Where’s my replacement TV from Wal-Mart?

Sumner/Shutterstock
Sumner/Shutterstock
Latonya Holloway’s TV stopped working. Good thing she bought the extended warranty from Wal-Mart. Or is it?

Question: I bought a 24-inch Element Electronics TV from Wal-Mart with an extended warranty a year ago. Last month, it stopped working and I couldn’t get a picture on it. I contacted Wal-Mart, and a representative told me to contact Element, because it was still under its manufacturer’s warranty.

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I contacted Element and told them the problem. They told me to fax them the proof of purchase. I did. I received a case number and was told to ship the TV to them, which I did.

I’ve been in contact with Element since then to find out about the status of my TV. I’ve called at least 20 times and I’ve had the same conversation over and over. They ask for my tracking number and they promise to send me a TV.

It’s been a month and a half and I still have not received my TV. I’ve asked to speak to a supervisor several times and they always say they’re in a meeting or not around. I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but my TV is still missing in action. Please help me. — Latonya Holloway, Washington

Answer: Your Element TV shouldn’t have broken down after just a year. The average lifespan of a TV is somewhere between 5 and 10 years, although theoretically today’s TVs should last decades.

The two-year extended warranty you purchased at Wal-Mart, called the Wal-Mart Product Protection Plan promises “even more comprehensive coverage than the original manufacturer’s warranty.” For your TV, that meant a longer warranty that covers events such as power surges, mechanical failures, and defects in workmanship.

“This TV service plan gives you two full additional years of worry-free coverage after the manufacturer’s labor warranty expires,” it says, “so you are never left unprotected or paying for protection you already have.”

The fine print of your warranty suggests Wal-Mart was just following procedure when it asked you to send the product back to the manufacturer at your expense. Where it did fall short was in abandoning you after that.

Obviously, your repair request slipped between the cracks at Wal-Mart, and the “extended” warranty certainly implies Wal-Mart will take extra special care of you if something goes wrong with your TV. By your account, both the manufacturer and Wal-Mart lost track of your claim and couldn’t even tell you when you might get your replacement TV. If that’s the extended warranty, I’d hate to see the regular one.

By the way, these purchased warranties are nonsense. Every product should come with a reasonable warranty. And if it doesn’t? Well, remember what the Australian government did to Apple a few weeks ago when it determined its warranties were less than adequate? Maybe we could use a little bit of that here in the U. S. of A., don’t you think?

A brief, polite email to Wal-Mart would have probably done the trick. Here are a few executive contacts at Wal-Mart. By the way, this isn’t the first Wal-Mart problem with an Element TV, which would have been worth noting.

I contacted Wal-Mart on your behalf and it sent you a new TV.

Is the extended warranty worth it?

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26 thoughts on “Where’s my replacement TV from Wal-Mart?

  1. Extended warranties are a mixed bag, and I’ve had both good and bad experiences…
    Good: Apple has repaired/replaced my iPhones that have gone wrong in warranty with a smile. It’s reassuring to know that if I either drop it and break it or kill it with water damage replacement is cheap too. By and large, I’ve been incredibly pleased with their warranty service.

    Bad: I bought an extended warranty from Best Buy for a laptop in grad school. What an awful experience. They would send it out for repair for 2 weeks at a time, when I still needed it for work. It would come back without fixing the problem. The worst part is they told me after 2 repair attempts, that I could get faster service had I bought a super-premium warranty…one that wasn’t even offered when I purchased my computer. Thankfully, after 2 months of back and forth shipping and a good deal of assertiveness, I was able to get my computer replaced.

    1. The best extended warranties come from the original manufacturer, provided that company has a significant US presence. This is the factor that makes Apple’s extended warranty a good deal. But good luck trying to find that TV brand I have never heard of. In the OP’s case, she might have been better off if the manufacturer warranty had expired. Whether you get treated well or badly by Walmart, at least the company has a ubiquitous presence.

  2. Warranties overwhelmingly benefit retailers. Bean counters sit behind a table calculating the lifespan of products before a typical failure occurs. Retailers and manufacturers have lifespans down to a science where the odds are skewed towards their favor.

    You pay 10-15% of the product price to “protect” your depreciating investment. So a 1000 dollar purchase has another $150 tacked on for warranty. Factor in the failure rate of around 5-10% and you can see who walks away rich.

    Sure, there are instances that warranty does pay off. I’m sure every one of us can point out a time where we caved in, bought the plan, and lucked out. Generally, we’re shelling out good money that’ll never be recouped in the long run.

    Glad it all worked out for the OP in the end.

        1. Pretty amazing, isn’t it, that the original post he agrees with is down vote free. I guess he agreed with the post too much!

        2. Just a guess (no, I don’t downvote 🙂 ): I’ve seen a lot of “+1” or “+1000” or “+ a million” posts downvoted across Disqus.

          I actually think those posts are kind pointless, as that’s what upvoting is for, by definition. Not enough to actually care, but perhaps that’s why. I wouldn’t necessarily take it personally.

          1. Carver’s been plagued for a while with a mysterious down-voter. I think he could post that he loved puppies and there’d eventually be a single down vote.

    1. That’s a good point Justin. Unless they have very bad actuaries, they should be a net benefit to the retailers.

      For me it comes down to deciding what my acceptable level of risk is for being forced to purchase a replacement. There’s an opportunity cost here. For most DVD players or modest TV’s, so what if it breaks…the warranties are often quite expensive compared to replacement cost and often don’t have great terms. For a car, on the other hand, I have a very different calculation to do.

    2. Also, an extended warranty is just that, and extension beyond the original warranty. Most electronics failures occur during the first year of ownership. It’s called “infant mortality” and is the most common failure mode for a well-designed product. After that first year, the likelihood of failure in the next few years, while the product is still young, but is past that infant mortality period, is very low.

      1. Sounds pretty logical. Once the item has been proven to work, catastrophic failure becomes unlikely after the break in period. Therefore, while failures can occur, chances become greatly diminished. A windfall for extended warranties.

  3. A relative worked in a big box store during high school and college. She told us the huge profit margin the store made selling the extended warranties on a variety of products. She was constantly receiving bonuses that far outdistanced her regular pay because she was so good at selling them. And she said they are very seldom, if ever, worth the cost.

  4. There is a difference between what are typically called ‘extended’ warranties and those that claim to offer protection from day one.

    Extended warranties generally explicitly cover the product from when the manufacturer warranty expires, plus maybe some token coverage while still under that warranty.

    A warranty is usually not a good economic deal, but then again, is any type of insurance ever a good economic deal? By definition, no, because it’s all calculated to make money for the insurer. That doesn’t mean insurance (yes, I know this isn’t technically “insurance”) is a bad decision. You just have to decide if the loss of whatever money you paid would be catastrophic enough to warrant paying for insurance.

    On the other hand, you have companies that sell “full coverage from day one” plans on Amazon (begins with an S, ends with an E, with quaretrad in the middle) that can be equally frustrating. A lot of what they aim to cover are not your high-end iPads, but rather middle-of-the-road electronics such as tablets, often made by ephemeral Chinese manufacturers.

    The problem with that? Let’s say you have a relatively cheap Chinese-made tablet. You pay $20 extra for the full-coverage-from-day-one warranty. The tablet breaks in the fifth month. What do you do? Using your “S” warranty sure sounds attractive – it includes return shipping, you can file the claim online, they guarantee five-day turnaround, and so on.

    But you can’t. In the fine print – and even then, it’s incredibly unclear on purpose – this ‘extended, full coverage from day one” warranty REQUIRES that you use the manufacturer warranty if it covers the product. On the surface, that may sound reasonable. But in these cases, it requires dealing with a terribly spotty manufacturer, hefty return shipping and postal insurance, often a $20 “handling fee”, an eight-to-ten week (you read that right) turnaround time, and that’s if the company doesn’t go out of business first…..which they often do.

    This highly-rated company refuses to clarify its terms, outlining what it will and will not do in those first years. Instead, it pushes harder and harder to sell their warranties for every product imaginable, only to refuse service when the products fail under the useless manufacturer warranty, which they’re practically designed to do.

    In short, all of these warranty companies are vultures. That doesn’t mean that their products are always a bad deal. But look at all of them with a very wary eye.

    1. Same concept as Mail in Rebates. Redemption rates are atrocious and companies look for every reason to deny submitted applications (improperly filled out, not signed, etc).
      Mail in Rebate companies work off a simple formula. Manufacturer (I.E. Microsoft), pays the rebate company an agreed upon sum. Rebate company does the math to calculate how many people will redeem their refund. Surplus money is often kept as profit.

      Seeing only 20% of rebates are claimed, the math again works towards company’s favor. Sell an item “discounted” knowing few qualify or remember to fill out forms.

      Scamming consumers is profitable. I’m sure Chris could write a book… Wait he did =).

    2. Gee, I’ve actually had a couple of excellent experiences with “S”. Twice I purchased warranties (less than $20 each) for (brand name) printers which stopped working. And both times S asked me to see if the printers could be repaired at a factory-approved service center where I live. When they couldn’t, S immediately sent me a check for the full purchase price of each of the printers. And they were helpful, friendly and quick. Now, if I had to ask for warranty coverage during the initial one year factory warranty period, I can’t say what my experience would have been. I generally feel that I can use the factory warranty first, and if I have a problem after the initial period – and if the additional warranty is inexpensive enough – I’ll get the additional one as well. So far that’s worked out pretty well for me. And neither I nor anyone I know has any financial interest in S, or any other extended warranty company. Just sayin’

      1. They’re just fine for breaks and spills (they replaced one of my items that had a screen cracked), and outside the warranty period. I just have a problem with marketing it as a “from day one” coverage when it’s really an extended warranty plus break coverage.

        1. Fair enough. I just wanted to put in a good word for a company I’ve had good experience with. I’ve had no experience with a claim within the manufacturer’s warranty period.

  5. Wal-Mart is not to blame here (I’m defending Wal-Mart, Lord help me!); because of the nature and timing of the failure, the extended warranty doesn’t really matter. Element is on the hook to send her a new TV, so the headline (“Where’s my replacement TV from Wal-Mart?”) is unfair and misleading.

    Now, Wal-Mart could and should have helped her deal with the issue she was having with the manufacturer, but it doesn’t look like she ever contacted Wal-Mart to ask for their help, so it’s also unfair to say that Wal-Mart “abandoned” her.

    1. Yes, unfortunately for the OP the TV broke at the worst possible time–after it could be returned to Walmart at the very beginning, but before the extended warranty kicked in. I’ve had mixed luck with manufacturer’s warranties but even when things go quite well you’re still oftentimes shipping items around at a large cost and waiting. An exception was a Panasonic TV that I still own where they sent a tech to my house to replace a board inside the TV. That worked out great and I was frankly amazed they didn’t make me ship the thing to them.

      1. That’s an important part of the story that was left out. Any retailer with decent customer service would have helped you out; after all, they have *much* more sway over the manufacturer than you do. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart is not known for good customer service (or stocking reliable products, as we both seem to have found out the hard way).

        The headline is still wrong.

  6. Thank you Mr. Elliott for being an advocate for me. I finally recived the replacement tv. If it wasnt for you I don’t think I would have never got a replacement tv. Thank you Mr. Elliott!!

  7. My major complaint with extended warranties is that if the product dies under manufacturer’s warranty you lose the extended warranty. Happened to us twice.

  8. I purchased the Walmart protection for my 60″ Vizio. I’ve had issues with it and called the protection plan company. They sent a person out to repair the tv. The motherboard and power supply were replaced. 2 days later, the problems were back. Called them back up and was told it must be a software issue with the tv and they would not cover that repair. So instead of replacing or refunding, I’m left with a 2 year old tv that only works properly part of the time. What a joke!

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