Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Life of a Warranty

How long does a lifetime warranty live?
That's an easy one, until it dies!

I used to joke about an expensive pen I owned.  It had a lifetime warranty but stopped working in less than a year.  I brought it back to the store and the guy said there was nothing he could do since, "Well, the lifetime warranty no longer applies; the pen is dead!"

Of course it was only a joke.
But that was then and this is now.

Companies have been putting the onus of breakage on the consumer for ages but with the insurance industry taking the lead it has reached epidemic proportions.

I had a homeowners policy for 25 years when the company decided that there was a possibility I could lose property as a result of a flood.  They promptly added a clause that effectively removed flood damage from my policy unless I paid extra.

We all run in to this type of corporate fraud every day but that does not make it better or even palatable.

My latest foray into the 'bend thee over' realm of big business involves Long Island's own Keyspan which was recently bought out by England's own National Grid and is about to be sold to another entity. (I wouldn't be surprised to see the company that was once known as Brooklyn Union Gas have the flag of Dubai or Saudi Arabia hanging over their headquarters.)

I purchased an entire heating unit from Keyspan in 2002.  The unit included a gas burner with 4 zones, the fourth sending hot water into a storage tank for later use.  The installation was so awful that the repairmen practically lived in my basement for months.  There were gas leaks and water leaks and generally the type of shoddy work we have sadly come to expect from these companies.

Four years after installation the storage tank developed a leak and had to be replaced.  Luckily I had purchased a service contract from Keyspan so the money that was going through my nose would finally pay off, right?

Oh how naive we are!  It seems that the lifetime warranty dies with the death of the unit.  I was told I would have to pay an additional $500 plus labor to replace the warrantied tank!

I argued and argued but the company does in fact have you by the 'proverbials' so I bit the bullet and gave in but didn't forget the anger at being scammed.

Now the unit is leaking again!  Four years to the day after the first "lifetime" unit died the replacement is about to go 'into the light' and join it's dad.
But I have now been paying a monthly fee to the crooks at Brooklyn Union Gas I mean Marketspan, I mean Keyspan, I'm sorry, that's National Grid for almost 10 years so surely I won't have to pay to replace this defective piece of crap again, right?

You know the answer!  My monthly service fee to make sure everything works has now cost me almost $5,000 over the years.  And still I am being asked to pay for the replacement unit and labor involved!

So why do we really ever buy insurance?
What good is a warranty?
Why subject ourselves to the small print that negates any guarantee as soon as the item in question dies?

Well that's another easy one - FOR PEACE OF MIND!


train buddy said...

I can't believe you're writing about this as my husband and I are thinking of swithching from oil to gas. My brother-in-law told us we're crazy that we haven't changed over yet (especially that our oil tank is underground). What's holding us up from changing is (1) the upfront cost to have the gas line run and (2) all the other crap that goes with it (i.e, plumber, new appliances (eventually), repairing sidewalk if they should break through). I was talking to Diego about this last night and he said Keyspan is a waste unless we're intending to stay in our home for another 20 years. Now I'm not sure if it's better just to stick with oil and hope our tank never springs a leak.

Reschzoo said...

You have a predicament but I totally believe gas is better than oil for many reasons. But the issue here is Keyspan and I will not let this rest. Enough is enough! I'll keep you informed.
Unfortunately all companies are pulling this stuff now so whether or not you use gas or oil you are stuck. That said gas is cleaner, safer and always available - even in the dead of winter with a couple of feet of snow on the ground.
If you can get past the original cost the benefits of gas outweigh much of what's left.