "Why, yes. And they gave me his email, which I also used - several days ago without any result. So who can you connect me to?" There's more pause, then a slow, suspicious "What email address did they give you?" I told them (I have no idea why I'm being so nice as to not put it here for the world to see, but it's not exactly hard to guess it either). Apparently, it checked out.
That's when the story changed entirely. No, this tech support guy could take care of it for me now. No, the SN is a non-issue. It can't help them find out where a drive came from. Why, many drive cases get opened and cheap drives get substituted into the case by less than scrupulous people, dontcha know. They couldn't possibly trust information based on the SN. Besides, a donor bought it, so it's the donor's drive and we're a 3rd party so they don't really have to honor the warranty. Of course, we can send it back to them - here's a job number - and they'll open it up and determine whether it's really all there and correct and under warranty, but then they might determine that they have to charge us for repairing/replacing this brand-new-out-of-a-sealed-box drive if they don't think it's all hunky dory. See they need to check the SN on the drive INSIDE the case with the different SN, and we can't open it and give him the number or we'll void the warranty...
BS, said I. Okay, I was more polite than that, but he obviously got the point. This is a brand new drive, and like hell I'm shipping it back to you so that you can tell me that this brand new drive has been mysteriously been tampered with so we're just going to have to pay half its retail price or some such for what should be a warranty repair. Besides, why should I take what you're saying as gospel when I've talked to at least 2 people (maybe one of them even was YOU) and was told something entirely different on several occasions as we played the "Where's Arnie" game? Plus, it was purchased FOR the non-profit. Someone else paid for it, but they never had anything more to do with the drive than that. It went straight to us in the original, sealed box. Or are you going to tell every customer of yours that you might not honor the warranty because you expect they or someone else has tampered with it? Bitch, please!
"No, no," says he. "Our policy has ALWAYS been that we need the original receipt, or at least the name/zip of the purchaser if it's a registered product. We've NEVER been able to look up an item by SN. Besides, we don't have to honor the warranty since you aren't the original owner, though we're happy to look at it if you send it in..."
This is where I finally got really hot under the collar. I've been told something entirely different multiple times over the past week. Plus, for those of you who don't know the non-profit world, you DO NOT go bugging your coolest donors for their receipts, much less get them embroiled in a stupid dispute with a company trying to welch on a warranty. The only thing they should ever hear is "Thank you, you're so cool, check out this free copy of [whatever cool project] that we used your [donated item] to create." At least, that's what you say to them if you ever might want cool stuff in the future.
Bottom line - he kept insisting on giving me the job number, and I kept telling him no. I was not willing to send this drive without confirmation that it is an item under warranty that will be fixed under warranty. I did agree to disclose the name of the donor/purchaser (not a certainty, since it might have been under a company name rather than an individual's), but I also knew that they had NOT registered the drive because they'd sent the registration card to us so that the non-profit would be the registered owner for warranty purposes. Of course, the boss had never sent that in.
I got hung up on because I asked him to put himself in my shoes. If he'd been told something entirely different for a week, by multiple people, and now someone else tells him they may charge many hundreds of dollars and may decide not to honor a warranty at all, why would he believe that later story rather than smelling a rat the size of jupiter? Especially since it now seems imperative that I NOT talk to this Arnie person, and he's trying to "help me" and is the "only one" that can do it when others said nobody but Arnie could?
Post-mortem on the story... I got the exact spelling of the donor's name, and I did call them up discreetly to see where the drive was bought. This turned into a long conversation that fortunately did NOT torque off the cool donor. The drive came from MCE's own online store. Apparently the donor also thought that MCE sucked because after their payment was received, they couldn't seem to ship the danged drive. It took call after call over a period of weeks to get them to say anything other than that the drive was "shipping." When the donor finally kicked it up a notch, as I had, the drive mysteriously wound up on the delivery truck that afternoon, though they'd said it had already "shipped" before then. The cool donor wanted to help in any rumble that might ensue.
I did talk to my "buddy" who hung up on me, and gave him the bad news. It's hard to weasel out when it's your own store that sold the item, and you can give the buyer's exact name. What I didn't tell him was that I had the email confirmation sitting, forwarded, in my Inbox. I really wanted to see if they were going to try to weasel some more. Grudgingly, it was looked up (with more noise about needing more info... a zip code, phone number... NOT.) Grudgingly, I was told that it is truly under warranty.
I also decided to see if I could work backward on Google to find out who Arnie is. For the record, I have every reason to believe that it's the company president, Arnie Ramirez. Gee, thanks - blow me off by telling met that I can only speak to the unreachable president of the company. Considering that the story changed immediately AFTER I had sent my email to him, I think I wouldn't be too far off base that he saw the email and told the tech support staff that they were to avoid spending the company's money on a warranty repair.
Never again. There are lots of other good products. This is hardly the first time I've had to deal with a warranty repair on a donated item, or one that someone else (officer, employee, whoever) personally bought for a company's use. I've never had this kind of BS from another vendor.