This year’s Black Friday results revealed that consumer electronics and computer accessories set an overall record in sales, accounting for about one-third of all holiday spending. While this may be good news for the economy, these purchases can create post-holiday blues if the products don’t meet your technological needs. Therefore, BBB offers the following consumer tips to make sure your electronic gifts don’t blow a fuse.
Buy Online: Consumer Reports advises the highest-rated electronic retailers are web sites – Amazon.com and Crtuchfield.com. With many web merchants offering free shipping even on TVs, shopping online for electronics is increasingly affordable. Remember, Free Shipping Day is December 16.
Watch out for the up-sells: While retailers may be cutting the price of big ticket items, the cost of accessories, such as video cables or memory cards, may increase. Choose standard accessories rather than those marketed as premium. These items tend to cost twice as much and may offer little performance benefits. If you are considering a premium upgrade to your accessories, consider whether the sales person receives a commission on the up-sell. Don’t succumb to high pressure sales without knowing the true benefits.
Service or Price: When considering the item, reflect on your priorities. Big box mass merchandisers are probably some of the best prices. If you need extra customer support or training, visit your independent electronic store or manufacturer’s outlet. These are usually a standout for service but rarely best price.
Most products have a standard one year warranty. When that year is up, consumers are on their own to protect their product with two options.
Extended service plans typically offer protection that would not normally be covered by the warranty such as water damage and routine wear and tear.
Under extended warranties, consumers should look for the following areas:
- Coverage: This insures mechanical and electrical failures, surge protection failure, 100 percent parts and labor with zero deductibles.
- Claim Services: Beyond customer service and technical support consumers want to claim services with high accessibility and options such as in-house services, expert service technicians and 24 hour support.
- Product Warranties: These may vary based on each company, but can extend to GPS, vehicle audio and video gaming systems.
- Service Network: Multiple locations should provide repair and replacement services.
In today’s market, if repairs are required after the manufacturer’s warranty, the bill is often comparable to the cost of an extended warranty. If you are considering an extended warranty, know your product brand’s reliability. Ask someone familiar with repairs about the average costs, but not someone affiliated with the particular retailer.
If you are considering premium plans from retailers for extra services such as tech support, Consumer Report suggests a consumer may be better off buying those as needed.
Before purchasing an extended warranty for your electronics, BBB advises the following:
- Be aware of the fine print: The coverage should not have a large number of exclusions. If you have to pay out of pocket for certain repairs and only specific types of damage is covered, it might not be worth the warranty. Read the exclusions first.
- Utilize the manufacturer’s one year: Look for extended warranties that pick up after the manufacturer’s warranty ends. Otherwise, the consumer is losing out on a year or whatever the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty pays for.
- Consider the item’s lifespan: If there is something wrong with the product it most likely will happen early on during the return period or manufacturer’s warranty. For instance, getting a GPS warranty might not be worth the money, the manufacturer’s warranty should be enough. Remember when purchasing warranties to find the right length correlating to the product. Don’t purchase 10 years for an item that typically lasts 5 years.
- Shop around: The best warranty might not be with the retailer you purchased the item from. It’s always possible to find a warranty with companies such as SquareTrade.com. Typically, you have a month to purchase the warranty. The same is true in retail stores, so don’t feel pressured to purchase it on the spot.
- Keep all your paperwork.