A number of IBM resellers are seething after Digiland failed to inform them that they would no longer be replacing faulty IBM hard disk drives with brand new units and had reverted back to the old policy of sending resellers factory re-conditioned units instead.
Dorian Bussenius, Queensland branch manager of reseller GameDude Computers, said he had negotiated a deal with IBM's sole Australian HDD distributor, Digiland, earlier this year whereby the distributor agreed to replace GameDude's faulty IBM drives with brand new units.
But last month, GameDude staff were made aware that Digiland was instead sending them reconditioned drives without prior notification. Bussenius said he only realised there may have been a change in Digiland's HD replacement policy after hearing from an unhappy customer.
"Because it would take Digiland so long to replace faulty IBM drives, we were giving our customers advanced replacements on the drives from the stock on our shelves, and then once the replacement drives arrived, we would put them directly on to our shelves, thinking they were brand new units. It wasn't until I tried to sell one of these replacement drives to a new customer, who then promptly accused me of selling a second-hand hard drive as new, that I discovered that Digiland had stopped supplying us with new replacement drives."
Digiland's failure to inform the reseller of the change caused further problems as GameDude had replaced between 20-30 faulty 45GB drives in advance with new 60GB drives as IBM no longer manufactured the 45GB series. "So we were then stuck with used 45GB drives instead of brand new 60GB drives." Bussenius said that Digiland has since agreed to supply them with new 60GB drives to cover those costs incurred by the reseller due to policy changes.
According to Tony Arrowsmith, general manager of Altech Computers Queensland, Altech was also not informed of the changes to the replacement policy on IBM hard drives. "IBM and Digiland didn't announce the changes to us or to hardly anyone. Because the reconditioned units come in the same anti-static bags as the new units, we didn't realise they were second-hand until customers opened the bags and told us they weren't new."
George Skaf, general manager of Digiland, claims that the distributor was vigilant in its attempts to inform its reseller customers of the changes in the replacement policies.
"We informed our resellers through our salespeople and our customers had quite sufficient notification," said Skaf. He conceded that some resellers did not receive notification but said the oversight was unintentional.
"If some of our customers were not made aware, I would apologise to them on behalf of the company. But we thought we did our utmost to get out there and notify people. Some of our customers have gotten back to us and said they were not made aware and we've rectified it."
According to Skaf, IBM decided to introduce the replacement of faulty drives with new drives earlier this year because of the high failure rate of IBM drives at the time. While Skaf was not keen on disclosing the failure rates of IBM drives, he admits that the turnaround on failed drives was "blowing out". "We negotiated with our customers on behalf of IBM to take some brand new stock as a buffer process to replace drives as they fail. This was offered to everybody [all our resellers]," he said.
After about three months, Skaf said IBM decided to reintroduce its policy of replacing faulty drives with repaired drives. "They [IBM] guaranteed us the problem was found and that they were able to rectify it, so we went to our customers and explained to them that we would no longer be replacing drives with new ones, they'd be replaced with repaired drives."
GameDude's Bussenius is skeptical about IBM's recent proclamation that it has identified the problem and is able to repair the fault. "The whole thing is a joke - a joke on consumers and a joke on us. The biggest joke of all is IBM's claims that they've found the problem. They said the same thing in January and they still couldn't repair them."
Bussenius said GameDude will cease stocking IBM drives unless the vendor agrees to replace faulty units with new ones. Arrowsmith expressed the same sentiment and said that, at this stage, Altech will not continue selling IBM hard drives.