Updated November 25, 2012
Consumers trust well known brand names. Retailers and TV marketers know this and use strategies to take full advantage of this trust. HD Guru wants readers to be aware that some of the well known TV brand models you may be considering are not produced by the company you think made it, and the online store selling an HDTV may not be the same company you once knew and trusted.Bad reliability and poor customer service often accompany this masquerade.
Due to bankruptcies or business decisions, retailers and a number of set makers sold off their big brand names to private investment groups or public companies. For example, in the US, the founding companies no longer make or market TVs under the Philips, Polaroid and Westinghouse brands. They simply put the name on other companies products. In retail, former giants Circuit City and CompUSA have nothing to do with the companies that built them into household names.
HD Guru examined a number of these recycled brand names and found a trail of unhappy consumers. In 2010, online giant Amazon made the company now named Circuit City an authorized merchant. It is not the same Circuit City that you remember.
Amazon’s most recent buyer survey reveals more than one out of ten customers rate their experience with Circuit City as negative or neutral. By comparison, other major online etailers like J&R, Vann’s and One Call have recent rating of 94%, 97% and 98% positive ratings respectively. Circuit City most recently rates an 89% positive, 9% negative, and 2% neutral.
If you recall, consumer electronics mega-chain Circuit City declared bankruptcy in 2009. The name, website and logo ended up with Systemax, a NYSE listed company that operates a group of online stores including TigerDirect and CompUSA. Systemax launched circuitcity.com as an Amazon merchant just over two years ago. According to our research, Circuit City earns the distinction one of the lowest ranked featured Amazon TV sellers in its customer survey. Recently Systemax announced plans to close down the Circuit City and CompUSA operations and sell all products under their Tiger Direct name.
Amazon purchasers rate their overall experience on a scale of 1 to 5 with 4 and 5 being positive, 3 neutral and 1 and 2 negative. In the last 90 days Circuit City managed to generate 1156 comments.
What are their customers’ main complaints? The most frequent are late or unfilled orders. Circuit City provides a delivery date, then misses it or simply never ships the order. Days later they’ll inform the customer the item is out of stock. With Christmas rapidly approaching, this could become a nightmare when ordering an HDTV a gift.
The next biggest complaint concerns Circuit City’s poor customer service with patrons citing long hold queues, hang ups and rude customer service representatives.
Below are eight examples, verbatim, of the negative comments as they appear on amazon.com.
“Email response time was pathetic. Tried calling, sat on the phone for 30 minutes without hearing a human voice, and gave up. When they finally did respond, I found that my item had been sitting in the shipping warehouse ready to be delivered for a week! They couldn’t call me because Circuit City never gave them a phone number for me. Looked at my order. A phone # and alternate # are clearly there”
“I ordered this through amazon and it was a 2 day shipping. My amazon account has ben charged over 900 bucks I dont have the tv i cancelled the order as their has been now 30 days-my card is still not credited. I have to pay the bill this is really just wrong-customer service from amazon says oh we can dispute the charges it takes 2 weeks and circuit city says its amazon not them. “
“Horrible experience. Ordered two Mitsubishi 60″ on 11/25, not delivered until 12/9 3 days past delivery window. Bad communication, disorganized, used terrible delivery service (AIT), had to constantly contact and agreed directions (phone to contact, scheduled delivery time) were ignored. I will never buy from Circuit City again, nor any seller that uses AIT.”
“shipment was late, and would not have arrived if i did not actively pursue the item. When received there was a scratch on the television. There was no reply from circuit city, and moreover when i called i was placed on hold for 15 minutes and then promptly hung up on. this happened a total of 3 times.”
“I ordered 6 identical hard drives. One was dead on arrival. I wanted to exchange this for a working one and they refused. They perform returns only. What they will do is make me purchase a new one which the support team will happily do. In order to get refunded the original money, I have to go to the manufacturer, get a special code and come back to support with it. BUY ELSEWHERE!”
“1, ad a lower price on black friday and then tell me “backorder” after I sent serveral emails to them, but the website still shows “in stock” 1 day after I ordered. 2, didn’t answer my email until Amazon kicked in. 3, told me “You can call us directly at 1-800-800-8300”, this number is the same as “TigerDirect.com”, they are the same seller? WTF…”
“Seller did not have item despite listing it”
“Order never arrived. No tracking information and they would not respond to email. Would not use this retailer again”.
Under the 120 plus year old brand Westinghouse, HDTVs are marketed by an independent company called Westinghouse Digital, headquartered in California. However, the sets are all sourced off-shore by contract manufacturers. According to Consumer Reports’ (CR) most recent TV reliability survey, Westinghouse TVs rank as the most trouble prone sets sold, with a whopping 8 percent needing repair. Data reflects HDTVs purchased between 2008 and the first half of 2012.
The company markets many products under their brand name including LCD TVs, digital cameras and eyewear. The original company went bankrupt and the name rights have transferred twice. An investment company called PLR IP Holdings now owns the name and they also outsource all TVs marketed under the Polaroid brand. The current CR survey does not rate Polaroid but its 2010 survey revealed a 10% failure rate for their TVs. By comparison, the most recent survey rates Panasonic HDTVs having a failure rate of just 2%, while Sony and Sharp enjoy a low failure rate of 3%.
In 2008 electronics giant Philips sold off to Funai the US naming rights and distribution of its Philips and Magnavox TV brands. The latest CR survey rates reliability as high, with a failure rate of 5%, the same as Samsung .
Do your research and pick online stores based on their recent reputations and reasonable return policies. Be aware of the who really makes the TV you are considering and check their reliability and warranty policies before buying. Unlike Westinghouse and Polaroid, traditional brands including Samsung, LG and Panasonic still design, build and market their own HDTVs. These companies, unlike some of the faux brands, maintain full nationwide parts and service networks as well as excellent product reliability and customer service. Check out our articles about regarding the pitfalls of buying other brands here and here.
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