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Extended Warranty: A Story with a Happy Ending

Until I had to do it myself, I’ve never known anyone who had to call in a warranty repair on a piece of electronics. A couple months ago, my Samsung HDTV started giving me intermittent issues. Vertical lines of noise flickered on the screen during Blu-ray playback in portions of the movie that never demonstrated that flaw before. Objects left trails as they moved over black sections of the screen. Things obviously weren’t right. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories online about dealing with warranty services, but don’t personally know anyone who’d tried using one. Fearing the negative things I’ve read in internet forums, I didn’t expect it to go too well.

Here in Utah, we don’t have Fred Meyers or Fry’s, but that same parent company owns a different chain of similar stores here called Smith’s Marketplace. Smith’s is a nice supermarket, while the Marketplace locations feature everything you’d find in a Walmart Supercenter: groceries, electronics and other standard department store stuff. I have a friend who worked high-up in the company, who let me use his discount card to purchase my Samsung TV. Your jaw would drop if I told you how little I paid for it. Since I saved so much on the purchase price, I decided to buy the longest extended warranty offered, and now I’m thankful that I did.

When I called the warranty folks, they quickly pulled up my details based solely on my phone number. After asking me what the symptoms were, they arranged a time for a local repair company to swing by my house and assess the damage. Typically, when I’m given a two-hour window that a repairman (especially a Comcast repairman) is supposed to stop by, I expect them to arrive at the end of that window or later. That was not the case with my guy. He showed up in the middle of the time frame and was very quick. The TV was already warmed up, so he didn’t have to wait before beginning his diagnostic process.

Of course, since my problems have been random and sporadic, he wasn’t able to witness the issues himself, so he took the TV back to his shop for further assessment. In the meantime, his company provided me with a free 37″ Sharp set as a temporary replacement. The size and refresh rate weren’t the best, but it was a perfectly satisfactory loaner.

After five business days, I received a call that the shop finally saw the problem. The diagnosis: the panel was going out. They could order a new screen and have it repaired in a day or two, but they’d have to obtain approval to do so from the extended warranty folks first. Well, because of the amazing deal I got, how little I paid for the set and how much the replacement part would cost, I was given the unexpectedly great news that I’d be completely refunded for the price I paid for the TV. In reality, the $60 that I spent on the warranty is all I had to pay for a two-year “rental.” This news came in the morning of Thanksgiving Eve, so I had a lot of research to do prior to Black Friday.

Last year, my brother learned a great trick to Black Friday shopping. Did you know that Best Buy’s doorbuster deals go live at 12:01 AM Eastern on Thanksgiving? Just as each store has an allotted amount of coveted doorbuster deals in stock, so do the online and over-the-phone order entry systems. Since I’m in the Mountain time zone, I called into Best Buy’s helpline at 10:15 PM Wednesday night and placed an order for what may have been the best deal, an LG 55″ 1080p 120hz LED television, the price of which was barely $200 more than what I’d paid (and would be reimbursed) for my 40″ Samsung two years ago. Sure, I’d have to wait a full week for it to be delivered, but it was worth it. You’d better believe that after having such a positive experience with the Samsung, I purchased a $100 five-year Geek Squad warranty. Should anything happen to this set within the next five years, I hope that Geek Squad is as efficient as the service that Smith’s Marketplace provided.

Have any of our readers had to put a warranty to use? Did you have as positive an experience as I did, or do you have a horror story to tell? Let us know in the Comments below.

8 comments

  1. William Henley

    Until I had to do it myself, I’ve never known anyone who had to call in a warranty repair on a piece of electronics

    Me. I am on my third PS3, all replaced via extended warranties, and before the huge price-drop in printers to where they are cheaper than the cartrages, I always got the extended warranties on them as, about 10 years ago, a printer would last me a year if I was lucky.

    Also had quite a few friends who call in warranties on laptops because they are just horribly rough on them.

    I have also called in a warranty repair on an Xbox 360 for the red ring of death, and a warranty repair on a motherboard, and one on a video card.

    My first HDTV went out 2 days out of warranty, and the store refused to repair it even with me offering to pay for it as it was a model they no longer had parts for, and as it was a store-specific brand, no one else could fix it either.

    As to whether or not I still get them, that depends on the piece of electronics I buy. It is a cost of warranty vs cost of product thing, and having enough knowledge of said product to guesstimate the likelyhood of it breaking in said time.

    • William Henley

      I guess I should go to how the warranty process actually worked and how much success I have had.

      Microsoft was by far the easiest. The product was out of warranty, but as it was a Red Ring of Death issue, Microsoft not only repaired the issue, but gave me another one-year warranty on the product. They shipped me a box, I packed it up and sent it in, they fixed it, sent it back. The whole process was under a week.

      Asus for the motherboard was a pain to get the RMA for (I went through about a week of exchanging e-mails and phone calls back and forth with the representative) until they just sent me a new one and told me to return the old one in the box they sent. I got the motherboard the next day. So once I got the RMA, everything was smooth.

      Best Buy with the PS3 replacements was a bitch. The first brick was with me trying to install Linux (the official PS3 version of YellowDog, which was a documented feature of the PS3 when I bought it, yet Best Buy tried accusing me of modifying the system and saying it voided the warranty. However, as it was an extended warranty, even if it was intentional damage, it was covered by my warranty). The second PS3 bricked after a firmware update, and once again, Best Buy tried to tell me that it was intentional damage. I had to point out that a firmware update is required by Sony to use the system, I had no choice, and, once again, even if it was intentional, I had the extended warranty, so their argument was invalid. Each PS3 exhange was probably an hour or more of me arguing with the Geek Squad.

      The printers were also with Best Buy, but had zero issues with them on the warranty replacements. Drop it off, 5-10 minutes later they call me and tell me to go pick a new one off the shelf.

      The HDTV was a Best Buy store brand.

      My friend’s laptops were pretty painless. That was dealing through a third-party warranty company, and it was simply call them up, tell them what was wrong, they overnight you a box, you pack it up, and a few days later the laptop comes back and fixed.

      Long story short, Best Buy has been the worst dealing with extended warranty replacements on non-computer parts. They will eventually do it, but you may have to go through two or three managers to get it. That said, your store may vary.

      The absolute worst at dealing with the 14-day or 30-day replacement policy is Fry’s Electronics. They are the worst for trying to blame you of intentional damage to the product, even going as far once as accusing me of installing ram backwards (which is impossible) saying it was the only way it could could cause that kind of damage. The funny thing – the factory seal was still on the package – it hadn’t been opened – I could see through the packaging that it was damaged. This required about 2-3 levels of managers before I got the store manager, and the store manager’s first words were “You cannot install ram backwards”. I thanked him, and then pointed out that the package hadn’t even been opened. The store manager immediately told them to give me a replacement or a refund. When he walked away, I actually saw the tech take the RAM and put it back in the cage to be resold.

      That is not an isolated incident. Replacements at Fry’s Electronics is 20-year-olds making $10 an hour bragging about their A+ Certifications and they therefore know better than anyone about computers. I have actually had to get to the point where I will not let them touch the equipment at first because they WILL physically damage the product in front of you if you let it out of your hands. Had this issue at three different stores. And absolutely do NOT pick up an opened product off the shelf at a Fry’s – these are 9 times out of 10 damaged products that someone has brought back and Fry’s just puts back on the shelf. In fact, I have had such a bad experience with this that I only go to Fry’s if I need a product right then – usually I now buy my products off the Internet.

  2. Timcharger

    As long as the warranty is priced fairly, then it makes sense to purchase some peace of mind.

    When the warranty is priced at 25% or more of the purchase price, I need to a 1 in 3 failure rate to justify that purchase.

    I’ll strongly consider a warranty if it is priced around 10% or less of the purchase price.

    —-

    Luke, it’s a good thing that you bought a warranty for the Black Friday purchase.

    Many Black Friday doorbuster TVs are one-off productions that have different SKU# or model# that differ from the normal manufacturing lines. Hopefully it’s only a different number on the box, but sometimes the components inside have lower Black Friday standards.

  3. I’ve dealt with warranties for both my Xbox 360 Elite and my Macbook Pro. My Elite ended up getting a red ring of death and the problem, while appearing out of warranty was still covered by Microsoft because it was the result of some faulty part. Microsoft sent me a box with a shipping label, I sent the 360 to them and had my refurbished 360 back to me within 2 weeks without having to pay a dime. My Macbook Pro had its hard drive KO’d by my roommate one drunken night and the next day I checked on the status of my AppleCare and found that I was still inside the repair window (by about two weeks so if this had happened after that time I would have been SOL). I brought my Macbook Pro in and while the Genius bar guy questioned the dent/scratch which was right above my hard drive, he accepted my excuse (read: lie) that it was from me dropping my keys on it years before and that the hard drive simply failed out of nowhere. I’ve been told by my friend who has worked at several apple stores that apple tells there employees to break rules or take lame excuses at face value when it comes to damaged hardware, unless its from water damage or a cracked screen in an effort to keep customers happy and coming back for more apple products. Way back in the day I had one of the first iPod shuffles and after I got some more money in my hands, I did everything I could to make sure the thing wouldn’t charge. I brought it into Best Buy and without question they supplied me with full store credit on the shuffle and with the other money in hand I was able to buy the (then new) iPod Mini. I feel like nowadays, companies are more willing and better adept at fulfilling their side of the warranty agreement, as long as the customer in question has proof of purchase and is still in warranty or has purchased an extended warranty or protection plan or if theres some well known faulty hardware with the item. As for my Xbox 360 and Macbook Pro, both are still doing great so I really can’t complain about my experience when dealing with either Microsoft or Apple when it comes to receiving warranty services.

  4. merlich

    I did not have an extended warranty on my Samsung HDTV when the out-of-warranty set started acting up due to a power supply problem. A call to Samsung customer service revealed that there was a known issue with the filter caps in this set.

    Within a week a tech was sent to my home and the set was repaired, no charge.

    I am very happy with Samsung customer service and I will gladly buy their products again.

  5. NJScorpio

    I bought a launch Xbox 360, and (under the extended warranties) had it replaced about 6-7 times. IIRC, 3 of those times were the RRoD (including the first). Others were the refurb units not being up to snuff. Vibrating disc drive eject button with one, a crack in the case on another, etc.

    In general, no problems doing so.

  6. Had my Westinghouse 32″ panel succumb to color diffusion after 18 months glad i got the warranty best buy gave me back what i payed and i got a new LG 37″ TV.

  7. lone_gunmen

    The great thing about living in Australia (only great thing really) is that extended warranties are not needed. Our new consumer laws dictate that a product needs to last a “reasonable period of time” and must be “fit for purpose”, regardless of manufacturer warranty. 18 months out and you find a hardware fault? The original shop or retail front must both cover the cost of a repair, or replacement OR refund, regardless of the warranty.

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