so I can agree tha tthe brick and mortar makes it eaiser if a defective unit crops up, but would any of you care to present the data you are using to decide on "There does seem to be a higher-than-normal defective rate on TiVo units"
One, my personal experience with TiVo units. I've purchased 3 TiVo's from 3 different vendors in 3 different states with 3 different manufacture dates and had 2 out of 3 defective units. A tiny sampling, to be sure, but if I were going by this alone I'd say they have a huge defective rate. Of course, I would never base my opinion on this alone.
Two, the experience of the aproximately 15 fellow TiVo owners I know personally (from work, friends, etc.). 6 of those fellow owners were new this Christmas, and 2 of them were in a store on the 26th, TiVo's in hand. Out of the previous owners, I'd have to ask around for an exact count, but I know at least two that had major problems (more than one defective unit), and one that had minor ones (i.e. the first new one they got worked).
Three, the personal experiences of those whom I've met on this forum. Now, I've said before, and still agree, that obviously complaints are going to be more frequent posts on a board such as this than "everything worked fine" posts by it's very nature. That's a given. But once you weed out the "I just visited this board once to register and complain" posts, there are a consistent number of regular visitors who have had similar experiences. Not a majority, but a consistently noticable number.
All that said, let me qualify the statement a bit more. Compared to your typical set-top consumer electronics product (i.e. DVD players, VCR's, etc.), or even new PC's, there does seem to be a higher rate of defectives among TiVo units out of the box than most of us are used to. I've bought a dozen DVD players since 1998 in different configurations and never had a defective, and off hand I can't recall hearing about anyone I know having one defective off-the-shelf.
Now, it seems pretty obvious why - hard drives are very fragile, and my personal opinion (which is 100% assmuption I freely admit) is that TiVo's don't get the same handling as, say, a PC with similar components would, in shipping and transport. Many defectives are probably caused because the guy at FedEx tosses it around like it's a DVD player. Again, though, that's just my personal thought.
These are the reasons I always suggest doing B'n'M instead of shipping a TiVo - because if something does go wrong, for whatever reason, you can resolve it quickly. I actually believe this for most electronic equipment, but as fragile as TiVo's can be (and how agonizing the wait can be to get a replacement since it's such a revolutionary product you can't live without once you have it) I make a special point to tell friends who buy one not to order online, even if it appears more convenient at the outset.
That's why I am careful to say, "There does seem to be...", not "There absolutely is" or somehow exaggerating the facts. Perhaps I should rephrase to, "In my personal experience, and in the experiences of some other regular posters here, there does seem...", but as we agree the advice to go B'n'M is valid nontheless.
Hope this helps you understand my statement a bit better.