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Goodwill Warranties
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Goodwill Warranties

see also Warranties and Returns

see also Extended Warranties

Contracts and warranties state the minimum service you can expect.

If something goes wrong outside of the warranty period that shouldn't have, often you can get it fixed anyway if you're a pleasant person and bought a product or warranty from a legitimate operation.

I killed a Canon camera under warranty. I didn't have an extended warranty. I brought it back to the same Ritz from which I had bought it and other cameras, and they swapped it out with a new camera, for free. That saved me from having to ship it to Canon for repair at my expense. The key was I'm a nice guy and had bought from the same store before. I didn't ask: they just offered to swap it out. They could have told me to get lost.

I had a Casio watch that died after a year and a half. It had a year warranty. All my other Casios run for decades; I was shocked that any Casio watch could die that fast. I called Casio, and they offered me a free courtesy repair.

We had a computer die on our 2002 Saab that was fixed under warranty. it died again a few months after its warranty had expired. Of course it was no longer covered. Since we were good customers, having just bought a 2006 Saab from the same place, and of course computers aren't supposed to keep dying, the dealer replaced it for us for free. They washed our car, too!

You can't stamp your feet and demand goodwill. No one has any obligation to do anything for you outside of the contract. Goodwill is a gift and you have to earn it. Be polite, be a good customer, and you usually will be rewarded if something deserves to be fixed. Every good company likes to do the right thing.

All because I or someone else got a goodwill repair doesn't mean anyone has to give the same to you. It's based on you and your attitude.

Ask questions in a way that makes it easy for the other party to want to do the right thing. Don't scream "this piece of crap just broke after the warranty expired and I'm going to tell everyone that you suck!" Everyone does that. Enthusiastically point out you've always had great luck with similar products and that dealer and ask what they suggest you ought to do about getting things made the way they ought to be. That lets the other side feel good by doing you a favor.

When I worked at Tektronix I always made a point to ensure that any customer who had a problem just out of warranty got it fixed, free. Tektronix products were only warranted a year, but never wear out, even after decades. If something died we wanted to make it right. People pay a premium for Tektronix and deserve the best service. We only enforced the letter of the warranty if a customer was being an idiot, which never happened.

Work with good organizations genuinely interested in their customers' long term best interests, don't be an idiot, and you'll always do well.

Goodwill is exactly that. Good companies do it because that's who they are. They do it because it's the right thing. They also know that people tell people, and good news travels well. I hope we've all heard stories from others who had things made right even when a dealer didn't have to.

One reader, Wally Van Buren, wrote that he bought a used, non-certified, Mercedes SL600 from Mercedes Benz of Westmont (Chicago area). He didn't pay that much for it since it was a 1997 and had no warranty. He brought it home and it had a small oil leak. He took it back for service and they loaned him another Mercedes. The dealer pulled out the engine and replaced all the seals and everything else one would do while the engine was out. It took a month since parts for the SL600, a twelve-cylinder supercar, aren't exactly on the shelf. The dealer also replaced the front tires, rotors all around, and took it for emission testing. The bill was over $5,000. They waived the charge because that's the way they thought the car should have been when he bought it. They could have told Wally to take a hike and fork over five grand, but instead they did more than the right thing.

The dealer who sold you something is usually the best organization with which to deal. That's why they're called dealers. Sometimes manufacturers get involved themselves for bigger issues. For instance, the CCD on my out-of-warranty Canon A70 died intermittently. I was going to throw it away. A few months later I saw a notice that Canon recognized a problem in the manufacture of those cameras, and offered free out-of-warranty repair. I sent it in and Canon fixed it, free. They could have denied everything and I never would have known. Instead they did the right thing and paid a lot of money to give out free repairs for which they weren't obligated.

I have a neighbor, Laura, who bought a new $100,000 Mercedes SL500 in 2002. It had problem after problem new. Mercedes replaced her special-order car with another one made just for her, for free. I met another couple who had a 2003 E500 with a nav system. When they ordered it new, Mercedes didn't have the new nav system ready and promised to retrofit the nav system when the system became available. It was a new model that year. When the nav system became available six months later it wouldn't fit their car. Mercedes built them a brand new car, exactly like their first, and swapped them for it. Free new car, after six months of use of the first one. That's what a company that's been building cars for 120 years does to keep people happy.

Don't expect this treatment all the time, but if you behave yourself and buy from the right people these things do happen.

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Ken.

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