Return/RMA Amazon items back to the US while living oversea. How did I do it?

INTRO

Due to large differences in term of pricing when compared to that in Singapore, I've bought lot of items from Amazon over the years, most of them have been electronic products and gadgets. With that said, it's not all gold and roses. I'm fully aware that with the cheaper prices, most products will not receive any global warranty coverage (except from 30 days Amazon return, which by itself sounds impossible). As a result of this, I always think to myself that Amazon items are: once bought, no regret, better buy something that last.

But that's not always the case.

In this post, I will document my first ever attempt to return something to the US to get warranty replacement. You will most likely not having the same 'spoilt' item as me, but my item would serve as a example of how such process can be done. Hopefully, it will help you with your decision on whether you should return something from wherever you live.


BACKGROUND

Here is the item that screwed up: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 Mini ITX Overclocked 4GB GDDR5 PCiE Video Card GV-N970IXOC-4GD.

This card video output just stopped working one day when my customer was playing his game. When it went 'poof', the screen just went off showing no input signal while audio can still be heard outputting from the PC. After reboot, the PC still boot up normally, but you can't see any output on the monitor.

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The 970 culprit

I bought this card for my customer PC build back in October 2015 for around 500 SGD and never expect such card to fail after just 2 years of usage. At the time, it was one of the few ITX size GTX970 graphic card that was available, it also came with 3 years manufacturer warranty.

Since the whole RMA process will take quite long (I'm guessing 1.5 months here), both of us decided to replace the card with a new MSI GTX1060 Aero ITX 6GB card, bought locally from Sim Lim Singapore. This will allow my customer to continue using his system, while I'm able to RMA the 970 card.

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The 1060 replacement


THINGS TO CONSIDER

The objective of this post is to assess whether it's a good option to RMA/return items to the US. Following are some of the considerations you should think of in a similar situation:

  • Cost. How much will it cost to ship item to the US, and back? Is it worth it to do this? Is it better just to buy a new card instead?
  • Duration. Will it take too long to get the item back? Can you live without the item? Any short term replacement?
  • Preparation. What do you need to do? What are needed before you send something over?

I will try to answer all of this questions in this post. So let's get to it.


THE PROCESS

ONLINE PREPARATION

  • After a quick check with Gigabyte customer support, I found out that there is no international warranty for the card. As such, it's required to be sent back to the US for replacement. Always check if there is no other way to get the card replaced locally before sending it oversea!
  • To start with the RMA process, you need to create your account on:
    http://ggcs.gigabyte.com/GIGABYTE-RMA-Login-User.aspx
    Most other company will have similar website where you will need to raise your RMA request before sending in the faulty item.
  • This is where you may face your first complication(or second, the first being your items screwed up :P): YOU NEED AN U.S ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER!
    This is probably due to the fact that RMA is only available to the US.

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The first road block

  • This is where third party shipping company come in. They are company in the US that will provide you a US address as well as US phone number, they will receive your package and then forward it to you wherever you live. Currently I'm using comGateway for this purpose, you will fine many other similar services online as well.

  • Using my US address from comGateway, I successfully registered my account with Gigabyte.

  • You then need to request for repair or RMA. You will need to have your device with you since they will ask for model number, serial number and such stuffs.

  • Submit request for approval, wait a few days to get request approved.


OFFLINE PREPARATION & SHIPPING

  • Once RMA request is approved, you will likely received a shipping label that you need to stick on the outside of the box.
  • Within 30 days, you need to send back your items to wherever they are asking.
  • In my case, I will just reuse the box that the MSI 1060 come in and send the Gigabyte 970 back. If you don't have such option, try to have an adequate and decent box to package your item. You don't want to further damage the card on the way back to the US, which will void your warranty.
  • Once done, package your item nicely, attach all the requested documentations, then send it to the US!
  • I ended up using Singpost and send the package as "Registered Air Package" that would arrive in 6-8 days and Singapost also provided a tracking number.
  • Since my package weight over 1kg, the shipping cost was 39.5 SGD, not too bad imo.

NOTHING BUT WAITING

  • The card was sent out on 9th Oct 2017, Gigabyte received the card and acknowledge receiving the defective card on 18th Oct 2017. That took 9 days.
  • Gigabyte finished testing/fixing the replacement card and it's sent out to my US address on 25th Oct. Half a month have passed.
  • The card arrived at my US address on the 28th Oct.

SHIPPING BACK TO SINGAPORE

  • Shipping the card back on it own cost 46 SGD. However, I bundled the card with some other stuffs that I bought in the US and the cost went down to 34 SGD.

  • I received the card on 3rd Nov. Almost a month from the day the card died.


INSPECTION

The card was sent back in the box that I used to shipped it to US. Fortunately, comGateway used a bigger box to shipped the replacement card back to Singapore (the original box was put inside the larger box).

*iPhone 5S included for size comparision

Once I open the box, I find out that the 'replacement' card come with different Serial Number. Original card's SN and 'new' card's SN different in only 1 digit.

  • Original S/N: SN153651181743
  • New S/N:       SN153671181743

Beside the difference in SN, there are signs of repair and modification made on the back of the card. You can see certain components were soldered on by hand (they didn't do a great job imo).

Until now I can't tell if Gigabyte sent me a different card or they just repair my old card and sent it back. I was surprised by how clean the card's heat sink is and suspect that it may have been a different card.


TESTING

(Ongoing)