RMA Processing Fees
Something that has long driven customers crazy are the arbitrary "restocking" fees that vendors often charge when you return a defective product for credit. But a reader recently encountered an unpleasant variation on that theme. In order to get an RMA number to replace an in-warranty Sapphire video card, he was required to pay an RMA "processing fee" amounting to more than a third of the original purchase price.
"Here's something that I haven't run into before," the reader wrote. "I purchased several Sapphire ATI Radeon 9250 video cards. Several months later one of them failed. It definitely was the card -- loss of video, and swapping it with another Sapphire Radeon 9250 card resolved the problem. To RMA the failed part, you need to include a check for $15!"
The reader learned this from an e-mail he got in response to his warranty service to Sapphire tech support.
The reply from Althon Micro, which apparently does warranty service for Sapphire, read in part:
"Please provide your information at the best of your knowledge on this RMA form and email it back to RMA@althonmicro.com along with a copy of the purchase receipt. Once we receive your RMA form we will process if for you and get back with you with an assign RMA#, please do not return your card back with out a RMA# or else all shipment will be rejected.
There will be a US$15 processing fee (Which takes care of the repacking and insurance of your return product) for this RMA service, so please include a US$15 money order or personal check and your fill out RMA form with the RMA# on it, so we can process the RMA request for you."
That's certainly not the most inviting RMA process anyone ever saw. Since the e-mail went on to list higher processing fees for those who live in Alaska, Hawaii, etc., the reader assumes it's mostly to cover return shipping, but it's far more than should be necessary for a card that cost less than five bucks shipping when he bought it. "The video cards - which I purchased from Newegg.com -- were $39.99 plus shipping for the video cards, for a total of $42.49 each. And I'm the one who would have to cover the cost of shipping the defective card back. I just thought the whole thing pretty strange, because I have never encountered any sort of charges associated with doing a warranty RMA before."
And if you can charge an RMA processing fee of $15 for a $40 product, how many customers are actually going to bother trying to get a warranty replacement? And perhaps that's the whole idea from Sapphire's point of view. By charging even a small fee for warranty work, a vendor can worry a lot less about the potential costs of shipping poor quality products.