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If something seems too good to be true...  
By Alan Zisman 2021-04-16

Macedonian translation by Katerina Nestiv ~ Azerbaijanian translation by Amir Abbasov ~ Thai translation by Ashna Bhatt

My mother always used to tell me (and I'll bet yours did too): 'If something seems to good to be true, it probably isn't'.

Nevertheless, I sometimes find myself wondering what if this time it's for real? And sometimes, I'll take a gamble even though I know the odds are low.

My Facebook feed, recently, was showing ads from what seemed like a variety of different companies (none of which I'd ever heard of) offering to sell large capacity USB flash drives for prices in the range of US$20 for 1 TB storage or US$30 for 2 TB.

For comparison, Amazon lists several models of 1 TB flash drive, at prices like CDN$180 to $220 (approx US$145-175). No-name brands are typically cheaper, but for 1/7th the price, there's gotta be a catch, right?

But I could afford to gamble $20, so I went ahead. After all, it claimed to be 40% for a Black Friday sale. $20 + $6 shipping, payable by Paypal.

TB driveIt arrived in 2 weeks - virtually no time at all (I'm still waiting for a replacement battery for an old Macbook that I ordered in early February, with promised delivery sometime between mid-April and mid-June).

A slick little unit - nice design, a brushed steel case with a loop on the end so it could be added to a set of keys. (Canadian quarter for size comparison).

Plugged into both Mac and Windows laptops, it reported itself as having 1 TB capacity - just as advertised. I copied a small file or two and it worked just fine.

What could go wrong? Well I'd heard reports of people receiving devices that reported themselves as having more space than they actually had. It would have been nice to copy enough data to this device to see what it's actual capacity was - but keep reading.

My next step was to try to copy a relatively hefty folder full of files onto it. After all, the whole point of having a large capacity flash drive would be to be able to store and carry around a lot of files.

So I tried to copy my Music folder - about 90 GB in size. That's less than 1/10th the advertised capacity of the drive. It started off fine, copying some files and estimating the time remaining. At first the estimate was that it would finish copying in an hour or so. Then two hours. Then four. Much later, when the dialogue box in Windows 10 looked like this, I cancelled:

24 hours to go!

(You may notice that it says it's copying to '333GB (D:)' - I had repartitioned the drive into a smaller partition - afterwards, I put it back to the ways it was initially, with the same results).

I had a similar experience copying the Music folder on my Mac laptop:

And on the Mac

I wanted to compare its performance to a smaller-capacity, name-brand flash drive. I have a 16 GB Kingston drive on my keyring. Obviously, I could use my 90+GB Music folder for this test - instead, I used my 7 GB Documents folder. After copying 181 MB, the Kingston drive estimated it would take an hour to finish. After 15 minutes, it had copied 700 MB, about 10% of the total. I lost patience and cancelled the operation. (It took 4 minutes to empty the trash). Not great.

Let's see what the TB drive could do in the same 15 minutes.

In this case, after 5 minutes, 166 MB had been copied, and the estimate for completion was 'about 3 hours'. After 10 minutes, 169 MB had been copied, and the estimated time was now 7 hours. After 15 minutes, 190 MB had been copied and the estimated time until completion was 9 hours. So the Kingston's performance was slower - this one was much slower. In the same 15 minutes, it had copied less than a third as much.

So I got in touch with the vendor - there was a card in the package explaining the returns policy. It discussed time limits for getting in touch and gave what looked like a personal Gmail email address for starting the process.

2 days later, I got a reply (from a different Gmail address):

Dear Customer

We are so sorry to hear that. Our apologies for any inconvenience caused. Don’t worry, we will try our best to solve this out for you.

To save time and effort of customers and us. We would like to offer you a $5 refund as compensation.

Due to the cost of returning postage, which is not worth it to return it back to us. Before you make your final decision, you may check with your local post office for the postage that cost.

For any other inquiries, please feel free to contact us.

Kind Regards,
Customer Service

I replied that in order to check with my post office, I needed to know where to send it - and wondered why there was a card with a returns policy if they didn't, in fact, want to accept a return.

Two days later, without telling me where they were located, they offered $6 back. A week later, they offered $7.

Instead, since I'd paid using PayPal, I requested a refund through that service. So far, I've heard nothing back.

Maybe my mother was right?

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About This Blog...

I've been writing about computers, software, Internet and the rest of technology since 1992, including a 17 year (1995-2012) stint as 'High Tech Office' columnist for Business in Vancouver. This blog includes thoughts on technology, society, and anything else that might interest me. Comments, emailed to alan@zisman.ca are welcome - and may be published in whole or part. You can follow me on Facebook for notice of new blog postings.
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