I've dealt with several computer hardware retailers recently. Thought I'd post a roundup of my experiences. First off, what I bought:
- AusPC Market. Bought an external hard drive case and two case fans.
- Umart. Bought a hard drive and a DVD burner (full box kit including software).
- PC Supermarket, now renamed but I don't know what the new name is. Above the Eagle Boys at Milton. Sourced some case fan screws.
- CoolPC. Some case fan screws ('stock up', I think to myself) and case fan vibration damper kit (about $6, added to a co-worker's order).
So how'd it go?
- Sony DVD player installed just fine after I'd spent an hour rearranging my entire case. Not the drive's fault. Kit included a slightly longer IDE cable to make up for the smaller drive size. Detected immediately and software install was a breeze.
- External hard drive driver CD was quite amazingly broken - had a star shaped break in it, must have been hit damn hard before going into the box. So here's hoping I never use the drive on anything other than Windows 2k or XP, which autodetect it. AusPC Market just insisted that they couldn't help, particularly since 'it works anyway'. Not happy on that one, but let it go.
- One case fan had no way to mount it even with standard case screws. Current theory is that it wasn't a case fan at all, rather it was a chip fan that happened to be 80mm. After several emails, AusPC Market agreed to swap it and I posted it back.
- The other case fan didn't come with case screws, only small screws for use as a combo fan attached to a heat sink. I had no screws to mount the damn thing and I had to drive to the Gold Coast that day to install the fan in L's parents' computer. Rang around and PC Supermarket were the only people who said they had some screws available. They quoted 60c each on the phone (with a distinct sound of pulling figures out of the air) but just gave them to me free when I turned up. They're pretty surely used, but who cares? They even had a look at the odd case fan I got from AusPC Market, in case they had mounting sleeves that would work with it.
- Hard drive makes an odd buzzing noise in external case. Report the problem within 7 days and return it to Umart, very very long delays before they say there's nothing wrong with it. They also don't replace automatically even if you do report it within 7 days. They claim to have tested it for 36 hours, I smell bullshit but eventually decide not make an incident out of it - the drive seems fine despite the noise. There is a theory that the newer hard drives with caches don't like external drive boxes so much. Also apparently Seagates aren't so fond of external boxes. Seagate's tech support has not been helpful so far, although they were prompt.
- AusPC Market surprised me... the replacement case fan was $7 cheaper so they offered me a SATA cable ($18) to avoid having a credit sitting around. I don't need a SATA cable, so I asked for a USB extension cable ($15) instead and they were happy to oblige. Only downside was they updated their system asking me about the SATA cable but didn't send me an email. I didn't find the question until I wondered what was going on and logged into their website.
- CoolPC stuff turned up fast and it's cheap. What more do you want? :) Fan vibration damper is great, although the screws it came with were standard case fan screws and not the special ones which go with the little washers in the kit... makes no sense. Plus I now have more case fan screws than I know what to do with.
So the short version... Umart are still difficult about returns, but not as bad as last time. They probably only do an immediate swap if you physically return the item within about two days, and it has smoke coming out of it. Their prices are still the best but I probably won't be buying from them again any time soon - it is just too big a pain in the arse if anything goes wrong. CoolPC and PC Supermarket were great, but I barely bought anything from them. Still, they get full marks. AusPC Market were great, although their tech support staff are just slightly argumentative they do at least aim to get your gear working as a first solution. They score big time for the USB extension cable. Not full marks, but I'll buy from them again.
I dream of a local computer shop with great prices and at least tolerable customer service.