Buying gadgets or movie-watching tech? A reminder about a very worthwhile check not to miss

My BenQ home projector from eBuyers has just arrived back after a warranty fix.

The projector had previously been cutting out about ten minutes into a movie, making – for example – the Usual Suspects entirely about some guys in a police station and Good Vibrations about the financial aspects of running a record shop.

What I wasn’t expecting was that the (almost) Thirty-Nine Steps of having the warranty fix carried out made the Da Vinci code look like an afternoon in the pub.

One month and a string of reference numbers, web forms, phone calls and emails later and I’ve promised myself that I’ll ask a few questions about the warranty the next time I buy tech.

Who is the warranty with? How does the warranty work? How simple is it? Or do the steps involved in arranging a warranty fix make you feel like you should be given a process engineering diploma and a pay-cheque from the manufacturer by the time it is done.

Read on for the type of experience a few questions when buying can avoid.

The entire 29 steps (ok, so it wasn’t the 39 steps I mentioned earlier…I just liked how that sounds) of an eBuyer / BenQ warranty return…

– Try to return via the retailer’s website.

– Need login details. Hunt for these from months ago.

– Complete retailer’s webform for returns. 

– Email from retailer telling me to contact manufacturer by phone. 

– Phoned manufacturer, refers me to an online form on their website. 

– Form doesn’t work on iPhone, charge up iPad.

– Form needs lamp-hours from the projector. Unpack projector.

– Manufacturer’s site needs a copy of invoice from retailer.

– Log into retailer’s site to do a screen-grab of invoice.

– Manufacturer’s webform completed. Great! We’re through the looking glass here people.

– Email from manufacturer asks for a ‘diagnostic check’ to be carried out (various button pressing and resetting).

– Email says screengrab (the only document I could find using iPhone version of retailer site) isn’t a proper invoice and not accepted as it doesn’t show an invoice number.

– Perform diagnostic check as requested.

– Borrow a laptop to access retailer’s site again and look for invoice.

– Log into retailer site.

– Retailer site asks for the original order number to find the invoice. Hunt for this.

– Screengrab invoice and email to manufacturer.

– Email returned as it doesn’t show something called a CETS reference number. Hunt for his.

– Manufacturer sends a form to be printed and asks (well, gives “essential instructions”) for the projector to be parcelled up and a new ‘RMA’ reference number added to the box. 

– I don’t have a printer. Hunt for someone to print form. Feel like I should be charging BenQ by the hour at this point.

– Projector packed up with form and RMA reference number marked on box. Email says I’ll be “contacted within three days” re courier collection. Could be tricky as I’m never home. Repair to be carried out by an ‘Authorised Service Partner’. Wonder if I’ll get another reference number?!

– Missed a call from the ‘service partner’, called back, rings out.

– Email from ‘service partner’ two days later asking when I’ll be home. I won’t be home for days.

– Ask them if I can take it to a depot. They say no.

– Hunt for someone who is at home to take the projector in for me.

– Replied and email received confirming date of collection.

– Partner stays home in her house for collection one Monday. 

– Phone call from manufacturer, projector being dispatched by courier. Very friendly caller is unable to explain what work was done to repair.

– Projector arrives at home. No details about the work carried out but it is back.

The moral of the story? If you are a customer be aware that not all warranties are equal. Ask what it is, who it is with and how it works. If time is precious then paying extra to buy from a local shop might be worth it in the long run.

And if you are a company? Every printout, reference number, email, ‘diagnostic check’ and webform adds up: If you make your customers do too much work, they’ll find somewhere else next time.