I began shopping for a viewer-friendly sized flat-panel, high-definition television (HDTV) nearly two years ago and continue the hunt today because of lightening fast evolution and technological obsolescence. However, the most significant purchasing impediment is the price applied to something that I don’t really need. My wife reminds me of this fact every time I venture into an electronics store. I can deal with all of those obstacles; what I can’t seem to get beyond is the fine print in the warranties.

Have you ever attempted to read and comprehend the warranty for any product? Without a magnifying glass or some other zooming apparatus, it’s nearly impossible to view. To further illustrate this point, here are excerpts taken from actual warranties and the lingo defies comprehension and logic:

1) “If the returned item is determined to have been free from defects at the time of manufacture, then it will be repaired at the discretion of the service center that is designated for your service area…” Great, but there’s no mention of how I determine the location of my service center since they aren’t listed.

2) “Send your defective product to the service center for evaluation and repair as determined appropriate by reading the entire contents of your warranty…” What?!

3) General Exclusions: This plan does not cover repairs that are determined to be accidental or intentional in nature…all other product failures may or may not be covered under the terms of this warranty….” It’s comforting to know that I’m indisputably covered for virtually any product failure possibility.

4) “Sending items for repair evaluation are done so at the expense of the sender and may or may not be approved for repair. Items that do not meet repair criteria are returned at the expense of the sender and must be prepaid prior to shipment.” Gee, this is a fail-safe option.

What I construed from reading a desktop pile of warranties was that manufacturers caved in to the production mainstream and allowed some radical group of legal nerfs who slithered through the Gibberish Technological Academy to prevail. In effect, we, the consumers, aren’t supposed to understand the gobbledygook. We’re simply to nonchalantly sign the bottom of the contract page and leave the store with the product, never to be heard from again.  

Deciphering what’s actually covered in the warranty if something goes wrong with the product takes more patience than I’ll ever muster and definitely more legal knowledge than a first-year law student possesses. However, I have one certainty; whenever I purchase an electronic product, it will malfunction. It’s just a matter of time, so I’m a consumer who eventually manages to receive some benefit from any warranty regardless of how it’s written. Persistence is paramount, which also seems entangled with my knack for meeting store managers.  

Assuming anyone fully decodes the document, another looming hurdle is figuring out the acceptable procedure for shipping an inoperable product back to the manufacturer or their designated repair agent in case. From my perspective, this potential hoop jumping was unnecessarily problematical for an attention challenged retiree, so I decided to ask the electronics department sales professionals to walk me through the warranty comprehension process before I sealed the deal on my purchase.    

My shopping plan was simple and straightforward; I’d ask the salesperson to show me any flat panel HDTV that came with a no-extra-charge warranty covering the product for virtually any problem for a specific period of time. No gimmicks or fine print; I wanted everything up front in language an average human could interpret in about 90 seconds of reading or no deal.

Actually shopping for something that I really didn’t need was somewhat exhilarating and liberating. It was also slightly stressful to the male mind, but I’d deal with it. Forget I said that last part, it sounds like something my wife would say. Admittedly, there’s a slim, almost non-existent chance that I’ll ever come home with a new sleek picture panel in the trunk regardless of the bargain I wrangle.

Incredibly, they sold it to me for my price. Wait ‘til my wife hears that I actually pulled off this deal for less than she agreed I could spend. The part that’ll really score “nice job, honey” points for me is the way I negotiated the price on the extended warranty.

I’m sure I can explain the warranty details to my wife in case she has a question, or possibly two.     

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