Taking the measure of the computer warranty scam
For too long, technology companies have been living large by making the rest of us pay for their shoddy workmanship. Worst of all, we consumers keep playing along.
Credit Microsoft for moving fast to try and recover from its Xbox stumble. Truth be told, management didn't really have an alternative but to pledge to fix the faulty consoles immediately. But I'm not about to strain my throat singing hosannas.
U.S. customers used to be covered by a one-year warranty (!), while European Xbox owners had two-year coverage. Now every Xbox owner in the world will be protected for three years. What do I think? As former New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Coleman once put it during a particularly touching moment with the press, "Well, whoopty damned do."
Microsoft's not doing anyone favors. Three years should be the bare minimum.
My critique extends far beyond Microsoft. When the subject turns to product warranties I can't think of a single technology vendor that covers itself in glory. On the one hand, they ladle on the hyperbole to advertise their touching dedication to customers. But then they stiff us with a single year of protection. Of course, you can always extend the warranty's term, but that will cost you.
"What? You expect a computer to work for more than 12 months?" a colleague chastised me (tongue in cheek, natch). "Do I have to call you an idiot?"
That brought a smile and a wince.
What's so unreasonable about expecting computer hardware not to malfunction within the first year of usage? If that qualifies someone as an idiot, I plead guilty. And by the way, fellow sheep, how did we ever submit to a upside-down world where we assume these multi-thousand dollar marvels of the 21st century will crap out after their first year of life?
Of course, the technology suppliers are only too delighted to sell us extended warranties. The margins are great and salesmen love them. And if you're a worrywart like me, you'll gladly sign on the line that's dotted--anything to buy peace of mind.
This is one of the biggest scams around. I can't figure out why consumer advocates aren't raising bloody hell with their elected representatives in Congress. Meanwhile, the best we can hope for is the kindness of strangers--that the industry's powers-that-be one day decide to do right by their customers. Not that I expect big changes any time soon. These folks are having too much fun living large by making the rest of us pay for their shoddy workmanship.