Best Buy Charges Woman $35 For Free Repairs

Did you know that if you request a repair under warranty for an appliance you bought at Best Buy, and the repair isn’t made, then Best Buy will charge you a fee?

We guess this is a non-repair fee, which is an impressive new way to make money.

Last fall, I purchased a Hoover steam carpet cleaner for $170.71 from Best Buy in Fort Collins, CO. It worked properly the first time, but the second and third times failed to suction up water. When I took it back to Best Buy, they refused an exchange because more than 30 days had past. A steam cleaner is hardly like a TV or computer that is used every day. It would have been impossible to know within 30 days that the steam cleaner was not functioning properly. However, several levels of managers culminating in store manager Brandon Pagani refused to consider an exchange.

My only option, according to the Best Buy managers I spoke with, was to have Best Buy send the steam cleaner out for repair. Since the machine was still under warranty, the repair would be free and I have a slip from Best Buy showing an estimate of $0.00 for repair.

However, the repair people (I do not know if they were Best Buy or Hoover people) could not duplicate the problem I had experienced—twice—so they shipped the steam cleaner back to Best Buy unrepaired.

Best Buy informed me that I would have to pay an additional $34.95 to retrieve my steam cleaner since there was no repair. Best Buy’s policy says it can resell the steam cleaner if I do not pay the retrieval fee within 30 days. I have lost $170.71, plus $34.95, for a steam cleaner that only worked once.

(Thanks to Cindy!)

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. snoop-blog says:

    if you used a card, i’d try a chargeback.

  2. Did you attempt to replicate the problem in front of the Best Buy people? I’m sure they have some high traffic areas that could have stood a test cleaning.

  3. Elvisisdead says:

    Options:
    1) Let them keep it.
    2) Deal directly with Hoover.
    3) Take it up the chain to Best Buy HQ.

  4. enm4r says:

    This isn’t really new, they typically let you know that prior to shipping it out for repair, if they are not able to duplicate the failure, you will be charged a fee.

    I’ve used plenty of repair services that have all had similar policies. I think it is a fair policy.

    The problem comes in when you have an item you insist does not work, but the repair site concludes is fine. I’ve run into this, and it really just took talking to a manager, showing them the problem first hand, and then the rest was taken care of. If there truely is a problem, speak with one of the managers, display the problem in person (if applicable) and the rest should be taken care of. The policy isn’t at fault here.

  5. thrlsekr says:

    I work for a retailer and have worked in service centers and the reason for the charge is the service center has to pay the technician for his/her time to plug the item in and if they find the problem the warranty company (Manufacturer or Extended Warranty) will pay for the repair. I notice he did not mention if the item worked or not. Technically we call this ESO (Equipment Superior to Operator).

  6. headon says:

    @ENM4R: Your crazy. It sure is a crap policy. The lady said it does not work she tried twice. Stand behind the product Hoover and send her a new one. Better yet Best buy give her a new one and you handle it with Hoover. Don’t you have any pull with your vendors. You should!

  7. GOKOR says:

    @enm4r: I agree with the policy of a handling fee to have someone on their staff check it out, many places do that.

    The problem here is that she received a receipt that had a balance of $0.00 when there should have been an initial “non-refundable deposit” for them to take a look at it, and put towards the repair cost if they were to be made.

  8. hegemonyhog says:

    @enm4r:

    The problem is (particularly with companies like BB that aren’t exactly known for their scruples) that when you send an item to a new location to be inspected, you have no idea how they’re trying to replicate the problem or if they even did.

    I had this happen to me twice with a monitor I purchased. Every time it was brought in, the problem couldn’t be replicated, and I was charged a fee. What happened was that the problem only came up after the monitor had been on more than five minutes – they were turning the monitor on, seeing that it worked, and immediately turning it off. I fought with them for over three weeks to get my money back and was eventually issued a store credit.

  9. soulman901 says:

    Let’s get my imaginary hammer and go take care of this imaginary problem.

  10. redhelix says:

    Cindy is blaming the wrong people. I used to work for Best Buy repair services (this stuff parlayed through Geek Squad) and I can tell you what happened here.

    At BBY, in ANY situation where a product is dropped off for repair and is under warranty, the repair estimate is $0.00. This number is NOT an estimate for the repair itself. Rather, it dictates how much you have to pay up-front to GET an estimate for the repair of the unit. Normally that figure runs from $25.00 to $130.00 for products out of warranty.

    When a defect is found with the product and repaired, that fee gets billed to the manufacturer, along with the cost of the repair. When no fault is found, the product is returned to the store and the cost of acquiring the estimate is passed to the customer. The service center Best Buy contracts botched the job, not BBY itself.

  11. GOKOR says:

    @headon: It was beyond their return policy (as ridiculous as that can sound for an item like this, which may only get used 5-10 times a year). At that point it is manager’s discretion on whether or not to give her a refund. However, they should have charged her the fee from the start, not tell her afterwards that “they can’t fix it, but they’re going to charge her to look at it.”

  12. AdmiralApathy says:

    Something along those lines happened to me when I purchased a laptop with the extended warranty a long time ago.

    The LCD cracked so I figured I would press my luck with the warranty and took it in to Best Buy. After being quoted the price of $500.00 to fix it I declined and found a the LCD online for cheaper. I asked them to ship it back to me.

    After a few missed deadlines of when I would receive the laptop I was called and told that the laptop was in the store. When I went to pick it up they said that I would have to pay $500.00 to get my laptop back.

    I tried my hardest to contain my rage for the fact that I didn’t get my laptop fixed but still had to pay the $500.00. They claimed that it was for shipping but I didn’t take no for an answer and walked out with my laptop and my wallet only $25 lighter for shipping after I made the Store Manager call the District Manager.

    The moral of my story was to never buy the extended warranty and to learn to work on my own computers.

  13. enm4r says:

    @gokor: I agree, but the initial price quoted was an estimate not an out the door total. This is the exception, not the rule, and as such, it makes more sense to estimate $0 than to charge everyone a $25 fee that you then refund it everything checks out.

    @hegemonyhog: I agree completely. I had a problem with a Macbook Pro that had keyboard issue that would only happen once the laptop was sufficiently warmed up, after a good 30-45 minutes of time. They were doing the exact same thing. Turning it on, checking the keys, and turning it off in 2-3 minutes.

    Like I said, I don’t think this is a problem with the policy. As a customer, I’d rather walk out not being charged, and then deal with the problems afterwards. If there is truly a problem with the item, a demonstration should be all that is in order.

    The woman in question should have the manager display to her that it is functional. When he can’t, she gets it repaired. If he can, then she goes home with a functional vac.

  14. @headon: Suppose the person, not necessarily the one in the article, was a moron, and didn’t know how to work the machine. Just because she says it doesn’t work, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

  15. ianmac47 says:

    Why not follow the Consumerist’s advice on filing claims in small claims court?

  16. stinkingbob says:

    The title is little misleading. I really don’t see any wrongdoing on the part of Best Buy.
    I am surprised that Best Buy took the cleaner from you to ship it to the manufacturer without charge. That was great service on their part. They usually don’t do this for free.
    The way it works is that after 30 days (length of return time depends on what you purchased), any problems with your item has to be sent back to the factory for repair at your own expense (shipping I mean, the repair is free cuz it’s still under warranty). From what I have read, nothing was done wrong by Best Buy. Actually the $34 charge for shipping was cheap. And you could have been charged for the time the tech took to look at your vacuum. What I suggest is to 1)determine at what point the unit malfunctions. Ie did you press a button or change settings
    2) if you are able to recreate the malfunction, make a video of it and then call the manufacturer with you new evidence.

  17. GOKOR says:

    @enm4r: That’s why I said non-refundable. Because you can’t expect the repair department to do a bunch of work for no payment. Why would you refund a non-refundable fee?

  18. MonkeyMonk says:

    If this is actually a policy then why wouldn’t companies just quietly fix products but then claim that they couldn’t find a problem? This way they could actually charge for a service that normally they would need to provide for free.

    Brilliant!

  19. GOKOR says:

    @MonkeyMonk: Why would a company like Best Buy be responsible for repairing a manufacturer’s broken product for free?

  20. Kishi says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: She got it to work the first time.

  21. jezzwer56 says:

    What she didn’t say in her letter was that she signed a disclaimer that says something to the effect of “If Best Buy and/or the repair facility is unable to duplicate any errors a fee of $34.95 will be applied to cover the labor for an item that is NO FAULT FOUND.” Good luck with your chargeback seeing as how they have a copy of the form that YOU signed.

    As a side note, a VERY large number of items that are returned are because customer’s don’t understand or aren’t using their products properly.

  22. @Kishi: I hate to say it, but part of knowing how something works is knowing how to stop it correctly. Some things require a specific order of events to properly store them, and failure to do so can cause problems. Just saying.

  23. warf0x0r says:

    Never go to the BBY for Repairs!!! Unless you have their PSP find somewhere else!

  24. trujunglist says:

    She said she used it once and it worked. Then, it stopped working. I’d say that she knows how to use the carpet cleaner if she was able to use it once but unable to use it subsequent times, unless she completely forgot the process.
    I really dislike when companies do this for several reasons, but the major reason being that they often test products under different circumstances because they are simply not able to duplicate the circumstance of failure, and then say there’s nothing wrong.
    For example, Apple stores are generally kept fairly cool, likely around 72-75 degrees and conditioned to keep humidity down. A computer experiencing heat or moisture related issues due to design flaws would not necessarily experience the same problems in that environment. Apple, however, will insist that there’s nothing wrong with the computer because they can’t duplicate the issue.

  25. jedipunk says:

    I see a problem with them charging if they could not replicate ther malfunction.

    If they repair and admint it wasn’t working, they get $0.

    If they fix it and say it was always working they get $35.

  26. GOKOR says:

    @jedipunk: The $35 is a tech fee, not a repair fee. Big difference.

    They should have told her that she would have a tech fee either way, which they likely did, but she doesn’t want to mention.

  27. NotATool says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: This is why you WOULD charge a fee for not finding a problem. A customer who can’t RTFM is wasting the repair shop’s time.

    However, there needs to be accountability to the repair shop when they don’t take the effort to find your problem.

  28. mac-phisto says:

    stay away from retail repair operations. they are (& always have been) a boondoggle – for consumers, that is. for retailers, they are a huge source of revenue.

    always deal with the manufacturer when getting an item fixed under warranty. now, they may send you to a retailer that is an authorized repair center, but always get authorization first. this will ensure that you don’t get charged any bogus “our repair center is backed up, so we opened the box & looked at the item & it appears to be fine” fees.

  29. Lokisince89 says:

    The fee is actually for the transport of the item. If there is a problem under the warranty the manufacturer pays the shipping round trip. If there is a no-fault found then the customer has to pay for it.
    Simple as that.

  30. Phildawg says:

    @Lokisince89: Correct. Also the techs who looked at this are Best Buy techs but they are hoover certified. Best Buy is actually required to send your item off under warranty as they, like many products they sell, are an authorized service center for Hoover.

  31. TexasScout says:

    I did the same thing when I was called out for “warranty” repair on a piece of equipment. If there was no problem with the equipment, there was a “call out” fee of 35 dollars. If you repair something, you are reimbursed by the manufacturer. If you can’t send in a repair ticket, you have spent your money and time for nothing. So what happened to her sounds fair to me. I don’t loose money on n00bs.

  32. jwissick says:

    Shopper shopped at BB.. That was the only problem.

    DO NOT SHOP AT BB!!! It simply is not worth the problems you WILL have. BB is unethical and does not give a shit about you.

  33. XTC46 says:

    @headon: you are nuts. Do you know how much product electronics stores get returned as “defective” because the person is too stupid/lazy to read instructions? This kind of policy is necessary other wise places lose tons of money to people who claim things are broken when in reality they are just dumb. This may not be the case, but the policy certainly isn’t wrong.

  34. XTC46 says:

    @MonkeyMonk: because that is lying. Believe it or not, some companies do honest business and will stand by their products, its just a lot more fun for a consumer to blame and evil company when they mess up.

  35. m4nea says:

    they are charging you shipping for wasting their time…lol

  36. vastrightwing says:

    Best Buy won’t make good on any warranty, even if you pay for an extended one. Problem is how they parse the word “damage”. To them damage is normal “wear and tear”. Unless the item looks like they can resell it, it is “damaged” and they won’t cover the warranty. Now I learn that if the item isn’t damaged, they charge you. Wow. Makes me want to run to Best Buy to get ripped off more!

  37. nick_r says:

    I had this happen to me with an iPod. I’d taken it in because it was pausing itself randomly all the time, and the battery wasn’t lasting as long as it should. They sent it away, it came back saying nothing was wrong and they wanted to charge me $35. I laid into the sales rep I was dealing with and said there most certainly was something wrong with it and I wasn’t going to pay $35 for them not to fix it, so he’d better send it back and make sure they do their job this time.

    It came back pretty shortly thereafter with a new battery, and I was charged nothing.

  38. @NotATool: I agree about the charge. When she brought it in, she should have SHOWN the manager why or how it’s not working.

    As I said earlier, I’m sure the BB had/has some dirty carpet. Mostly from the blood they have drained from their customers. j/k

  39. shadow735 says:

    I highley doubt a company will repair an item and claim there is nothing wrong with it, the main reason behind this is the cost will be way greater then a $35 unable to repair fee, you have the tech time spent on the product, then the actual parts costs, then shipping. So to actually fix a defective product and claim there is nothing wrong just to collect a $35 fee doesnt seem like a money making opportunity.

  40. shadow735 says:

    Oh and extended warranties on Ipods (unless you are getting them directly from apple) are a waste of time, do yourself a favor and buy from Apple directly. I bought a extended warranty and it was a wasted $100 bucks I actually took the ipod into apple and got a new one because it was still under the 1 year warranty

  41. mac-phisto says:

    @xtc46: well, companies aren’t altruistic either. i had to send an audio receiver out for a customer twice b/c of a blown capacitor…repair sent it back twice as “unable to repair – parts unavailable” ($20 nonrefundable deposit). after the 2nd time, i bought a capacitor, broke out the solder iron & fixed it for free. that’s not entirely true…i charged him the $1-something the capacitor set me back.

    i don’t think the repair center was intentionally trying to screw the customer…i think they just don’t employ very many electronics technicians anymore. those they do employ are mostly trained in switching boards & flashing bios. i doubt half of them know how to check continuity across circuits.

  42. Tux the Penguin says:

    Not to be some wacky conspiracy theorist, but what’s stopping a repair person from saying he couldn’t replicate the problem, not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to do the work. He still earns the company that cash anyway…

  43. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: THAT is what I would have done!

  44. jimconsumer says:

    Freak out in the store. Demand a manager. Make sure other customers hear you.

    I have been through hell and back with Best Buy’s extended warranties and will never shop there again because of it. Three times they returned an obviously screwed-up, partially non-functional iPod and three times tried to charge me $35 for not fixing the iPod under the expensive extended warranty I had purchased. Three times I made a huge scene and got the manager to waive the charges.

    Best Buy’s stores have zero control over their warranty arm. Their warranty centers routinely refuse to repair items and just ship them back. All your local store can do for you is ship it to the warranty center again and again, hoping they eventually give in and fix it right.

    Do a search for “Best Buy Executive Email Carpet Bomb”, and/or email Sarah.Pieper@bestbuy.com – Sarah is very nice and works in Executive Customer Support. This is the only way I managed to get my iPod problem solved; the store was useless.

  45. shadow735 says:

    I also learned the hard way about extended ipod warranties too, best solution is get it from apple, at least that way you know it will get fixed or you will get a replacement. My whole deal was with circuit city when I bought the deluxe covers even accidental damage $110 warranty the terms said if my ipod went bad I will get a gift card for the purchase value of my orig purchase.
    So 8 month later my ipod starts dying and is really slow to respond when I use the wheel. I go in they say I will be sent a re-furbished Ipod. That wasn’t what I was told or what was in the brochure for the warranty I got. I found out that two months before my ipod started taking a dump they signed a contract with apple.
    So instead I took my ipod to apple and got a new one for replacement and ate the remainder of my “wonderful” extended warranty.

    Extended warranties are a waste of money and paper.

  46. HOP says:

    BEST BUY SUCKETH…………

  47. SOhp101 says:

    *sigh* yet another story from Best Buy.

    @snoop-blog: I agree; a chargeback sounds like it’s in order.

  48. Gorky says:

    @jedipunk:

    That is not correct. If they determine it NFF the customer pays $35, but if they fix it the customer pays $0 however the manufacturer reimburses the service center for the repair + labor. Now the customer may have actually had a problem that was missed in which case they should send it out again with very detailed notes on how to recreate the problem and waive the fee. However if she didnt know how to use it properly or damaged it when she put in storage then she should be charged. FYI consumables arent covered under the warranty either so if it isnt working because a belt broke then she has to change the belt herself.

  49. Draconianspark says:

    Best buy sends most vacuums to their own service centers, glorified warehouses with people who may or may not know how to repair things. This person should call the mfgr and make them submit a replace order with best buy; the effect is that the store receives an email instructing them to exchange the cleaner for another one without any extra charge.

  50. forgottenpassword says:

    SO what’s to keep best buy from just saying that they sent it off for repair & it wasnt broken, when they just kept it in the back for a week & charged the non-repair fee?

    Those repair places are backed up like crazy anyway. Too little repair techs for too many electronic items needing repair. I can see how an overworked tech could easily miss a REAL problem with an electronic device.

  51. coren says:

    @jezzwer56: Unless, of course, she didn’t sign it. Maybe it’s required, but you think that would stop Best Buy?

  52. BillDoE says:

    Hey, thats how Comcast does it. And the town where I live, in Indiana, the police charge you an arrest fee. Even you are found NOT guilty.

  53. bigsss says:

    Big stores send out equipment to authorized repair/service centers. Part of the agreement is that the repair company will inspect the unit. If the repair is under manufacturing defect, then the unit is repaired of replaced for free. If there is “consumer abuse” on the item, there is no warranty repair and the $35 diagnostic fee is applied as part of the repair labor. The repair place is an authorized repair dealer and gets money from either manufacturer or consumer. If the customer refuses to have the repair done, the diagnostic fee still applies.

  54. HykCraft says:

    @Elvisisdead: Yeah, that gets you no where.

  55. AndrewJC says:

    @stinkingbob: The things that Best Buy did that were wrong were twofold:

    1. They charged her for a service without telling her about it (in this case, the “non-repair fee” that nobody said she would have to pay if the device did appear to be fine). If a car dealership fixed a part on your car without telling you first, and then tried to charge you for it, it would be extortion.

    2. They’re holding her device hostage and threatening to sell it to somebody else. That’s larceny. She paid for it and it is officially her property, no matter how much money they might tell her she owes to them.

  56. secretcurse says:

    If the tech’s couldn’t replicate the problem, there’s not a problem. This lady just doesn’t know how to use the vaccum. Damn straight they should charge her $35. Those techs don’t work for free.

  57. aaronw1 says:

    It really is crazy how many returns are due to ‘customer problems’. I see more and more big stickers inside consumer products that say along the lines of ‘IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, DO NOT RETURN TO THE STORE, CALL XXXX’. They must be getting eaten alive by “nuisance” returns and lose out on it.

  58. aaronw1 says:

    Haha, was just looking at all my posted items and noticed I said the exact same thing in another story back on 1/10… interesting.

  59. secretblueshirt says:

    As a former Geek Squad employee, previous posters speculation that our service centers are staffed by former fast-food employees seems completely plausible.

    There’s only that can be done in the store before being sent to our service centers, especially with appliances such as vacuums that basically go un-touched in the Best Buy store.

    Your appliance will then wait in the back of the store, sometimes being kicked around by frustrated Geek Squad agents until enough broken units accumulate (about a pallet-load) for the warehouse to bang together a shipment to the service center.

    Most of the units going to the television and appliance service center are customer returns that are being sent by the store to be repaired as cheaply (and shoddily) as possible to be sent back to the store to be re-sold.

    I can’t tell you how many items we would receive back looking like crap and not working (along with customers being called by our automated system saying that the repair is done, then coming to pick up the item to find that we had to send it back again because it still wasn’t working right). It sure takes a lot of time to process the incoming shipments back from the service center since we have to check that each item works (since the service center can’t be trusted, to send us you, know fully repaired stuff back). You’d expect after 2 months of waiting it’d be done right…

    As if the computer service center (Geek Squad City) isn’t a big enough joke, with the in-store agents having to send items back sometimes twice with notes saying (NO, it’s still not fixed, check _____) the appliance and TV center is even worse.

    Since most of us are trained in computer repair and computer science, Geek Squad employees are loathe to touch or test your television, vacuum, microwave, DVD player which we have no training on.

  60. Kounji says:

    I think she should have tried it in front of them. It would have made a lot more sense if they had tried to do that instead. Best buy has done for that for several customers including my own mother who said an item wasn’t working properly. It was a rug cleaner. She tested it there and they immediately gave her credit for a new one.

  61. jarob says:

    People should be aware that a $35 shipping and handling fee (including diagnostics that determine nothing is wrong) is not out of line with the current US economy. Just creating a ‘refurbished’ Ipod, which has only one internally replacable part (the printed circuit has everything and is replaced), requires the work of eight people, a transportation system, replacement parts not created by magic, and so on and might cost $35 dollars without a blink. A heat-sensitive laptop, through nobodies’ fault, might require three service trips at $35 each just to find out what was wrong. A vacuum cleaner brought for service might cost the same for a $150 dollar unit, with the additional problem that the owner brings it end wearing gloves because HE knows what it picked up and doesn’t feel a need to tell anybody about it. The service process itself might be the victem, not only the poor slobs, employees and customers, involved in it.