The other reason
Is bloody stupid sales personnel who often know even less about the products they're selling than the folk trying to buy them.
People often return gadgets to the shop they bought them from because they think the gizmo’s faulty - but only five per cent of them actually are, according to new research. The study was conducted by tech services giant Accenture and it found that, in actual fact, 68 per cent of gadgets returned by buyers do work properly - …
Consumers too "lazy" to set up gadgets properly? How about manufacturers that are too lazy to get proper instructions written and too mean to employ people who are competent to write instructions in the target language? And who don't update the instructions when they make changes to the gadget, and direct users to web sites that don't exist any more. Etc. etc., etc.
How many reviews do you read where the reviewer had some trouble in setting up the equipment properly? And these are (I suppose) experts. What hope do ordinary people have?
Is this a study for the UK, Europe, the world or the US?
If the US, it is no surprise. One would assume that returning goods on whim is written into the Constitution, seeing how often it happens.
I highly doubt that other countries suffer from comparable rates of return.
"Lazy consumers blamed for most product returns" -- This is more about poor user interface design than consumers being lazy.
Say what you like about apple but at least their consumer products are usable by real people with better things to do that read a 1000-page instruction manual.
Sounds to me as if companies need to pay more attention to the description they give their products, ensuring no false expectations; and to the ease at which it can be instinctively set up by the non-technically minder punter, to achieve their desired result.
Imply your gadget does everything and leave the buyer with an indecipherable manual and 24 hours of head scratching / failed attempts, and what can one expect?
as a student, i worked part time in a couple of electronics retailers. after i while i realised the best question to ask angry customers with broken products was "are the batteries fresh?"
there was always a deep sense of inner satisfaction upon seeing the expression change on the face of a previously abusive customer as they realised they hadn't installed any batteries at all...
Isn't it convenient how a survey carried out by Accenture (who probably shouldn't be trusted to be able to correctly crap in a toilet without help aiming) suggests that most of the money "lost" by companies providing returns on faulty goods is down to those pesky consumers rather than, say, poorly engineered products, rubbish software or interface design, crap documentation, or misleading advertising...
Do they define what their criteria for "gadgets" are? Can't see a EEEPC being considered on a par with a Macbook Air in terms of expectations and perceived value for money, to be honest...
If I return my External DVD-RW with built in TV tuner because it's actually just the 2 devices in one box with a USB hub, and it can't actually record to a DVD without the PC... That's their fault for making a product which is designed to give that impression, and has successfully fooled most of it's customers.
The number of times I've had to explain in depth what the problem with the device is, and then go round the loop again when I get 'no fault find'.
I've had a clock that had 12 hours in am and 10 in pm. The mouse that couldn't go rightwards and many more. Essentially obvious faults that have not been found. I wonder if the report accounts for the number of false negatives likely to occur?
The mouse was from W*tf*rd El*ctr*n*cs and they never did refund me for it.
Surely, even 5% should be too high for new products. That's 1 in 20 items faulty.
Is it really the case that it is regarded as costing less to ship a faulty device from China, and dispose of it in Europe, than testing it before it is shipped? They sure as hell don't rework and fix faulty devices in Europe unless they are high cost items.
Or maybe the shipping causes the damage. So much for the value of the blister pack and expanded polystyrene.
I wonder how many people get home with a cool new MP3 player that won't work because they're still running ME and it's not compatible, or buy a nifty new wireless router only to find their home is made from solid lead so it can only be used line-of-sight?
Granted, products do tend to be labelled better nowadays (I find, at least) but to those not in the know the limitations of some gadgets may not always be apparent.
Then there are the products sold by implication -- like the (not particularly technical) friend of mine who bought an iPod touch, and was mislead by the adverts and such into thinking she could use the internet and email on the move (as it happens, she likes it anyhow). I'd have wound her up about it, but I've heard that kind of thing happen before.
it is definitely faulty. That is, you have paid for everything in the box including the instructions. All of it should work. If I buy a car I expect it to work instantly and generally it does. If it doesn't it is normally due to a malfunction. Why should I not expect the same of a DVD player?
I owned part of a PC clone making shop 15 or so years ago. For our own use (personal and in-shop) we would buy returned merchandise from our suppliers at about 25 cents on the dollar. About 75% of that was OK, and that was from a wholesaler. People would order stuff then just not want it, or not understand how to use it, or decide it didn't do what they wanted, and claim it was 'defective'.
We never sold any of the stuff, that wouldn't have been honest, but we got some great deals ourselves that way. Heck, I got a 200 MEGABYTE hard drive for only a couple hundred bucks! It was HUGE!
the article says:
> in actual fact, 68 per cent of gadgets returned by buyers do work properly - they just don’t meet the customer’s expectations or were set-up incorrectly.
If they don't meet the customer's expectations (eg because the marketing is a pack of lies),
or they're not set up correctly (because the customer can't work this out),
then you can maybe still claim that they work "as intended" but - repeat after me -
THEY DO NOT WORK PROPERLY.
Bah, spoilt brats that spend days setting up Tamagotchi/Sims/WoW characters yet don't have the patience to put the batteries in the right way round.
Setting up a new box like a DVD player is fairly easy - it's getting all the SCART leads in the right places and not falling out that takes time. That and the new bit of kit won't work with the Freeview box plugged inline with the TV and it wants the AV input that the games console is in. Now it's all in place (and the SCART connectors that started easing out back in again) there's a new hum on the audio side.
BT gave me a new Freeview box with a pair of them 'network through the mains' boxes. Now I've got to put a filter on the hi-fi to stop the noise from the network coming from the mains. Bah!
Then that's not surprising, considering that very few companies actually describe their products PROPERLY.
You look at the box, it often tells you very little. The only way to find out if it does what you want is to take it home and TEST it.
If companies devoted as much effort to explaining what their products DON'T do and were clearer about what they do, a lot less time would be wasted.
Surely if a DVD player still "doesn't work" after 20 minutes fiddling then it should be returned as malfunctioning. Just because the hardware isn't broken doesn't mean that it's actually fit for purpose.
Good user interface design is key as to whether your product is a success or a failure.
If a manufacturer is getting a high rate of returns even though the hardware is still working, it suggests that they need to look at how userable their product really is!
The brand new FM radio that couldn't pick up a signal in my kitchen versus my 25 year old radio with a half-snapped antenna that receives a multitude of stations with no problem. When I took the former back, the manager of C*met ended up agreeing with me that things aren't what they used to be. Specifically one should not expect a modern wireless set to perform as well as an ancient one.
Paris - because I expect her to perform as well
Especially over the internet, but returns of a product that doesn't do what the sales blurb says is a PITA unless you call it a product failure.
Other reasons that I've had to return products:
1) no way to ask it if supports what I want (Linux)
2) it doesn't work properly (a 3D graphics card that does 2D fine but glitches on 3D), declared "not faulty" because it boots to the 2D desktop...
3) defective manufacture on software CD (CD substrate has a hole in it so doesn't install, but "we don't accept software returns").
I strongly believe that the customer is being an idiot more often than not. Fair enough with the Car example yeah you expect it to work. But if on your 17th Birthday you were given the keys to a car and asked to drive 200 miles you would probably struggle, assuming you have never had any driving experience. But seeing as you have had the months of practice learning how to drive then the car does work for you But Clearly you have never had experience with BMW's idrive. If you are technically minded then setting up a DVD player will not be a problem.
Anyway I digress. Customers need to have a certain level of patience when it comes to these things, they should not gove up. Most people have the Internet so search for help there. as much of an idiot you are being there is someone else out there being just as stupid and forums usually can come up with the answer.
But Buyers remorse is a a big factor too.
The problem with saying RTFM, is that you can't until you've bought the product! :)
Often there is no way to tell whether it will do you want, or what you expect, without getting it home and trying it out.
Never mind peripheral issues: if I buy a washing machine that washes perfectly, but is very noisy... well, no way I could have found that out without buying it. Same as a DVD recorder with a crappy interface, or a TV with a low sound volume.
"Say what you like about apple but at least their consumer products are usable by real people with better things to do that read a 1000-page instruction manual."
The chargeless battery, exploding mains charger and flacid hard-drive from my MacBook must be down to my own laziness then.
My Apple fan-ness is waning.
I worked for a long time in a tech centre that dealt with customer returns . A lot of what we got in faulty was due to bad selling . Sales teams told to push a specific item so they can get their kickback from the manufacturer . For a free home surround cinema system from Sony the deluded idiots would tell customers that they really wanted that product instead regardless of the customers need .
Add to that people that dont read the instructions . Sure you read them , thats why they are still in the sealed baggy . Or buyer remorse , the wifes going to castrate you for blowing the mortgage money .
I spent 45 minutes telling a customer that just because his imac was wireless he still needed to plug the modem into the phoneline to get online.
Customers lie through their teeth . Ask any pc engineer who has found mysteriously cracked laptop screens that just cracked when it was turned on or stopped working for no reason except the can of coke in the innards .
Half the time you knew it was going to be NFF before you even unpacked it .
My firm has been conducting professional usability testing for world-class clients since 1975. We have NEVER seen a case of the customer being the problem. We are talking about thousands of testing sessions exploring how customers interact with high technology products. Accenture is totally out to lunch. Their report is beyond embarrassing.
I used to shop at Argos occasionally and I noticed that if you check the stock on items and there's only 1 or 2 items left at the store you can pretty much guarantee that you're going to get a returned item which has been sealed up and then resold.
You wouldn't believe the number of things I've took home which clearly didn't work and appeared to be repackaged. You can tell - batteries in the remote control, internal plastic packaging not taped up, etc.
I dont shop there anymore ! Damn them and their 16 day non quibble money back guarantee !
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Al these people saying that if you cant figure it out in 20 mins then its design is flawed....
Its utter rubbish. tell me, when you learnt to drive... how long did it take?
When learning to use a PC... more than 20 minutes?
How about the first time you tried setting up a network...
What I'm getting at is that i work in retail and the line i end up having to repeat to people is:
"when you buy a car, do they teach you to drive it?"
You are not entitled to a refund of a product because you are incapable in using it. There's a reason that "techies" exist, and why people will set up a product for you at a cost.
Don't be stupid guys, i know most of you are intelligent and generally can handle most things, but just because you can't use something doesn't mean its faulty!
I've had lots of video recorders where I could "dub" a new audio track to a video, everybody knows you "burn" CDs and DVDs, so why does my HDD DVD Recorder insist that to transfer a programme from the HDD to DVD I have to use the Dub option on the menu. I actually had to RTFM to work that one out.
Anonymous for obvious reasons.
It's all very well everyone claiming that all these manufacturers are lazy, cheating scum for not investing in UI design, proper manuals etc.
However, it wasn't the manufacturers who drove the "DVD PLayer for £15 from X Supermarket" trend - it was the consumers (and the supermarkets).
Manufacturers are meeting a customer demand. Imagine a scenario if you will;
Product A is sat on a shelf. It is beautifully designed. The user interface has taken years of development. There is a printed manual in the box, written in all possible languages. It costs £100
Next to product A is a no-name, unbranded product. The blurb on the box suggests it does exactly what the other product does. It's £30.
Which one do YOU reckon Tesco's would sell most of?
NOW, do you still think it has NOTHING to do with the consumer if they can't figure out how to use the obscure menu system from the description in the poorly translated manual?
Although I agree that often the consumer is lazy and/or inept, I can't always blame the consumer if they believe the product does other than it specifically states. Advertising these days gets away with much much more than it should...
Cars: Car is from £7777 - in small text at the bottom shown for a second are the words 'model shown is ultra version costing £16000+'
Broadband: UP TO 16Mb....whoo! So if I get 4Mb I'm still within the advertising.
ipod: 'Listen to your favorite music. ' - well, my favourite music is all in wma format...
The fact is that marketing departments get away with absolute murder, and sales people don't care one whit about the customers - just their sales figures...and then shops are surprised when customers feel misled and return products.
So many shops mislead their customers because they know that the consumer is often too lazy to bother to return the product.
I have worked as a repair tech for many years and have seen a lot of things other commenters have mentioned. Yes, there are poorly designed products, oversold products and just plain stupid people trying to use them.
But the last 20 years' worth of electronics products seem to suffer from a surprisingly large number of intermittent problems. Some caused by heat, others by physical poor connections within components and a great number of simple poor solder connections.
Yes, I have fixed a lot of stuff simply by resoldering a lot of connections. Very often, a 5-minute test will not show a faulty product. Is that what Accenture are doing, performing a simple 5-minute test?
Very often, a returned product will be tested briefly, labled "remanufactured" (I didn't know that was possible) and sent out to be resold at a discount. The product is bought by another unsuspecting person and then the whole process may start over again.
I find the way that we are measuring "quality" to be lacking. If it works at the end of the assembly line, it is considered "good quality". Never mind that it will fail after an hour of operating time.
In other words, what to you expect for the cheap price? The people that make and sell this stuff know this, and "have our number".
I used to have a Motorola mobile.
Took 1 minute to boot up and then my contacts were listed alphabetically from B-Z, A.
Were these faults? To me that is an eternity to boot and there was clearly no software testing so it looks like there was an array indexing problem.
I'm abnormally tolerant of these things so lived with the phone for a year then upgraded back toa Nokia and swore never to touch a Motorola again.
Others might have returned the phone as faulty.
Ever notice how most products come in three flavors these days, regardless of the product itself?
Type A are the joke products. The shit for posers. Emachines, Dell, Black and Decker, Kia, etc. Shit where people are buying it because of some peer pressure or impulse decision, not because they really understand the product or what it does, but because of some nebulous idea that they are expected to have one. (Most bad web sites/carpentry/plumbing/etc is done with these products by these people.)
Type B are the "consumer grade" products. These are for people who know what they need, and what they want to do with it, but are too broke to afford better, or don't have such a pressing need that they don't want to pay for the really good models. Think HP, Sony, Craftsman, etc. Not as bad as the cheap stuff, but still designed to die after three years, to force the consumer to buy a new one.
Type C are the actually good products, like the bloke a few posts up who has the 25 year old radio that still works great with its broken antenna. Think about IBM mainframes, Rolls Royce cars, Bosch and Senco tools. Things that are so ungodly expensive that you'd never buy one unless you had an explicitly good reason for.
Which type of products do you think have the highest return rate? No shit, the first type, yeah. Think about this now: 25 years ago, did the average consumer even feel like they needed such piles of tat? I doubt it.
Mine's the one with the broken zipper, made by underage slave labor in China.
Don't just blame the customer. It isn't enough for something to be in working order; the customer also needs to have a fighting chance of getting it going. I've lost count of the number of times I've bought hardware, only to find out, say, that the "manual" is minimal, or generic for several models and with instructions/diagrams that don't match the one I have. Or that install software for computer hardware isn't as per the manual, and I'm left to guess at some of the steps. Frankly, if I'm not given simple, clear and, most of all, accurate instructions that I can follow to get something working, then I'm not remotely interested in whether or not a technician who's more familiar with the piece of kit can then look at it and discover that it's in perfect working order - as far as I'm concerned, it's junk, and any supplier that wants a hope of my future business had better be prepared to take it back without a fuss. Oh, and, yes, in the process I've had time to take a good look at it, and spot things I don't like, and maybe even to have second thoughts about whether I need it. That's neither my fault nor my problem.
@Daniel: You can easily teach the average person to drive a car in 20 minutes; that is, how to go forward and backward, how to turn, when to change gear and what the buttons do. The hours of driving lessons are to teach you the rules of the road and how to drive confidently.
Some products are complex and some learning time should be expected, like computers; some are not, like electric toothbrushes. DVD players somewhere in the middle but tending towards the toothbrush end of the scale.
Archos 605 4GB version, full of software bugs, mine got in to such a state that I decided to return it because I couldn't use the built in repair facilities and could not even upload a new version of firmware to it. Having ordered a replacement I persevered for several more hours and with a lot of luck was able to persuade the unit to upload new firmware. I'm still not entirely sure exactly what - what sequence of button presses, plugging in the USB cable - I did that caused it take the new firmware
As a professional software engineer many of the bugs I can see are down to sloppyness and what was otherwise a good product has been badly spoilt.
I wrote a letter addressed to the Research and Development Director of Archos, situated in France, the letter went unreplied.
There are far too many bugs with consumer electronic gadgets, particularly with Personal Video Recorders. The model I chose was specifically chosen having read reviews of the reliability and it was a wise choice. It does occasionally do something it shouldn't however.
This attitude by consumer electronics companies of shipping the goods to consumers when the product has not been adequately tested and the bug removed is not acceptable.
We really need to change the attitude of the companies on this.
in what's called a "rental". Buy something, use it for the day/two days, then return it for (in most cases) a full refund. Stores that have "restocking fees" have much, much lower return rates.
Plus, you can blame it on the "instant gratification" crowd. Media crams adverts into peoples' heads every waking moment. Psychologically designed campaigns to program people into buying something-something that doesn't add any value to their life-and once the purchase is made, the program is complete, and another "buy buy BUY" campaign is trying to take over mindshare.
I hope to god you are right - I just ordered a MacBook Pro based solely on the system specs and "niceness" factor - then my fanboy friend suddenly let slip that the things have slightly dodgy harddisks (apparently a known seagate-drive problem) and dodgy contacts on magsafe chargers that cause fires and leg burns?!
Then I did some digging - turns out everybody he knows who bought one had to return it within the year due to some fault or other.... all I can say is I'm glad I took the 3 year warranty out on it, and I will be unplugging it at night time!! lol
Very worried mac-toe-dipper.
[magsafe-ignited macbook pro icon]
Problem here is that this only covers items actually returned.
Suppose, like I did recently, you buy a new DVD writer drive for £20, and then you find that despite it claiming it could write to everything under the sun, actually it won't write DVD-R? You need a DVD drive though, and it works OK with DVD+R, so you decide you might as well live with it.
Or, like I did last year, you buy a Sudoku game for your mum, and she finds it stops working randomly. On opening the box up, you find that the only thing connecting one pin of the timing crystal to the PCB is a bit of solder flux. Yep, the good old-fashioned dry solder joint. Quick dab with a soldering iron, and mum now has something other than red wine to keep her out of trouble in the evening.
So the actual failure rate will be higher, because it ignores the cases where people either put up with the faults or fix it themselves.
"flacid hard-drive"....erm, you've got it mounted wrong. As for theory... B & D used to make their own commercial grade power tools (I know, I've had mine for 20+ years and they're still top notch), but like many others have gone the way of the "consumer" grade which isn't as good by far. Not everyone can afford the Bosch and Senco (or really has the ongoing NEED for them), but needs something that will "do the job". You can't always tell by price and you can't always tell by looks. My personal tools are generally better quality since I don't want to get hurt and expect them to last for a long time (yeah, my kids will give them away), but the cheapy tools I have in the office aren't the best, but serviceable for their expected usage (and who knows what else)...yeah, I still got my old Yamaha receiver which has a class A amp on it...doubt the new ones do, though....
I agree that too many things are not well made and even more poorly designed (or their use documented in plain, readable language).
I bought my Dell Dimension 4600i in November 2003. It has a 2.66GHz P4 and a 400MHz FSB. 8 USBii ports and 2 USB1.1 ports. I put a GeForce 6600GT in it.
It has not broken down ONCE since 2003 - and I have no desire whatever to replace it anytime soon.
How can something THIS reliable, THIS solid, be placed in your category A? Surely I'm not the only one out there with a good Dell? They're easy to work on too - no sharp edges; hinges on things that are in the way so you can move them; modular construction so you can take sh!t out and put other sh!t in... No way is it rubbish... and I'm definitely NOT your "buy anything and live with it" type.
I've discovered a car boot seller who picks up the returns from Maplins, digging through their £2each/3for£5 boxes I've picked up some great bargains that overall would have cost 10x had I bought it direct from Maplins. Only 2 things didn't work but I fixed them; battery terminals needed bending on a portable soldering iron, which I then used to fix a resistor (bad joint) on a laser diode of another item.
"the average consumer only spends 20 minutes trying to get, say, a DVD player working
Even if you are a stupid git, if it takes more then 20 minutes to get a DVD player working it IS defective."
Do you have any idea how long it takes to sand down a VHS casette to make it fit in that little slot?
It seems like the older the Dell, the better. My aunt bought a refurb Latitude PII-266 in 1998 and used it on her cattle ranch for about 8 years - Central Florida heat and humidity and even cow "stuff" did not seem to hurt it.
I got a refurb Latitude D630 last year for a little more than 1/2 the new price; the unit shipped had video issues, but Dell cheerfully built a new one for me with the refurb's specs and didn't ask for additional payment. So far, so good.
Morals of the story: if you go Dell, go refurb, go business-class (Precision, Optiplex, Latitude), and test the heck out of it the day you receive it.
No picture, because The Reg staff haven't provided a saint or devil Michael Dell...
Without knowing the fraction of purchased devices returned, the fraction returned as faulty but not is not even anecdotal. One would also question whether faulty was the excuse used or whether the purchaser was unable to realize the functionality of the device because of the opaqueness of its operating system. Studies of the use of scientific calculators, going back to the HP-35, have consistently indicated that the majority of users obtain less than 0.33 of the functionality of the device, and this from the most logically designed electronic devices in history. So the question arises of whether faultiness is in the eye of the customer or the eye of the merchant. This is admittedly a slippery slope. How much must a device be dumbed down to eliminate user incompetence and lack of comprehension? How many customers are eliminated by such dumbed down devices?
I bought a PS3 a few weeks ago and used it for a week. I had some difficulty with it as I was looking for a memory slot but I couldn't even open the cover that housed the flash drive n usb slots. I went back to Future Shop and enquired about it as I wanted to use my usb n flash drive with it. Although the slot was descrbed in the user manual I was told by buddy in Future Shop that I had a 40Gb model which was now obsolete and didn't have this particular flash drive slot. The newer model PS3 would have an 80gb drive and the slot. So I returned the 40GB PS3 and opted to wait for the newer model which would be available next week. So What is the problem here. Misinformation or am I a stunn'd bugger thats should know better.
1) Kyle gave Accenture too much credit (11th post, 2nd thumb down), though they'd miss out of malice more often than incompetence. These are the same jokers that made a killing while Enron investors lost everything. Any report issued by them should be treated as complete BS until proven factual.
2) When the external packaging says that WinME is supported, but the disk inside won't install because it requires XP SP2, that isn't the fault of the consumer. That is fraudulent misrepresentation and it should be returned, but under Accenture's counting scheme it is a "properly working product".
3) RTFM? Sure, except that the manual NEVER has the information you actually need in it. It says "Channels must be pre-scanned to ensure proper operation". It fails to say HOW to pre-scan the channels, nothing in the index or table of contents or anywhere in the manual; under Accenture's counting scheme it is a "properly working product".
4) RTFMed! I did read the manual, and it says that even after the cables are attached, if you have "No Signal Received" to return product to place of purchase. The manual didn't say anything about verifying that the cable are correctly attached; under Accenture's counting scheme it is a "properly working product".
5) "Blame the consumer" is a quick way into bankruptcy. Even consumer will eventually figure out that if a name is attached to crap they'll quit buying it.
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