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On Rmas

How often have you been granted an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) for a broken computer component?

In complete honesty, I've broken precisely two pieces of hardware; of these, I have good reason to believe that one was already broken before subjecting it to the horrors of the S&M stress program. I've been given RMAs for a set of DDR500 Corsair XMS RAM and for an Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe. The RAM, I strongly believe, was never healthy. Even when it was new, at stock settings, it always induced BSoDs and corrupted one OS installation. The motherboard, on the other hand, was subjected to a hard life as my testing platform. I learned much about overclocking on my first A8N32-SLI Deluxe.

When I applied for an RMA with Corsair, they asked me about the RAM kit. They asked about its performance, and after finding out that it struggled to consistently run in a stable fashion even at DDR400, much less at DDR500 (which Corsair certified that it ought to be able to) they granted me an RMA and a choice of either a lesser RAM kit or a full refund. To their credit, Corsair gave me a complete refund with no problems whatsoever.

Asus also treated me superbly. They asked me if I overclocked with the motherboard; I told them that I did. Nevertheless, this did not disqualify me from an RMA request. In fact, Asus sent me a brand new motherboard to replace my original A8N32-SLI Deluxe. This was, in my opinion, service that was above and beyond any reasonable expectations. I would not have been surprised if my RMA request was denied because of my disclosure that I overclocked on the motherboard.

Now why do I bring this subject up at all and disclose my two experiences with RMAs? I have to say that it bothers me when I read about overclockers who apply for an RMA with less than honorable motives and intentions. We've all seen forum posts all over the place of people who are upset with their CPU or their graphics card because theirs wouldn't hit a nominal target overclock.

"This chips sucks," they go. "I wanted a chip that could hit 3.xGHz on air like so-and-so's. I'm getting an RMA for mine."

Or, "I hate my nVidia card. I can't get my shader clocks as high as so-and-so. RMA time!"

Then there's the bottom-of-the-barrel: "My motherboard is poopoo. REP + to whomever gives me the best advice on how to break it without the vendor/manufacturer knowing that the damage was deliberate."

So what's wrong with all these examples? An RMA is part of the manufacturer's warranty service extended to consumers who bought (and rightfully expect to receive) a fully functional product, but instead receive a non-functional or defective product; it must also be said that granting an RMA is entirely the manufacturer's discretion. An RMA is emphatically NOT for equipment that works perfectly fine, but doesn't hit nominal overclock targets, nor is it for parts which are deliberately damaged.

Personally speaking, I find it distressing when I see posts where people suggest RMAs for perfectly-working parts. These parts work fine; they just don't OC as well as we'd hope they would. Even more distressing are the posts where people intend to break something, then request an RMA.

Both are gross abuses of the RMA privilege that manufacturers extend to consumers. RMAs are supposed to protect buyers from receiving broken parts, and nothing more. In my opinion, this is a laudable service that is given to consumers.

But to continue to abuse RMAs will only do harm for everybody in the long term. First of all, this is unethical and, in some cases, criminally fraudulent behavior by people who abuse the RMA service. Another knock-on effect is an increase in purchase price for all our parts. The manufacturers will somehow have to compensate for the costs of doling out new parts for RMA returns that do not, in fact, qualify as RMA returns because such parts were actually healthy and functional.

Take these negative consequences to a far enough extreme, and you see the most grievous of consequences: The death of our hobby. If hardware gets too expensive for the majority of people who enjoy it, the hobby will simply die.

And who wants that?

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