You may be out of Warranty, but not out of Luck

The product you bought is broken. The limited warranty has expired. And you are as exasperated as hell because you think the piece of crap should have lasted longer. Well, fret not. Try these approaches.

********DISCLAIMER – Although I mention several brand names in this column, this is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation. This is based on my personal experience with these companies and is no guarantee of future success or failure********

Almost three years ago I bought an Armitron digital sport watch at the Mervyn’s going-out-of-business clearance sale. The watch looked great and cost only 18 bucks. It came with a limited warranty that covered the watch’s internal movement. Last June, immediately after being felt up by a TSA officer at San Francisco Airport, I boarded a plane to New York and proceeded to strap my watch back onto my wrist. The strap
came off in my hand. I discovered that it wasn’t the strap that broke, it was the watch case. The plastic case had broken apart.

Considering that I only wore this watch when traveling or participating in sports, I was particularly irked. I reckoned that I had worn this watch perhaps 200 days in less than three years. When I returned home to San Jose I called Armitron in New York. The agent told me that only the movement is covered by the warranty. I conceded the accuracy of the statement and got off the phone. But the more I thought about it, the more the inequity of this situation ate at me. Why on Earth should a watch case ever fall apart?

A few days later I called Armitron again and asked for a supervisor. I left a message on his voicemail and lo and behold he called me back. I explained what happened and made my case about the case. He felt it was reasonable to expect a watch case to last more than three years. He asked me to send him my watch so he could inspect it. A week later a new watch arrived in the mail.

I called the guy and left a message on his voicemail. I told him that I appreciated the great customer service and that he had won me over as an Armitron customer. After all, one good turn deserves another.

Before I make my point I’ll tell you a related story. I regularly attend an upper-body class at my local health club. I usually leave the class a little early as the cool-down and stretching part of class begins (I do my own stretch routine after doing a few more independent exercises). I noticed that as time went by, my Reebok sneakers were not helping me sneak out of class. They started squeaking – louder and louder each week. The squeak was coming from inside the shoes’ soles.

I called Reebok, explained my problem and the customer service agent asked me to send them the shoes. About a week and a half later I received a new pair of Reeboks. They lived out their lives without a peep.

Here’s my point. If a product fails way before it reaches its reasonable life expectancy, speak up. A good manufacturer will do the right thing. And what is there to lose? After all, the worst thing a company can say is, “Sorry.” (Okay, they could also tell you to go pleasure yourself – but how painful would that be?).

If you are the type of person who is easily daunted, I can only say don’t fear the daunt. Most customer service reps are polite, even if they turn you down. And the sooner you take action, the sooner you will get the intended request off your mind and – I guarantee – you will feel great about standing up for yourself. Go get ‘em tiger.