Why Is the Return Rate for GPS Receivers So High?

DigiTimes, which reports on Taiwanese electronics manufacturers, reports that Wal-Mart may be thinking about dropping GPS receivers due to a high return rate — 40 per cent at Wal-Mart, 25 per cent elsewhere. (Wal-Mart, unlike Best Buy, doesn’t charge a restocking fee when you return something.) Rich is surprised by this, as am I: why is the return rate so high?

The only thing I can think of is a disconnect between what people think they’re getting and what they in fact get: I don’t own a GPS myself, but my impression is that they’re a bit harder to use and inscrutable than, say, an iPod. When you buy an iPod or a cellphone, you not only know why you’re using it, but you have at least a rudimentary idea how — these devices are essentially digital refinements of older, familiar technology. But a GPS receiver might be one of those things people think they should get, like a PDA; but unlike a PDA, operating one is less obvious: the how is less well-formed than the why.

I’d love to know what’s driving this return rate. Guessing’s fun, but some hard data would be really useful.