December 12, 2006
You've been there. Behind you a long line of impatient customers is shuffling and harrumphing while the checkout gal is pressuring you to buy an extended warranty. Should you or shouldn't you?
Kim Klemen said "negotiate." Negotiate? In a National Public Radio segment recently, the Deputy Editorial Director of Consumer Reports actually advised that we horse trade over the price of this insurance.
But first things first, Klemen points out that we should know that these warranties are "cash cows" for the stores. They make more profit on them than they do on the products, (around 70%); and that of the estimated 1.6 billion dollars we consumers will spend on the extended warranties this 2006 holiday season, "almost all of it will go down the drain."
There's the catch - the "almost." Extended warranties are not always a hoax; they are contracts like any others. Hence, you need to do some homework. To start, do the math: They charge $25, $35, $45 or whatever for a year, for a given number of years. Estimate whether the repair will be cheaper than the warranty.
And will the time and money spent hassling with an agent to agree to repairs be worth it? Add on the time and cost of shipping and the time you will be without the appliance. And you still have to convince them it's the manufacturer's fault, not yours. And if it's the store brand, (with or without the insurance), they will try to sell you a replacement, rather than opt for a cheaper repair. You are counting on them to do the right thing. For them, selling you something new is the right thing.
For the reading assignment: Even before you go shopping, look over your credit card coverage. Some card companies automatically extend this insurance. Once at the store, read the merchant's agreement; then reread between the lines. Look for loopholes. (And don't forget the crowds waiting behind you). I paid for cell phone insurance and, surprise, surprise, it was useless. But I digress.
Research is part of the homework, but you've already started here at HDTV Solutions. Klemen says to buy a reliable brand. Most reputable products do not break down. And if they do, most service repairmen say, it will happen the first year, during the manufacturer's automatic warranty.
So check to see if the appliance is already covered. Manufacturers usually enclose a mail-in guarantee card. And many of them also send notification for renewals after the first year. All the above-mentioned hassles over insurance are usually lessened when the manufacturer is also the insurer.
Additional thought provoking issues may require an 8 ball, but consider the built-in obsolescence of the product. Television manufacturing is in an upheaval, with standardization yet to be decided. And there are always newer, better and cheaper sets expected on the market. So will you keep your set as long as the extended warranty? With the deescalating prices, will a new TV be a better deal than a repair? Also consider whether the insurance company will stay in business as long as the life of your policy? Many won't. Maybe there should be a warranty for warrantors.
Weighing the pros and cons, the scale seems to tip towards passing on the pressure sale at the cash register.
But if you've finished all your research, and you've decided you want the store bought protection, it's time to bargain. Since you know the profit margin, you know there's room for give. Decide what it's worth to you. There's no magic formula that we've heard. So dive in and navigate the chilly waters. Start dickering.
With that said, I don't have any sage advice on how to quell the anxious pacing and white hot glares of those unfortunates waiting in line behind you as you wage your warranty battle.
Happy holiday daze shopping.