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Witt: Always read the fine print

Few things are as frustrating as having a warranty on some item only to find out the warranty is not worth the paper on which it’s written.

A watch with a lifetime warranty had a broken face cover and the date indicator was no longer working. After sending the watch to the designated repair location (Reno, Nevada), it was returned approximately two weeks later with a note stating that parts for that particular watch were no longer available.

What?

It has a lifetime warranty, but there are no replacement parts available?

Fortunately, in that case, an email to the manufacturer (without animus and sprinkled with bits of humor) resulted in an offer to send a brand new watch of choice (up to a certain amount) at no cost.

Now that’s customer service!

Some warranties are stated for a specific period of time and that’s perfectly acceptable as long as the consumer understands the terms of the warranty. Most warranties on major appliances only run for one or two years (although the seller will often try to get the consumer to purchase an extended warranty, which most pundits agree is not a good bargain). And when the warranty runs out, parts on the appliance begin to go bad, usually on the day after the warranty expires. 

Case in point:  an electric range — out of warranty — suddenly had a burner control knob break.  It still looked intact, it’s just that a small, metal insert has broken so the knob no longer controlled the burner switch. It was necessary to contact the national sales department for the maker of the range to find a replacement knob. The quoted price was $40! Forty dollars for a $3 plastic knob! If one were to try to rebuild a $700 electric range by purchasing all the parts separately, the final cost would be closer to $7,000!

Another case in point, not exactly related to a warranty, but to designed obsolescence.

A supply of glucose meter test strips was needed by a diabetic person who had exhausted his supply. Taking the empty container to the local drug store to be sure of getting the proper replacement, he was informed that the meter for which the strip replacements were being sought was no longer being manufactured and that the test strips for the old meter were no longer available. The old meter was approximately six years old.

What is a person to do? Easy answer. Buy a new meter. Cost of the new meter?  $27.99.

Last example. It was recently aired on national news about a cell phone customer whose new phone combusted spontaneously.  Because of some ancillary damage from the fire, the customer pursued a lawsuit against the manufacturer, but was told that he could not do so because he had not opted out of a mediation clause which was included in his instruction manual. On page 17!  In infinitesimal print!

The notation stated that, unless the customer opted out of a mediation provision, by mail, within 30 days of purchase, no subsequent lawsuit would be allowed.

Who reads 17 pages of their instruction manual, including the warranty information, within 30 days of purchase, if ever?

Well, the lessons are there for everyone. Be diligent. Read your manuals, especially the warranty information and especially the small print.

Even if you have to get a magnifying glass.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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