PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

Post by Jonathan I. Kame » Wed, 28 Sep 1994 01:23:19



Archive-name: pc-hardware-faq/vendor-reviews/swt
Posting-Frequency: quarterly
Version: $Id: swt-review,v 1.12 1994/09/26 16:22:19 jik Exp $

                             INTRODUCTION

This article details my dealings with a company doing business on the
net as SW Technology (although their checks say "SW Trading Company"),
referred to as "SWT" from here on.  Their E-mail address is
s...@netcom.com; their phone number is 214-907-0871; and their address
is 251 West Renner Parkway, Suite 229, Richardson, TX 75080.  All
dealings I had with SWT were through an employee named Marvin Wu (I
don't even know if there *are* any other employees in the company,
although Wu seemed to imply that there were).

                           ONE-LINE SUMMARY

Avoid this company.

                       THREE-PARAGRAPH SUMMARY

My experience with SWT is that although they don't seem to be
malevolent or intentionally dishonest, they are incompetent
technically and in their business dealings.  They presented a
good-looking facade when I was negotiating with them to purchase
hardware, but my problems with them started on the day I sent them a
check and didn't end even when I returned the hardware and asked for a
refund.  Although it seems to me that they tried to address my
complaints and make me happy with the system they sold me, there was
simply too much wrong with it from the start.

The net result of my dealings with SWT is that I've lost about $150
and learned a valuable lesson about not taking PC hardware vendors at
face value.

I strongly discourage anyone from doing business with this company.

                           THE WHOLE STORY

I set out in January 1994 to learn how to buy a PC-compatible computer
and then to go ahead and buy one.  I planned to run Linux on it I sent
the specs of the system I was looking for to a number of different
hardware vendors, and got back a number of quotes and brochures.  On
February 2, I posted an article to comp.os.linux.help, asking specific
questions about how the Pentium CPU, the PCI bus, and SCSI hard drives
and CD-ROMs would interact with Linux.  One of the people who
responded to that posting was Marvin Wu, with the return address
s...@netcom.com.

On February 7, I sent an E-mail message to all of the people who had
responded to my posting in comp.os.linux.help, including
s...@netcom.com, with an outline of all the issues I was considering
and what conclusions I had (tentatively) reached.

Marvin Wu responded on the same day, suggesting that I consider
purchasing one of SWT's systems, which would meet my specifications
and come pre-installed with Linux as well.  We corresponded about his
bid for about a week, and I sent him a check (after FAXing him a copy
of it as proof of acceptance, so that SWT could begin assembling my
system immediately) on February 16.  I paid $4949 (a good price for
what I was getting, compared to the bids I'd gotten from other
vendors), plus $95 for shipping and insurance, for the system.  The
entire purchase agreement, including all the specifications, is given
in Appendix A at the end of this article.

This is where the problems started.  I will first list the problems I
had with SWT's business dealings (the problems that I consider most
significant are marked with three asterisks instead of one):

* Every mail message I sent to SWT before placing my order was
  answered within one business day.  Since placing my order, I have on
  numerous occasions waited over a week for responses to my messages.
  Other messages haven't been answered at all.  When pressed on this,
  Wu claimed that problems with SWT's service provider were making
  mail unreliable, and that since multiple people read the
  s...@netcom.com E-mail account, some messages might have been lost.
  Frankly, I have a hard time believing either of these claims, and
  besides, they don't justify the delays.

*** Wu told me on February 15, before I placed my order, "... it'll
  take 5 five [sic] working days after a firm order to ship the
  system."  I placed my order on February 16, but my system did not
  arrive until March 16.  Even assuming a full week for ground
  shipping from Texas to Massachusetts, I should have had the system
  by March 2; instead, it arrived two weeks later than that.  At no
  time did Wu send me E-mail informing me that shipment had been
  delayed; I found out about delays only through repeated E-mail
  messages asking why the system hadn't arrived yet.

  The causes of the delay in shipping my system were known to SWT
  before I agreed to purchase from them, but they still told me that
  it would be shipped five days after an order was placed.

* When SWT finally shipped my system, Wu gave me a UPS tracking number
  over the telephone (I called him because I'd received no response to
  a week of E-mail asking whether the system had been shipped), after
  flipping through papers for several minutes, with me waiting (and
  paying long-distance charges), looking for it.  I called UPS to
  check on the status of the system, and they said the tracking number
  I had was invalid.  Wu subsequently gave me the correct tracking
  number in E-mail.

* Wu told me that the machine was shipping on a Monday, and that the
  shipping company used by SWT introduced a one-day delay before UPS
  actually got the shipment (so that UPS would get the shipment on
  Tuesday).  However, when I called UPS, they said that they didn't
  get anything until Thursday.

* After I received the system and discovered that some manuals were
  missing (see below), Wu told me that he'd send one of them to me on
  March 17, but I didn't get it until a month after that.

*** When I finally gave up and decided to return the machine, both
  because of the technical problems with it and because of poor
  responsiveness from SWT, SWT agreed to reimburse me for only the
  cost of the machine and half the cost of my shipping it back to
  them.  Legally, they were entitled to do that; however, given that
  the machine never worked properly since the day I got it, I believe
  they should have reimbursed me for all shipping costs, both what I
  paid for the machine to be shipped to me originally and what I paid
  for shipping it back to them.

*** The refund check that SWT issued bounced, i.e., their bank
  returned it because there were insufficient funds in their account
  to cover it, and my bank charged me $4 for depositing a bad check.

  I called Wu on the phone and asked for an explanation.  He told me
  that he was out of town and therefore wasn't around to make sure
  there was enough money in SWT's checking account (why someone in a
  stable business would need to be present in order to ensure that an
  already-written check would clear is beyond me).  He told me to
  redeposit the check when my bank returned it, and then send him
  E-mail letting him know it had been deposited, so that he could make
  sure there was enough money in the account to cover it.

  I got the check back on July 16, and I redeposited it on July 18.
  It appears to have cleared the second time.  I've sent E-mail to SWT
  (three times) asking if they're going to reimburse me for the $4
  bad-check charge, but I haven't yet received a response (it has been
  more than a week since I first asked them about it).

The machine I purchased had the following significant technical
problems (I'm omitting some of the trivial ones):

* The Linux LILO message configured into the system was incorrect --
  it mentioned booting DOS even though DOS wasn't installed on the
  machine.

* Although the purchase agreement promised complete documentation,
  there was no documentation at all about unpacking and setting up the
  system.  There was also no documentation about the various plugs in
  the back of the machine, nor was there a list of Linux device names
  corresponding to installed hardware (e.g., I had no idea what device
  my tape drive was installed on).  Furthermore, the manual for one of
  the cards in the system (the Seagate SCSI card) and for the tape
  drive were missing.

* The CD-ROM drive included with my system had some minor problems
  interacting with Linux (e.g., "workman" wouldn't start up unless a
  CD was already in the drive).  These problems were not mentioned to
  me before I purchased the system; I was assured that the drive was
  fully compatible with Linux.

* The video board included with my system had problems interacting
  with Xfree86; in particular, font restoration bugs in the Xfree86
  support made it impossible to use virtual consoles while using X,
  and made font restoration when shutting down X fail occasionally.
  These problems were not mentioned to me before I purchased the
  system, although SWT was aware of them.

* There were a number of minor errors in the installation of software
  on the system.  For example, a number of X programs were installed
  without app-defaults files, and there were several errors in the
  default user dotfiles.

* The mouse I was sold came with drivers on a 5.25" floppy, despite
  the fact that I purchased only a 3.5" floppy drive with the system.
  The documentation that came with the mouse claimed that it was
  possible to purchase it with a 3.5" floppy too, so I obviously
  should have received the 3.5" floppy rather than the 5.25" one.

*** The CPU fan installed with the system could not adequately cool a
  66MHz Pentium processor.  As a result, the system regularly
  overheated and behaved erratically or hung.  For example, the first
  attempt to compile a source file with gcc would fail with a weird
  assembler error, but the second attempt to compile the same file
  with the same command would succeed.

  Wu told me before I agreed to purchase from SWT that my system would
  undergo "a thorough test for at least 72 hours" before being shipped
  to me.  However, I find it impossible to believe that any sort of
  "thorough test" was done and did not detect this problem; until I
  installed early in April a new fan sent to me by SWT (more
...

read more »

 
 
 

PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

Post by Ahmed Na » Sun, 30 Oct 1994 23:19:19


: Archive-name: pc-hardware-faq/vendor-reviews/swt
: Posting-Frequency: quarterly
: Version: $Id: swt-review,v 1.12 1994/09/26 16:22:19 jik Exp $

I'm surprised this crab is approved for posting in the moderated groups
*.answers. This is obviously the action of a vindictive person carrying
out an old-fashioned vendetta against SWT and does not belong in technical
and *.answer groups. Many people get burned buying hardware and they, in
their frustration, post to the net about it, but turning that into a
quaterly post to inappropriate groups tells me more about the poster than
SWT.

PS. I have nothing whatsoever to do with SWT.

--
The above is a result of random neuron activity in the writer's brain.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

Post by Jonathan I. Kame » Tue, 01 Nov 1994 03:42:36



|> : Archive-name: pc-hardware-faq/vendor-reviews/swt
|> : Posting-Frequency: quarterly
|> : Version: $Id: swt-review,v 1.12 1994/09/26 16:22:19 jik Exp $
|>
|> I'm surprised this crab is approved for posting in the moderated groups
|> *.answers. This is obviously the action of a vindictive person carrying
|> out an old-fashioned vendetta against SWT and does not belong in technical
|> and *.answer groups. Many people get burned buying hardware and they, in
|> their frustration, post to the net about it, but turning that into a
|> quaterly post to inappropriate groups tells me more about the poster than
|> SWT.

I chose to write a vendor review about SWT, because I did business with SWT.

If someone else chooses to write a vendor review about another company and
post it regularly, whether it's a good review or bad review, the *.answers
moderators will approve that FAQ as well, and probably put it right next to
main in the "pc-hardware-faq/vendor-reviews" archive directory.

In fact, I am currently in the process of buying a new machine from Dell.
When I get the machine and have some time to try it out (and to interact
further with Dell as necessary), I will write a vendor review of Dell and
start posting that as well as my SWT review.  So far, I have been happy with
Dell, but then again, I was also happy with SWT until after I placed my order
with them :-).

The *.answers moderators do not judge the content of FAQs that are submitted
to them.  Any posting that is intended to be informational and read by people
and that is posted regularly is eligible for cross-posting to *.answers.
There are plenty of *.answers postings that offend many more people than my
SWT review.  Approval for *.answers cross-posting does not imply any sort of
endor*t by the *.answers moderators of the text in a posting.

As to whether or not my posting is a "crab", I am "vindictive", and I am
"carrying out an old-fashioned vendetta against SWT," I will not respond to
such vague, fact-free accusations.  If you have something specific to say,
either in one of these newsgroups or in E-mail, about the specific complaints
I raise in my review,  I will be glad to discuss it with you further.
--

 
 
 

PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

Post by Ahmed Na » Fri, 04 Nov 1994 17:24:24



Are you, per chance, one of the moderators of *.answer groups?

--
The above is a result of random neuron activity in the writer's brain.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

PC HARDWARE VENDOR REVIEW: SW Technology (a.k.a. SW Trading Company)

Post by Jonathan I. Kame » Sat, 05 Nov 1994 04:34:48


|> Are you, per chance, one of the moderators of *.answer groups?

I was responsible for the creation of the *.answers newsgroups, and I
moderated them for over two years.  Early in the summer of this year, I
stopped being an active moderator of the newsgroups, and I have been the
"moderator emeritus" since then -- I do not get mail sent to the moderators,
and I do not approve or reject submissions to the newsgroup, but I am
available for the other moderators to consult if they need advice or have
questions about the moderation utilities (i.e., the various programs I wrote
to assist in the moderation of the groups).

I did not approve the pc-hardware-faq/vendor-reviews/swt posting for
*.answers.  I submitted it to *.answers using the normal channels, and it was
approved by one of the three current, active moderators.

You are, perhaps, trying to imply that my submission would not have been
approved for *.answers if I weren't the creator of the groups.  Such an
implication is baseless and insulting to the moderators who took over for me.
As I have already said, *.answers postings are approved or rejected solely on
the basis of whether their header formatting conforms to the *.answers
guidelines; the *.answers moderators do not exert any sort of editorial
control over postings submitted to *.answers.  If you don't believe me, I
suggest you ask them; I've CC'd them on this message, so I'm not making these
claims behind their backs.

On a more general note, in my opinion, of the flaming in these groups over my
periodically posted review of SWT boils down to a few succinct points:

1) Some people believe that my review is inappropriate because I'm only
posting it because I'm vindictive and I want to get revenge on SWT because of
the problems I had with them.

2) Some people believe that although my complaints are valid, there's no reason
to post about them over and over.

3) Some people believe that although the facts of my dealings with SWT as
presented in my review are accurate, my reaction to those facts is
unreasonable -- either "Hey, everybody gets burned every once in a while.
Live with it!" or "You've blown the problems with SWT all out of proportion.
What they did wasn't really all that bad."

I would like to respond to each of these points in turn:

1) Yes, I am angry at SWT.  The thought, "Gee, if I write up my experience
with them and post it on the net, they'll lose business because of it," has
indeed crossed my mind.  However, that thought is not my primary motivation
for posting my review.

I post my review because I believe that other people who buy high-end systems
from SWT have a good chance of having problems with them similar to the
problems I had, and I want to give them the information that will enable them
to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase from SWT.  Some
people have read my review and chosen as a result not to do business with SWT.
Some people have read my review and chosen to do business with SWT anyway.
Both of these are reasonable courses of action.  My review makes
recommendations which are my OPINION, and people are free to agree or disagree
with my opinion.

I do not expect to get back from SWT the money that I think they owe me.  I do
not expect them to ever pay attention to me in any way again.  I therefore
have nothing to gain personally from posting a review which makes them look
bad.

If you don't believe me when I say that revenge is not my primary motivation
for posting my review, I doubt there's anything that I can do to change your
mind.

2) There are constantly new people in these newsgroups, people who have just
chosen to buy a new system and are looking for the right vendor.  If I post my
review every three months, it seems obvious to me that numerous new people
will see the review each time I post it.  If I post were to post it once and
never post it again, I would not be achieving my desired purpose, which is to
let people know of the problems they may experience with SWT.

3) "Everybody gets burned every once in a while."  I have never been, and
never will be, an adherant to this philosophy.  If a company does bad business
with me, and I believe that they might do bad business with others, than I
will do everything in my power to make sure that does not happen.  (In Jewish
law, one of the interpretations of the biblical commandment against putting a
stumbling block in the path of a blind man is that a Jew is forbidden to stand
by and do nothing when he knows that there is potential for someone to do harm
to someone else.  That is why, for example, a Jew is obligated to testify when
called as a witness in a criminal trial, even if testifying might put him/her
at risk.  In addition to believing that I should follow this law as an
observing Jew, I believe that I should follow this law because it is a just
law which leads to a better society for everyone.)

"You've blown the problems all out of proportion."  All I can say in response
to this is that I disagree.  I believe that the problems I experienced with
SWT were significant and unacceptable.  Some people agree with me, some people
do not.  Again, if you disagree with me about this, I doubt there's anything
that I can do to change your mind.

***

Those of you who have flamed me about my review, either in E-mail or in
postings in these newsgroups, will be pleased to learn that the next posting
of my review will be the last.  Although I believe that posting it does real
good and that my motives for posting it are honest, I simply do not have the
energy to deal with the vitriol it seems to provoke in some people.  People
have attacked and passed judgment on me in ways that I would previously never
have imagined (e.g., accusing me of changing my mind about needing a computer
after getting the one from SWT, and therefore returning it and trying to
extort all my money back with a made-up story about problems with it).  I am
used to the fact that people who are active on the net are subject to abuse
from some people even when other people are grateful for their activism, but
the amount of abuse I'm getting from this particular activism is just more
than I feel willing to handle right now.

The next posting of my review will be expanded to include positive experiences
others have had with SWT.  I do not believe that the fact that some people
have had no trouble with SWT implies that my warning is inaccurate, but people
have the right to know that not everybody who does business with SWT loses.

The next posting of my review will also contain a section comparing my
dealings with SWT to my dealings with Dell, from whom I ordered a new machine
last week (it's due to arrive tomorrow).  Some people have claimed that I have
no right to complain about SWT until I have experience with another company to
compare to my experience with SWT; I disagree with that claim (a bad company
is a bad company, regardless of whether other companies in the field are
better or worse), but at least now they'll have no grounds to make it.

I appreciate the E-mail I have received from people thanking me for posting my
review and assuring me that there are others besides me who believe that much
of the negative feedback about it has been unreasonable.  Thank you for your
support, but I'm afraid it isn't enough anymore to convince me to keep posting
the review and putting up with the abuse.

--