Warranty Does Not Mean Guarranty

HAPPY NEW YEAR READERS!!  Are you off to a good start?  Let’s all commit to becoming more knowledgeable about what we do and how we can do it better.  I’m ready to help in any way that I can, so if you have questions, feel free to ask.  For this issue, let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic, when is a warranty not a warranty?

The story I am about to tell is true.  Earlier this year I was making a sales call to an experienced, professional landscaper.  He had purchased a chain saw one month earlier, and I asked him how the saw was working.  It is here that the story begins.  After purchasing the saw, he explained that they brought it back to their shop, took it out of the box, and put fuel in it.  They went to start the saw; it started but would die when they tried to “rev” it up.  They tried several times and the same thing happened; no high rpms.  They took it back to the dealer, explained the problem and they were told to leave the saw.  It would be checked out.  Three weeks later, they got a call; the saw was fixed.  It was a problem with a kink in the fuel line.  Situation corrected—problem solved.   Warranty would cover the repair.   They picked it up and took it back to their job site.

They started it up and could not get full throttle.  Back it went to the dealer.  After a few days, he got a call from the dealer—the saw is ready.  It was at this point that I happened to be in the dealer’s shop, and there was a discussion about whether the second visit was warrantable.  The shop found internal problems with the carburetor, and made the necessary repairs.

What do you think—was the second visit covered under warranty?  Let’s break it down.  Warranty covers a defect in parts or workmanship from the factory.  So does the second visit constitute a warranty situation?  Should both situations be warranty?  First, the saw was not started at the shop.  There was no way to determine if the “fuel line problem” was a defect from the factory.  If it had been started, with both parties present, at the time of purchase, the first problem should have been discovered before the saw left.  The second problem –carburetor—would also have been caught at that time, prior to the saw leaving.  Once the saw left after the first repair, there were the usual questions about whether carburetor failure is a legitimate warranty claim.  There could be questions about other factors which may affect carburetor performance; fuel, application.  Did anyone “play” with the adjustments?  (In general, as long as the equipment is running correctly at the time of purchase, and there have been no service bulletins about problems with that particular model of equipment, warranty would not apply.)  Of course there are times when it is a 50-50 call.

There are also situations where there are parts replacements (recalls) even outside the warranty period.  These are usually safety related issues, and these are covered under warranty.

So what happens next?  Is a shouting match that turns ugly, the next step?  More often than not, other factors come into play—what is the customer’s history with the shop; how knowledgeable, experienced, and skillful is the mechanic and/or salesperson who is dealing with the customer.  Of course we are looking for a win-win resolution.  As sales people, we all want to, and need to, keep our customers happy.  But at the same time customers need to be self-protective by being knowledgeable about what they are buying, so that they can justify why they are requesting warranty.  (Dealers can only get paid by the factory for warranty claims if they can justify the claim to the manufacturer.)  For example, in this situation, if the warranty period is 2 years, and there were carburetor problems 6 months after the date of purchase, I doubt that the carburetor would be covered under warranty.   If the same problem appeared when the equipment came out of the box, and the shop’s fuel was used, it would be more likely that the carburetor would be covered under warranty.

No customer wants to buy equipment that is broken; and no dealer is trying to sell a customer a broken piece of equipment.  Each party must do their share and hold some responsibility.  How do you think this story ended?  What would have been an adequate resolution for you?

Next issue we will be looking at some of the new trends in the industry, and where does it fit in to your operation.

Phyllis Jones is with A to Z Equipment and Sales, formally A to Z Rental Center, in business for over 25 years.

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