About six weeks ago I bought two 8 GB sticks of RAM from Best Buy. I don't usually shop there, but I wasn't fond of buying gas to drive 40 miles to the computer store, and Best Buy's price was better than ordering online when considering the cost of shipping. ...and it was $10 cheaper than that when I was in the store as it was on sale for some reason. I don't understand sales, but whatever.
So a week ago, I was playing Minecraft and it crashed. Not that unusual, as Minecraft is a piece of shit, but then an hour later, Opera crashed, but it does kind of suck too. Then I restarted it and it crashed again, so next time I told it not to reload those web sites.
Later, growing tired of Opera, I tried Firefox, and eventually it crashed. I decided I should test my memory, but instead I went to sleep. The next day I tried playing Minecraft and it crashed, and immediately again after I restarted it, and then again once more after restarting it again, at which point I decided it was time to test my memory before I corrupted my filesystem or something.
Memtest86 took all of ten seconds to begin reporting errors. It was actually the first time I've ever seen it report errors, so I didn't know it displayed them in a bright red background so that they're impossible to miss. All of that time wasted carefully scrutinizing the text on the screen... It's also nice to know that, if there is is a problem, it's not so unlikely to detect it that the fact that I never let it run more than an hour doesn't mean it's doomed to miss something just because it hasn't completed all of its tests yet.
I tried the chips in different slots, in different orders, and finally one at a time, to find which of the two chips was bad. (I was actually surprised, when reading the manual before buying the RAM, that the motherboard will run with just one chip. Memtest86 doesn't even seem to think it slows the memory access.)
I checked the package, as basically everything comes with a one year warranty now, and indeed it indicates "Lifetime Warranty, for full details visit www.pny.com." So I did, and didn't find much there other than an RMA request form.
Interestingly, they demand a copy of the receipt, even for the "Lifetime" warranty, which from what I gather is anywhere from zero to ten years, basically until they decide the warranty is costing them too much and so they discontinue the product, a.k.a. make some trivial improvement and give it a new UPC number. You'd think simply having the product would be sufficient for a warranty with an expiration that isn't based on the date of purchase, but I guess it's one of those "any excuse not to replace it" sort of things.
This concerned me at first as I couldn't find the receipt, but after looking everywhere else it might be, and finding dozens of reciepts for Wal-Mart and Dollar General, I eventually looked in the only place that was left to look: In the filing cabinet. I really didn't expect I had put the receipt anywhere safe, but there it was.
So I filled out their form. Strangely they wanted the computer make/model, so I informed them it was built from individually purchased components. For the description of the problem, I decided it was best to make it clear that I know how to figure out if my RAM is bad, and so I typed this:
I bought two of these a month ago (as separate items, not a two pack). They worked fine until yesterday when programs began crashing. After seven crashes in 24 hours, I ran memtest86 which took only ten seconds to begin reporting errors. I tried removing the chips and re-inserting them hoping the problem was a loose connection, but the errors remained. So I tried each chip individually, one causes errors, the other does not. I wish to get a replacement for the one that is causing errors.
That was on Friday. Come Tuesday I still hadn't heard anything from them.
Just for shits, and because I had to go to Walmart anyway, I took the RAM and the receipt over to Best Buy. Once there, our exchange went something like this:
Me: I bought this RAM six weeks ago, which I know is beyond your return period, but I was looking at the web site for the warranty and it vaguely indicated that the retailer might be able to help. I don't know if there's any truth to that but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.
I always wonder if I should be so truthful about things. I'm sure a lot of people would have said "go buy a new one, then return the old one with the new one's receipt." Those a little more honest might have said "just go in there and pretend like you fully expect them to replace it and give them hell until they do." ...but sometime when I was like 14 I realized I lied a lot, and often about shit that didn't even matter, and so I decided that maybe I should try not to lie so much. It was kind of hard at first, but now it's almost a bad habit. Does mentioning that I know their return period has expired and that I know that PNY's subtle claim that the retailer can process warranty claims is probably BS help me convince Best Buy to replace my RAM? Certainly not, but then, it isn't like it's their responsibility either. It's been six weeks.
Anyway, as it would turn out, omitting the full truth would have been completely unnecessary anyway:
CSR: I might be able to, let me put it in the computer and find out. I'll need your drivers license.
[I hand over my driver's license. She scans it and hands it back.]
CSR: Sure, I can replace it. Go grab a new one from the shelf and bring it to me.
I guess I have to remove Best Buy from my shit list.
They were only on my shit list because of posting prices after rebate in their stores, with the actual price in small print you had to look closely at to read, which made comparing prices between products a game of constantly moving your head all over the place because you couldn't just stand back and look at everything. That's not the worst offense I guess, and I didn't notice that BS when I was in there buying RAM, so maybe they came to their senses.
...of course, rebate prices themselves kind of are a serious offense, as you never get the rebate and so they're just a lie, but I never took them seriously anyway (never even bothered to send one in) so I'm not hurt over that aspect. I just hated that comparing prices was such a pain in the ass since the accurate numbers were so hard to read, and so whenever I had the option to shop anywhere else, I did. Aside from buying the RAM, I don't think I've shopped at Best Buy in ten years, not since online shopping became popular, ensuring I always had a choice other than Best Buy.
Today I finally received a reply from PNY. Quoted in it was the problem description I posted above, so I know the person who sent the email had the opportunity to read it.
Thank you for contacting PNY Technical Support.
To ensure proper testing we would need some information about the system the memory was used in such as the make and model of the motherboard, CPU and power supply. Also I just want to confirm that it one module that you are looking to RMA, is this correct?
If you need further assistance, please reply to this message and we will be happy to assist you further.
Regards, Jan Technical Support
Usually I try to stay cool about shit, but I'm just not in the mood this week, and since I already have a replacement for the RAM I'm not particularly motivated to care how happy the PNY people are with me anyway.
So I replied:
Do you really think that any of the information you've asked for is relevant? Both chips worked just fine for a month and a half, now only one does. What part of that sounds like my motherboard, CPU and/or power supply is relevant? Especially their make/model, and not something far more relevant like whether they're presently working correctly. ...and even to that end, what exactly is going to be wrong with my system that one of the chips still works just fine and only the other one is affected? Seriously, tell me. I'd love to hear what awesome reasoning you have for thinking that this might be the case.
I think I'll just avoid PNY memory in the future if this is what your warranty amounts to. $75 is way too much money to spend on something that effectively has no warranty and may only work for a month and a half. Thankfully, Best Buy, despite their bad reputation, is apparently more reputable than PNY, as even though their return policy is two weeks, they replaced my six week old RAM without any bullshit questions.
They could have just told me to fuck off since the return period was expired, but I guess some people care to keep their customers happy so that they get repeat business. Of course, I won't be buying more RAM from them, as they only sell PNY, but my mother is thinking of buying a new computer monitor and so we'll probably go there to get it.
Honestly, one of your chips works and the other doesn't and you want to know about my motherboard, CPU and power supply? I could understand if you wanted me to test the RAM again just to make sure the tests weren't a fluke, as an intermittent problem might by dumb luck happen to show up when one chip is in the computer but not when the other is, and further testing may reveal that, but asking about the motherboard, CPU and power supply doesn't make a damn bit of sense. It reeks of being nothing but a "lets just make this annoying enough that the customer gives up" tactic and a "lets find any excuse we can to deny this warranty claim" tactic.
By the way, my new RAM works just fine. Ran Memtest86 on it for an hour and no errors. So, what do you know, apparently I can figure out what's wrong with my computer. I thought that would have been obvious from the detailed description of my debugging process I provided, but maybe some people just don't want to be convinced.
...but of course, the new memory is also PNY memory, so its working status might change in a month, and if I can't get Best Buy to replace it again I might be fucked as PNY doesn't seem that interested in honoring their "lifetime" warranty. I guess I'll just have to hope every day for the next ten years that it continues working, and maybe remind my friends not to buy PNY memory so that they can save themselves some anxiety by choosing a manufacturer who honors their warranties.
No idea what I will buy next time as I don't really have experience with different brands of RAM, but fuck PNY.
In the meantime, I've underclocked the existing RAM, by also putting my old and slower 4 MB in the computer as well. Reliability is too important since I can't seem to find a backup solution that I like so I don't want to find out a few months from now that another chip has failed and now my filesystem is corrupt.
I'd be amused if Linux had a Memtest86 module that continuously took some pages of memory out of rotation, ran Memtest86 on them for a bit, then put them back in rotation, but no such thing seems to exist. It took 24 hours from the first program crash (well, of the ones I know were related) for me to test my memory, but hell knows how long there was a problem with it that simply wasn't as persistent and so it flew under my radar. Executable code is usually quite small. It's data that we need all of our memory for. So any memory error is going to corrupt a lot of data before it crashes a single program. I can only hope that most of it was garbage like cached images from web sites, and that not much was important things like cached writes to my hard disk.