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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Best Buy Warranties are Great!

"Would you like to purchase the Best Buy warranty? If you buy the Best Buy warranty you can have the peace of mind to know that if your product fails you, for any reason, we will fix or replace it," says the typical cashier at Best Buy.
"For any reason"? I ask.
I am given the positive affirmation and assurance - yes, for any reason.
"Well, yes, then. I would like the warranty."
Thirty bucks is steep to pay for a 2 year warranty on a product like the ipod nano that should be the best on the market and really shouldn't give me any problems at all. But I want to have a no hassle experience. I want the nano for my runs, and when it comes to my running I want no inconveniences. I don't want to constantly have to mess with technology. I want shoes and clothing that work, and technology that doesn't give me issues.

No hassles when I run. I guess that's my credo.

But my ipod has been absolutely horrible for me since last November. Yes, yes, I know - your ipod works fine for you and you can't understand why mine doesn't work as well as yours. Whatever. I don't understand it either, and that's why I tried to take it back last night. Here is my experience, related in an e-letter to Best Buy:

I purchased an ipod nano from your store last November. Ever since then it has given me nothing but problems. I purchased the ipod nano for the express purpose of running, and yet this product frequently malfunctions when I use it during my runs. The problems with the ipod are many - it will skip songs, the buttons will not function properly, the hold button will often simply not function, the buttons will sometimes stick (if they work at all), the ipod will freeze up for no conceivable reason, and a host of other problems. As they say in my area of the world, I bought a lemon. I needed a new product.

I purchased the 2 year warranty for the purpose of peace of mind. Last night I traveled 50 minutes to the nearest Best Buy store and went in to get an exchange. I am not someone who will manufacture a dramatic scene or make an ass of myself. So, I simply explained my situation.

"If we can't reproduce the problem in the store we can't do anything," says the blond girl probably working her summer break from college and interested in anything but helping me.

"But," I say, "the problems usually occur on my runs. Sometimes they happen with regular usage, but to be honest with you the ipod is very sporadic and most of my troubles happen on the road. And I need a rock solid ipod that is going to work while I run. The nano was manufactured for that very purpose."

Then I ask the most obvious question:
How can I "recreate the problem" when the ipod breaks down while I am running? I can't simulate that for you right now.

The blond girl can't process this. So, she shuffles me off to something she calls a "Geek squad".

So, I wait for the "Geek squad" to assist me. I wait. I wait. I wait. Blond girl doesn't think it necessary to touch base with me, or check in with the "Geek squad", or even to make eye contact.

As I say, I am not one to make scenes. So I leave the store when it is obvious that no one cares.

I purchased my product from Best Buy for one reason: Peace of mind. I wanted to know that I could walk in to a Best Buy store and have my product replaced if it did not properly function. End of story. It is that simple.

If your company wants to staff teenagers and call their technical assistance team a "geek squad" then that's your business. If I were running a company the size of Best Buy I would make sure that I staffed a professional customer service team with qualified individuals. But the point of this electronic message is simply to use my last recourse to try to get a product that works. My ipod is unreliable and I want it replaced.

I should not have to wait for a bunch of kids to finish chatting with their friends in order to get my ipod replaced. I shouldn't have to be put on trial by a blond girl trained to say, "We can't help you unless we can recreate the problem." I shouldn't have to take my personal time to write an electronic letter that goes to Who-Knows-Where in the desperate hopes of making things right.

I buy from Best Buy for peace of mind - that you stand behind your products. If you do not stand behind your products then I might as well purchase from a less-expensive online retailer. These purchases entail more risk. But at this point the guarantee of your company and the warranty I purchased for an additional thirty dollars (on top of the over-priced $200 ipod) is worthless. At this point I might as well use my receipt and warranty as toilet paper because it's only value to me is the paper it is written on.

Jonathan Erdman
Winona Lake, Indiana

My encounter last night was at the following store:
Fort Wayne IN (Store 228)
737 Northcrest Shopping Ctr
Fort Wayne, IN 46805

Corporations are great....when they are truly functioning for the consumer. But I fell into an unfortunate niche. Unlike most user my ipod is junk. And on top of it I can't get Best Buy to honor their warranty. (Most assuredly the above email will wind up absolutely nowhere.)

I guess it could be worse. After all, I'm only out two hundred and thirty bucks. What's the big deal, right? As they say (in various forms): "It happens"


ktismatics said...

In a prior lifetime I had some involvement in the warranty business. Warranties are an unregulated form of insurance, which means that the seller can chose the terms and price of the contract without approval from state government. Usually insurers, in order to justify price increases, have to document their loss histories to the regulators, who along with adding excess bureaucracy to the marketplace also presumably protect consumers from price-gouging. Warranties, on the other hand, are like the products they warrant: whatever the market will bear, and caveat emptor.

When I was in the warranty biz for "gray goods" (i.e., electronics), the "loss ratios" were very low: the gizmos usually worked pretty well, consumers forgot they had bought the warranty, and (your experience) proof of loss was very onerous.

So I never want to buy the warranty. My wife, on the other hand, does, and for the same reason you did: convenience and peace of mind. But hey, they've got your money, your claim is inconveniencing the investors in the warranties -- which may or may not be Best Buy itself. When I was in the warranty biz, the Best Buys of the world would outsource the risk to a warranty company, which operates kind of like a risk wholesaler. The warranty company would agree to buy all of Best Buy's warranties, remitting an agreed-upon price for each type of warranty. As retailer, Best Buy could mark up the warranty price to the consumer as high as they liked (remember, no regulation of rates). The warranty business must be pretty lucrative for Best Buy, otherwise they wouldn't have their salespeople pushing them so hard. Kind of like the markup for poured drinks at restaurants.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Thanks for some of that info, John. I guess we all live and learn.

In most cases I don't get the warranty. I suppose I should have known better in this case, as well. But, as I say, when it comes to running I want minimal hassle.

I do remember getting a warranty almost two years ago on a flat screen monitor b/c the pixels on those things can go bad.

Ultimately, one must realize that they are always selling the warranty at a cost where they are either a) breaking even or b) making money on the deal. The later seems far more likely to me. These are, after all, corporations that exist to make a profit for their shareholders. These profits are based on percentages that the product will break down and the warranty redeemed. So, I would think that the lesson for the consumer is that, given the law of averages, it is probably better to simply bear the risk of a defective product personally.

Melody said...

Skip the warranties, the only true way to guarantee that you get good service to be firm and relentless in making sure everyone in the store feels your pain. They can ignore it if only you hurt, but if you're making their lives hell they have to do something about it.

Also, make sure that they understand that you will take every opportunity to let friends, family, co-workers, strangers you happen to pass on the sidewalk etc. the poor service that you have received.

That won't bother susie highschool, but it'll bother her manager and if not him (considering he may well be in susie's science class) the person he reports into will care.

In highschool my best-friends mother was master at returning defective items, it was humiliating at the time...but I've come to appreciate what we learned.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes but I have a little buddy that I call Pride - he kind of goes along with me on these things and so I usually don't raise too many problems.

Besides, if you resort to causing a scene then don't you just become absorbed into the machine???

Melody said...

Well I'm not saying you need to throw yourself on the floor and start kicking and screaming till you get your way.

You don't have to cause a scene to make things right, you just have to be persistent and annoyed. A look of death wouldn't hurt either. Once I went with Robin when she demanded a refund for a dress she'd never worn (or even seen actually) and they didn't want to give it to her...but holy cow...the look of death made ME afraid...and I was there as backup! Her money was refunded without any hassle.

But seriously, if you don't sound ticked off they're not going to waste their time helping you.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Here is the prompt and informative response I received from Best Buy:


Thank you for contacting Best Buy about your recent experience with one
of our stores. I'm TJ with Customer Care.

We realize it can be frustrating when you do not receive the service you
expect, and we are disappointed we did not meet your expectations when
you visited the store to obtain a replacement iPod. Best Buy strives to
provide our customers with the highest level of service, convenience and
selection. We value receiving your comments so we may use this feedback
to improve the shopping and service experience for all our customers.

Product Replacement Plans (PRPs) are two-year contracts between Best Buy
customers and AIG Warranty Guard. PRPs guarantee that if the product
malfunctions within two years (under the terms and conditions of the
plan), the customer can receive a voucher for the original purchase
price plus tax to be used in any retail location. To contact AIG
Warranty Guard about a potential replacement, please call

Thank you for sharing your comments with Best Buy. Please do not
hesitate to contact us with additional questions or concerns.

Best Wishes from Best Buy,
TJ and the Customer Care Team

A consumer always feels special when he or she receives an email that is an obvious stock response!

Melody said...

Oh no, it sounds like Teeg really put his heart and soul into that letter...

I wrote a letter to a magazine this summer, to complain about an article they claimed was in the magazine (why I bought it) but wasn't there. I told them I was never buying their publication again.
They responded with a stock letter and started sending me advertisements =p

At least you have a number you can call. Or does your pride keep you from calling service lines as well?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I think calling would be a waste of time. But I might do it if I get in the mood sometime.

Melody said...

~rolls her eyes~ Is it within the two years? Is your product malfunctioning? If the answer to two or more of these questions is yes all you have to do is dial the number, be on hold for approximately half your life, and they'll send you your voucher for a new product.

Quite honestly, even if you didn't have a warranty most places would replace your product..provided you had a receipt...you don't always even need that.

ktismatics said...

Go ahead and follow up with AIG -- they might actually respond.

Jason Hesiak said...

Speaking of Saussure's interest in real time (at your post on the loss of writing)...lol:

"Then I ask the most obvious question: How can I 'recreate the problem' when the ipod breaks down while I am running? I can't simulate that for you right now. The blond girl can't process this. So, she shuffles me off to something she calls a 'Geek squad'."

And speaking of Dejan's lack of concern for "symoblik effikacy," I enjoyed immensely your concern for and loss of "peace of mind" (sorry...but the whole story is funny to me in that regard...its a deep rabbit hole that front door of Best Buy).

Anwyay...it sounds like the problem is with the blond gal rather than the warranty itself. But...WHO KNOWS!? Lol.

Interesting story from The Doyle from inside the Warranty Business Rabbitt Hole. Although Thomisticguy the "economic libertarian" would say that this regulation thing is bunk, that the market regulates itself. Ahh but Erdman's story actually exists. Thomisticguy's "economic liberty" is an "ideal." Anyway.

"A look of death wouldn't hurt either." Wierd...to CONJURE a "look of death." Proverbs says something about not having power of the "angel of death," or something like that.

Also interesting from The Doyle's inside scoop that AIG might actually respond. I guess it is actually someone's job to do so.

Fun story. Thanks :)

Jason Hesiak said...

"not having power OVER 'the angel of death'...that was SUPPOSED to say...oops...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Does Doyle still have connections that he's not talking about....Maybe he was like the Jason Bourne of the warranty world - he got out, but not without a price: "Why are you people still out to get me!?!?!"

Melody said...

Jason, it isn't neccesary, nor is it advisable, to take everything I say literally. I don't even recommend taking much of it seriously.

However, the look of death is well documented phenomina dating as far back as the time of Abraham. Solomon, no doubt, was well aware of this look (you can't have that many wives and not recieve the look of death, I don't care what you're king of)and would not dispute its power. Indeed, the verse may be referencing such a look, but without knowing which verse it is, it would be hard to say for sure.

Jason Hesiak said...


A) I think he was referencing the nagging wife, similar to the "leaking faucet" verse, but taken to a bit more of an extreme consequence for said nagging (that consequence being death to the soul :)

B) Not to take this too far, but I was thinking of times when I've ACTUALLY seen folks employ your referenced "look of death." You deny that what I said has anything to do with what you were actually talking about. That's fine, but I think otherwise.


Doyle is actually Big Brother himself. He works at AIG, and is actively conspiring against you (with his own enemy), just as Bush actively conspired with Osama to plan 9/11 :)