My sources have told me that when the boxes get dropped off, most divisions will just do the 5-8 minute boot up thingy, and than if they boot up OK, they just put them behind the counter for the next customer. In most cases, only if the box fails to boot at all, does it get trashed. For economic reasons, TWC/BHN does not want to just dump the boxes as long as they work Even sort of work, counts as work. It's easier for them to update the software, wait till the boxes die a natural death on the vine over time and than replace them.
I have never gotten a DVR with existing recordings or settings, so either I have been lucky or they do "refurb" them at least a little bit.
I have heard horror stories about people picking up their own equipment and getting dead modems. When they delivered one of my 8742's, it took 3 tries to get one that booted. So, somehow 2 dead ones got on the service truck.