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Wal-Mart Garbage, Phony Warranties & Diabolical Enablers

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 8:50am
by David Mantey, Editor, PD&D

To say that I’m going to move forward with an unbiased opinion would be a flat lie. As the recent victim of techno-junk profiteering, I have bone-picking on the mind and a slew of conspirators who profited, however minimally, from a recent purchase of a bottom-shelf DVD player from a corporate punching bag.

I’m tempted to diagram the web of communication; perhaps I will.

I purchased the Magnavox DP100MW8B DVD player last July for $29.88 (pausing for laughter) at one of three Wal-Marts within walking distance of my home.

I understood what I was buying, but if the sales clerk had laughed at me in the same manner that several customer service reps have since the breakdown, I would’ve put down the plastic encased techno-garbage and saved the landfill fodder for another consumer. As a public service, I’ve since considered returning to the electronics section with a sandwich board that read "Fool me once" on the front, with the late DVD player bolted to the backside, all in an effort to prevent others from further victimization.

I didn’t purchase a service plan, because at that price point, I figured that I could simply buy another DVD player after this dodgy one started coughing black smoke into my entertainment center. Yes, I admittedly fell prey to a falling price. I just didn’t know how heavy those prices truly were. I’m still in a sling.

As I sleuthed my way into further self-pity, I found that you can’t even purchase a service plan from Wal-Mart on any item under $50. I didn’t notice this giant red flag as it slapped me in the face at the checkout counter. If only I had picked up the brochure. It was so welcoming with the yellow smiley face and all.

The DVD player, manufactured in April 2009 by the New Jersey-based Funai Corporation, didn’t make it to Halloween. The date sticks out because I promised a Halloween slasher brain candy marathon, and I was forced to deliver via VHS. Luckily, I still owned a head cleaner and possessed the ability to work the tracking on the remote whenever Jason Voorhees began to flutter during slayings.

Of my many inexcusable faults throughout this money-burning venture, I admit that it was not in my best interest to stash the faulty Sad-in-a-box before I pursued the corporate evildoers. Like a disappointed parent, I couldn’t even look at it, so I fittingly stashed it in the basement, and when the family asked, I said it was visiting a friend.

Then came April, a month to clean in the name of spring, when on a trip to the storage space my Magnavox and I met again.

It had been months, but I suddenly filled with the rage of a consumer scorned. I grabbed the player by its progressive scan and dragged it upstairs.

My first call was to the company Magnavox paid to represent its customer service department. I was not surprised to find that I had fallen outside of the 90-day parts-only warranty. The glaring exclusion to the warranty, and cause of my "Disc Read Error," was the infamously maligned and/or malfunctioning laser. I actually found it quite common that the parts warranty also failed to cover service. Why would it? It typically takes $50 just to have a nerd-herder pick it up off of the counter.

Magnavox wouldn’t send me a new laser. I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout. I wanted to reach through my phone and grab the scrawny man with a condescending tone by the collar and shake him until he was freed by the next available Good Samaritan. Instead, I asked questions.

How does Magnavox knowingly sell faulty electronics with misleading warranties? Does Magnavox have so little faith in its products that it disavows a product after three months of use? Given the growing hazardous techno-waste problem in the U.S., how can Magnavox sell a product it expects to be replaced up to four times a year (12 months/90-day guaranteed lifespan = 4 DVD players annually)?

The customer service representative and her floor manager were unable to answer on the behalf of Magnavox. Though, man-to-man, the floor manager suggested that I should’ve known what I was getting into at $29.88. Wait, I’m to blame? Shouldn’t Magnavox know what it was getting into at $29.88?

Thank you for calling, sir. I hope we answered your questions and concerns to your satisfaction. Good night, Shirley.

Since the vein in my neck was already throbbing beyond my control, I sought out another intellectual battle and phoned the local Wal-Mart’s electronics department.

Beyond the service plan that I couldn’t buy if I wanted to, I discovered that compared to the mega store, Magnavox had considerable faith in its products. After all, Wal-Mart refused returns and exchanges on any electronics beyond the 15-day period. 15 days? Bread keeps longer. A hearty organic apple can make it 16 days. It took me six days to even hook up the DVD player — my desire to watch The Big Lebowski didn’t become pressing until a night out on the town.

The blue-vested part-timer was quite candid over the phone.

It is worth your money to spend a little more and buy a Sony, he said. Spend a little extra. The Sony is cheap, but a much better quality product.

Where were you in July? I went to Target and bought a Phillips.

When you by a Magnavox, the box reassures you that your purchase was smart, very smart. I beg to differ. This experience has led me to feel stupid, very stupid, and helpless as a consumer. My only logical course of action is simple: Never again feed the Magnavox techno-garbage beast a single dollar.

Are you a gadget-lover scorned with a similar tale of deceit? Let’s swap sob stories at david.mantey@advantagemedia.com.

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