Future Shop Warranty Woes
April 21, 2005 2:49 PM   Subscribe

In March 2004, I purchased a 20 gigabyte iPod at Future Shop (major Canadian electronics chain, owned, I think, by Best Buy). I added on the extended warranty, after the salesperson told me that it was a replacement warranty and if anything went wrong I could bring my iPod in and they'd give me a new one.

Recently the battery on my iPod has been dying much more quickly. Today I happened to be in the Future Shop where I purchased the iPod, and I thought I'd ask about my warranty (specifically I wanted to know if it would be possible to, instead of getting another 20 gig iPod, to pay the difference and upgrade to a larger one). I didn't even get that far, though.

The person working the customer service desk proceeded to inform me that my warranty was not a replacement warranty and was in fact a repair warranty, meaning that if I bring the iPod in they will ship it off for who knows how long, and then, if it cannot be repaired, they will replace it.

I protested that what I had purchased was a replacement warranty-- that is what the salesperson told me I was getting, and I would not have paid that much money for a repair warranty. The service rep went made a phone call and returned and told me that Future Shop has never offered replacement warranties on iPods and that all he could do is send it for repairs.

Again I told him that the salesperson had told me in no uncertain terms that what I was paying for was a REPLACEMENT warranty, and he repeated that there was nothing else he could do. I said that I should get what I paid for and he said "Theoretically, yes, but all we will do is send it for repairs."

I am quite upset by this-- I think that since the salesperson told me that I was getting was a replacement warranty, I should be entitled to a replacement for my battery-sick iPod. I don't blame the guy who helped me today, but I suspect what happened is the salesperson when i oriignally purchased the unit misrepresented the product, which I think is a gross misconduct.

Do I have any recourse? I've already vowed that once this is settled, I'll never shop at Future Shop again-- I've had far too many problems with their salespeople-- but I think that I am getting screwed here.

I've e-mailed their head office's customer service people, but is there anything I can do that might get me either the replacement warranty that I paid for, or, in the very least, my money back?
posted by synecdoche to Shopping (17 answers total)
but I suspect what happened is the salesperson when i oriignally purchased the unit misrepresented the product, which I think is a gross misconduct.

That's probably the case, salespeople that those kinds of places are often clueless and overstate the specs and they're pushed by managers to force warranties on people. I never get the warranty, ever, and sometimes I practically have to gnaw my own leg off to get them to sell me something without one.

About all you can do is send a real printed letter to the company stating your unhappiness with being misled and your failing iPod. Also, mention that you won't be shopping there anymore, due to the misrepresentation on their part.
posted by mathowie at 3:04 PM on April 21, 2005

That sucks, dude. I had a funky iPod that wouldn't download, and erased all the music off of itself, and when I brought it to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store this weekend, the guy determined it had a hardward problem and simply handed me a brand new iPod. Mine was less than a year old with no additional warranties but the one it came with on purchase.
posted by tristeza at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2005

If you're having problems at a particular store, ask to see the manager. When he doesn't give you what you want, ask for the store number. When he tries to give you the store phone number, say, "No, I want your store's number in the grand Future Shop scheme of things so that I can take this up with headquarters." Every retail store has a store number.

I had a similarly silly problem with Wal Mart and that took care of things right there. If it goes beyond that, take your complaint to headquarters.

At the very worst, you can send it away for repairs with the warranty you didn't think you were buying, and in a few weeks you should have a new 20gb iPod.
posted by nyterrant at 3:26 PM on April 21, 2005

As I have been told by the good people of ask mefi: the words "bait and switch" and questioning the legality of such sales tactics, when used in a curt letter to management, visibly CC'd as far up the corporate ladder as possible, and the notice that if you are not treated fairly you will have no trouble getting a government official (I assume your PMs have local representatives who would be useful in a situation like this, just as our state and federal legislators do) - these things will help a great deal. Never underestimate the power of well-written and properly-addressed email!
posted by luriete at 4:03 PM on April 21, 2005

When I bought an iPod shuffle at a nearby Future Shop a couple of months ago, the salesguy (of course) tried to get me to buy the extended warranty. When I asked why I'd want this instead of Apple's standard warranty, one of his points was that I could bring the iPod into the store instead of sending it away, and they would replace it if it couldn't be repaired. Somehow, the way he said it, the emphasis was on replacement, without him actually calling it a replacement warranty. Maybe my salesperson stuck to the slightly misleading script, while yours strayed a bit. (I did not get the warranty. An extended warranty on a Shuffle is like hamster insurance.)

... owned, I think, by Best Buy
Future Shop is owned by Best Buy, and in one strip mall here, they have both a Best Buy and a Future Shop "competing" for your dollars. They are a pretty sneaky bunch.
posted by teg at 4:20 PM on April 21, 2005

From working years in customer service, I cannot tell you how helpful you will find it to write a physical letter and send it straight to the CEO. Don't go nuts, be calm, explain the issue, demand a resolution. Send it to the CEO, the VP, the head of customer service or operations, and the manager of the store too. The CEO's assistant will read it and will send it to the VP or the CS Manager, the CS manager will either deal with it or will give it to their best agent. Their best agent (or anyone above them in the chain...) will have the authority to make you satisfied.
posted by pwb503 at 4:28 PM on April 21, 2005

I should preface this by saying that all this advice is based on my experience working in retail in the US, but for various reasons I think my experience may apply to your situation. Also, my opinions are separate from those of my previous employer, etc etc. And besides, we were nice to people.

Are you going back to the same store that sold you the iPod? Reason I ask is, they probably put the salesperson's ID number at the bottom of your receipt (to award him the commission, which is why they push the warranty so hard) and you could theoretically find the actual guy and have him deal with it. Even if you can't find that particular salesperson, there's a good chance the sales manager and/or general manager will remember him and then will decide if selling a warranty under false pretenses is something that particular sales person was likely to do.

I'm suggesting going this route because these warranties are basically up to the discretion of the management. If they wanted to, they could swap out your iPod for a new one and RTV (return to vendor) the busted one. They'd take a hit on their merchandising back end, but they might still do it. For instance, if you had bought the warranty on a keyboard, or a mouse, or something else cheap they'd swap it out on the spot. Nobody's sending a keyboard out of the shop to get repaired; that's just stupid.

Now, mind you, there is an actual contract involved here. You basically bought insurance on your iPod. Of course, the contract you agreed to heavily favors the store. I couldn't find anything that looked like a legal document on Future Shop's site (I didn't look very hard), but I did find this:

Replacement Guarantee
You'll have peace of mind knowing that your product will be replaced if we are unable to repair it, or if the repair will take longer than 60 days.

So there you go. The terms of the contract state that they can repair it first, and like I said that's to be expected seeing as how they're the ones stating the terms. Usually, however, they will value customer loyalty over sticking to the letter of the law.

My advice would be to track down the general manager/sales manager who employed the salesman you spoke to. They should, if they're good at their job, take responsibility for the way the salesman oversold the warranty and give you a new one. If that doesn't work, try going to a different store. Try a bigger, more financially successful Future Shop location, as they're the least likely to care about the hit they'll take from giving you a new unit. That cuts two ways, though, they may also not care about problems created by other stores.

If neither of those work, start climbing the ladder. Get the contact info for the regional manager (who is the general manager's boss, most likely), and if he doesn't care talk to the regional V.P., ad infinitum.

If that doesn't work, play by their rules. Bring it in for repair. But then, call every day and ask about its status. And I do mean every day. If you get it back in a timely manner, fine. If not, I'd break it again out of spite and go through the process two more times just to get my new (non-refurbished) unit. But then again, I'm a vindictive bastard who used to work in retail.

(oh, and, theoretically you're supposed to be able to return these plans and get pro-rated the remainder of your investment. So say you were on a two-year plan and you returned it now, you should get back half the cost of the warranty. At least, that's how it worked when I was playing the game.)
posted by mmcg at 4:37 PM on April 21, 2005

All rechargeable batteries eventually die out, and this is often considered normal wear-and-tear. So the warranty issue might be irrelevant in this case.
posted by randomstriker at 4:50 PM on April 21, 2005

Do I have any recourse?
Walk back in, proceeding to purchase an iPod. See if they try doing the same and if they do, ask to see the store manager right then. Explain the BS you are going through with that salesperson having to back their words. Hopefully you can catch them in their own game.

A store I worked at had these add on warranties where the store would replace the item for any reason unlike the manufacture warranty.

The customer service rep may not know what they are talking about or being stringent here by following store policy. Had a store that trying to return a faulty camera to under their 30 day guarantee policy, would not give the full refund based that I was not returning the camera’s packaging box too. The service counter person was only willing to give back $75.00 on a $100.00 purchase. I talked to the store manager and all was resolved.

Also some electronic items have manufactures' warranty, which are longer than the store added on ones. So be careful you're not wasting money, unless they offer something specifically in writing that benefits you.

A speaker has a 3-year (from memory, it may be 5) manufacture warranty. There is an industry standard on all electronic devices unless a company goes further on their own. The same for repair costs. They print an industry book each year listing the facts.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:58 PM on April 21, 2005

My wife bought a laptop from FutureShop a few years ago which turned out to be a lemon. I'm not sure if the warranty we got was the same policy as yours, but here is my testimony:

We brought the laptop in for free repair twice before we started to get pissed. Both times they kept it for a week. The third time we started to ask them when we would be entitled to a replacement. On this point the store people were very unhelpful.

On the fourth time we started calling Futureshop's telephone support line. I don't remember the voicemail hoops I had to jump through, but eventually I was referred to the warranty company. This is an important point: The warranty company is a separate entity. Futureshop would rather you not talk to them, and won't easily give them up. Once you talk to a representative however, you'll find they're fairly reasonable. Our agent gave us her office number, her name, and a claim number. She informed us that we were entitled to a replacement after three repairs (meaning the fourth time in), for any single issue. I know, it's pretty strict, but you can count all the times you sent your product in and the tech returned it with a "no issue found" note. Eventually she offered to talk to the store and set up a replacement for us. After months of hassle, I was able to just walk into the store and choose my replacement.

My unfortunate advice is this: Get the warranty pamphlet (yes, the stupid little glossy thing that doesn't really look like a legal document) and read it. Those are the terms you agreed to. Secondly take your iPod in to get a new battery. I know a repair isn't as nice as a replacement, but it won't cost you anything but time without. If you keep having to have it repaired, then you have a case for replacement.

Good luck
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:29 PM on April 21, 2005

Just a note on why the extended warranties may be a rip off: the companies underwriting them often go bankrupt. Also, retailers often sell the product at cost and all their profit is from the extended warranty.
posted by Monday at 9:06 PM on April 21, 2005


No, seriously, I had no idea there were still innocents in Canada who thought Future Shop had any sort of integrity and honesty. I mean, come on, it's Future Shop!

Here's my advice: contact Apple Canada directly and get them to authorize a return. Make it really clear to Apple Canada that you are upset. At the same time, make sure they understand that the real source of your upset is Future Shop and their slimey lying sales staff. You want Apple Canada on your side, after all. And also get a representatives name and direct phone number, because you will need to place a call from the store.

If you purchased with a VISA, do the same.

Then go to the store and start making a stink. Be polite, but be strong. Don't take any shit: walk in and demand the store manager immediately. If he gives you any guff, tell him to tell it to Apple, and give him the details. Do Not Take No For An Answer. Make yourself the biggest -- but polite -- pain in the ass they've met this year. It will take an hour or two, but in the end you may get lucky.

I did this regarding a Epson Stylus back in the day when they had self-destructing printheads. It worked, but it was painful.

It's a war of wills. You've just got to be determined that they will break first.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 PM on April 21, 2005

Don't count on being able to track down the person who sold you your item and misled you about your warranty. The only things more disposable than consumer electronics are the sales positions at Future Shop.

Your best course of action would be to put your problem on the desk of someone whose performance is graded by how well they solve problems, not by how many warranties they sell. This means following pwb503's advice. I'd use paper mail rather than e-mail, though, and unless you have to, don't send it to Kevin Layden, President and COO, because his office is a magnet for consumer-origin correspondence. Pick someone slightly down the ladder if you can get their name, and put Layden as a CC. They probably have a press and PR office as well, so it won't hurt to CC them too.

Apple has more of a stake than Future Shop does in seeing you happy, so take that route too. Good luck!
posted by Sallyfur at 10:37 PM on April 21, 2005

Thanks for the input. I e-mailed the Future Shop head office, and not long after received a reply that tells me that an exception should be made in my case. I'm going to go back in when I can (unfortunately I'll be heading out of town tomorrow) with a copy of the e-mail and I'll insist on talking to the manager straight away. If he doesn't budge, up the ladder we go.

Popular Ethics: A friend of mine got a laptop and went through the same hoops. I think they had it in five or six times before they replaced it, and he had to fight them the whole way. They had many excuses: "The hard drive failed, not the actual laptop, so that doesn't count as part of the laptop failing for the three strikes policy"; "We couldn't duplicate the problem" (Even though the time before he took it in it wouldn't even boot the BIOS, and when he got it back, it wouldn't boot the BIOS).

The other question I have is whether they should be replacing it with an iPod that is the same hard drive size or one that is of the same value-- the price of the 20gig model has dropped significant since I bought mine.
posted by synecdoche at 12:13 AM on April 22, 2005

When they do a replacement they have to match features, not price.

This has worked in my favour. I bought a middle of the road VCR which blew up in less than a year. They tried replacing it with an entry level model that cost half what I paid (they no longer carried the model I bought). I explained that the main reason I bought that particular model was the jog wheel, and they gave me the only VCR they currently carried that had one, despite being priced at twice what I paid.
posted by Monk at 11:02 AM on April 22, 2005

I know I'm late to this, but an ex of mine worked for Best Buy/Futureshop Canada and this whole extended warranty thing is a bit of a scam. The reason why these warranties are pushed on consumers so hard is because the sales person makes the majority of his/her commission selling them. That's probably why this particular employee was so misleading about the coverage.
posted by btwillig at 5:49 PM on April 22, 2005

A bit of a scam? That's like saying the ocean is a bit wet.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 AM on April 23, 2005

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