OP's RESPONSE TO COMMON QUESTIONS:
1. Who was the distributor?
This question is an attempt at playing a blame game - shall we crucify Stern, the distributor, the local pinball shop, or the customer. I believe this is a red herring. My belief is that the NIB Stern buying experience is significantly flawed and could be improved - hence the headline. As a business owner, I constantly seek to improve my process efficiencies. I emailed Gary Stern to bring attention to this matter as I would hope my customer would do the same if they experienced a similar issue.
2. Do I blame the distributor?
No. The distributor is in the business of selling goods. My only disappointment is that the distributor did not process a return quicker as it seemed apparent that I was in the possession of a unit needing multiple significant repairs. In fact, I left the transaction feeling like the distributor is a good upstanding individual and I wish them continued success.
3. Did I expect the distributor to provide free service assistance?
No. I did not have a service contract with the distributor. I am unaware if the contract between the distributor and Stern requires service assistance. My hunch is that the answer to this is no. My expectation was that Stern would provide and administer warranty service for a defective NIB pin.
4. Do I blame the local pinball shop?
No. My hope would be that Stern would adequately compensate the local pinball shop to incentivize them to address local warranty related claims which would then foster goodwill for the local pinball shop and Stern alike.
5. What were the issues with the pin?
I do not fully know. I am not a pin technician. I do not desire to become a pin technician. I am comfortable paying a pin technician to service a pin when it is out of warranty. However, here are the diagnostic details that the distributor shared with me:
"The wire fell out and was hanging down on playfield... Reseated cat 5 cables from cpu to node boards... I did have to adjust a few things, adjust opto, fix gate, ramp up post was set incorrectly. To be honest this game was never play tested at stern. I'll get my money back... Yes very rare [to come out of the factory like this]... This game should never have passed quality control in its state."
In further conversation, the distributor stated they spent a couple of hours as a professional tech working on it. In totality, my belief is that the above repairs far surpassed simple troubleshooting.
WHICH LEADS ME TO MY OWN QUESTION:
6. What is Stern's legal/warranty obligation concerning a NIB pin?
This answer appears to be fairly complicated. First, Stern's stated warranty in the documentation is 2 months on the Printed circuit boards and 9 months on the Dot Matrix Display boards. Stern disclaims all other warranties express or implied and essentially Stern's legal position appears to be that Stern customer's are purchasing all NIB pins 'as is' "from the initial date of shipment from seller to its authorized distributors".
7. Is Stern's warranty (and associated disclaimer) actually enforceable?
SHORT LEGAL ANSWER: This answer appears to be a most certain "No". Stern's stated warranty is likely not enforceable.
LONG LEGAL ANSWER:
Generally, a seller who wants to disclaim U.C.C. warranties must do so specifically. A general statement that there are “no warranties, express or implied” is usually ineffective. The U.C.C. also requires all disclaimers of implied warranties to be in writing. However, a warranty disclaimer hidden in the fine print of a three-page sales contract will not be enforced because the U.C.C. also requires that a disclaimer be conspicuous. Here, the warranty is hidden in the fine print of the packaging materials and there is not even a contract between Stern and a customer. The warranty (and associated disclaimer) is simply being passed down through the chain of commerce.
Further, there are outer limits to what even the best-drafted disclaimer of warranties can accomplish. Just as a disclaimer that is too broad will not be enforced, neither will a disclaimer that takes all rights away from the buyer. Unless all warranties have been effectively disclaimed, a buyer usually must have some meaningful remedy if the goods he receives are defective. Additionally, most states have consumer protection statutes for transactions involving the purchase of consumer goods. These statutes often provide the buyer with remedies other than those provided by the U.C.C., and also often provide that a consumer’s rights under the statute cannot be abridged by means of a disclaimer.
8. OK genius/moron, so what then is Stern's legal/warranty obligation concerning a NIB pin?
Your guess is as good as mine. To truly have the Stern warranty (and associated disclaimer) be enforceable, Stern would likely need to put in bold letters at the top of all of their advertising: "NIB PINS SOLD AS IS. ALL EXPRESS AND IMPLIED WARRANTIES DISCLAIMED". However, I doubt Stern would ever actually take this step as it would negatively impact their sales.
If someone posed a serious legal challenge to Stern, it appears Stern's warranty (and associated disclaimer) would not be on solid footing and a court would need to decide what actually is Stern's legal obligation.