Tuesday, June 22, 2004

In the Techno-Geek category, here's a cautionary tale.

CompUSA was selling a DVD-Recorder for what seemed to be a very good price -- $199, after rebate. It was the Lite-On, model LVW-5001. I took a chance and bought one. I spent $50 extra [25% of the purchase price, mind you] to buy what the CompUSA folks said was a replacement policy. That is, if it breaks within the 2 year period, they will replace it with the same or like model.

I took it home and spent an hour putting it into my TV system. Dead on arrival.

Next day, I took it back. They said they had 3 in stock, but when they went to get a replacement, it turned out that 2 were also defective, and the only other one was a refurbished model. Did I ask for my money back? Did I run screaming from the store? No, and more fool I. I took the refurb.

This one worked, but had two funny characteristics. One, it overheated and failed on may functions. Checking the relevant message board, I found that thse models, unbelievably, do not have either a cooling fan or a heat sink! I also found that the color balance on recorded material was off. I had to adjust my hue and color depth to get a decent picture.

I went into the CompUSA store a week later, described the problems, and was advised to wait a couple of weeks, and then use my warranty plan to get a replacement. Because the 5001 was discontinued, I would get bumped up to the next Lite-On model, the 5005. OK.

I talked to the Tech Support gal a week later, just before my 14 day return window expired. She said to wait a week and then come in and get the replacement. OK.

Last Saturday, I unhooked the sumbitch and took it in. After waiting 45 minutes, I had the new model. And a cash register that said I owed them an additional $218! Turns out the replacement plan only applies my purchase price toward another unit, if that unit is more expensive. It appeared irrelevant that I had a deal with the Tech Suppor gal; besides, she denied having the arrangement with me to replace the 5001 with the 5005. I threw a fit, and after 15 more minutes, they refunded my money. So, I got my money back, but I've got a hole where a DVD-recorder ought to be.

Moral: beware of these replacement plans. They usually do not provide what the sales people say that they provide. Also, beware the bait and switch, because that's what I think was happening. They make the deal with you, and then make you wait, and then finally give you the new unit, and...surprise, it's more money! I'll not do business as CompUSA again, unfortunately.