Lowdown on Breakdown
By Jim Bray
Murphy's Law is alive and well in the world of electronics!
Today's electronic hardware, whether it be PC, audio/video, or whatever,
is generally built as inexpensively as profitability makes possible. However,
since so much of todays technology is made up of solid state components
and microchips, chances are youll never need service.
That said, the complexity of today's equipment means if it ever does
decide to develop a mild flutter, or pack it in completely,
tracking down the problem let alone getting it fixed can
be a horrible experience. This means it could be expensive once the warrantys
And when else would it break down?
Fortunately, so much is modular that it can be quicker and cheaper to
throw away the piece that's causing the problem and replace it. This is
especially true of computer components.
You may be wise to think twice, however, before tossing your three thousand
dollar TV into a landfill because its tuner stops tuning. Fortunately,
since electronics prices plummet steadily, it may be relatively affordable
to simply replace a failed component from a more expensive product, even
if you have to pay for it.
For example, if the fax/modem for which you paid $200 three years ago
has gone awry, you may discover that to replace it now requires hardly
more outlay than the purchase of a box of corn flakes. Likewise, if your
5 year old VCR, for which you paid $500 back then, becomes terminal you
may as well just throw it away; new VCRs are about as cheap as many
I apologize to environmentalists for this fact of technological life,
but I stand by the opinion though, naturally, I recommend you recycle
as much as you possibly can.
An extended warranty can sometimes get you around the cash outlay for
repairs, though Im a bit torn about these beasts.
Extended warranties are a crap shoot. Theyre often cash cows for
the retailer (and the warranty company), which is why they push them so
often, and chances are you'll never need the warranty work. Even if you
do, the fine print could exclude exactly the part that broke on your equipment
so make sure you read it before you need it!
Then again, if you have my track record (everything I buy seems to break
down the day after the warranty expires, regardless of how much I spent
on it), an extended warranty can bring peace of mind.
The best way to get an extended warranty is to use one of those credit
cards that doubles the manufacturer's warranty.
If you need service, the first place to go is the dealer from whom you
bought the equipment. If they stiff you, find out who the local authorized
service depot is and go there. The dealer will usually tell you; so will
your local Yellow Pages. You may even find the info on the manufacturers
If you can't get no satisfaction (to steal a line), don't hesitate to
write the manufacturer. They generally (though not always) care very much
about satisfying their customers, correctly realizing that one angry customer
translates to ten lost sales as that now-ex-customer warns friends and
family against the brand.
This is a last resort, of course, but it can be a good one. Dont
be afraid to write directly to the companys president, either. This
should be done by name, which will entail a bit of homework on your part.
Its amazing how seriously many corporate presidents take such feedback
from the public, though of course such a blanket statement may not apply
to the one to whom you write (and wouldnt that just figure?). I
once felt ripped off by a major department store and, having gotten the
runaround locally, wrote to the top dog. I didnt mention what I
do for a living, either; to this person, I was just an ordinary
I got satisfaction.
A word on behalf of retailers. It isnt fair to buy something from
Whacko Willie's and, when it breaks, take it to "The Technology
Boutique " because they're known for customer relations and product knowledge.
If you didn't shop at the Boutique you have no business abusing
them, unless the product is out of warranty and the Boutique
will earn some money off the deal.
Fairs fair, after all.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.