Congratulations! You’ve just purchased a new piece of lab equipment. All you have to do is wait for it to arrive, unpack it, and start using it, right? … Well, that’s all you have to do, but if you put just a tiny bit more effort in, you’ll potentially save yourself some big headaches down the line. Follow these steps after you purchase to defend yourself against potential problems.

  1. Soon after the order is placed, write down your order confirmation number and / or file your order confirmation email. This may be important should you need service, warranty repair, or to return the instrument. Also, double check your order! If something is incorrect, now is the easiest time to fix it.
  2. When the package arrives, open it, inspect the equipment for damage, and ensure that it works. If it shipped freight, note the damage before signing for the shipment, and document the damage on the delivery receipt or other paperwork that the freight company has you sign. If you do not do so, you may be legally declaring that the items were not damaged upon arrival, and will be without recourse. Depending on the manufacturer, some require that damage upon receipt (which could be caused in shipping) be reported either immediately or within a very short time frame such that they can file claims with the shipping company who handled the package, as shipping companies strictly limit the time after delivery in which claims can be placed. Some manufacturers aren’t any more strict about this than any other type of defect, but you don’t want to find out the hard way. Always assume you need to report an issue immediately. Physical damage is generally not covered under warranties.
  3. Document the serial number of the equipment. Again, if you need service of any kind, this may be important.
  4. Keep the packaging, manual and anything else sent with the product until you are certain that you are going to keep it. Almost all manufacturers will charge an increased restocking fee, or charge a restocking fee where none would have otherwise applied, if a returned item does not have its original packaging, and some manufacturers may not accept returns at all which are not in the original packaging. (For more information about returns for a specific manufacturer, see the return policies.)

It’s very easy to keep all the necessary information about a product in a spreadsheet, and if you keep it in a shared location such as Google Drive or Dropbox it can be easily accessed by anyone in the lab. Just note what the item is, where you bought it from, the order number, the serial number, and when it was purchased. It takes all of 30 seconds, and helps ensure that if you have any issues in the future you’ll be able to get them resolved easily. For instance, some manufacturers don’t keep good records of the serial numbers on their instruments (crazy, right?), so if you didn’t buy the product directly from the manufacturer and need a warranty repair you’ll have to contact the company you purchased it from. In those instances, it’s very helpful to be able to easily look up all your order information.

Bingo! A few very quick and easy steps and you’ll have a much better experience should there ever be an issue with your equipment.