You just got a good deal a new HDTV—congratulations! Maybe you hit upon a pre-Superbowl sale. Perhaps you were being a smart shopper and picked up a discounted 2013 model before the 2014 sets arrive. Either way, now is a critical time for you and your new HDTV. Since we love lists (doesn’t everybody?), we decided to create one with the things you need to do right now to make sure the transaction goes down smoothly. HD Guru’s New HDTV to-do list follows after the break.
1) Inspect the carton
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it could just be the most important item on our list. It doesn’t matter if you’re wheeling a set into the parking lot from the store, or accepting delivery on your doorstep, you need to check the TV’s box carefully before carting it away. Why? TVs get shifted around in warehouses using forklifts, and the forklift operator might on occasion be inattentive, clumsy, inebriated, etc. Forklift tines poking holes in front of carton equals cracked screen. Another cause of cracked screens: a TV carton dropped during shipping. Believe me, as someone who has taken delivery of and shipped many TVs over the years, I’m not making this stuff up.
So, what do you do if the box has a gouge on its surface or otherwise looks roughed up? Ask for it to be opened and the set inspected. Also, plug the TV in if possible to make sure it turns on and that you can call up an onscreen menu. If there’s a problem, or if the shipper/store clerk refuses to comply, refuse delivery of the unit. Manufacturer policies vary, but the fine print contained in certain company warranties—Vizio’s, for example—clearly state that they are not responsible for damages from shipping. That means the problem could end up being yours.
Since we’re on the subject of transportation, say you’re planning to personally transport your new set from the store instead of having it home-delivered. You’ve got an SUV or van lined up to drive it home, right? TVs, especially larger screen sizes, which can be heavy, need to be transported with the carton standing up, not flat. Shove the set sideways in the back hatch of your car and you may end up damaging the screen should you hit a bump on the ride home.
2) Keep your receipt
There’s a good reason why this item is number two on the list—it’s important! Any retailer will absolutely want to see your receipt if you bring back the set for any reason during the product return window, which can last anywhere from 15 days (Best Buy) to 90 days (Costco). If you bought the TV online, you should have an electronic record of the transaction—sweet. But if you bought it from a store, that printed slip they handed you could be the only record of the sale outside of your credit card statement (though it’s apparently not all that hard to print up your own receipts).
If you need to file a claim during the warranty period (more on that in a bit), you’ll also need to provide the manufacturer with proof—i.e., a receipt—that you purchased the set from an authorized reseller.
3) Learn the terms of the store return policy
I mentioned in item 2 that the time window for sending a product back for any reason will vary from retailer to retailer. What you also kneed to know is that return/shipping policies for online retailers vary as well.
B&H’s policy states that it doesn’t permit the return of TVs 37-inches or larger once the box has been opened. Amazon and Crutchfield give you 30 days, but expect you to pay return shipping. BestBuy also expects you to pay return shipping, though you get the option to return the set directly to a Best Buy brick-and-mortar store. Sony, to cite another example, requires that you pay shipping during the 30-day return window for TVs bought from its online storefront plus a possible 15% restocking fee—ouch!
4) Keep the carton (and everything in it)
If you do need to return your TV for whatever reason, it will be necessary for you to pack the set back up in its original box with all accessories and documents. If you throw out the box or anything else that came with the set, there’s a very good chance that you will be subject to a restocking fee, which can be steep: Amazon, for example, deducts up to 50% of the item’s cost if it’s missing parts or otherwise not in “original condition.”
Holding on to the TV’s original carton and packing material will also be important during the in-warranty period. Say that during a football game you’re watching the Green Bay Packers literally start to look green (this once happened to me in an airport lounge), or maybe the set stops working altogether. Some TV manufacturers expect you to pack up the TV and ship it to a regional service center, in some cases (Vizio) at your own expense. Shipping a TV safely absolutely requires that you use the original packaging. Simply encasing the set in bubble-wrap and shoving it in a makeshift carton is an invitation to further damage that your warranty might not cover.
5) Read your warranty
It’s fair to say that few people actually read the terms of the warranty for major purchases they make. That’s why we’re usually surprised when our clothes dryer breaks down and we go searching for the warranty, only to discover that it lapsed two years back.
Pretty much all TV company warranties cover one year parts and labor. Some retailers—Costco, for example— automatically extend your warranty to two years from date of purchase. One perk of the credit card that you used to buy your set could be warranty extension. A survey conducted in 2012 by the website CardHub found that all major credit card networks offer some degree of warranty extension on some of their cards (Visa Signature, for example), with American Express and Discover providing it automatically for all cardholders. Amex even extends the warranty for refurbished items purchased with its cards!
6) Don’t buy the extended warranty
Alert consumers are used to automatically saying “no” when offered an extended warranty. (Of course, the practice of pushing these at retail has become so out of hand that you get offered extended warranties for everything from cellphone chargers to under-$10 earbuds.) With a pricey item like a big-screen HDTV, however, you might get nervous and be inclined to bite after getting the set home and living with it for a few days (retailers usually give you a few weeks to add this on to your purchase).
But chances are you don’t need an extended warranty. A recent survey by Consumers Reports found that failure rates for TVs to be surprisingly low during the first few years of ownership—around 3%. And since many extended warranties cover only the first 3 years and become increasingly pricey based on your TV’s screen size/cost—up to $300 in some instances—they generally can be considered a bad deal. (For you, that is. The seller, not so much.)
The only extended TV warranty that seems even remotely worth considering comes from CostCo: $99 ($104.99 for non-members) to extend its automatic two-year coverage to five years via SquareTrade. And that’s just for TVs $1000 and higher; cheaper plans are available for less expensive sets.
—Al Griffin/ Email
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