Mom’s Element doesn’t work — can you help her?

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By Christopher Elliott

Diana Kennison’s mother has a problem with her new flatscreen TV: it doesn’t work. But neither the manufacturer, nor Wal-Mart, can help her fix it.

Question

My mother recently purchased an Element flatscreen TV at Wal-Mart, along with a two-year extended warranty. I came to visit and noticed lines going up and down in the center of the television. Mom never noticed them because she is 83.

I immediately called the Element TV service telephone number where they gave me a report number and asked me to send to them photos of the lines in the TV. I sent the information and a representative called my mother and told her the TV was defective.

Element wanted her to ship the TV to them but first to give them a credit card with $300 approval to ship us a TV and then we ship them the defective TV. Element would in turn send us a new TV.

Instead, my mother decided to go back to Wal-Mart, since she’d purchased the extended warranty, and see if she could exchange the unit and save the shipping. A Wal-Mart employee spoke with Element for over one hour, but made no progress. Eventually, Element hung up on him.

Element continues to demand more documentation. They’ve asked for more pictures of the unit, even after determining the TV was defective. This is awful. The TV was in use for less than three months from date purchased.

I would like to return this TV to Wal-Mart and we would like a store credit or our money back, including the extended warranty. We have lost all trust in Element TV and we think even the replacement would be defective. We do not think Wal-Mart stood behind the product it sold. Can you help? — Diana Kennison, Dallas

Answer

The warranty on your mother’s Element was pretty standard, as far as TV warranties go. It says if something goes wrong with the TV within the first year, it will replace the TV.

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Your mother’s Wal-Mart extended warranty adds to that promise. “If you ever have a covered problem with your product, we’ll take care of all the repairs,” it says. “There are no hassles, no deductibles, and no hidden fees. We cover 100% of the repair costs, and all shipping charges, too.”

“You’ll be back to enjoying your product in no time at all, and at no expense,” it adds.

That obviously didn’t happen. As I review the account of your mother’s TV repair problem, it seems the manufacturer wasn’t aware of her extended warranty. When a Wal-Mart employee tried to help, Element subjected him to an extended “hold” and then disconnected the call. And I thought we’re the only ones whose calls were disconnected by call-center employees! (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

I think your mother would have benefitted from sending an email to Element and Wal-Mart, along with the photos, in order to create a paper trail. Given that she didn’t even know her TV was defective, I’m not sure that would have been possible. (Related: Don’t buy another television until you read this.)

If you spend another $65 for an extended “no hassle” warranty, I think it’s reasonable to expect that if something goes wrong with the TV, you’ll experience no hassles when you have to return the unit. At the same time, I’m not entirely sure if a full refund is warranted. After all, Mom enjoyed the TV for three months before having to return it.

My advocacy team and I contacted Wal-Mart on your behalf. The company contacted you immediately and arranged for a technician to visit your mother’s home. Wal-Mart installed a new TV and offered her a three-year warranty.

Who was responsible for this broken TV?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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