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Monday, June 7, 2010

Unconditional Guarantees: Worth It?

Reading Funny About Money's budget-busting travails with her vacuum-cleaner made me think about guarantees, of the unconditional sort. Funny bought a vacuum from Fry's, which she hates, and replaced it with a vacuum from Costco. I breathed a sigh of relief, because I know that Costco has an unconditional guarantee: if Funny hates THIS vacuum, she will be able to return it. Sadly, Costco does not have a branch in my state.

It occurs to me that perhaps I should try to limit my buying--aside from thrift store purchases, of course--to such stores. It might be worth the extra cost--if there is an extra cost. My late father, an astute consumer and analyzer of marketing and consumer behavior, used to say: You pay a lot for an unconditional guarantee, so you should use it. (Of course, he wasn't talking about ABUSING* it, which some people do.)

I don't buy that much in the regular retail market: my own vacuum, for instance, was a purchased from Goodwill; we bought it as a stopgap when our previous vacuum broke. That was more than 10 years ago. And, unlike Funny, I will never be annoyed with this vacuum, because I NEVER VACUUM. (Mr. FS does this task.) But I have spent a fair bit of time in enraged conversation with stores over defective products: a former car repair shop, Virgin Mobile, and others I will not dredge up from my memory.

Perhaps it's worth buying appliances and the like from Costco (and I think I can do that, even though there is not one in my state), and the various goods from LL Bean, and Lands End simply to reduce future stress. Here are the guarantees of those stores.

Lands End: Guaranteed. Period.

LL Bean: Guaranteed. You have our word.

Costco: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.

*Example of abuse: I saw a woman pick up an LL Bean item at a thrift store and exclaim to her companion, "I can return this and make some money!"

Do you know of any other stores that offer good guarantees? Do you think they are worth the extra cost?


Anonymous said...


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metscan said...

I was really surprised when I bought a new hair dryer last winter. It cost under 40€, which is a small sum over here, where a cup of simple black coffee is 4€. The Remington blower has a 5 year guarantee!!

Duchesse said...

Hudson's Bay, the iconic Canadian company: "Satisfaction guaranteed."

When I asked about returning a dress at a local shop I was told, "You can bring it back anytime for a full refund if the tags are on."

So I am not impressed by any time limits or limits on returning specific items.

Funny about Money said...

Hey! I just posted a piece on this very issue! Great minds in the same path, no?

Never heard of a person returning a thrift-store find to the maker for a refund. But I do know women who will go into a store, buy an evening dress, wear it to an event, and then return it the next day. Some people have just gotta take advantage, I guess.

Frugal Scholar said...

@ozarks--Thanks for the tip. You have no idea how clueless I am about such things. I will try to get my son to help me...pathetic. Love your blog. I want to move!

@metscan--In the USA, guarantees are common, but getting a company to HONOR a guarantee is often difficult, if not impossible.

@Duchesse--The three stores I mention take things back AFTER they are used--if you are not "satisfied." I guess most fpeople are honorable.

@Funny--That evening gown story--even worse!