Texas Electronics Retailer Sued For Deceptive Sales Practices

The Texas Attorney General filed suit against aptly named electronics retailer Conn’s, accusing the store of aggressively marketing extended warranties to customers, then doing everything in its power to avoid honoring those warranties.

The state and Better Business Bureau received over 2,000 complaints about Conn’s in the last three years alone.

In complaints, according to the state, consumers said Conn’s delayed repair appointments for weeks or months, didn’t repair items properly, ignored calls, and ultimately, refused to give refunds or replace the defective products. Often, customers who paid between $100 and $1,000 for a warranty received used, refurbished goods instead of new products, the state claims.

In complaints, according to the state, consumers said Conn’s delayed repair appointments for weeks or months, didn’t repair items properly, ignored calls, and ultimately, refused to give refunds or replace the defective products. Often, customers who paid between $100 and $1,000 for a warranty received used, refurbished goods instead of new products, the state claims.

The state seeks civil penalties for every instance of deceptive sales practices, but one wonders whether this will dissuade the company from its evil warranty-hawking ways.

Texas AG says Conn’s didn’t honor warranties [Houston Chronicle] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

(Photo: ashi)

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  1. GavinEstecado says:

    Whoops! Hit Ctrl-V twice there Laura… :)

  2. pjstevens77 says:

    Big surprise, That’s what EVERY extended warranty company does. I worked at a car dealer for over 5 years and was close with the owner. He owned 14 other stores in addition to the one I worked at and I remember many discussions about this very subject, its true, they ALL do it.

    • scootinger says:

      @pjstevens77: Not necessarily. I personally had an extremely good experience with an Office Depot extended warranty once (which was pretty much thrown in when I bought a clearance MP3 player.) I called their phone number and they sent me a gift card for the purchase amount (which was a bit more than the player was worth at the time)….I didn’t even have to send it back! Plus I suppose that PC extended warranties are decent too if you think it’s worth it to buy them…which a lot of the time it isn’t. I’d had a couple of problems with my Macbook in warranty so I figured I’d get Applecare for it. It’s basically like bringing the computer as if it were still under the original warranty.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        @scootinger: I have purchased a few things with extended warranties (before I knew better). I had a car stereo from Best Buy and the CD player always skipped. I went in and the computer refused to acknowledge I had a warranty. As a result they couldn’t open a claim to send it for repair, but I had all my paper work in order.

        The Manager told me to pick out a comparable or lesser value stereo (I picked the newer version of the same model, it was cheaper and better) and they would just do a full exchange, and put a new warranty on it.

        The same thing happened on a VCR, but it was a gift and I didn’t have all the paper work. Ended up using my soldering iron and fixing it myself because Best Buy was absolutely no help.

      • trujunglist says:

        @scootinger:

        I think Applecare is probably one of the exceptions to this, along with the likes of whatever Dell has that is similar. I don’t think most direct from manufacturer extended warranty programs are rip offs.
        I personally tell everyone to buy Applecare. After using Apples my whole life, they’d be retarded not to listen.

  3. lannister80 says:

    Nice intro paragraph!

    Nice intro paragraph!

  4. jaydez says:

    And people thought it was a good ides to purchase warranties from a place called CONS?

    • Snowblind says:

      @jaydez:

      Truth in advertising!

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @jaydez: I’ve always thought that I should not shop at a store that blaintently tells me they are out to CON me. I’ve never been there but I see their ads ALL the time.

      • ShachiAssaracus says:

        @Kimaroo: I bought a Westinghouse 37 inch LCD from Conn’s, where it was priced $600 less than at Best Buy. They even let me pay it out over 3-months at zero interest. Didn’t get the extended warranty, though, because I’ve always been warned against them. All in all, I was quite happy with the produce, price, and service.

  5. dragonfire81 says:

    Let me ask the folks of consumerist this.

    I’ve worked for a number of companies that make considerable money hawking these extended warranties (mobile phones, video game consoles, home electronics and such) and a common tactic I see used to sell them is that the salesperson will bash the manufacturers warranty saying it is extremely limited, takes a long time to get a replacement shipped to you, may be costly etc.

    I fortunately have not had to use manufacturers warranties much but the one recent time I had the process went smoothly and I had a replacement in a couple of days.

    So which is better: Store warranties or manufacturers warranties?

    • nrich239 says:

      @dragonfire81: I’ve had great experiences with manufacturers warranties. Both companies were willing to send the new product first (credit card autorization required) with packing materials to send to defect back.

    • your new nemesis says:

      @dragonfire81: Usually at the best buy i went to before i moved, they would try and push their extended warranty thing on me. I usually just ask them if I need it, because most of the time they don’t have an answer. They don’t want to admit that their company sells a bad product for fear of losing the sale, but still try to get that extra cash. I may have bought one one time, and it was a waste. Never again though.
      Online product reviews FTW

    • Rachacha says:

      @dragonfire81: I usually don’t buy any additional warranty above the manufacturer warranty, but I think it depends on the type of product. Home appliance manufacturer warranty repair is usually covered by one or 2 companies nationwide. One of the worst in my experience being A&E Factory service (A subsidiary of Sears…that should tell you a lot). I will no longer let anyone from that company set foot in my home, and I would rather pay for the repair myself from a reputable local service person for the ease and convenience. If the store warranty covered repair using a reputable service person, I might consider buying the warranty as an insurance policy, but probably not because of the likely restrictions.

      Smaller electronics (gaming systems, phones etc) are generally not worth repairing.

    • Garbanzo says:

      @dragonfire81: I had a smooth experience getting a Sony PSP replaced under warranty. I also had a good experience with AppleCare–which is an extended warranty, but from the manufacturer instead of a third party.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @dragonfire81: Good experience here exchanging a DS Lite from Nintendo for a brand new working one. No store warranty purchased. I would say manufacturers warranty is the best. If your buying a product know what kind of warranty it comes with, then when the sales person offers the warranty say oh, this product comes with so and so warranty from the manufacturer, I don’t need that. I bet most people who buy the store warranty hardly even know that products are warranted by the manufacturer for a certain length of time. Some people are just trained to automatically buy the warranty.

      If you buy from a manufacturer that does not stand behind their products and will not honor the warranty printed on the box or in the item’s paperwork, then that is a manufacturer you should not buy from!

      Another thing is that the manufacturer has the authority to extend the warranty if they see its fit, so if your item breaks a month out of warranty, don’t hesitate to call them up and see if anything can be done.

      I find store warranties to be very deceptive, and often times there is a clause saying “warranty subject to manager’s approval” which basically means they can deny any claim for any reason. If they are getting too many claims for a product they may do this, most stores have stopped offering warranties on Xbox 360 systems because too many were being returned.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @dragonfire81: Well, you have answered your own question. “I fortunately have not had to use manufacturers warranties much…” That means that the warranty included in the price is generally sufficient, and if you save the money you’d get cheated out of buying “extended warranty” insurance from various retailers, you’d have more than enough left over to repair or replace the occasional thing that fails out of warranty and is actually worth fixing or replacing.

      It’s the standard insurance gamble. You’re betting it’s going to break, the house is better it’s not going to break, and overall the house always wins.

    • trujunglist says:

      @dragonfire81:

      GearHeadGeek makes a good point. Most of the time, the manufacturer warranty is perfectly sufficient.
      My experience with actually getting service from manufacturer warranties has been flawless every time. I once had a Canon camera that completely died out of nowhere. They had it back to me in a week, and they fixed some other problem with the screen that I didn’t even notice.
      Apple has usually fixed my problems as well. Only one time they fell through on that, which is really one time too many. Fuck you Apple… but I still won’t use Windows so you kind of got me no matter what.

    • H3ion says:

      @dragonfire81: The manufacturer’s warranty runs for a period (say, 90 days) after which the extended warranty is supposed to kick in for however long you purchased it. For the company selling the extended warranty, the manufacturer’s warranty acts much like a deductible.

      That said, I don’t buy extended warranties on electronics. Some, like Sony products, are so well made that the extended warranty is a waste of money (and the one time I had a defective Sony product, they repaired it free, after the warranty had expired).

    • consumerfan says:

      @dragonfire81: It all depends on the cost.

      Take a Fridge/Freezer (cost $500), for example, and you buy an extended warranty. Only if it fails between the expiry of the manufacturer’s warranty and the expiry of the extended warranty will you need the retailer.

      Then you spend an evening searching for the warranty, in which time your food defrosts.

      The next day you make an appointment with the store’s repairers for some date in the future on a weekday in a 4-5 hour window.

      You spend at least half a day not working to see the repairer who may or may not turn up. And may or may not be able to fix it onsite. And parts may or may not be available in the next two weeks.

      During this wait, you will have no way of using your fridge.

      OR, instead of buying an extended warranty, you could do a bit of research upfront and find out what is generally reliable, get comprehensive contents insurance and, if it breaks down, buy a new one.

  6. idip says:

    Conns has a terrible terrible reputation here. It’s the last place i think of when i buy electornics.

    Every time you go in there, sales reps swarm you, it’s truly a mystery on how they stay open.

  7. frank64 says:

    Even those that don’t use the warranty should get their money back because the bought something of no real value.

  8. scootinger says:

    They just opened a few of these stores over the last year here in the Oklahoma City area, and I am bamboozled as to how this company plans to stay in business. One time I went there when I was looking around for a TV stand, and the store didn’t seem very well-kept. I found one I wanted for a good price and decided to buy it….but they wanted to write down my drivers license number in order to use my credit card….for a $50 purchase. After I complained they let it go through without the DL #. Still, I don’t see how they’re planning to make money as there’s nothing special about the store that would pull people away from Worstbuy or any of the other chains (or local stores) in the area.

    And I think there was a fiasco a few months ago when Conn’s advertised a Canon camera at a good price on their site…but they decided to substitute an inferior Samsung model without even asking. Doesn’t surprise me to hear of this…

  9. fantomesq says:

    Extended warranties typically fix the computers/consumer devices through the same manufacture channels as warranty repairs. They just pick up the cost of the repair – think of it as insurance, so the return time and quality of repair is usually the same – just with an additional layer of bureacracy.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dell does this with their consumer systems all the time. I used to work for them and I became flabbergasted at the frequency where a hardware tech would send a customer with a hardware issue to fee-based software support, just to keep from having to get a “dinger” on his metrics. I WON’T buy Dell and encourage everyone I know not to also.

  11. ssaoi says:

    The only time i went to Conn’s was to buy a dryer vent hose. I had to sit down with a sales agent at a desk like I was buying a car, give him tons of false information (address, phone, etc.), all for a stupid $15 part.

    It was very creepy in there. Like a Montgomery Wards from the 1970′s.

  12. pmr12002 says:

    KHAAAAAANNNNN!!!!KHAAAAAANNNNN!!!!

  13. GearheadGeek says:

    I’ve been to Conn’s once. It felt like a rent-a-center had been converted over to retail, complete with the sleazy salescritters. I have no interest in returning to their stores.

  14. scouts honor says:

    That place is the absolute worst. I was visiting my mother in Houston one time when we went into one of their stores to buy her a DVD player. After several salesmen ignored us for 20 minutes, I approached a salesman to ask about a DVD player that was on sale. He said it was out of stock and tried to get us to buy a more expensive model. We saw where this was headed, told the salesman no thanks and started to leave. The salesman started following us out to the door complaining about us asking for his attention and then not wanting it.

    This was several years ago and I’m surprised to learn they’re still in business with that attitude toward customers.

  15. scouts honor says:

    Here’s a link to the article: [www.chron.com]

  16. Quatre707 says:

    Target the companies that underwrite the warranties, not the sales people. Companies like Assurant, which underwrites extended warranties for electronics sold at Staples, Compusa, and Circuit City, is one of the worst. I spent several years working for Staples as a lowly PC technican/business machines sales associate/copy center button pushing bitchslave/inventory manager. My real role was technician, so I got to deal with 100% of the crap from warranty repairs for mainly computers, be it from our sold extended warranties(which are really Assurant’s extended warranties), to Acer/Dell/HP computer repairs.
    I’ll say it without hesitation, that HP and Dell warranty repair turnaround times, as well as their little resistance to return merchandise authorization is far better than Assurant’s warranties.
    I’ve seen those pricks deny someone who paid $479 for an extended warranty for a $899 laptop, because the customer wouldn’t (or couldn’t -.o) provide evidence than their home owners/renters insurance didn’t cover surge protection damage… and all the customer did was state that there was a a thunder storm the night the laptop stopped powering on on.

    Whats worse is these insurance companies that under wright the extended warranties than have their own little smaller goon companies that they delegate all the bitch work too. My favorite example, for the warranties electronics retail stores sell PCs anyway, is the company “Blue Raven Technologies”, who is the vendor that provides all the previously used repair components, and so call “refurbished” computer parts (they really just buy used scrap/junk/half broken computers and laptops and yank parts out) to the store computer techs (Firedog/EasyTech/Compusa techs) to fix customer PCs,at a very slow pace I might add(sometimes 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately even if you get RMA authorization on behalf of the customer, which is difficult, and which at my store had to be done after the customer drops the PC off, after being diagnosed on the spot by untrained cashiers (which means I had to call customers all the god damn time and tell them their warranty does not cover the damage AFTER they already were allowed to drop it off).

    So… The point I am trying to make is that they Electronics sales people are innocent. The real problem is the evil insurance giants that provide the stores with their insurance plans to sell, and the store managers, and bitch task companies that these evil companies employ.

  17. Saltillopunk says:

    Like a few others who commented here, I was not impressed when I went into a Conn’s. There wasn’t much of a selection and the prices were nothing spectacular. It made me wonder how they stay in business as several other retailers had them beat.

  18. rdm says:

    My boyfriend and I went into a Conn’s a few years ago to get a new HDTV. We were trying to build up credit and they had no interest for 2 years or some such.

    We only had SD on DirecTV. We asked them – managers, salesmen, etc – point black if the HDTV would be worth it if we did not upgrade DirecTV to HD yet (we were planning to do so just not immediately). “Oh, absolutely, this will be way better than your CRT.” Get the sucker home and it was awful. Just horrible. Had to fight and fight and fight for them to come get it to take it back. Then the collections calls started – they claimed we kept the TV Stand but only returned the TV. “So, when exactly do you plan on paying your bill?” After I told him for 60 days that we had returned it and we sent them the proof. It was the only time I have ever cursed at a collections person.

    We will not ever shop there again. A new one just opened near my home (in a lower-income part of town).

  19. everclear75 says:

    Conn’s electronics is a joke. But for some strange reason they stay in business.. Me thinks that they cater to the less than knowledgeable crowd. hence the Hq in Beaumont. That is the de a facto armpit of Texas! I just may go in there tomorrow just to fuck with the sales staff..

    • Anonymous says:

      @everclear75: And what proof do you have to state that Beaumont is the armpit of Texas. C.W. Conn was a great business leader and local philanthropist, it was only after he sold the company that it has gone downhill. Personally I have bought a dining table and chairs and a washer and dryer set from them and have had no problems, even got free delivery and hook up on a third story apartment.

      The reason Conn’s stays open is because all of thier credit is in house. They keep all of the profits from the credit instead of the third party bank that other retailers use. Sure their sales tactics is from the 1970′s, but they are one of the few retailers who are not having economic trouble.

      Sorry for the rant, but please be more informed about places you disparage.

      Now TWC and Beaumont is a totally different story.

  20. synergy says:

    I think my mom bought a fridge or a dryer from them. I forget which. She has never fallen for the warranty thing and that was long before Consumerist came around. ;)

  21. gman863 says:

    One of the reasons Conn’s has succeeded while others (Circuit, CompUSA, Montgomery Ward) failed is their in-house credit program: If you have a large down payment, you can get financing even with a shitty credit score – and, if you don’t pay, Conn’s will promptly repo your items and sell them at one of their clearance outlets (or, as this lawsuit indicates, possibly as a “new” item).

    My experience in retail has taught me that the lower a person’s education and income are the more likely they will buy (and sometimes even ask for) extended warranties. Given lower credit scores are often tied to lower income people, I suspect it’s easy for Conn’s to bundle extended waranties as part of a finance transaction (“Mr./Ms. Customer, you can buy this item for only $50 per month including a five year in-home protection plan.”)

    My personal experience with extended warranties has been a mixed bag: Getting Sam’s Club’s warranty company to replace my DVD recorder took six months and a letter to the Attorney General with a copy sent to Sam’s headquarters. Office Depot and Fry’s were much better; both honored “instant replacement” warranty plans with no hassles. (Disclosure: I am currently employed by one of these companies – my “instant replacement” warranty experience is based on incidents before being employed there; not specal treatment due to my status as an employee).

  22. MinorAnnoyance says:

    Hopefully, Consumerist will take another look Sears Holding Company’s extended warranty practices one of these days. They… or whoever they contract with for extended warranty services do all of the things that Conns does… EXCEPT the refurbed or used merchadise sub… I’ve never heard of them doing that.

    But they also make these guys look like pikers when it comes to pressuring associates to pressure the customer and their failure to deliver on services bought and paid for.

  23. DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

    I still remember when I bought a microsoft mouse from best buy that came with a 3 year warranty. Best buy kept trying to get me to buy the best buy warranty that would expand the covered period from 3 years to 5 years. After trying to be polite for a few minutes, I insisted that I never in my life want to own a 5 year old mouse.

  24. rambow681 says:

    ‘m crs hw th rtcl sbmssn prcss t Cnsmrst wrks. D y smply typ yr stry nt frm smlr t hw ‘m ntrng ths cmmnt, thn ht sbmt t snd t t th st lv, wtht th ntrmdt stp f rvwng wht y wrt r hvng smn ls pprv t?

    t sms hvng tht ntrmdt stp mght hlp prvnt dbl-pstng, nd myb vn gv y chnc t ntc y ddn’t lnk t th src.

    • BritBoy says:

      @rambow681: Good question. It would appear that readers of the consumerist send to Consumerist, links to a interesting article on another website – sometimes a main stream media site, sometimes another blog etc. Consumerist receives lots of these links (‘tips’) and then pretty much cuts and pastes chunks of text verbatim; slaps on a couple of descriptive sentence that summarize the original report and then re-link to it. The above duplication clearly indicates ‘cut and paste’ journalism.
      Consumerist is good in quoting the original source (except, ironically here, there is no link to the source, but it is named); they are acting as a kind of ‘consumer articles’ aggregator of customer links and tips.
      While this is a useful enough service; the quality of the summaries and titles leaves much to be desired at times; which is quite evident lately and sadly.

  25. MissPiss says:

    My ex-boyfriend worked at Cons, and got even with them every chance he could. I remember cracking up when he told me he took a brand new kegerator (sp?) and stuck it behind the dumpster. He then called a friend of ours to come pick it up. Awesome.

  26. MissPiss says:

    *Conn’s

  27. InsertBullets says:

    I live in Texas and would never shop at Conn’s. It’s just another Rent to Own place. If you can’t afford it now then you shouldn’t be buying it. Although several years ago I had bought an extended warranty on a computer from Fry’s and near the end of the 3 year warranty, after I had already bought a new computer, my old computer’s power supply went and fried just about everything in the tower. So I took it to frys and they replaced all of it, then I sold it to my brother for 300.