Data dilemma
August 31, 2008 3:23 PM   Subscribe

JudgeMe: is it ethical to buy a hard drive enclosure for the express purpose of data recovery and then return the enclosure immediately after the data has been recovered?

If not, please suggest an alternate method to get a hard drive enclosure for one day's use. Assume that canvassing one's friends is too inconvenient.
posted by crazycanuck to Computers & Internet (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I've done it, thanks to Future Shop's generous return policy. It saved me a LOT of trouble a few years ago when I had a motherboard fail on me in an iBook. In that case, I bought the hard drive and the enclosure and returned both soon after. These days, USB enclosures are cheaper, so you could just hang on to it. Some places are selling them for as little as $20 now..
posted by mariokrat at 3:34 PM on August 31, 2008


Is it ethical? Of course not.

Buy one from www.newegg.com. They're not expensive. Then sell it on Ebay.

You might lose a few bucks, but you'll sleep fine.
posted by Dorri732 at 3:43 PM on August 31, 2008




Keep it. Now you have an external backup device so you dont find yourself in this situation again.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:49 PM on August 31, 2008


It's not ethical. Neither is it ethical to buy a dress, wear it for one fancy event, then return it. The $15 or $20 isn't a lot.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:49 PM on August 31, 2008


I pickup a SATA/IDE 2.5/3.5 (ie, laptop, desktop, pata and sata) 4 in 1 to USB converter for $25? Its AMAZINGLY useful. Its nice to be able to connect to a drive in a desktop without having to PULL the drive out.

I have this and love it.
posted by SirStan at 4:12 PM on August 31, 2008


I already had an external hard drive, damn things don't work if you forget to run regular backups. I panicked when I realized how bad my backup was, so I ran to Best Buy and I bought the first enclosure I saw at Best Buy. It was pricy. Damn I wish I knew they were so cheap elsewhere. Lesson learned.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:13 PM on August 31, 2008


Are you in Toronto, CrazyCanuck? Because I bought one a couple of months ago, used it to check some old hard drives for an hold draft of some old writing that had crawled back into my brain, and then threw it into a box because I couldn't quite get past the idea that returning it would be wrong. If you are and you want to borrow mine, MeMail me.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:31 PM on August 31, 2008


Oh, duh, I see you already bought one.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:32 PM on August 31, 2008


I think it's ethical depending on where you purchase from. Best Buy? Return that baby as soon as you're done. :)
posted by saxamo at 4:32 PM on August 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


No. (But you know that answer. You are simply looking to Mefites for validation.)
posted by Dick Paris at 4:52 PM on August 31, 2008


I'm not sure it's clear cut that this is unethical. Stores generally have no-questions-asked return policies, because they'd rather take the loss of the return (for whatever reason) than have a disgruntled customer who just paid for something they don't want. The reason they don't delineate the reasons allowable for returns is because ultimately, the reasons don't matter to them.

Here's what you should do, to prove the above, and have a clean conscience: when Best Buy asks you why you are returning it, simply say that you decided you didn't want it, or found one for a cheaper price, etc. It's the truth, and guess what: they'll still take it back. If you ask them to take it back, you are honest about it (if they want to know the reason), and they still take it back, you are playing well within the rules. I'm not sure why it's unethical to ask, and to be granted a refund, if they so desire and know the reasons.

It's not a game to be beaten by finding loopholes. But there is a financial incentive for the store to have generous return policies. It's called creating good will with the customer by allowing them to change their mind, for whatever reason, such that they'll keep coming back. They make more money this way than if they had strict guidelines on what constitutes a legitimate return.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:56 PM on August 31, 2008


What? Ethical? NO!

That you even have to ask is alarming.

When you buy something you're entering into an agreement, and exchange of capital for a good. To then use the good (receiving value from owning it) and then returning it for 100% of your money back you are in effect stealing value.

It's almost, but not quite, the same as asking, "Is it ethical to rob a bank if I pay the money back later?"

Drive enclosures are silly cheap nowadays. You can buy them shipped from eBay for less than $10.00 USD. If you decide you don't want it after you buy it, give it away, or sell it on Craig's List and recoup some of your investment.

Gezz.... the questions some people ask...
posted by wfrgms at 5:08 PM on August 31, 2008


Yes, it is ethical. As long as you follow the store's return policy. If they have a no-questions-asked return policy, for example, you're damn right it's ethical.

It's funny how it's only us normal people who think in terms of "ethics". A company would try to screw you any way they could.

Now hurry up and save all your stolen music files.
posted by luckypozzo at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


i'd return the product to a corporate store (future shop, wal mart, etc.)
i wouldn't stiff a privately owned small or medium business.
if there were less than 20 employees, and they were not wearing uniforms, and they were at all pleasant to you, i'd say keep the device.
posted by twistofrhyme at 6:08 PM on August 31, 2008


To then use the good (receiving value from owning it) and then returning it for 100% of your money back you are in effect stealing value.

How is value stolen if it isn't reduced in any way? Assuming the product is in 100% perfect condition when returned, someone else will buy it and receive the value all over again. Nothing has "gone missing". Nothing has "been stolen".
posted by Jimbob at 6:25 PM on August 31, 2008


nthing yes
posted by strangelove at 6:26 PM on August 31, 2008


(Sorry, but "Stealing value" is the greatest bullshit being spread in modern economic discussion. If it's raining, and I stand under the awning of a shop to keep dry, according to the "stealing value" theory, I owe the shop owner some money for deriving value from something he owns. If the person on the train beside me is reading the newspaper, and I glimpse some articles, I should have to pay for it. Rubbish.)
posted by Jimbob at 6:29 PM on August 31, 2008


My understanding is that items may be returned at some stores for any reason (but isn't there often the assumption of displeasure with the product? Not always, mind you, but that it somehow doesn't suit your needs or was an unwise like too expensive - purchase. ) This doesn't really fall into those categories - and you've got to be kidding me if someone out there would say to the person at returns with a straight face: Oh I just needed to back some stuff up for one day, and now I have and thought I'd return it to you. Great product, by the way.

So I think it's inappropriate to return it because it's a question of intent.

Also, the do (tacky things) unto others (in this case, big business) just cause they might do/have done it unto you is kind of shady as well. Has this particular business ever done you wrong?

So returning: Ethical? Maybe. Depends on your values. Triffling? Probably. Does it really matter in the big scheme of things, either to yourself or the business? Probably not.

So do what you gotta do.
posted by anitanita at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2008


In ethics, questions of intent matter. You are purchasing the enclosure in bad faith, because you have no intention of keeping it.

Enclosures are cheap, and very useful to have around.

Assuming the product is in 100% perfect condition when returned, someone else will buy it and receive the value all over again.

For many retailers, it would at this point become an "open box" product which they would only sell at a discount.
posted by grouse at 6:50 PM on August 31, 2008


It is not ethical to buy an enclosure and return it because you don't need it anymore.

It is completely ethical to buy an enclosure and return it because you discovered after buying it that NewEgg had it for a third of the price.

Hint hint.
posted by kindall at 7:02 PM on August 31, 2008


I work for the clothing portion of a store, so as far I as I am concerned, it is COMPLETELY ethically sound to buy, use, and then return the enclosure. Hard Drives - as far as I know - do not sweat or stink that much, plus there is no need to put an enclosure through the laundry (however, if you do this as you snacking, be sure to wipe off any grease... ;)).

Other real reasons include this is a one-time thing only. Do not do this 5 different times with 5 different items because someone will eventually catch on.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:49 PM on August 31, 2008


Well, if the store now has to sell it cheaper as an open-box item, then you are costing them money.

I'm not sure about the ethics but at least you're returning it in presumably the same condition you bought it in. There are tons of stories on sites like Behind The Counter about people say, buying beach chairs for their vacation and returning them full of sand. Clearly used.

I would say changing your mind is okay. I once bought the original 1GB iPod Shuffle (having never owned an iPod), then decided I liked it and needed more storage room, so I returned it and bought the iPod Mini instead. I was open with the clerk about why I was returning it and she didn't say a thing about it. Essentially I changed my mind.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:02 PM on August 31, 2008


No, it's not ethical.

Hint hint: it doesn't matter what excuse you use.
posted by gjc at 8:08 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not ethical at all.

As for "stealing value", the store loses its fully sellable quality the moment you buy it and open the package. I'd imagine that any reputable store would not just put a potentially damaged or otherwise flawed product right back on the shelves.

So, the alternatives:
- borrow one (I assume you are nowhere near Quesnel BC, otherwise I'd lend you mind)
- go onto Craigslist/eBay and buy a cheap one or the USB adapters mentioned above
- buy one and sell it slightly cheaper than you paid

Not complicated, nor expensive. You can be honourable and frugal at the same time.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


As long as you follow the returns policy, of course you're being ethical.
That said, you might find it useful to hang on to.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:48 PM on August 31, 2008


No. (But you know that answer. You are simply looking to Mefites for validation.)

Quoted for truth.

I'm not sure it's clear cut that this is unethical.

Really? 'Purchasing' something under false pretences, using it (and thereby deriving the value for which you should have paid), and then returning it for a full refund, thereby getting the value without paying for it? That isn't clear-cut for you?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:02 PM on August 31, 2008


Seconding SirStan's recommendation to buy an adapter rather than an enclosure. Buy one and keep it! For occasional use, it's versatile and great to have around.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:19 PM on August 31, 2008


There really is no clear-cut way to gauge when and whether to abuse a store's return policy.
posted by mumstheword at 10:45 PM on August 31, 2008


Essentially, you are proposing this: you loan the electronics retailer $n intending that he loan you a hard drive enclosure with a value of $n in return. After you are done using the hard drive enclosure, you return it with a value of $n - $X (where $X is the loss in resale value from an opened item, restocking costs, etc.), and the retailer returns your $n to you, leaving him short $X.

If you owned an electronics store whose business was selling (not renting) electronics, is this how you would want your customers to treat you? (hint, hint, golden rule.) If you owned an electronics store, would you be able to stay in business if everyone did this? (hint, hint, Kant's categorical imperative).
posted by hhc5 at 11:18 PM on August 31, 2008


Also, as dirtynumbangelboy points out, you would taking home a hard drive enclosure "for the express purpose of data recovery" without really paying for it.

Do you really think BestBuy is in the business of giving away hard drive enclosures for free so long as they're taken home "for the express purpose of data recovery?"

Is Macy's is in the business of loaning out their dresses overnight for free so long as they're taken home "for the express purpose of wearing them to just once?"
posted by hhc5 at 11:33 PM on August 31, 2008


Really? 'Purchasing' something under false pretences, using it (and thereby deriving the value for which you should have paid), and then returning it for a full refund, thereby getting the value without paying for it? That isn't clear-cut for you?

Actually, I've rethought my position, and I agree with you. I'm sorry to have muddied the waters a bit.

Intent is important, and there is an implied understanding that when you are buying an item, you plan to keep it. Return policies should be understood to apply to situations where this fundamental point is assumed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:43 PM on August 31, 2008


No. (But you know that answer. You are simply looking to Mefites for validation.)

Dick Paris is 100% on the money. You know that an emphatic "NO" is the answer. Now go forth and do the right (honest) thing.
posted by parkerama at 11:57 PM on August 31, 2008


I returned the enclosure. I walked into the store, I said "I'd like to return this", and I got my money back with no questions asked. There was no lying involved.

Next time I will shop around and find a cheaper solution. I would have kept the enclosure if it was cheaper. I'm not sure if it was really unethical, since I did follow the store's return policy to the letter and did not lie, but I do feel kind of uncomfortable and wish I had looked around more first.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2008


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