Saturday, August 15, 2009

Simpletech Espresso 500gb (or Why I Hate Best Buy)

For those that follow my writing, and my ranting, you may recall a recent post about an LT3100 Gateway Netbook. I had purchased this fine piece of hardware from a local Best Buy store, which just happens to be the Markham, Ontario location. Now you may recall the terrible service I received, and the running around it required to simply buy a computer. Then, the post went on, to explain how the hardware was defective, and the wireless card kept dropping signal while unplugged. I assumed this was a Vista problem, as few netbooks have been tried and tested under that Operating System. What I may have failed to mention in that earlier post is that the safety seal, which proves to the consumer that the unit they are purchasing was untampered with, was already peeled back. It had been opened, unboxed, and used - repackaged, with the seal pressed down to closely match its original position. I had been sold, as new, a netbook that had been returned once already.

Fast Forward to Yesterday
As the netbook was of no use to me, but I still needed to backup my photographs on the road, I looked into other options. A sleek and simple external harddrive might just be the trick. My choice? A Simpletech Espresso 500gb external drive. This hard drive is sleek, smooth, and - in keeping with the alliteration - sexy. Five hundred gigabytes of storage, the size of a deck of cards. And best of all? No external power supply was required - you just plugged in the one, or two, USB cords, and your laptop powered the drive, allowing you quick and easy support. Plug and Play, it works with just about any system.

Now, as this was purchased from Best Buy, it was kept safe and secure from tampering in one of their great giant cubes. You know, the big plastic packages, that hang awkwardly from the hooks, insuring you can not truly look at the product, aside from a brief glimpse of the box contained within? Come on, you know the ones - they sit there in piles, looking for all the world, like a miniature version of New York Cities Apple Store?

At least, I thought, I didn't have to wait for service. No, this time I could just pick it up and walk on out. Which is exactly what I did - except when I got to the cash, and they used their mystical device, coupled with two or three words of power, to unlock the cosmic cube, and release its hardware-filled innards, I noticed something odd. As my credit card was run, and I grabbed my receipt it was confirmed:

The Bane of Best Buy
Sure the tactical cube had kept is safe from tampering, and the preying hands of sixteen year olds cruising the mall for babes, stopping off to shake dvd cases until the come unhinged and get scratched up, on route to steal small cables and other unsecured things not belonging to them, but what the omnicube didn't protect against - what it wouldn't even have perceived as a threat, were the tainted hands of Best Buy employees trying to save a dollar or two, or just avoid return shipping paperwork.

A Crime in Any Other Words...
My hard drive's safety seal was cracked, once again! And while the employee had tried to re-stick the plastic circle, its time waiting for a new owner in the terrible and deadly cube had been too much. It had started to peel, and the dust, and small big of hair underneath, had prevented the much-desired true seal.

This product had been previously returned and simply returned to the shelf, at full price. But it was too late - I'd made my purchase, and the line at the returns section was far too long to wait in.

Let me pause here for a moment - Best Buy has a returns section. You don't simply walk up to the cash like you would at most stores, they have a section for returns only. There is always a long line at this section. These should have been clues - but they were not.

Taking the Simpletech Espresso 500gb Home
As I unpackaged it, and sat it, pristine in shape and design, beside my laptop I was in awe of its natural splendor. As I plugged it in, and had it running within moments, I was amazed by how smooth the process was. Plugging my SD card into the laptop as well, I could simply drag and drop files over - files that copied at a speed of about 90 seconds per gig (this is quite speedy.)

It worked wonderfully, I tested opening the files to make sure it was a true copy, and everything worked well. Step two? Connecting it to another computer, and offloading the data.

I shut down my laptop, connected to my desktop, and up popped the files, and folders. Click click, set to copy and "Files are Corrupted. Can Not Copy."

Wait? What!?

The file names were there, and the icons - I tried to open one: No Preview Available.

Maybe it's just the computer? I connected it to another - "Drive is not formatted. Would you like to format now?" Sure - I guess. O.K. So I lost 8gigs of photos, but they were still on the memory card: this isn't my first rodeo. I understand that xHDs crash, I wanted to be sure my data was safe before deletion.

"Drive can not be formatted."

Huh? Really? O.K. Lets try to plug it back into my laptop that started this whole party. I plugged the USB cable in and -

and -

and -

Nothing. It was no longer even recognized as a drive. It was a doorstop, pure and simple, a doorstop once destined for so much more, but due to a youth full of drug use and alcoholism, it had fallen from grace losing so much potential along the way, barely even to make a spinning whirr though the, once telltale, red light still shone.

I was prepared for the drive to crash at some point during the year (what does that say about the type of quality we demand from our markets, by the way?) but not this fast. Not in less than ten minutes - less than ten minutes.

Moving on to Today
Back to Best Buy I went, to return my product. I waited in the return line, behind five other people - the line kept refilling itself as I moved forward in place - and finally it was my turn. My turn to reclaim the cash which was mine.

"Umm - this product says it comes with installation software. There's a charge for things not returned."

I paused for a moment. Some might be willing to fall for her high school girl charm, and dimwittedness, but not I. I was prepared for this, "the software was on the drive."

"Oh," she finally uttered, turning the package around and around in her hands, perhaps admiring its combination of glossy cardboard fully integrated into its plastic exterior. All along, she was reading, and turning, and reading and turning, no doubt trying to find some other reason to not give me a full refund - perhaps the missing security seal on top would cost me a dollar or two?

After she had completed three and a half rotations of the object she nodded, I imagine her inward dialogue saying, "look at that fool in the ridiculous Tilley Hat, with his stupid beard - he must have missed something - but what? What?! I can't find a thing! Damn!"

Finally she succumbed to my infinite patience and ran my card for a full refund. As I was walking away I saw her tape the top of the box shut with clear tape marked "Inspected by Best Buy." The same type of tape used to seal all products on their reduced section.

Maybe they taped the box to secure it, while they sent it back to the distributor - or maybe it's, right now, being resold at a sharp discount (a trick used to be to buy a product, damage the box, and return it. The next day you'd find it 30% off on the clearance table.) If this is the case, the store has no shame - and deserves some serious finger waving. I informed the daft darling that the drive was completely crashed, and beyond recognizing data. There was no hope for it, no saving it. It was dead. As dead as something without life could ever be. She smiled, and shooed me on my way. There was after all a long line of people waiting to return things.

The Outcome?
There are two outcomes I can see - one having a part a.) and a part b.) Are you excited for my revelations? Either the drive was sent back to the manufacturer for being seriously defective, or - and I like this one the best - the drive is being resold, just as it was to me, after being returned. Option a.) is that the drive will be of no use, and returned once more, or b.) after time waiting for a new owner, the drive will spring to life - in which case, someone will have two thousand of my holiday photographs. If you come across them, I hope you like my various photo essays of Scotland. And the ones of my with bottle caps? They're for keeps, for sure!

So Best Buy, fool me once, shame on you - fool me... you can't get fooled again.

And for those thinking I'm exaggerating? This isn't the first time Best Buy has sold a bricked piece of hardware.

That's strike two Best Buy, that's Strike Two!

Related Post: Best Buy, Strike One...


  1. Hehe. A friend of mine worked at Future Shop, the Canadian version of Best Buy. The stories he would tell...

    You should look at a card reader / hard-drive combo. Stick your card in the side, press a button, and Bob's your uncle. Backup without the computer.

  2. Funny post hehe

    If you ever come to Spain... do not step ever a PC City or Media Markt (unless you wanna bring home something with half pieces replaced for older ones) ¬¬



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