Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware) in regards to online purchases and warranties.

We all have noticed that things do not last as long as they used to (or supposed to). Everything from watches to toasters, you are lucky if you even make it to the end of the warranty, let along surpass it. Built to last just doesn’t exist anymore. Even if you spend more money on a (better) product, it still doesn’t last long. Now it seems like no matter whose name is on  it, it will not last long.

To combat this we cling to the warranty of a product. The warranty protects us from buying crap. With a warranty, we get a replacement, a repair, a refund, a something if (and when) the thing we bought breaks down and refuses to work anymore. Since this is a very likely scenario, we expect and demand  some sort of warranty in most cases.

In the world of consumer electronics, this becomes an even bigger problem because the items cost multitudes more. In our business, we replace parts under warranty more frequently that I would like. We are replacing motherboards that don’t power on anymore, hard drives that stop spinning, CD drives that wont open, video cards with strange lines and symbols on it, and RAM that causes a system to freeze up. Over the years we refuse to purchase from manufacturers that we have had problems with in the past. What happens when it becomes almost all of them?

When purchasing items online you exacerbate the issue by relinquishing your manufacturer warranty in some cases. The manufacturers are looking for ways to limit their balance sheet exposure to long term warranties and returns. They have added language to their warranties that void them when you buy from non-authorized resellers. The trouble is, you don’t know if the place you purchased from is an authorized retailer or not.

Speaking from personal experience with Custom-PC, it was very hard to become an authorized retailer when we first started doing business back in 2002. They required a certain volume of purchase of specific products to qualify. The volume was so high, that it was impossible to meet as a small, independent, brick and motor store. We just didn’t sell 500 Hard drives a month. We didn’t sell 500 hard drives a year.  We barley sell 500 hard drives a year today, almost 10 years later.

What the manufacturers are doing with the changes in their warranty language is making it non-transferable if you don’t buy “Retail”. As I found out recently, most online sellers are not considered retail since they sell primarily through channels like ebay, craigslist, amazon, etc. Amazon is an authorized retailer, but electroinc where you got that nice camera for a discount isn’t considered a retail outlet. You made your purchase at Amazon, but you didn’t buy from Amazon. If your camera came with a nice 5 year manufacturer warranty, you don’t get it. electroinc gets it, not you.

Custom-PC probably like electroinc sells items with the manufacturer warranty. We didn’t build the hard drive, we just sell it. We have no idea how long it will last, we go off the warranty like everyone else. We expect that the manufacturer will stand behind its product. If it does go out prematurely, then we expect a replacement from the manufacturer as well.

Since we are an established brick and mortar store with multiple locations and history of sales, we are fully considered a retail outlet. Our customers can shop safely knowing the warranty will transfer to them. We have never had an instance where the manufacturer did not honor the warranty. Sometimes it takes longer than it should, but the process still works.

As for shopping online? Think twice about saving money buying online. It may be $30 cheaper, but what happens when it breaks? Do you have a warranty or not? If your receipt says manufacturers warranty, then you have to hope that the place (or person) you bought it from is an authorized retailer. if they are not, you have no warranty. You will be stuck in a gray area of warranty-hell.

The retailer will say you have a manufacturer’s warranty and the manufacturer will say you don’t.

Caveat Emptor !