Here's what the PC store agreed to pay for losing a customer's hard drive

After a month of back and forth, the computer store that lost my co-worker's old hard drive instead of transferring its irreplaceable contents to his newly purchased, $1,000 PC has agreed to cough up $500 worth of compensation.

Seems fair to me, despite the fact the customer was a bad boy about backup.

The fellow's wife, however, still believes that the store got off easy.

And many of you who commented on the first installment of this tale - those who placed responsibility for this mess exclusively on the shoulder's of my colleague - will find the store's settlement unnecessarily generous, if not obscenely so.

I've decided to omit the names of the customer and the store because my workplace relationship with the former might make my commentary about the latter seem unfair (and we're talking about a Mom and Pop place, not Circuit City).

From the original post:

Gone for good is seven years worth of correspondence between three generations of the buyer's family, as well as 2,000 e-mail addresses and all the administrative files for a fledgling news site. The stuff was on a drive that the store - not one of the big chains - tossed out instead of copying over to a new PC it sold a colleague of mine. (Yes, we beat him mercilessly for not backing it up.)

Your assignment here is to help determine proper compensation for this loss.

Dozens of you took to the assignment with great relish and the range of opinions on the matter could not have been wider.

Many displayed limited or no sympathy for my co-worker's plight:

"I can't get past the lack of a backup. If he had done one before having them do the transfer, how much would they owe him? It's kind of like film developers (remember film?) being responsible for damaged film but not lost pictures."

"I'm sorry, the store owes them nothing. I really do feel for this customer, but anyone leaving off a system with any vendor, without fully backing it up first, is their own worst enemy."

"Your friend needs to realize one little detail: It's HIS data and therefore his responsibility. This type of situation is one of the exact reasons why a person should backup, ideally keeping multiple copies on multiple media."

"There is no fair reason he should expect this computer store to reimburse him for data he was responsible for. Pure and simple."

As is so often the case in these kinds of disagreements, calling something pure and simple doesn't make it pure and simple. Not everyone was willing to absolve the store of responsibility or financial liability.

"Picture taking some very important documents to FedEx to have a copy made - and they shred them instead. Was it your fault you didn't make a copy before you went to make a copy? No. It's their fault for messing up data they explicitly took responsibility for by agreeing to copy it."

"Even if the owner had backups, throwing away a disk drive with personal information on it is irresponsible. I would ask for the cost of the computer and software and tell the store that they are not off the hook if my identity is stolen from their carelessness!"

The hard-core among the store apologists truly puzzle me. I mean not only are they hellbent on seeing the victim punished for his failure to back up his data, they apparently think so little of our rights as consumers as to give a grievously careless merchant a free pass.

Something tells me a tune or two may have changed had it been their ox being discarded like some old hard drive.

The good news here is that it seems both my co-worker and the computer store have learned from the episode.

"I note that because of my experience the store now returns an old hard drive to the customer," says my colleague. "I now take much more seriously than ever the necessity to back up our precious family files, thousands of which were lost."

The store will likely be more careful, meaning it will provide better service and presumably attract more business.

My colleague and his wife got a half-price PC in exchange for their loss.

The only ones feeling truly ripped off here? That would be The Backup Police, who didn't get their pound of flesh.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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