Just Make it Work: A Tale of Returning a Hard Drive to Fry’s Electronics

by Meg on March 28, 2011

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech for non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make It Work! A Tale of Returning a Hard Drive

Even though I don’t pretend to know it all, I do know a fair amount about computers. Definitely enough to hold a conversation with any sort of tech support and communicate the problems going on with whatever piece of technology is giving me issues.  However, it does mean that sometimes even I need to take extra steps to communicate and prove my tech issues.  The tech issue below is over a hard drive I purchased.  I’ve also highlighted some of the mistakes *i* made as well as the fixes.

The background.
About two weeks ago, I bought three hard drives for my new Drobo (a Drobo is a backup device in which you can add multiple hard drives).  Unfortunately, within 10 days of buying the hard drives, I had one fail on me.
At home evaluation aka Isolating & Verifying
Even though the Drobo was telling me this hard drive was bad, I wanted to check BOTH the Drobo and the hard drive to make sure the drive was the problem.  When possible, you always want to try out a device in different computers, ports, or whatever fits the situation.  This helps you isolate the exact issue. (Good Tip #1)
The way the Drobo is setup, is that you can eject drives and put them in other bays.  To verify my issue with the Drobo, I took the “bad drive” and tried putting it in other slots on the Drobo.  Sure enough, I kept getting the flashing red light.  Then, I wanted to make sure the bays were okay.  To do this, I put good hard drives in the bays that were telling me the other drive was bad.  As I had hoped, all the good drives continued to check out as okay.  By verifying what I thought was the issue and isolating it to the drive and not the Drobo, I now knew I needed to take care of the drive.

Preparing to get the drive exchanged.
One of the things i had to consider was whether to go through Fry’s (where I purchased the drive) or go directly through the manufacturer (Seagate).  I briefly looked at Seagate’s exchange process, but since I was within the return window at Fry’s I decided to try Fry’s first.

One of the things preventing me from immediately taking back the hard drive was that I had thrown out the packaging.  I really did not expect a hard drive like that to fail so soon and did not save the packaging as it’s something I usually only do for big ticket items. (Mistake #1)  With this in mind I called Fry’s ahead of time. (Good Tip #2)  I talked with a very nice woman on the phone and I explained that I had a receipt but no packaging.  She told me it wouldn’t be a problem and to just come in.  I told her I would be in the next day and she said no problem.  I did NOT get her name.  (Mistake #2).

First Attempt at Exchange.
Upon arriving at Fry’s Customer Service Desk, I explained the situation, what I had been told on the phone, and handed over the hard drive and receipt.  As expected, the guy helping me out need to involve a manager.  The manager said they wouldn’t be able to take back the hard drive without the box.  They also asked what number I had called (and I told them the store’s location number that was on the receipt).  During this conversation, the employee helping me took the drive away and started to somehow “verify” that the drive was bad.  He came back telling me he had just wiped the drive.  Considering at this point there was a possibility that they were not going to exchange the drive for me (despite being told otherwise on the phone), I was very annoyed that they took the liberty of erasing my drive without asking my permission.

At this point, the drive was handed to a “technician” (who said he did NOT know what a Drobo unit was, despite the fact they sell them at Fry’s).  The technician came back telling me simply the drive could not be read because it was not formatted.  I then explained that one of their employees had just wiped it or done something else to it the drive.

He offered to format it for me, passing me off that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I told him that considering he didn’t even understand what a Drobo was or how it was formatted that I did not want him touching the drive.  At this point, they told me the drive was “working correctly” (even though they could not verify it on a Mac for me) and sent me home.

I was pretty upset.

Collecting Proof
Once I got home, I immediately popped my hard drive back into my Drobo unit.  Sure enough, the Drobo was still flashing that the hard drive was bad.  I felt slightly vindicated at this point that I wasn’t suffering from possible user error.  I told Fry’s that if it didn’t work when I went home, I would be returning with video.

In the past, I’ve taken both screen shots and shot video with my phone (Good Tip #3).  Video of the situation was the best solution for this particulate case.  For my video I made sure to include the following: A shot of the serial number on the hard drive, putting the drive into the Drobo unit, showing that the unit made a flashing red light, holding up the Drobo guide to what the flashing lights meant, and then showing that the drive didn’t read in another slot.
I also then made another video showing good drives being put in the other bays to prove that the Drobo was functioning correctly.

Here is Video #1

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Here is Video #2

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Second Attempt at Exchange
For my second attempt, I called again and explained my situation to a manager.  Again, over the phone, I was told it would not be a problem.  This time, I got her name (Good Tip #4) and wrote it down.
When I got to the store, I immediately went and found her and walked with her to the return desk.  I explained my situation again to the return clerk.  The return clerk said she would need to verify that the drive was bad.  This is where I jumped in and said that I had video proof and I showed her the video.  I explained how according to their hard drive review process the drive was fine – however, I had proof the drive was NOT okay.
After reviewing the video, the return clerk was granted the approval to exchange out the hard drive for me. Success!
-Isolate and verify the issue you are having with your technology by recreating the scenario or testing it on other devices.
-Collect Proof – be it with video or screen captures.
-Be proactive in reaching out to the company for help.  Call ahead and get a name of someone who is willing to help you.
-Be nice and as calm as possible.

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