Manufacturers of digital currency mining equipment have become notorious for their long delays in shipments and poor customer service. But is this general perception actually the case?
Dario Di Pardo gives us his insight into the world of the frustrated miner, after personally dealing with a number of mining hardware makers over the last five months, and dealing with widely varying levels of delay, customer services and offers of compensation or refund.
Product: Prospero X-3 (2 TH/s)
Price including shipping: $4,978
Order date: November 18th, 2013
Anticipated shipping date: February 24th, 2014
Expected delay: 2-3 months
After ordering in November and expecting delivery in February, shipping has now been delayed till May 1st due to power consumption issues with Black Arrow's 28nm ASIC chip.
To compensate for the delay, however, the company offered free cloud hashing power for six months – effectively worth 25% of the purchased hashing power.
Tape-out of the improved chip was completed on February 23rd, and no further issues that could endanger the new shipping date are foreseen.
Customer support has been somewhat slow, but still reasonable.
Price including shipping: $6,696
Order date: November 18th, 2013
'Guaranteed' delivery date: February 15th, 2014
Expected delay: 2.5 months
In December, a production update was communicated via email. Unfortunately, it also contained the email addresses of all HashFast customers, thus compromising their privacy, as well as mine.
My initial order confirmation gave February 15th as the 'guaranteed delivery date' (deliveries after this date entitle buyers to a refund). In January, however, I received an email giving March 31st as the new 'guaranteed delivery date'. The email came without any complementary information whatsoever.
I received a further email on 28th March concerning shipping updates. Basically in my case (Batch 3), I must accept another month of delay (May shipment) or I can 'upgrade' my order to the new Sierra EVO (2 TH/s).
The latter option would also mean later shipment (end of May) and because it will be a kit, I would have to buy my own power supplies.
Ironically enough, people who placed an order for the Sierra EVO (available as of 20th February) will seemingly get theirs before I do, in April, this is despite the fact that I ordered mine three months before them.
Bitcoin refund requests from early customers who paid their order in bitcoins were refused and offered refunds in fiat at USD hardware pricing at the time of purchase instead. According some displeased customers, who are now considering legal action against HashFast, the terms of service clearly stated that orders paid in bitcoins would be refunded with the same amount of bitcoins.
Facing a one-week backlog, their customer support strikes me as questionable: some emails are ignored, while others are answered with generic replies.
No compensation for the delivery delay has been offered at this time.
Virtual Mining Corporation (VMC)
Product: Fast-Hash One Platinum Edition (1 TH/s)
Price including shipping: $6,479
Order date: November 24th, 2013
Anticipated shipping date: January 2014
Delay: 8 months?
Production of VMC's consumer mining machines is subject to a significant delay, due to underperformance of the 28nm ASIC chip manufactured by eASIC.
According Kenneth E. Slaughter, CEO of VMC, which is a subsidiary of Active Mining Corporation, customers who wish to cancel their pre-order will be refunded in full.
Strangely enough, this delay is not being communicated to the company's customers, neither by email nor via the website. One can only discover this information by checking the forums.
Considering the delay and lack of communication, I decided to apply for a refund on January 10th.
The only refund method is by cheque, and I received mine about a month after my application. Unfortunately the cheque came with a misspelling in my name, so that cashing it in was impossible.
The cheque was sent back with an accompanying letter clearly stating the correct spelling of the recipient's name, just to be sure.
However, mid-March a new cheque arrived containing the same misspelling and, this time, it wasn't signed either. At this point I started to wonder whether these errors were being done on purpose to delay the refund.
Declining my request to have the funds wired to my bank account instead, VMC will now be sending a third cheque (after receiving the unsigned one back from me).
So, maybe with some luck, some four to five months after applying for a refund, I will actually get my money back.
Despite all this, their customer service team has pretty good response times to email inquiries.
Product: CoinCraft Desk (1 TH/s)
Price including shipping: $5,758
Order date: November 28th, 2013
Anticipated shipping date: February (week 1)
Expected delay: 2.5 to 3 months
After a three months' delay, Bitmine began shipping their first CoinCraft Desk units on the 12th of February.
According to CEO Giorgio Massarotto, exactly one month thereafter, about 250 units were delivered, which would average out at a production capacity of 12 units a day.
Some customers have claimed the slow production rate is due to a deal Bitmine made with PETA-MINE, allowing them to cut in front of the delivery queue, causing extra delay for ordinary customers. This has not been confirmed, however.
In addition, Bitmine is currently experiencing a shortage of 1300W power supplies, which are needed for a fully populated (1 TH/s) CoinCraft Desk. Also a result of the PETA-MINE deal, according to some commenters.
Early recipients of the hardware have also reported that the Desk's 'turbo mode' doesn't work as advertised. For a 1 TH/s Desk 'turbo mode' would allow hash rates up to 1.5 TH/s. In reality it doesn't even come close to that number, they said.
Those who have ordered a CoinCraft Rig unit will have to cope with yet more delay, in the sense that shipment of these units has yet to be started. A recently published news update on the company website says this is expected in early April.
To compensate for the delay, Bitmine has a customer protection plan in place, which the company says consists of the following:
1) Shipment can be late up to a maximum of 10 days from the agreed shipment date.
2) For each subsequent 10 days of late shipping, we will add for free 10% more hashing power to your order as penalty.
3) After the 61st day of late shipment, you have the right to request a full refund and we will pay you an additional penalty of 10% of the initial order amount.
However, Bitmine recently announced on its official forum (just before it was closed down for about a week due to personal insults towards the CEO) that the maximum bonus hashing power was limited to 50% – a fact not mentioned in their customer protection plan.
This fact, in addition to the PETA-MINE story and the CoinCraft Desk's 'turbo mode' issues, has led to many upset customers.
From the end of February till mid-March emails were answered with a delay of one to two weeks. During this period it was also very difficult to get a support representative on the phone.
Bitmine has worked through its support tickets backlog, however, and you can now expect a response time of about one day.
So far, Bitmine has been unable to provide an estimated shipment date for my order.
Product: Neptune (3 TH/s)
Price including shipping: $10,175
Pre-order date: January 7th, 2014
Anticipated shipping date: Q2 2014
Expected delay: None
Having taped out their 20nm ASIC chip in February, KnCMiner seems on track for the Q2 delivery of the 3 TH/s SHA-256 mining rig.
In case a delay should occur, KnCMiner has said it will compensate customers with a free hosted hashing package as part of its so-called 'Plan B'.
Product: Viper (Scrypt) Miner (90 MH/s)
Price excluding shipping: £5,450 ($8,984)
Pre-order date: January 10th, 2014
Anticipated shipping date: July 2014
Expected delay: None
Shortly after the KnCMiner 100 MH/s scrypt miner announcement on March 3rd, Alpha Technology struck back with updated specifications for both of its upcoming miners.
The hash rate of the 5 MH/s scrypt miner has increased to 16 MH/s, while the 25 MH/s rig will be mining at 90 MH/s. Prices have not increased as a result.
Regular development updates contribute to a good customer experience so far.
Product: TerraMiner IV (2 TH/s)
Price including shipping: $6,569
Order date: January 12th, 2014
Anticipated shipping date: May 2014
Expected delay: None
CoinTerra's January and February batches were shipped out with a delay of about a month.
Because hardware specifications have been lower than anticipated – with a hash rate up to 1.72 TH/s instead of the advertised 2 TH/s and a 20% power draw increase – early customers were offered a 15% discount coupon redeemable against their next CoinTerra hardware purchase.
Seemingly now on track for delivery of later batches, they are working on improving the miner's performance and power efficiency to meet its initial specifications.
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