I remember when I was a child, my parents had almost every appliance needed in a normal middle class home. I never saw them replacing the blender, the home stereo or even the refrigerator. I left my house when I was 18 years old and those same appliances stayed with them for many years. Today, it seems that if you buy a fancy LCD or Plasma TV it will fail within a few years of use, and your washing machine as well as your car will need repairs before you finish paying for them. If you haven’t noticed, the quality of most household products and cars in America has declined considerably.
Usually the first step is to call the retail store or car dealer and ask them to honor the warranty. You need to be mindful of the warranty terms usually spelled out in the fine print at the time of purchase. Keep in mind that for some big-ticket items, you may want to consider buying the extended warranty offered by merchants. However, some consumer advocates say that in most cases it is not necessary. I would say to use your gut feeling and some common sense. For example, if you’re buying a videogame console and you’re a heavy gamer, I would suggest buying the extra protection plan. On the other hand, purchasing extra warranty for a lawn mower or a food processor that you only use twice a month may not be the best investment.
If the experience with the costumer service department from the retailer or the manufacturer of the defective product is not fruitful (most of them suck!), then you need to escalate your complaint to the upper echelons within that company. At the same time, you should also set up a formal complaint with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) office. The BBB will let you know of how many claims a particular company has against them and how many have gone unsettled. They will also mediate with the company in your behalf to resolve your claim. In addition, you may contact your State Attorney General’s office. They enforce anti-fraud and consumer protection laws. You can easily find their contact information on the web; however if your tía or abuela doesn’t have a computer, they can also find it in the blue pages of the phonebook.
If you think a product is defective and represents a safety hazard, you should follow all the steps from above plus share your experience with the following federal agencies: For consumer products, contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission www.cpsc.gov (CPSC). This agency is responsible for issuing recalls and safeguarding consumers. For automobiles, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration www.nhtsa.gov (NHTSA). The NHTSA regulates safety laws on both foreign and domestic automakers and issues recalls when necessary.
Final tips to minimize the risk of buying a lemon:
Do your homework firstResearch online about product ratings and read user reviews
Don’t drink the salesmen’s Kool-Aid
Join an online community and share with others both your positive and negative experiences with a product and give them your rating
By guest contributor, Carlos Macías.