Extended Warranties: What You See Is Often Not What You Get: An HD GURU Investigative Report

July 29th, 2009 · 48 Comments · Blu-ray Players, DLP, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Plasma

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(July 29, 2009) Buy a high-ticket electronics item like an HDTV today and you can be sure the salesperson will try to sell you an extended warranty that’s supposed to protect your considerable investment well beyond the length of time offered by the manufacturer.

Adding a relatively inexpensive extended warranty seems like a no-brainer so many consumers do, yet because the HD Guru frequently receives emails from buyers complaining about difficulties getting the terms of these warranties honored, we decided to investigate.

Not surprisingly, we found that often what you hear on the sales floor, read in the literature and see online is not what you get.

Best Buy, for instance, recently introduced its “Geek Squad Black Tie Protection” plan. It’s “Like Having A Geek Always With You,” proclaims the pamphlet handed out in the stores by blue shirted staff members. “If a product guarded by Black Tie Protection needs four qualified repairs throughout the duration of the plan” the pamphlet assures consumers, “we’ll make sure that you get a new one.”

While that sounds reassuring and in and of itself may provide sufficient comfort to induce one to buy the plan, unfortunately, it’s not exactly true. According to the terms of Best Buy’s service contract rather than being “a new one”, the replacement “…may be new or rebuilt” (meaning used and refurbished)” at our discretion.”

Best Buy’s pamphlet also states that “¦for TVs 30″ and up… we’ll loan you a TV ASAP if it looks like we can’t get yours fixed on the first visit. Sounds good, but read the actual service contract and you’ll be surprised to learn that there is no mention of a loaner TV.

Best Buy’s service contract (available upon request at a Best Buy store or on its website) does go to great lengths to state terms and conditions, with the list of terms opening with “This is a legal contract, (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Plan’). By purchasing it, you understand that it is a legal contract and have had the opportunity to read the terms and conditions within.”

However, take the time to actually read the contract rather than relying on the pamphlet and you would also learn that if Best Buy (BB) can’t repair the TV it will “¦replace it with a product of like kind and quality that is of comparable performance, or reimburse you for replacement of the product with a voucher or gift card, at our discretion, equal to the fair market value of the product, as determined by us, not to exceed the original purchase price of your product including taxes  (italics added by HD Guru).

The fair market value is not you might reasonably assume, the price you originally paid, but rather the covered product’s market value at the time of repair as determined by a BB employee. Of course by the time the extended warranty kicks in, the product can be up to four years old and worth next to nothing!

While we can’t cite an actual example of compensation received by a customer for an un-repairable TV covered by Best Buy’s“ Black Tie Protection Plan”, we do know that this past April,Best Buy voluntarily recalled one of its “house brand” Insignia LCD HDTV models (Post Here). Many of these recalled sets were less than three years old and sold new for up to $1000 plus tax. Best Buy provided gift cards amounting to $500 or about half of the original purchase price.

When asked to comment about the pamphlet’s claims versus the written legal contract’s actual terms, a Best Buy spokesperson pointed out that its service contract program’s underwriter, AIG Warranty Group, a division of AIG (yes, that AIG), ultimately determines a covered product’s value.

The spokesperson also acknowledged that despite the pamphlet’s claim, Best Buy’s service contract does not include a loaner program but that the company currently supplies 37″ Insignia LCD loaners to customers whose TVs can’t be repaired during the first service call. Whether the set in need of repair is 32″ or 65″ the loaner is 37″ because it’s the only set size the program offers.

Here is Best Buy’s official response via email (verbatim in bold).

Replacement value

We continue to advocate for the best possible scenario for our customers, and we think they know that. We’ve had virtually no complaints from them about replacements. Replacement value is complicated because the establishment of value for replacement is determined not just by Best Buy, but by the underwriters of our plans.

We’ll continue to work with our underwriters to clarify replacement criteria in our terms and conditions, and to represent the best interests of our customers.  Our progress will be reflected in our service plan literature, and ideally in continued customer satisfaction with our service plan fulfillment.

Timing for loaner TV

We say ASAP in our Geek Squad Black Tie Protection brochure because timing on loaner TVs varies depending on whether Geek Squad is doing the repair – or we’re relying on a third-party.  When we’re doing the job, we can provide that replacement TV immediately, usually right out of our Geek Squad van.  But in some cases, we rely on third parties to reach customers who aren’t in our service area.  Still, we agree that our customers may want more details around when a loaner would be available to them.  And we’ll make changes immediately in our Geek Squad Black Tie Protection literature to include more details about timing.

On line Sellers

Our recent article “On Line HDTV Stores Get Nailed For Consumer Fraud” (Link) reports that a number of Brooklyn based etailers were cited for fraud and fined by the NYS Attorney General. We checked one of the merchants still in business called “Foto Connection” that sells service contracts written by Brooklyn based Consumer Priority Service (dba CPS). We contacted CPS’s customer service department and asked for a copy of its contract. The customer service rep said it’s not available online and that a written request by US mail was required to obtain a copy, not exactly a forthcoming policy for a legitimate company, which we then suspected CPS of not being.

A check of the New York City office of the Better Business Bureau revealed that “BBB processed a total of 23 complaint(s) about this business in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total 23 complaint(s) closed in the last 36 months, 21 were closed in the last 12 months. 2 regarded contract disputes;1 Customer Service; 12 Warranty Issues; 3 Refund or Exchange; 3 Repair Issues and 2 Service Issues.”

To Buy or Not To Buy?

Retailers and etailers offer either their own or third party service contracts. Before purchasing either kind, be sure to read it carefully, even if you need a jeweler’s loupe to clearly see the exclusions and other conditions hidden within the contract’s fine print.

HD Guru checked out the service contracts offered by 6th Avenue Electronics and P.C. Richard and Son, two NY/New Jersey Metropolitan area retail chains. Both contracts proved to be far more straightforward and concise than either Best Buy’s or Target’s.  Best Buy’s plan is printed on twenty pages of a 4″ x 8.25″ pamphlet, P.C Richard’s contract terms occupy just 2/3 of a single sided letter size page.

Consider the cost before purchasing a service contract. For instance, Target’s total three years from purchase service contract for a $1300 HDTV costs $79, while BJ’s Wholesale club’s three total years from purchase service contract for the same price TV costs $119. Fined web retailer Foto Connection’s three total years CPS service contract costs $209.30

Best Buy’s four years from purchase date “Black Tie Protection service contract (including the manufacturer’s standard one-year warranty) is $229.99 for a $1299.99 HDTV. In other words you’re paying 17.5% of the set’s total cost for the three additional years of coverage. After reading all of the contract’s terms and conditions, is that a worthwhile investment? Thats your decision!

Remember too that many credit cards will double the manufacturer’s warranty, so check the terms of your credit card(s) before using one to make a purchase.

-HDGuru with Michael Fremer

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Copyright ©2009 HD Guru Inc.All rights reserved. HDGURU is a registered trademark.

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48 Comments so far ↓

  • Dunk SB

    Thanks for the information

  • Leo Tsypkin

    I only buy Best Buy’s basic “Product Replacement Plan.”-Not their Extended Service Plan. These Extended Service Plans simply send your TV/DVD player/Tivo/DVR to one of the few existing home electronics repair shops,your product is lost,and they won’t replace it.

  • Intheknow

    Noah’s comments are exactly why e-commerce is booming. People are more and more buying from sites such as Amazon.com so they won’t have to deal with the nonsense that exists at retail. If you (or any retailer) set yourself up to negotiate in whatever form, then you get all that goes along with it. Why in the world would i buy,say, a TV at Best Buy when i can get opinions, specs galore from a great sample of customers online. Plus no tax. Plus i don’t have to listen to the extended warranty nonsense. Sorry, the only reason they are sold is that the vast majority are not needed or not used. Best Buy’s “premium” plans, many actually over 50% of the cost of the product, are patently absurd and a ripoff. Best Buy preys on ignorance and gullibility.

  • Noah

    Hahahahahaha: Well played comment.

    You always get what you paid for, it’s just that a lot of consumers have incredibly unrealistic expectations of what they should get for that money. Consumers ask for discount after discount, and when there’s no more profit, they ask for more. On the other end of things, that same consumer expects you to bend over backwards whenever they call because they ‘Want what they paid for.’

    It’s been a decade in consumer electronics for me, and I’m in my final two weeks of this industry, but in all of those years the people who complained the loudest weren’t my $10k, $20k, $50k, or $100k customers, they were the guys who came in and bought the TV, haggled me to death on the price of the TV, knew better than I did when it came to cables, surge protection and installation, and laughed in my face when I offered them an extended service plan.

    That same guy calls up 10 months later because a surge fried his TV (happens more often than the service department guy eludes to, considering my company has an in house service department that is CONSTANTLY dealing with the effects of power fluctuations.) and tries to tell me that I’m responsible for his purchase, even though he declined all of my offered services.

    When I offer products and services to a customer, I know that I’m offering them the experience that they expect. The one that doesn’t come inside the TV box. If the customer tells me no on what I’m offering them, then I have nothing against that decision. Just don’t come back to me feeling angry and entitled to something that you opted out of when you purchased the item originally. It’s ok to be mad at yourself for making those decisions, but don’t take them out on the person on the other side of the counter.

  • ^hahaha

    I love how this idiot turns a discussion about protection plans into a political statement, like Obama is the reason your TV doesn’t get fixed. Damn you universal health care, stop making my Xbox red ring.

    I think the main thing to take from the comments here is that if you buy a protection plan and you don’t get the service you want, call corporate and complain until the retailer doesn’t have the patience to jerk you around any more. And if you’re lucky you will get what you payed for.

  • reaganistRob

    Dear HD guru,

    Warranties are bogus, service plans or contracts are more legit. A “Warranty” covers defects in manufacturers handiwork. MANUFACTURERS handiwork means that they fix it only if you have something magically go out.

    I Deal mainly with computers, and with laptops outselling desktops almost 10-1, I would like you to sit with people bringing in their laptops for repairs. The #1 repair that I personally see is where the power cord plugs into the laptop, it wiggles around and gets jarred as people use it, and it usually ruins the coupler on the motherboard which then usually merits a motherboard replacement (in order to ensure that there has been no other damages). how much is a motherboard for a laptop? and what consumer will ever know how to replace one? write an article on that please.

    IPODS: break em, you eat it, and if you could see the number of ipod breaks we see, you would BEG consumers to buy a Geek Squad Black Tie protection plan. This also applies to DSLR’s all of which now are covered from accidents under Geek Squad Black Tie.

    I would personally prefer if Best Buy would simply sell EXCLUSIVELY 4 year protected products, increase the efficiency and quality of repair/replacements, and charge 30% more for their products. This would weed out resellers which eat our margins. also I would get rid of fricken return policies, 3 days of use, and ITS YOURS, then if it breaks, WE TAKE CARE OF IT! (people seriously RENT electronics from stores, THAT is why we have a restocking fee that we reserve the right to enforce)

    (talk to anyone in sales from tractors to electronics, and they will tell you stories of Joe BIBIBImbo from timbuctoo who wants to buy all your $299 laptops every week so he can charge $800 after sneaking them over to Africa, or from jill HAJUYAHU in bangledesh who walks into a Caterpillar dealership and wants to write a check for a $290,000 dozer and have you ship it to her moms house in the native land)

    If Best Buy would have a standard 4 year protection plan, and then the option to upgrade to accidental coverage, BB would also start to really do its homework HARDCORE on what products they choose to carry. The relationship between the vendors and BB would grow, and consumers would benefit from top notch quality and peace of mind.

    I would like to ask GIZ, why dont any writers for GIZMODO write about the tax cheating online buyers? You realize that when someone buys something online and tax is not applied, that it is the LEGAL OBLIGATION of that buyer to report and give the tax to your state? We would have a much more competitive market if online stores, and all the other culprits had to charge the sales tax upfront. The playing fields are FAR from fair between brick and mortar, and online electronics vendors tax shelter is forcing all retail to make up for it in ways that DO NOT help consumers (i.e. charge more for HDMI cables)

  • Intheknow

    right on the money fastdriver. most of the retailers rely on the third party administrators. just looking at these posts, the amount of escalations to the companies and to external sources are enormous. i believe that many in retail corporate management get “sold” themselves on these programs and don’t fully understand the stress and burdens placed upon the stores because the extended service plan administrators nickel and dime the customers – yes, based on the fine print and terms and conditions.

    one would wish that policies of the support centers do not include the word “no,” but that is not the case.

    i’m waiting for the day that a retailer steps up and says, “that’s enough, we’re not offering plans that do not benefit our customer.” No service contract, no heightened expectations.

  • fastdriver

    In reading all these comments here, it’s very disturbing how honesty/integrity whatever, seems to have gone out the window along with reliable, intelligent “customer service”. NOTHING is made to last anymore. Fine. You buy an extended warranty from X company to protect your purchase, but because you are NOT a Philadelphia lawyer and don’t read/understand the “fine print” you might end up getting screwed depending on the integrity/honesty of the store selling you the warranty be it theirs or a 3rd party. It shouldn’t matter. The store selling you the warranty should be on YOUR side and go to the Nth degree to help you if you have a LEGITIMATE problem. In this economy it seems as if everyone is out to get everyone else when it comes to $$$$$$$ especially the CEOs of so many companies. Hopefully, things will change as more stores close/go bankrupt and people begin to deal with honest, reliable. customer oriented businesses only!

  • Mark Hull

    Sceptre will not honor their warranty on hdtv reguardless if it is within the two year period for screen burn.

  • Intheknow

    first, i work for a third party service administrator and have been part of the consumer electronics/appliance industry for a long time. we know that given enough hype, marketing and training, and yes, ignorance, enough consumers will buy service plans to make for a very viable business.

    extended service plans are sold solely for the retailer and 3rd party to make “x%” profit margin. the actuarial value of the service contract has built in some consumer use, but very little percentage wise. as posted above, Consumer Reports statistically accurate surveys generally report a 2-5% first 3-4 year defective rate for lcd & plasma tvs. yes, Sony being 2%. there’s no lump sum service contract, for a regular consumer (as opposed to a business use copier per say) that justifies it’s purchase based on probability of failure. now, though, some retailers take much less profit margin (Target, Walmart) selling them.
    let’s differentiate between lump sum and monthly plans that are closer to “insurance.”

    imagine a retail world without the sales speak of extended warranties! wow, a much more pleasant shopping experience! manufacturers competing on quality and performance alone! there’s enough disingenuous salespeople to start a new chain. best buy lives for their service plans, as does several other retailers. how ridiculous and insulting is it to be offered the exhorbitantly priced master protection agreements at Sears. shop to look – but buy on Amazon. no hassles. great product reviews.

    if you have to review the fine print to uncover significant details of the service plan, it’s not worth the paper it was printed on.

    although hyped, product failure due to a power surge is rare.

    over the years, one observation of buying patterns was very interesting. People of Asian ethnicities rarely purchase service contracts. Why – the same reason they score the highest on the SATs – bad financial decision probability wise – trust in the reputable brands (Sony, Panasonic, etc) – and the ability to navigate the “sales speak.”

    btw, the third party servicers don’t always give you the best service option. service companies whose labor costs are lower get priority, not necessarily the closest in proximity to you or the best.

  • indy

    I work in the retail industry in Canada, and trust me, I have to agree you don’t normally here a lot of glowing endorsements from consumers about a retailer.

    Your going to find a few but not all glowing.

    I worked for Future Shop (Purchased by Best Buy a few years back). I Think that extended service packages are a good investment but you have to see what is the % of it to the price of the item, If it’s too high then don’t get it use your common sense, ask the retailer if you can ad the warranty later on(after the purchase) if you can then research it before you purchase.

  • annonoi

    It’s interesting the number of admitted BB employees who left comments.
    It’s also interesting the number of glowing endorsements in the other comments.
    IMO, these comments are not typical for this particular topic.

    Just sayin’.

  • Greg

    I completely agree with Noah. You can’t always trust employees of the stores, because many of their incentives and job positions depend on how well they sell these services. On the other hand, the customers that try to outsmart salespeople or other customers with numbers already have it in their head that extended service plans are rip offs and literally nothing you say would convince them.

    At the electronics store that I worked at, the newest employees felt pressure from managers to sell these contracts, and the ones that were there for a while had a more laid back approach. People that push it on you hard are more likely newer. Of course, if you believe in something you are more likely to sell it and vice versa. So if someone knows their stuff and is established and recommends the warranty, they likely really like it and have it on many products, such as myself. If they mention it you say no and they drop it, it is likely that they don’t think that it’s worth it.

    I’ve always felt being honest with the customer is better. Many want to hear that it is peace of mind to have it rather than the specifics and details of the contract. I have it on most of my large electronic purchases for the last few years (except for my main LCD TV and the speakers are crackling less than 3 years after purchase). I believe in it for these large purchases.

  • Noah

    The bottom line is that all of these comments prove that everybody has had a different experience. I have worked in the CE industry for 9 years now, with the majority coming at a high end store in the Pacific Northwest.

    I take issue with one of the responses made by aBest Buy employee that supposedly represent my industry, as well as the ‘Good Samaritan Shopper’ that stepped in and saved a family from a bad warranty by upselling their TV.

    Let’s start with the know it all Saturday Shopper. My best guess tells me that you have zero experience in the actual SALES of A/V equipment, so that gives you full authority to spend somebody else’s hard earned money… Right?

    What you fail to realize is that the family who you ‘saved’ may have been budgeting their finances for years to be able to purchase a new TV and isn’t in the position to buy another one if their TV is in percentage of sets that fail within 4 years (A completely made up and inaccurate statistic on your part).

    To a lot of customers, simply having a mid level television with the peace of mind in knowing that they will not foot the repair bill is the best thing they can purchase. And when their TV goes out, you will be the guy buying them a new one, right?

    …. Wait, you’ll probably be sitting in Best Buy on another Saturday spilling out your advise to anybody who will listen and everybody who won’t.

    For the Best Buy Employee who is defrauding his company by forging false service tickets, he should be equally ashamed of himself. It’s people who take advantage of the system (Either for or against the client) that lead to such a negative perception of our industry. You think that you’re showing the good side of the technicians, but what you don’t realize is that what you are doing destroys consumer trust as well.

    An extended service plan is a decision that every client needs to make for themself, not to rely on the exceptionally heavily bias of anybody within earshot of the conversation. We all know the adage of what opions are anatomically similar to with human beings, but when it comes to extended service plans, it seems that we have a race of mutants, each owning 3 or 4 opinions.

    Service centers that employ hundreds of full time technicians exist for a reason; components break down. With the complete and utter erosion of price point, manufacturers are scrambling to come up with more cost efficient models to keep themselves afloat… Tell me that Sony is ok with taking another billion dollar loss next 4th quarter, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Less expensive products that cost less to produce do not come with less frequently repaired units… It doesn’t make sense.

    At the end of the day, when you purchase a piece of electronics, you are also buying stock in the company that you purchased from, including their warranty. Do you trust the financial and responsibility of the company you buy from enough to support you after the fact? That’s the real question that you have to answer before you hand over your credit card.

    Just remember that hindsight is always 20/20, and you may find yourself buying a new set well before you intended.

  • LazyLemming

    Oh and I should point out that AVERAGE time for items sent to a repair depo (Laptops nearly always have to be), tends to be 3-5 weeks for all of the big box stores. Sometimes they get lucky and it’s done in under 2, and I’ve had 8 week turn arounds too.

    As a customer to best buy, I once had them send my laptop off 4 times, taking 4-8 weeks each time, before they finally replaced it. It never once came back to me in working condition. The manager at the time told me I had to take a unit with the same specs (Which after 7 months of attempted repair was no longer worth what I paid), until finally the store manager caught wind of the story and told me to pick out anything in the same price range. End result was good, getting to it was a pain though.

  • LazyLemming

    I’ve worked as a tech for several of the big box stores. There are alot of catches in the contracts that even the employee’s do not know about. For example while working for Circuit City, they had a catch that they would replace an item after “4 repairs FOR THE SAME PROBLEM”. Employee’s were instructed if it was just 4 repairs for anything, it was replaceable.

    It depends a lot on who you talk to too. I would do anything I could to get a warrantied item repaired or replaced, and luckily for me, most of my managers would too. I have however run into employees and management who would just tell a person they’re not covered, and even one manager who would try to tell folks they HAD to buy a warranty on the replacement item.

  • Dak0ta

    Through Future Shop in Canada (owned by Best Buy) I have never had any problems with product repairs/replacements under in-house Extended warranty. They actually usually end up losing their shirt with me. :)

  • Ryan

    Just so you know, there is a standard and a premium Black Tie Protection. Only the premium includes a 37″ loaner tv and it is in the service pamphlets. I am a Magnolia Pro and I do a psp/btp exchange at least once a week for a broken tv, granted I’m in a very high traffic store. If you don’t want to get a service plan, I’m not going to force you. Just don’t come back to me if something happens to your tv because I can’t do anything about it. It’s simple as that. I bought it on my tv because I felt that the value is there in case anything goes wrong with it. I’ll put up our service plan against any others for coverage.

  • Bev L

    This post illustrates part of a dilemma I’m having in buying a Sony 40XBR9. It’s expensive, but Best Buy, Amazon, and J&R Electronics (online only for me) have decent sale prices on it periodically.

    I really hate the idea of shelling out that much money without buying a service contract, but I just can’t figure out if a service contract is worth the paper it’s printed on. We had a service contract through Circuit City (I sure miss them) for our 2004 Sony 42″ LCD, but it was expensive too. However, it covered everything, including lightbulbs.

    On the one hand, I feel “safer” buying from Best Buy because they have a local store, but on the other hand, that shouldn’t matter at all if I can get a reliable, comprehensive service plan, right?

    The right service plan might mean I could shop anywhere. I’ve purchased SquareTrade warranties for a few relatively inexpensive items like an XBox and a cell phone, but haven’t had to make a claim yet. Since SquareTrade offers warranties on new TVs for a fraction of the cost of Best Buy and J&R, I was wondering if you have any experience or opinions with their warranty service? What about plans offered through Amazon?

  • Gerry

    I have never purchased an extended warranty on anything but have kept track of how much I would have spent on computers, stereo equipment, cameras, printers, televisions…. I did so just to see what self insuring would result in over the long run. I just had a TV go that was over 10 years old and replaced it with a new 54″ plasma Panasonic. I added $330 to my extended warranty savings which brings the total to $3760.

    If this TV happened to break down in a couple years I could either get it repaired or purchase a new one and still have plenty left over from my savings. I realize that some people have had bad experiences with electronics but in the long run, on average, they normally last a long time.

    I have a Mac computer ( in addition to an HP Notebook) that I never turn off and is 10 years old.

    Extended warranties are very high profit sales items and, hence, sales people will try to push them. I don’t blame them, they are just doing their job, but I just say upfront that if they mention extended warranties once I will not make the purchase.

  • linda

    my son purchased a 42 inch plasma tv with a 4 year warrenty. just a little over a year the tv stopped working. he called best buy and a week later someone came out and looked at it. he said it needed some parts and he would have to order them. they had set up a day to come and fix it. of course this is about a month now and they call to verify that the will be fixing it that day, they are told the parts are now on back order and not sure when they will get them. after he complained about the length of time he has been without his 1,800.00 tv included 4 year warrenty, they say if they dont get the parts in 14 days they they may replace the tv but his warrenty will no longer be valid. how can they get away with that?. you pay for a 4 year warrenty and after only 1 year it wont be any good on what ever they give you. i guess now that they dont have to compete with circuit city they can do anything they want.

  • tv fan

    You really do have to read the fine print on the extended warranties to know what your getting.

    Granted I generally avoid buy any extended warranties myself though.

  • SadPanda

    I got an Extended Warranty, and there was a problem with the picture. I got pushed back and forth between costumer service and deceitful 3rd party repairmen.

    Wrote BBB and they took their side. Still can’t get an honest person to just admit there is a problem.

  • Jon kue

    Of course they wouldnt give you a replacement worth the original purchase price. If you get car insurance on a brand new Cadillac in 2004 and total it in 2009, you dont get a brand new 2009 Cadillac.

  • Tony Stark

    You are all so cheap and paranoid “Karl C” must live in an alternate universe because he came out on top and got a new TV. Thanks for your contribution “Karl C” . I too had a problem with an old 42 600 series panasonic and walked out with an brand new 50″ 800 series Panasonic. Best Buy has good and bad stores like any company, But if my TV gives out are you ( HD GURU) gonna replace my TV. No? I didn’t think so. But guess what Best Buy will. End of Story.

  • burkey

    I was in Best Buy in St. Catharines, ON last week-end and heard the salesman telling a family “I’d rather spend my money on a lesser performing TV with an extended warranty than a better TV with no warranty” – what? Baking powder?

    Anyway, once this idiot had nonced off I spoke to the family, most TV’s have a 2% repair rating (that’s when a repair is ACTUALLY done) during the first 4 years of their life from the big manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, etc. You have a 98% chance that your money is going down the toilet when you buy an extended performance plan, so wouldn’t you rather put your hard-earned money towards a better TV? That said I recommended the G10 series from Panasonic as they had just finished being told how much better LCD is by the salesman, wrong again.

  • "Fred"

    Mike – Your statement that Best Buy contracts do not cover DLP bulbs is INCORRECT!

    Here is the verbiage direct from the PSP Documentation: “DLP, Projection LCD TVs and Home Theater Projectors: One (1) bulb replacement during the term of the Plan. This benefit does not apply towards the No Lemon Policy. – Performance Service Plan Form = 95171 (7/07)”

    Karl – Great to hear you had a good experience. I did too.

    I had purchased a TIVO DVD Recorder in 2004 with a 4 yr contract. I renewed this contract in 2008 for 2 more years. In the fall of 2008 my TIVO DVD Recorder stopped working. I took it to the nearest Best Buy Store who logged in my repair and sent it to a depot repair location. EST REPAIR TIME: 3-4 weeks (with transit).

    I received a call that my unit could not be repaired and I was provided with a BBY Gift Card for $599 (plus tax) since my unit was no longer available. I took my gift card and immediately bought a 56″ Samsung Plasma on sale for $999 and bought the 4 year Black Tie Protection for $249.

    Out of pocket expense for a BRAND NEW 56″ PLASMA – $600!! Use of my TIVO DVD Recorder for 6 years = PRICELESS! (Note: I then went eBay and bought the SAME refurbed TIVO for under $120 WITH a 2 yr warranty!)

    I WON ON ALL PLAYING FIELDS!

    Service Protection and Replacement Plans are worth EVERY PENNY on larger complex items. Do your homework and buy as an educated consumer. Thanks for this forum!

  • justsomeguy

    I had to respond to the post above about how BBY doesn’t replace a DLP bulb. The plans for the DLP sets have (at least for the past 2.5 years) covered one bulb replacement in the 4 year period.

    Always. You simply do not know what you’re talking about.

  • ME Too

    I have had many problems with Best Buy’s extended warranties and returns/ exchanges. So have most of my family and friends who shop there. It seems like the people posting positive, 10 paragraph comments about Best Buy’s superb services are paid employees spinning bad press. It also seems like every time an elecronics retailer gets in trouble for deceiving customers it is always Best Buy. There are too many examples to list. Google “Best Buy Lawsuits.”

  • Mike

    Re: Karl’s comment about good experience with Extended Warranty….

    Your story sounds like a good one, and any other time I’d say that it was a good counterpoint to the argument. here’s the thing: You were either an exception to the rule, or you’re lying. Why? You bought a DLP tv and had the bulb go out, and you say they replaced it. AFAIK, Best Buy’s contracts have NEVER included bulbs burning out on DLP TVs….in fact, there are several stories supporting that with a quick google search. This one: http://www.highdefforum.com/rear-projection-tvs/2907-getting-dlp-lamp-under-best-buys-4-year-warranty.html specifically mentions best buy NOT giving replacements. Here’s another: http://www.topix.com/forum/com/bby/T3KE4MRD38MSU298H

    To me, that says that you’re an employee. And your commenting here is support that BB employees shouldn’t be trusted.

  • shawn

    Man talk about dramatics… if you ever have payed for repairs, or got a real lemon or I don’t know… haven’t been rich, you might think twice about NOT buying one.
    1)Do you get a replacement with manufacture’s warentees? nope. So no real loss there right?
    2)You get an equivalent unit or credit for current market price. Makes sense to me, the laptop I bought for 900 bucks 2 years ago wouldn’t sell for $300 now, so I wouldn’t expect a 900 dollar unit to replace it.
    You sign something without reading it that’s your problem, but I have a bigger problem with consumer irresponsibility. Do your own research and stop being so damn greedy.

  • Walter

    I have been an electronics technician for 28 years, and I feel the need to inform the public about some issues that I have read here. The brand Insignia is a brand that my company, unfortunately, has to repair. The TV’s of this brand are almost impossible to get parts for–and if we do get a part for one, it is usually the wrong part. If we do get the right part, it is almost always defective. I have had to service approx 30 TV’s of this brand over the last 2 years, and they have only been able to get a correct and working part for 1! My advise to the public is to remember that you get what you pay for. The extended warranty that they sell is beneficial. The main catch is that they usually will replace the set after a few months of trying to get a part for it. In this case, the customer is without a TV for up to 3 months. Please be careful about the brand you buy!

  • Current Geek squad agent

    Having worked at best buy for a year and a half as a part time geek squad agent I have noticed the only time we have issues with customers and service plans is as Steve said with customers that are shall we say greedy. Some people just don’t seem to understand how quickly technology goes down in price. For instance lets say a customer bought a 50 inch DLP TV a few years ago it cost about five grand, Today a 50 inch plasma or LCD will cost half of that. But customers only see the initial cost and believe they are being ripped off.

    Also as far as having Items replaced when they are sent out to service is the same process every time. A product must go out for four qualified repairs, and I don’t mean you came into the store because you didn’t know which input your TV was on. I mean your TV will not turn on or your laptop overheats or has some kind of internal problem.

    And also as far as people getting pressured to sell service plans it varies from store to store and depends very much on the particular managers. But one thing you must remember is yes we are a business and that entails having to do your job.

    Sorry to sound ranty i just don’t do this very often but thought it might be fun to give a different perspective :)

  • TX Kyle

    I have to also relay a good experience with the PSP. Four years ago I purchased a 46″ Toshiba DLP. Within one year the bulb burned out and was replaced by BB. Shortly there after, green static would appear on the screen (color wheel failing). This resulted in three service calls that were unable to fix the problem, and a part that was back ordered and would not be in for a month at least.

    The plan featured a lemon policy for problems that were not fixed after 3 service calls. After calling the PSP plan customer service number and requesting to be escalated, I was able to pick out a replacement TV of equal or lesser value. End result is I payed the difference to get a 52″ Panasonic plasma. In the end the plan worked for me.

  • Former Geek Squad Double Agent

    I agree that replacement plans can be a hassle. Over my course of working for BB for 4+ years I bought several plans due to the fact that they were a lot less than the retail price, but there were many I didn’t buy.

    You have to say to yourself if the cost for a service plan is 25% or more for a product, when it’s time to use it how much would that same product be when you need to use it. Every laptop I have purchased whether from BB or Direct Manufacturer I have purchased one. But I didn’t by a $500 laptop with a $250 dollar service plan. Doesn’t make sense. If it happens 3 years down the road I am sure I could find that same computer for $250 or I can buy a brand new one for not much more, same goes for TV, etc. etc.

    I had a laptop that had a failed hard drive 3 times and the charging port broken 2 times (common for that model) and I requested a replacement. The manager wanted to send it off for service again and I refused (this is when I was still working for BB; I didn’t do any of the repairs to make sure everything was documented just like a regular customer). I called the 1-800 number and gave my ticket #’s to the rep. She cross checked them in the system, called the store, and told that same manager to have my money ready.

    As far as I know and I have done PSP exchanges/replacements for customers, and utilized them myself, and I never once was given or even offered a refurbished unit. I haven’t bought much of anything outside of appliances from BB in the last few years that would require a service plan, but the literature that was in the paperwork stated that you would receive the cost of your initial purchase back in the form of a voucher(Replacements) or a gift card (4 time warranty swap), but YMMV.

    At the end of the day, if you get a plan and your not given the repair/replacement that you need, Call Best Buy’s 1-800 number. I have had issues with Toshiba, HP, etc. for direct dealer repairs, but I stayed on them everyday. Even contact BBB if your complaints fall on deaf ears.

    Best of Luck

    -Happy Ex-Retail now Gov. Employee-

  • b mulligan

    Gee, every time I’ve been given the warranty spchiel, they always tell me I’ll get my purchase price back. When my TV was deemed unfixable, I called corporate 3 times after being told by the tech department to return my TV to the original store. Each call confirmed they would give me my original purchase price and I could use it to get a new TV. Everything looked good for a smooth transaction.

    Unfortunately, I had to argue with the manager and get tossed around on corporate phone lines for THREE hours until she was finally told by corporate to give me the original purchase price. During that little dance, she told me I had to accept her offer of a $500 TV or I could just take my old TV back home. Luckily and by total chance, I got a hold of a corporate VP who took care of me by calling the manager while I was standing right in front of her. She ducked into the back room to take the call. Then, she acted like she was doing me a favor by giving me the refund.

    I should have demanded it in cash, but stupid me, I bought another TV and another 4 year warranty.
    I hope I NEVER have to deal with Best Buy again for warranty claims.

  • Jimmy

    You know, having been a Best Buy employee for over 10 years, I can say that the only time I have seen customers disappointed when they come in to claim a replacement is when they have unrealistic expectations about what they will receive, just as Steve began to point out.

    As for avoiding discounts based on margin, those must be some useless managers as the store is paid back by the underwriter at the end of the month for the replaced set. if the customer receives an open item, the store only receives credit for the open item. It’s a wash weather they get a new or open tv.

    My seasoned advice is to get the plan on larger, more complex items. Special attention to laptops and digital cameras with accidental damage from handling protection. “oops, i dropped my camera” “ok, here’s a like model.”

    Yes, we are pressured to sell them, but we’re pressured to sell everything. IT’S A BUSINESS! We’re not a charity and we enjoy customers that enjoy us. When I have a customer that is very nice, patient and understanding, I bend over backwards and pressure my manager to give them discounts. Just be kind and you’ll get what you want. Play hard ball and the conversation with my manager will be something like this: “They want a discount and they are being jerks. How about 5%?”

    As with anywhere, there are bad apples. Don’t let them push you into believing that we are all like that.

  • Bryan

    I had to have $750 worth of repairs to my TV all covered under my $250 service plan from Best Buy. Even if I never had to use it on an expensive purchase I’d rather pay $250 over 4 years than thousands again (or even the $750 repairs).

  • BB Employee

    Luca: i am a Best Buy Home Theatre employee. the situation you have described is unheard of, at least in my store. I have never once seen any customer get turned down because they didn’t want to get the extended warranty. That would just be a poor business decision for Best Buy.

    Like the Agent above said, i don’t recall a time seeing a customer not get the protection plan on their new item after getting their old replaced. these plans really do benefit the customer.

  • Steve

    Oh sorry, i would like to add that the PRPs, the Product Replacement Plans, on stuff like ipod nanos and game consoles, ESPECIALLY XBOX 360s, I do highly recommend. They are only for 2 years but if you bust them up or they stop working we just swap it right there, brand new one, toss your old one. Well, toss it back to the mfg ;)

  • Steve

    I have worked at the Best Buy in Redding, CA for about 5 years. The problem with the PSP swap outs is that people just wont let go of price, especially when swapping laptops. I know it seems obvious but someone comes in ready to get a new laptop and they cant seem to comprehend the fact that the prices on computers and laptops drop so rapidly. So they have this 3 year old laptop we are swapping for them, and I grab a laptop that is lets say $1000 to swap them for their old one that is like 4 inches thick and covered in cat hair. Then they say but I paid $2000 for my laptop you have to give me one that costs $2000! Honestly, really? I mean we say spec for spec, and they are getting a laptop that is 3 years newer technology, spec for spec it outperforms the old busted one by quite a bit. People just being greedy all they see is the dollars and not actual quality of the product.

    Ok end of my little rant there, heading to the focus of the article, the PSPs, i keep calling them that because I think the “Black Tie” marketing is crap. We call them Performance Service Plans always have and probably will for a while. Anyway, the PSPs are seriously a JOKE. First off the sales people are super pressured in to selling them. We arent on comission but still, they cut a guys hours back to 4, literally 4! hours per week until he quit because he was struggling selling the PSPs. AS far as getting your item fixed you are lucky if it comes back in one piece from the service center. I really cant count how many times i have had to super glue or replace parts, or had to explain where this or that scratch came from when someone picks up an item. I asked a manager, this laptop came back from the service center with a scratched screen what do we do? He literally said, tell her there is nothing we can do because we dont know it wasnt scratched when it came in! But i always check for stuff like that, on the service tickets you note the condition it is on and there was no scratch.

    Oh here’s something you will find is a gas. Buy a Toshiba television here with the PSP, then call the number and guess what there is no service available in this area for Toshiba. At least thats how it used to be, now they try and do everything in house by the “certified” techs.

    As far as getting a product replaced its all about who you know in the store. We will try and find any loophole or excuse in an effort to not hurt the “Margin Dollars”. Swapping out old busted TVs and such for new ones hurts the margin, so a great way to prevent that is open box, or even store stock from the service center. yeah thats right, crap that has been wrecked by our service center we give out as replacements. We have this real tool of a manager named Harold here, and dont worry he knows I hate him and I know he hates me, and he actually suggested giving these people, who had already been dragged through hell trying to get a TV fixed, an open box TV that was a year old, and spec for spec definitely NOT a proper replacement of the TV in question. And simply because or margin for that day was hurting.

    On the other hand, like I said its all about who you know, because there is actually quite a few loopholes that can help. For example BB always seems to have a pushover sales manager which seems to wield unlimited power. I told a guy with a busted iPOD to bring his mom and have her complain to the sales manager and she basically got everything she wanted and then some when she was done lol. If you happen to run in to me, yeah I am pretty bad at bending the rules to help people because i just know people are not being given the facts. Someone comes in with a laptop that has been out to service like 3 times and some kid is telling them it has to go another time, or that didnt count as a qualifying repair, I will just take over and make a fake service tag for like a week ago and say, hey this has been to service with 4 qualifying repairs it should have been swapped and I grab them a new one. And typically I get them one that is way better than an appropriate swap and just say its all we have. Hah one of my favorites was someone has this old gateway notebook and i swapped him for a brand new Sony VAIO. ah good times. The point here is that they CAN absolutely provide a good experience and help you out, but they choose not to.

    anyway sorry for being so long winded! any questions anyone has or war stories anyone wants to hear from someone who has NOT gone off and had their internal organs replaced by insignia and Dynex robot parts (Agent19488) feel free to fire them off. If you dont believe i work at best buy i can post a pic of my DA badge if need be HAH

  • Gavin

    Tack me up as another satisfied customer.

    I’ve walked into best buy with broken stuff. And I mean BROKEN and walked out 20 minutes later with a brand new one at no cost.

    I had a friend with a giant scratch across his ipod screen. He showed his policy and got upgraded to the new generation ipod and left.

    I’ve actually never heard of someone being denied at BB.

    NOW RADIOSHACK… those lieing schemeing worthless pieces of —- are different story all together. I even had a Radioshack employee respond once “wow I’ve never actually seen them approve a claim.”

  • Andy

    Best Buy doesn’t stand behind its digital camera warranty program. I would not recommend anyone purchase either the cameras or the warranty. Promise anything for the sale and don’t back up the product or warranty after the sale.

  • Kyle

    I’ve had good experience with the warranty program also. I had a 50″ rear projection and about 4 years in it died. It took awhile but in the end they let me pick out a new TV that was the original value for what I had bought so I got a 40″ LCD.

    I also had a problem with a portable DVD player and the same issue.

    Actually, the warranty I don’t think is even covered by Best Buy and instead a 3rd party takes care of everything, and I would say that is the area that is the problem. Once I got Best Buy involved it was fine.

  • bob

    I am in the never again category with Best Buy. It took them a month to replace the bulb in my 50″ Toshiba DLP. They constantaly had lame excuses for why they couldn’t come out and do it. The price just is not worth the hassle.

  • Agent19488

    @Karl C: I’m glad to hear about your experience with Best Buy’s service plan… because that’s the way it’s supposed to work, with as little pain for the customer as humanly possible.

    We have 4 main criteria for exchanges under service plans: parts not available, parts not available in a timely fashion, repair cost more than unit is worth, and no lemon. No lemon occurs after the 4th qualified repair, which can be broken down to mean any hardware repair. So, if a product is sent out but not repaired (i.e. determined no fault found), that service doesn’t qualify toward a no lemon exchange.

    For any exchange criteria, once an exchange has been approved by the service center, a new item with equal or greater specifications is given. Yes I know the plan says up to the original purchase price… but there are times when that is impossible. I’ve had instances where the item that matched spec-for-spec on a laptop was $200 more than original purchase price – and the higher price is the credit that was given.

    And yes, on exchanges you do not get the unused portion of your plan back on the new item, because your plan is buying your new item. I think even with that understanding I’ve seen 1 instance where the customer did not purchase the plan on their new item – simply because they see the value of purchasing the plan.

    (note that these comments are mine and mine alone, my opinions may not reflect those of Best Buy, and my username is linked to the homepage of Geek Squad Black Tie Protection, the current Best Buy service plans, which contains more extensive information including current legal terms)

  • Luca

    there are several Best Buys until investigation for various games including the sudden ‘out of stock’ status of that item you wanted but didn’t agree to the warranty for. the status of course being done after you rejected the add on. and then suddenly it is back in stock for the guy 5 minutes later that said yes. must of been a delivery in between

  • Karl C

    I am just a normal consumer, and I’ve always had my reservations about these extended warranties. HOWEVER, to my surprise the BestBuy warranty worked out for me (your mileage may vary).

    Almost 4 years ago, I bought a Toshiba 52″ DLP at BB for $1,999 + 4 year warranty. About 5 months before the warranty expired, bulb went out. I couldn’t find my documentation, but BB looked it up and found everything I needed on their systems. Shipped me a new bulb and I installed and had a nice working TV. I also noticed that my TV was starting to make a high pitched whining sound. I looked it up on Google and it was signs of the color wheel failing. So I called the geek squad again and they had a repair man come out. The part was ordered and I waited. 3 weeks went by (luckily the TV was still in working order), I got a call from BB corporate, stating that the part was on order, but wasn’t due in for 4-5 weeks. I had two choices, wait, or BB would replace my TV!

    Of course I opted for the new TV. Knowing that the ONLY DLP in stock at BB was a well reviewed 60″ Mitsubushi (aprox $1400). Unfortunately, the 60″ would not fit in the cabinet and I negotiated with the sales manager. He said that he’d promise to get me a similar model. I said, well, you guys don’t have any DLP’s, and he responded, we’ll get you a 52″… he walked me back to the LCDs and Plasmas and recommended either the Sony or Samsung LCD (both retailing at $2500). He told me to choose, but I said, I don’t want to pay the difference. He said, just choose one, I’ll take care of the rest.

    So I walked out of the store with a brand new 52″ 120hz Sony LCD. Only paying for a 4 year new warranty.

    Yes I was surprised, and I know this isn’t the norm, but in this case, everything worked out … and even better than expected.

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