Saturday, January 2, 2010

Warranties, and Other Colossal Wastes of Money

    Three weeks ago, a leprechaun parked in my driveway and hacked into the circuitry in my dishwasher.

    That's the only explanation I can come up with for its behavior. It starts randomly, ignores me when I push buttons, shows odd sanskrit messages on its LCD screen, and won't complete more than five minutes of a wash cycle before quitting.

    If I try to select the "econo wash" cycle, I can hear it chuckling at me.

   Which leads me to my Consumer Protection Tip of the Day: do not buy the extended warranty.

   "Duh," is the response I expect from many of you. But 35 months ago, I was inexperienced in retail appliance shopping, a dishwasher-purchasing virgin, if you will, and I sprung for the $60 three-year extended warranty, figuring it would give me a little extra peace of mind because a) I'd purchased the showroom model, and b) I'd purchased a Frigidaire, which, to the best of my knowledge, specializes in making crappy refrigerators. 

    How wasteful is the extended warranty? I'm willing to bet that when the government buys something, it opts for the extended warranty.

    Forget the fact that companies would obviously not offer a warranty unless they were pretty sure your dishwasher would not have problems in that time frame. 

    The one time I've had cause to try to use a warranty, I learned something interesting: companies have ways of making it pretty much impossible.

    I called up the retailer where I got the Frigidaire, and they gave me a toll-free number.  Uh, oh.

    "Thank you for calling Protection Advantage Corporation. All of our agents are extremely busy learning to speak English and ask pointless questions to frustrate people into giving up on their warranties. Your approximate wait time is three minutes. Please hold."

    Fifty minutes later, someone finally picks up. After I give her the model number, serial number, phone number, birthdate, name, address, astrological sign, fishing license number, and spare tire size of my dishwasher, she tells me her computer can find no one in my area available to service my dishwasher, but someone will call within the next 24 to 48 hours.

    So I wait.  I get a call from a guy who refuses the job because he knows he won't get paid.

    I call the 800 number again, and eventually manage to get to someone in management who tells me Protection Advantage Corporation is not the company that looks for repairmen. They subcontract that nasty work to another company called "PowerFix," or something lame like that.

    There's no way to contact "PowerFix." A nice buffer has been created between Corporate America and any speck of accountability a consumer might try to flick in its direction.

    The manager promises to try to straighten things out for me, and says someone will call me within 24 to 48 hours.

    No call comes.  My warranty runs out in a couple of weeks. More importantly, my wife does not approve of the way I do dishes, which is to pile them in the sink until they overflow instead of rinsing and wiping immediately after use.

    I called again, threatening to take the case to Judge Judy, and eventually spoke to someone who said I could find the repair service myself, fax the bill to the warranty company, and cross my fingers.


    In the meantime, I'll FedEx my leprechauns to their corporate office. We'll see where that gets me.


1 comment:

Jason said...

Awful. And so true. Have you read Kleist's novella, _Mikhael Kohlhaas_? I think you will enjoy it.