2012 had a 25% return rate

Friday, January 4th, 2013

I was just discussing with a colleague my return rate for last year. For whatever reason it was high. Crazy high.

I typically buy HP servers and switches and Lenovo desktops and laptops. Typical mid-range stuff for medium sized business. I’m looking at an easy 15-20% infant or near infant (within days) mortality rate.  Items just ship with bad drives or bad boards.  Stuff that’s easily QA’d.  That’s about 20% right there.  Then I have a good 5%  mortality rate within 6-8 months. If it survives 8 months its probably going to survive 3 years.  Just today I had to pull a little netgear 4 port switch because it was locking up. That thing lasted 7 months. Its not worth my time to do a RMA so I just used another one I had laying around.

Last week HP sent me a server with a bad RAID card. Any trivial testing would have determined this.

So what do I do now?

1. Everything has a burn in period, not just servers but laptops and desktops. Catching that near infant mortality rate is really important. So I run whatever equipment for a week 24/7 to catch this.  There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a config and then losing it because that item was on its last legs.  No, I don’t have a backup of the image of the computer I haven’t even finished.

2. All drives are suspect. I’ll run some extra diagnostics hoping to catch something, but frankly its almost impossible to tell if a disk is going to die tomorrow. Sometimes you luck out by seeing a lot of bad blocks suddenly or get some SMART data warnings, but usually you don’t.

3. I buy only Rev As. If that server or desktop model just came out, I’ll pass for a few months. By then there’s either a hardware rev A or a BIOS or some other critical update that didn’t ship when it was new.

4. I’ll ask around before I buy.  Other admins and even my CDW guy will tell me return rates, but returns via the vendor isn’t the same thing as warranty repairs and no one is sharing that information.

I have no idea what’s happening in the manufacturing world, but a 25% return rate is ridiculous. In my personal life, I’m closer to 40%, but that includes returning things I didn’t like for reasons that aren’t necessarily hardware faults, like an a wifi router for its poor range.  But its not all that. I think I’ve returned 1/3rd of the video cards I’ve bought because they’re DOA. I got two bad power supplies in a row recently while building myself a new rig. It ain’t pretty out there, no one seems to care, and the problem only seems to be getting worse.  Hopefully, 2013 will be better for QA and 2012 was an quality anomaly. HP you don’t really hate me, do you?

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