HDTV doorbuster deals to avoid

Think that TV deal is too good to be true? It probably is.

Geoffrey Morrison Contributor
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
4 min read
It's like someone with a mediocre grasp of Photoshop magically removed the name of the store! OK, it was me.

Every year, retailers tempt consumers with too-good-to-be-true deals designed to tempt them into the stores and buy...something else.

Chances are, these deals are too good to be true. Before you head out to join the mad rush, here are some so-called "deals" to avoid.

If you've heard of the brand, chances are that doorbuster deal TV is a refurbished model. This means it was sent to a service center (likely not the manufacturer itself) and "fixed." What was broken? Did they fix a symptom, but not the cause? If a part is malfunctioning, shorting out another part, did they replace them both or just the obviously broken one?

The point is, you don't know. It's possible you'll get a perfectly good TV, as repair rates on plasmas and LCDs is very low. But it's likely the warranty on the refurb product is much shorter than a new one. If it goes wrong, how much is your time worth?

Along similar lines, it's probably worth checking out my article Should I buy a floor model TV.

Another likely doorbuster candidate is the infamous "no-name" TV. These are nearly always Chinese-made LCDs of dubious performance. If you're looking for a main TV and care at all about picture quality, you're not going to find it in one of these. Many of these companies have limited support networks in the U.S., so if there's a warranty problem it's not going to be easy to service. Just kidding; what warranty?

Dozens of Chinese TV manufacturers have purchased/licensed the rights to brands you may vaguely recognize, in the hopes that you'll be more comfortable buying them compared with some "no-name" brand. These storied names slapped on mediocre products include Westinghouse and Polaroid. Even some more recognizable brands, like Philips and JVC, have licensed their names to Chinese manufacturers.

While the TVs from first-tier brands (Panasonic, Samsung, LG, etc.) have gotten better and better over the years, to the point that it's hard to find one that isn't good, the third-tier no-name and sort-of-name brands have no such assurance. They're competing on price, with little to no thought of performance.

So these ultracheap TVs may seem like a good deal, but know that you're not getting the picture quality and features of a "real" TV that may cost just a little bit more.

Gary over at HDGuru.com has a good article about this naming problem.

The add-on

Remember, retailers have no interest in you buying that steaming pile of plastic crap they advertised. They want you to buy something, anything, else. This might be as simple as switching to a more expensive mode, or more likely, adding on items at the end of the sale.

The most common add-ons are: cables and extended warranties.

Cables are one of the most profitable products in any retail store. If you're buying a $250 TV, it's unlikely the retailer is making more than a couple of dollars. If you buy a $250 HDMI cable, they're likely making well over $200. Seriously. So they're going to beg, cajole, threaten, scare, and lie to get you to buy expensive cables.

I've written two articles you should read before you buy HDMI cables: Why all HDMI cables are the same and the shockingly titled Why all HDMI cables are the same (Part 2). Check them out. If you're spending more than $5 on a 2-meter HDMI cable, you're overpaying. There is no reason to spend money on HDMI cables (unless you're getting really long ones. I cover that in the article).

Extended warranties
These are another huge profit center for retailers. That's important to realize, as these companies do not have your best interests at heart. They have their profit at heart, and if you buy a warranty and never use it, that's 100 percent profit for the company.

Keep in mind that the defect rate on LCDs and plasmas is exceedingly low, way lower than RPTVs. Most potential problems that might happen with a TV are going to be noticeable in the first month of ownership (when you'd be able to return it to the store).

That said, if you're buying a refurb or no-name brand TV, I can't say it wouldn't be a good idea to at least consider an extended warranty. If the extended warranty covers in-home service (many do), and you're getting a big TV, that might be worth it.

Most extended warranties are available through a third party, as in some other company from the TV manufacturer or the store. This might be a good thing, as maybe they're more likely to be available/in business in a few years if something goes wrong (compared with a no-name manufacturer). On the other hand, that third-party provider may also just disappear.

Any doorbuster horror stories or tips you share with friends? Post them in the comments below.