Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hidden Warranties

Before you throw out an appliance, call the manufacturer and see if it is covered under a hidden warranty.  The same is true for car repairs.  It doesn't always work, but sometimes it is worth a try.

As I noted in my Membrane Switch posting, as well as my Used Appliance posting, a home appliance should have a design life of 10-15 years.  If the appliance fails after the warranty expires, but before that time, it can be frustrating.

But in some instances, manufacturers may repair such appliances even after they are out of warranty, under so-called hidden warranties.

If a product fails massively in the marketplace - a high percentage fail due to a defective design or part - in many instances, the manufacturer may repair or cover part of the cost of repair, under a so-called hidden warranty.  They may call this a "goodwill" repair or the like.   The gist of it is, they want to avoid lawsuits, and also avoid getting a bad reputation.  In addition, if there are safety concerns, they may have to make repairs.

Thus, for example, GM offered to repair or pay for parts of repairs on 1980's Chevy Impalas with the THM-250 transmission, if they failed early.  The cars were long out of warranty, but they still offered to help out the consumer.

Usually, there are a number of criterion you have to meet before they will pay, or assist in paying for repairs to out-of-warranty appliances or cars:

1.  You usually have to be the original owner - in privity with the manufacturer, as we say in the law.  If you buy a car second- or third-hand, you are assuming a risk, which is why you pay so much less than a new car buyer.  Thus, for example, BMW replaced engine blocks on some 1990's era 5-series V-8s, but only for the original owners of those cars.

2.  You have to know about the hidden warranty or find out about it.  One way manufacturers limit their exposure is by not advertising these deals.  By keeping it secret, some folks will just give up and walk away, rather then press for a repairs.

3.  You have to ask nicely.  From what I have seen, people who go to online forums and threaten to "expose" the company or slander or libel the company, rarely get any free repairs.   Why?  Well, they've already played the only card they have, so to speak.  Repairing the car or appliance at that point isn't going to generate any goodwill for the company.  Similarly, parking your car outside a dealership with "Lemon" painted on it isn't going to do much for you.  Dealers actually like this, as ironically, it generates showroom traffic as people slow down to look.

The Internet has made hidden warranties at lot easier to find.  If you are having a problem with a vehicle or appliance, type in the model number and problem and chances are, if it is a "chronic" problem, you may run into a website that describes the issue and possible warranty problems.

As I noted in my Membrane switch posting, we have had trouble with both our microwave and stove with regard to membrane switches.  I went to the manufacturers website and filled out a form and after several phone calls, they have scheduled a service call.

For the microwave, which comes on by itself, and is a safety issue, they have agreed to repair it, free of charge.  For the stove, they have agreed to install the part for free, but apparently I may have to pay for the part.

The service call is scheduled for later this month, so we will have to wait and see how much they fix and what the charges are.  I will update this blog posting accordingly.

It does take patience as we had to explain our life story several times to different people on the phone.  Have your model number and serial number handy and be patient.

One way they do try to wear you down is to try your patience - another form of Baiting, I'm afraid.  And with the Samsung people, it worked.  I had a microwave made by them, which also blew out the membrane switch (smoking and sparking) and when I called, they were helpful and told me to take it to an appliance store.  I took it there and the appliance people said "We have no record of this - what do you expect us to do?" which in turn required me to call back their 1-800 number, wait on hold, and go through the whole deal again and again, and of course, I got angry.  And as they hoped, I eventually just gave up and just bought another (different brand) of microwave.  They Baited me, and I bit on the bait.