[rescue] Slightly OT: Bad Cap Saga

Geoffrey S. Mendelson gsm at mendelson.com
Mon Aug 18 01:45:55 CDT 2008

On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 03:22:07PM -0700, Curious George wrote:

> Can we get terms straight?  Who's the "manufacturer" in your descriptions?
> I see many manufacturers in a typical product -- most of the board
> assemblies are manufactured by one of more *vendors*.  The mechanical
> assembly may be done by yet another house.  It may then be rebranded
> and sold to the "Manufacturer" from which the consumer buys (note that
> a consumer need not be John Q Public).

Each one is a manufacturer, they do something to put it together. They buy
a raw material, whether it's aluminum foil to make the capacitors, or
the assembled boards and wire them together. Each step along the way,
someone builds, and possibly tests each unit. 

Generally no one sells their product with a warranty. It's too costly to
sell a mass produced item with one and expect them to come back for repair.
They either provide extra components, or a "reduced" price based upon
the anticipated failure rate, or tell you "what you get is what you get",
and plan accordingly.
> At some point, "you" (whichever of these "manufacturers" you happen
> to be!) have to have som efaith in the quality of "your" product.
> Or, are you saying their are manufacturers who just slap things
> together and never bother to see *if* they work??  :-/

Exactly, the cost is too high. Some companies do it, for example
Tandy did it with the original TRS-80 (and it may have been the
last time too), and Ten-Tec still does it with their radios.

I see articles in Tele-Satelite magazine showing manufacturers in the
far east who check their units, some every one. But that's a different
market than the 10 UKP DVD players ASDA had for Christmas last year (or was
it 2006?), 

> I've seen PC power supplies (covered by the PC's warranty), motherboards,
> LCD monitors, "flat screen" TV's, etc. all with the same sorts of problems.
> Note that none of these are "disposable" consumer kit.  Most have
> price tags high enough that the end user *will* be annoyed by "early
> failures".  (e.g., the three LCD monitors I fixed today were from an
> institution user -- if they are seeing large numbers of failures
> you can bet that information gets back to the manufacturer... in none
> too pleasing terms!)

Sure, what do they do? They complain to the board manufacturer who 
might do something or not. Most likely they will give them a few
extra boards for free, or promise not to do it in the next batch,
or most likely, since they stopped making those boards a year ago or
longer, just smile and say "sorry".

> And I am sure they would gladly sell you a *PC* today and again
> in 6 months!  Problem is, would *you* be willing to buy it *and*
> accept the fact that the 6-month-old unit was just "worn out"?

Some people do that. Often not in PC's, but in consumer electronics,
all the time. Look at the public relations disaster Apple had when the
first generation iPods failed after a year due to battery problems.

Now how many people keep their iPods for a year? What about the cheap
MP3 or "MP4" players that are everywhere? Does anyone care if they die
in a year? It's cheaper to go to Wal-Mart and buy a new one with more
memory, more features, etc and toss the old one.

> Sure, that's common practice!  It's still a losing proposition for
> the "manufacturer" if "enough" units are returned.  (there are costs
> involved in handling the return, complaint, etc. -- many of those
> can't be contained... e.g., a lawsuit pops up and you suddenly
> can't factor the cost of *that* into your $75 fee!  :> )

And exactly what do people sue you for? It's hard to sue someone because
a gaming device failed out of warranty. Look at all the threats Apple
got after the iPod battery fiasco. How did they resolve it? You could
return your iPod for battery replacement for $99. How much did that cost
them? How much money did they make on each of those repairs?

How many people did not bother and bought new iPods, or replaced the
battery themselves, absolving Apple of all guilt.

> And, it depends a lot on who your customer is and what your
> relationship with them happens to be.  For "consumer" (John Doe)
> product, you can afford to screw the user as, for most companies,
> you'll probably never do business with him, again.  Or, he won't
> remember/know he's doing business with the company who previously
> screwed him, etc.  (or, he may be naive enough to believe the
> product was *supposed* to only last N months... )

Well, with cheap consumer goods, it's exactly that. 

> OTOH, if you have long term relationships with your customer
> (recall, customer may be a *company* -- even one that remarkets
> your product or incorporates it into something of their own),
> then you really want to make sure that relationship sours as
> a result of them thinking they *were* screwed.  :<
> <shrug>  In my market, it's easier just to Do The Right Thing and
> not chase customers who follow the low-ballers around...

I assume you are not a member of the Walton family. :-)


Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel gsm at mendelson.com  N3OWJ/4X1GM

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