Extended Warranty–Fact or Fiction

So, I had a brief mention of one of the largest extended warranty companies in Southern California in an article on one of my websites, and their attorney calls threatening to sue me because my article suggested that extended warranty companies don’t always keep their promises.

“Extended warranty companies not keeping their promises? Hey, that’s like…well, the sun rising in the East or some other highly unusual occurrence,” I smartly replied.

Anyway, under threat of boring and expensive lawsuit, I agreed to remove the name of the specific warranty company from my website.

In the course of my discussion with this attorney, I was amazed at the level of disconnect from which this guy suffered. He positively insisted that his company was strictly above-board and went out of their way to honor warranty claims. The consumers I have interviewed have given me the exact opposite story: generally, for very inexpensive repairs the extended warranty company will deliver, but if it’s a repair that’s more than, say, about $250.00, suddenly the warranty company has its inspector look very carefully and determine that the problem was caused by “owner abuse or neglect.” Result: claim denied.

We see this in my office on a frequent basis.

Since psychiatrists invent new (usually silly) diseases by the bushel load every time they republish their diagnostic manual, I figured I am entitled to invent my own disease as well. Here it is: “Disconnectitis”: the pathological state wherein a representative of a car dealership, an insurance company, an extended warranty company, a finance company, a credit bureau, a debt collector or a major car manufacturer insists that his or her company is “above-board,” “entirely honorable,” “pro-consumer” or any of the other usual hogwash, when in fact they are not.

Now, in truth, there are honorable and pro-consumer, law abiding corporations out there, and this new disease is not their diagnosis. You can usually spot the truly pro-consumer companies by noticing that they don’t have to beat their chests so loudly about how they’re pro-consumer, and instead spend their time and energy trying to figure out creative ways to satisfy their customers. Lexus comes to mind. Lexus is not perfect and has made lemons and I have had to bring lawsuits against Lexus on behalf of my clients, but, at least for the past four or five years, I have heard many clients comment on the level and quality of professionalism they have experienced when dealing with Lexus. Does Lexus run expensive ad campaigns telling people that they’re “pro-consumer” or “law-abiding”? Of course not. They let their customers do the talking.

Severe “disconnectitis” is the diagnosis one would give to, say, Enron, which was a complete fraud and which yet pounded its corporate chest in its inimitable Texas self-righteous manner about its morality and legality while it committed highway robbery on California during the energy crisis and defrauded its stockholders and investors.

That was a pretty severe example. However, I see smaller examples all around, and frequently represent consumers who were sucked in by these loud protestations of being “pro-consumer”, etc.

Solution? Simple: talk to your friends and acquantances. At the end, their own experience is a lot more valid and valuable than a corporation’s ad campaign.

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