"Extended Warranty" Ridiculousness

Normally, I am not a person to purchase "add-ons" like extended warranties, service plans, cell phone insurance and the like. Most small electronics depreciate rapidly and will outlast the terms (even if just barely) and I take excellent care of what I own.

However, a couple years ago I purchased a projector from Broadway Photo. I was called soon after my online purchase by a sales representative attempting to sell me a "bulb replacement plan." DLP projectors and televisions use a very bright light bulb that bounces off tiny mirrors and shines through a color wheel to produce the images. These bulbs cost $300-$400 apiece and don't get cheaper as the projector ages. The "bulb replacement plan" was sold by a third party company called RepairTech, cost $200 and allowed for free replacement of up to two bulbs within three years for whatever reason, including end-of-life (3000 hours for my particular projector). After questioning the sales rep about all types of scenarios, I felt assured that it was worth it to pay $200 for up to $800 worth of bulbs.

Well, after 21 months (coincidentally, the gestation period of an elephant is the same period of time), the bulb finally reached end-of-life so I set the replacement process in action. Much to my chagrin, the toll-free number was disconnected and the website was blank. Some Googling brought me to discover that RepairTech had gone out of business sometime in the summer of 2008. People with extended warranties were finding it impossible to get them honored and had been struggling for months in some cases.

I also did some Googling on Broadway Photo and discovered that they too had some customer satisfaction issues. I suspected this when I had pulled out my invoice and saw that they had adjusted the price of the projector upward by $200 and listed the warranty as $0.

My last course of action was to call American Express since that is the card on which I originally bought the projector. While they offer an additional one year of coverage beyond the manufacturer's warranty, they will not extend third party warranties.

Since I was not interested in struggling for months with no probable results (and more importantly, no home theater), I finally ended up just purchasing an OEM bulb for $335. Generic are available but more Googling indicated that not only is build quality typically very low, the light output and lifetime are quite variable and nearly always considerably less than OEM.

I'm still not sure whether I can definitively say it was a bad idea to purchase the "bulb replacement plan" when I did. In retrospect, it was obviously the wrong choice in this particular instance thanks to all the circumstances involved. I do know I won't buy any third-party extended warranties in the future. $16 saved a month would pay for the bulb in full. My brother Daniel came up with the clever idea to have a change box in the theater and throw a dime in every time the projector is on for an hour. I think this is a great idea.


Post a Comment