8 months ago my prized BFG 7900GT OC video card began to fail after only 5 months of use. I blogged about the details of the support call. It was satisfactory.
7 months after installing BFG’s replacement card it began to fail in a similar fashion. Games would only work for a few minutes before random polygons appeared all over the screen, and random off-coloured pixels would appear and persist onscreen in Windows, Linux, and at the BIOS. I diligently kept an eye on the GPU and other system temperatures but they were not abnormal – even cool. I put up with this for about 3 weeks, hoping the problem would go away. It didn’t.
I used a web form on BFG’s support website to report my issue. Along with a thorough description of the problem and my troubleshooting procedures I mentioned that I’d already paid to obtain a working replacement and I would accept no less than a free replacement, shipped entirely at BFG’s cost. A few days later I received a reply stating that BFG would in fact pay shipping both ways and accept all costs. As I was writing a thank-you reply I received another email saying that this offer was erroneous and BFG was in fact unwilling to pay the return shipping.
I replied to this email, reiterating that the defective card I was using was issued to me by BFG and I was not willing to pay to remedy their mistake in quality control. The last RMA cost $20 and left me without a working computer for 2 weeks and I was not about to make a semiannual habit of this. I asked BFG whether they stand by their lifetime warranty or not. Their reply was terse and marginally apologetic but unwavering.
I replied again, reiterating my entire story in case they’d misunderstood it. I gave them my contact information as requested and repeated my desire for BFG to cover all shipping. Erica P, the BFG customer support rep, replied tersely again, stating:
“We cannot cover the cost of shipping each RMA that fails, I am sorry. If you
ever have a problem with a replacement card within 30 days we will cover the cost of shipping the card.”
She also said that my return RMA “MAY” (her emphesis) provide me an upgraded model since mine had been discontinued. She then set up an ordinary RMA, for which I would have to pay return shipping. I refused it, reminder her that I was unwilling to suffer any downtime and I would not compensate BFG for their poorly performing replacement card. Erica P’s response was very telling about this company’s concept of quality products:
The card worked for 7 months, it was not a defective replacement.
And there you have it. BFG considers 7 months to be a reasonable lifespan for a $340 video card. Had I known this initially, I told her, I’d never ever have purchased their products. I’ll have this quote in mind the next time I buy.
When I told Erica I was not interested in this RMA, she replied, telling me it was worth the money since I “WOULD” be getting a higher model in return.
I was starting to get fed up with corporate policies and mixed messages. I knew I’d get nowhere with Erica. I planned to prepare a concise summary for the Better Business Bureau.
Please tell me, yes or no, will BFG arrange for em a cross-shipment RMA AND cover all costs?
If your answer is no I will engage the Better Business Bureau.
Thank you in advance for your answer of yes or no.
Apparently this wasn’t enough indication that I’d like a one-word answer:
An advanced replacement cannot be processed with an address outside of the United States. In order for you to receive a replacement of your card, you will have to pay for the cost of shipping the card to us. If anything happens to the card, outside of physical damage, within 30 days, we will cover your cost of shipping.
She then reminded me that an ordinary RMA had been set up to grant me the convenience of paying to ship my card to them. It’d been 5 days since I submitted my support request and I was fed up at this point. I concluded:
Thank you for failing to answer my yes or no question as requested. I will note this in my BBB complaint.
I then made my complaint to their local BBB. I submitted my complaint on a Friday and on Monday I had a message on my office phone from Jeff at BFG asking to call to discuss. I’d previously asked Erica to only allow BFG to communicate with me by email so that I could retain textual proof of their claims. She dutifully communicated this to Jeff who obliged.
Speaking with Jeff was nothing but a pleasure. He explained to me that “advance RMAs” (where they ship the replacement before receiving my defective card) were potentially subject to taxes by the recipient on arrival. I didn’t understand how customs knows whether I’d sent my card before or after, but I said I was willing to take this chance. Jeff offered to perform a burn-in test personally on the card he’d be sending me which I really appreciated. He even gave me some non-BFG-endorsed advice (which I won’t share here) regarding nonstandard cooling and BFG’s warranty.
In the end I received a BFG 7950GT OC video card which worked perfectly upon installation of the hardware and drivers. They’d even sent it in a retail box complete with cables, connectors, a disc, and a manual. In fact, the package was plastic-wrapped and the card looked pristine so I wondered whether it had even been tested. Just the same, it was more than I’d expected to be sent and I was grateful for that.
Shortly after I received a prepaid shipping label for DHL shipping. I sent my old card off without a hitch.
I concluded, emailing Jeff to say what a shame it was that I had to get the BBB involved. If BFG employed better customer service policies and trained their staff to communicate more tactfully my formal complaint might never have been necessary. I now regret telling them about my blog because I probably tainted the “Joe Blow customer experience.” If $340 weren’t so much money for me I’d have kept quiet and let them find out the hard way that my previous BFG RMA article currently ranks at #7 when searching Google for “BFG RMA”.
However, I was forced to go over BFG’s head and threaten them just to get fair service. Had I limited myself to the option BFG presented to me I’d be $20 poorer and would have been without a computer for another 2 weeks. That’d mean the total cost of ownership of my BFG product would have included $40 of shipping and a month of downtime per year. For reference, the only other video card I’ve owned in 20+ years that’s given me trouble didn’t fail until I’d used it for 2 years, and the replacement lasted me another 2 years until I simply retired it and put it on my shelf. BFG’s card cost me 5x as much and was operational for 1/4 as long. Pathetic.
I don’t think my situation is typical. BFG is a well known, mostly well respected company. However, we as consumers are forced to judge companies by our own experiences with them. Some things, like being presented unsatisfactory dead ends, are unacceptable and insulting. This is such an experience.
I cannot recommend BFG’s products anymore. I bought their card because of the advertised lifetime warranty, but this warranty puts its customers at the mercy of indifferent and tactless support personnel (which was true of my first experience which was quick and easy only because I agreed to pay shipping).
Caveat emptor. Shop around. FYI, XFX also offers lifetime warranties on their overclocked video cards. I’ll likely be trying their products next.