Let me say this up-front. I am extraordinarily happy that my wife and I bought the extended warranty for our new tv last year. Personal finance gurus like to tell you that an extended warranty is a waste of money. And sometimes they are. But for certain items, a service plan is worth the money.
It was last May when I did something that I had never done before in my entire life: I bought a new TV. For the previous 20 years, I had been using a series of hand-me-downs and Freecycled televisions. Our previous TV was a 32″ tube TV that weighed about 100 pounds, had no hand-holds, and had a sole input of a coaxial jack that was broken. After much deliberation, we decided it was time to make the move into 21st century technology with a flat-screen, wide-screen, big screen, HD TV. So on May 17, 2012, I became the proud owner of a 42″ Vizio LCD Smart TV.
We got it at Walmart (yeah, I know. Sue me. But I’m not the only PF blogger who shops at Walmart). I feel conflicted about the low prices at Walmart due to the methods they use to achieve those prices, but it is hard to argue with 25% savings compared to other electronics retailers for the same size and features. When we were offered an 3 year extended warranty for $59, we took it.
$60 sounds like a lot of money, but it was just over 10% of the purchase price of the tv and the service contact didn’t start until the 1 year manufacturer’s warranty ended. And it covers just about everything, including accidental damage.
Vizio’s are a little slow to turn on, and, on hind sight, I should have gotten the 47″ “dumb” tv for the same price for the amount of use we give the smart features. But overall, I’ve been very happy. That is, until last week. I was watching TV when it unexpectedly shut off. And it wouldn’t turn back on. After doing some searching online (using Swagbucks instead of Google to get paid doing so), I discovered that others who have had that problem were able to reset their tv to get it working again. I did that and was able to watch tv for a little while longer before it cut out again. Reset. 10 minutes and off again. The manufacturer warranty expired 2 months ago. Buying the extended warranty redeemed!
Calling the Service Center: Walmart gets customer service right for once
The first thing I did was go to my office to fish out the service plan from my filing cabinet. Last month, I was cleaning things out and tossed out a couple expired warranties, for the digital camera and for the Wii. Apparently I also threw out the paperwork for the tv warranty. Oops.
Looking online, I also discovered that I was supposed to register the service plan. Luckily, that can be done at any time, but it needed the paperwork. Double oops.
I found a number to call the service center. Open 24 hours! The automated system really wanted the information off the receipt. Luckily I knew the store number and had the price and date from the credit card statement. But the transaction number I simply entered all zeros to keep the computer happy. I wasn’t expecting that to work, but I was hoping to get spit out to a live person. It did work, but the next step was a live person anyway.
Even without the receipt or a loyalty card to look it up (how Best Buy deals with service contracts and lost receipts. I found that out when I had an issue with my car stereo), they were able to register the warranty over the phone. Turns out it is linked to the product serial number at purchase. Easy peasy.
After explaining the problem, the service center scheduled a technician to come out and take a look. Time spent from being afraid I had wasted $60 last year to being able to rest easy knowing that 1)the tv would get fixed, 2)it wouldn’t cost me anything additional, and 3)I didn’t have to take it anywhere: 15 minutes. At 9:30pm. And the person I spoke to even spoke unaccented English!
Here’s where it gets a little crazy. Walmart doesn’t actually have a nation-wide system of technicians. They contract that out. Then for my area, the contracted company hired a an independent sub-contractor. I’ve never been worried about such things, but having a guy show up in casual clothes in a personal vehicle and carrying a suitcase probably is going to worry some people.
The appointment was scheduled for Saturday between 12-2. He arrived at 12:02. Not too bad!
A modern flat-screen tv consists of three parts: the screen, a power supply and a a motherboard, basically a small computer to run the thing. The technician replaced the power supply and motherboard. Turns out that it is cheaper to just replace both and get the technician out of there than to have to run diagnostics to figure out the exact problem.
So, for a $60 investment last year I got half of a new tv last week!
Other stories of extended warranties
Last year, I finally got a smartphone. For a budget-level device, I’m fairly happy with my LG Optimus Elite and Virgin Mobile service. No-contract phone plans are the way to go if you can afford the up-front price of the phones. Three months later, my wife got the same phone. We had gotten the service plan for my phone but for some reason we didn’t for hers.
Then in April, her phone over-heated. Not it got kind of warm. Not it just shut down. It got so hot that it fried something inside and it wouldn’t turn on again. We were kicking ourselves for trying to save $20 and having to buy another full-price phone.
Do you buy extended warranties for your electronics?