Nice-Guy Consumer Tries To Fix LaCie For Them, Gets Burned

There’s such a thing as being too good a consumer. Troubleshooting problems for which the company should be responsible, thoughtfully trying to save the company the expense of a return and repair when it’s their duty to replace your broken item under warranty. It sure is nice of you to go through all that trouble, Charlie, but companies aren’t going to give you the same thoughtful consideration you gave them. Any undue consideration on behalf of that faceless billion dollar corporate empire is likely to get you screwed; better just to return the broken bugger.

Chris G. wrote us in about a LaCie 500GB RAID drive he purchased for himself last year, a crippled little product that he spent a month thoughtfully trying to nurse at his breast back to robust good health, despite the fact that LaCie had told him to return the thing. After a month, Chris G. was ready to give up, only to discover that his support ticket had been closed by LaCie and that they wouldn’t replace the $450 device under warranty anymore.

As Chris writes: “SWEET! A LaCie product starts to die WITHIN the warranty period, and when I tried to do a good turn by continuing troubleshooting, the result is not just cancelling the warranty repair, but not providing ANY service whatsoever to determine the source of the fault.

Chris’s email and LaCie’s terse and unpleasant dismissal of his complaints after the jump.


While I was browsing your sister site Gizmodo, I saw an article for the new LaCie 1TB RAID drive, which couldn’t help but bring the delicious bile taste of a good Consumerist tale to my throat, together with the uncontrollable urge to warn people of the crappy customer service I received.

So, back in April of 2005 (90-Apr-2005, to be exact), I spent $450 on a LaCie Big Disk 500GB Triple Interface, (basically two 250GB drives connected via a RAID 0 controller) which operated on my external FireWire 800 bus very happily, until 01-Apr-2006, when one day the drive would no longer mount, and just made scary clicking sounds. I wrote LaCie technical support, and their answer (on April 5) was that it was likely corrupted data, and to purchase AlSoft’s Disk Warrior, or to reformat the drive. I elected to save my data, and Disk Warrior did the trick, although nothing answered the question of what caused the corruption in the first place. A few days go by, and the drive AGAIN goes south on me, back into constant-clicking land.

On April 19, after messing with Disk Warrior and repeated problems with the drive, I wrote back to LaCie of my continued problems, and on April 20 they opened Service Repair Order (“SRO”) 200612144x to return the drive for a warranty repair. I was quite pleased with them at this point, as the drive was a few days past the official warranty period of 09-April-2006, but believed they had extended the benefit of the doubt since the trouble ticket was originally opened on April 1, before the warranty period ended. “Good Guys!” I thought.

Well, here’s where I started to go wrong: I took the drive and started plugging it into my other computers using the other interfaces (like USB rather than FireWire), and it started working!

Thinking that LaCie had gone out of their way to help me, I felt I owed them the additional troubleshooting to avoid an unnecessary warranty repair on their part. So, I wrote them and told them I didn’t want to ship the drive in on the SRO because the computer might be the culprit, and I wanted to do more troubleshooting.

GAAAH – STUPID!! Fear not, though: I will pay for my stupidity.

Well, long story short, I spent a month on the “hardware hassle,” testing everything. I swapped internal hard drives. Reinstalled the OS. I even swapped out the RAM modules. Bottom line: the computer was fine, and soon the LaCie drive wouldn’t work on ANY computer, on ANY interface, and the data was completely gone and unrecoverable. Clearly it was a hardware problem in the drive that had started small and gotten worse.

On May 21 I wrote back to LaCie, asking them to re-open the SRO as the drive was clearly the culprit; the response:

    On May 23, 2006, at 7:28 AM, LaCie Technical Support USA wrote:

    Hello, That SRO has been cancelled, and now that the device is out of warranty, we won’t be able to reissue a new SRO.

I wrote back the next day, explaining the situation further, and asked that the issue be elevated to a supervisor. I received no response. The following week, I emailed a second time with the same request, and on May 31 I received this response:

    On May 31, 2006, at 7:28 AM, LaCie Technical Support USA wrote:

    Hello, This has already been reviewed by supervisor and has been denied.

So, I’m hosed out of the warranty repair, according to LaCie. Fine, I want my $450 hard drive to DO SOMETHING, and I don’t know if it’s a dead hard drive, or the RAID interface, or the FireWire interface, or what. So, I write back saying I’m dead in the water, even if I have to pay for it, what’s the next step?

Here is the icing on the cake, where LaCie completely washes their hands of me and my dead drive:

    From: LaCie Technical Support USA [mailto:support@lacie.com]

    Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:00 PM

    To: Chris Gibson

    Subject: RE: HDD information request from Chris Gibson – Big Disk 500 GB

    Chris,

    Your option is [to] try to repair the drive yourself. If the mechanisms inside the enclosure are bad, then you can try replacing them or you can try finding a new enclosure for the drives if they are good.

    You can check out http://www.xpcgear.com for enclosures. LaCie can not help you move or replace the drives.

SWEET! A LaCie product starts to die WITHIN the warranty period, and when I tried to do a good turn by continuing troubleshooting, the result is not just cancelling the warranty repair, but not providing ANY service whatsoever to determine the source of the fault. I certainly feel like this is an example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” And I certainly (in retrospect) should have jumped on the warranty gravy train when they made it available.

Still, some closing Consumerist thoughts:

• The LaCie drives have 1 year warranties, after which they tell you to piss off go buy your own enclosure and/or hard drives
• If you had purchased the enclosure and drives directly in the first place, you would have MULTI-YEAR warranties on the drives
• In general, I am now in the camp of “LaCie blows” while I sit here and ponder my $450 boat anchor

And so ends my tale of woe.

Comments

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  1. snazz says:

    it sounds like you dropped the ball here, not lacie. yes, they made a product that failed on you. but a hard drive will fail, its just a question of when. at the first sign, you should have washed your hands of the drive and not tried to “troubleshoot” it. as there is nothing anyone can do when hardware starts to fail, other than try to get your data before its too late. the company open a repair order for you an agreed to repair the drive under warranty, almost a month after the warranty expired. that was really lucky, most companies wont do that, you should have jumped on that opportunity. but you decided not to send it back (and even wrote them saying so) because you said your computer was at fault. i think lacie was very generous with their offer, you were just stupid.

  2. limiter says:

    I agree, stupid. If you really wanted your money back you should have returned the drive when they told you to instead of continuing to “troubleshoot” it. I don’t think Lacie did anything wrong, nor are they being dicks.

    My experience with electronics and computer crap is: If you think it’s broken, and you’ve spent a reasonable amount of effort to fix it just return it because paying shipping it back is better than having a 7 pound paperweight on your desk.

  3. Chris Gibson says:

    Yeah, I certainly accept that I was stupid not to send it in when the window of opportunity was opened. In the end, I didn’t want my money back, though – just a working drive – and I was even prepared to pay for the privilege. But what really stunk to me was that LaCie offers no repair service. Now, if it was just a hard drive, I understand – it’s not a repairable item. But with external, multi-interface, RAID-enabled “Big Disks” it’s a real grind that they leave you to your own devices. Even as a techie-consumer, I don’t have the equipment to diagnose which component (hard drive, RAID controller, USB/Firewire circuitry) has gone south.

    So I guess the thrust of the post was two-fold: first, a whine about losing my sweet repair opportunity; secondly, and more importantly, a warning that if you buy an external drive from LaCie, you are losing the multi-year warranty protection you get if you purchase hard drives directly (and you’ll be totally left on your own if anything happens after the 1-year LaCie warranty is up).

    ..Chris..