Best Buy Quits Offering Replacement Plans For Cheap Earbuds

For once, it’s easy to understand a situation from Best Buy’s point of view. They used to sell $4.99 replacement plans for relatively cheap earbuds––those costing $10 or less. Pithecanthropus thought this was a great idea, given the longevity of a cheap pair. Especially if you have a string-loving cat in the house. But Best Buy has wised up and is no longer offering replacement plans for earbuds that cost $30 or less. That makes sense, but makes Pithecanthropus sad.

He writes:

Since I’ve had smartphones, going on two years, a good pair of earbuds
has been one of my most necessary appurtenances. And when I say
“good”, I mean any brand and model that can be expected to last more
than a couple of months. I have been getting acceptable results from
various brands–Sony, JVC, Ecko, and particularly Altec
Lansing–paying anywhere from $15 to $10 a pop. The sound quality is
acceptable as I’m not an audiophile; moreover, much of what I listen
to is current affairs and news from streaming radio stations.

Since I don’t expect such inexpensive earbuds to last forever, I’ve
always opted in for the two-year replacement plan at a modest
additional cost of $4.99.

So today, I discovered that my current pair of buds would not work
through my right-angle adapters. By testing the adapters with a couple
of ancient and frayed headphones, I determined that the problem wasn’t
the adapters that were at fault, so I decided it was time for a
replacement. Off I went to Best Buy–and I did get my replacement
earbuds sure enough. But then I was informed that I could no longer
continue the replacement coverage, because it was no longer being
offered for any buds priced less than $30. In fairness, the store gave
me a refund for the $4.99–and then some, More than once, I’ve gotten
the distinct impression that the employees who handle exchanges and
refunds tend to err in the customer’s favor. But this does not float
my boat at all. I didn’t want the $4.99 back–I wanted the replacement
protection! I have two playful cats at home. They adore strings and
wires, and one nip from either of them can end my listening pleasure.

So what do I do about this? I already know. I’ll have to upgrade to
slightly more expensive earbuds. It isn’t a huge deal. But after all
this, the replacement buds I got today still don’t work in my
right-angle adapters. Which further means I can’t use the leather case
to carry the phone while I’m listening. Oh well, I hear leather phone
carriers are considered dorkish, anyhow….


Edit Your Comment

  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    To be honest in the long run it will be cheaper if you just continue to buy the same earbuds without the protection plan. $30 + $4.99 is still greater than 3 pairs of headphones priced under $10. Not worth the effort and definitely not worth the product, $30 earbuds are still just earbuds.

  2. Marlin says:

    Find a set of $30.01 buds and rinse and repeat.

  3. az123 says:

    It will be amusing when the OP gets a $30 set and then they last long enough that they do not need to be exchanged. Cheap is cheap for a reason and from my experiences with headphones a $10 pair to a $30 pair is not really huge in audio quality but more towards quality in general.

    Also not sure why this is on consumerist, seems best buy did nothing to screw the guy and made a smart business decision to stop offering replacement plans on cheap items they are probably loosing money on.

    • freddyb says:

      I can see that you stop offering a service. But you should still honor the service that the person paid for until it expires. I doubt Best Buy is going to cancel all the plans across the board and send a check for $4.99 to everyone who purchased this plan. So, in most instances, they have people’s $4.99 and are not providing the service paid for… that is not right.

    • CanadianDominic says:

      Its not necessarily about quality. I buy cheap earbuds because I’m not an audiophile, and I have a spectacular tendency to lose or forget my earbuds.

      I’ve left them on the train, the bus, in the gym, on my desk at work. Same with sunglasses.

      I find its better to have 3-4 cheap pairs scattered around different places than to have 1 expensive pair I know will end up accidently flushed down the toilet or eaten by my dog.

    • FashionablyDoomed says:

      You’re missing the point. He buys cheap ones because his cats like to play with them, not because they fail on their own. I used to only buy 10$ earbuds because they always fail due to my clumsiness, my pets, or just my general unobservant nature. Now, I feel comfortable paying 30-50$, because I know I get 3 replacements out of it.
      Same reason why I only buy 20-30$ sneakers. They wear out within 3-6 months, and every other brand I’ve tried at the 70-150$ range was no better. I wish I could get an over the counter replacement plan on those babies!

  4. SirWired says:

    I do believe this is a Damned if You Do, Damned if you Don’t sort of thing. For years, millions of consumers have been annoyed when being asked if they want to purchase a protection plan on some stupidly cheap and trivial item like $10 earbuds. (An insurance plan costing half the purchase price! That’d be called outrageous in any other Consumerist article.)

    Best Buy now stops offering those plans, and they get complaints from those that want them after all…

  5. Will Print T-shirts For Food says:

    FYI, HTC makes the most acceptable low-priced ear buds.

    • Will Print T-shirts For Food says:

      I bought two pair for $6 bucks each on Fe-Ebay a year ago and I’m still using the first pair and still have a brand new backup pair in the box.

  6. longfeltwant says:

    Ha! I do this also. I have my wrap-around-the-nick earphones on pretty much all day every day. I’m not at all gentle with them, which means I wear them out after about a year, very consistently. After searching for higher-quality sturdier earphones, and realizing that the earphone industry simply does not make high-quality earphones whatsoever, I decided to start buying them at BestBuy and get the “protection plan”. Although protection plans are nearly always a bad deal for consumers, I know for an absolute fact that

    1. I will *always* wear out the ‘phones before two years has gone by
    2. I am the kind of person who has no problem saving receipts

    My earphones cost twenty dollars; the protection plan costs six dollars. In 2009 I bought my first pair, and have gotten three replacements so far. So, that means I’m paying six dollars per pair, instead of twenty dollars per pair. In all other circumstances, I do my best to avoid that store.

  7. Tegan says:

    Bummer for the OP. Honestly though, the earbuds should not be kept anywhere that string-loving kitties can get to them. You won’t have to keep replacing them, and more importantly kitties won’t need surgery to extract string-like things they’ve managed to eat.

    On a slightly related note, never ever ever buy those string-on-a-stick type cat toys. Apparently kitties will chew them off, eat them, almost die and need thousands of dollars worth of surgery to save them. The kitty recovered nicely and is now living a full life terrorizing the other kitties, but anything string-like is now forbidden in our house.

  8. Captain Spock says:

    I blame the OP for using the word “appurtenances” *LIKE A SIR!*

  9. PragmaticGuy says:

    Years ago Sears (when they were still a great place to do business with) used to have a lifetime replacement guarantee on their shock absorbers. They cost me about $4 each back then and I changed them every year because there were made like crap. I think I got about four changes for my $16 total investment and the car always rode well.

  10. sparc says:

    Why not just get headphones for $30 with the same plan?

  11. kevinroyalty says:

    try bluetooth earpiece – no wires for the cats to chew, and it will work with no unsightly adapters plugged into your phone.

  12. Cerne says:

    Skull candy earbuds. Not sure how cat proof they are, but they handle everything I can throw at them. Great for the gym.

    • Azagthoth says:

      I’m here to bash on Skullcandy. I have owned three pair of Skullcandy, their “lifetime warranty” is bunk. I was given the run around until I gave up. The second pair that crapped out lasted just under one month, and they refused to help me at all. The third paid was a gift, that also lasted a ridiculously short time.

      Sad thing is Skullcandy is a local company and I would love to support them, but they will get no more of my money.

      • Cerne says:

        That’s shitty. I’ve had Skullcandy products die on me, but they’ve always outlasted other headphones in the same price range. Never tried their life time replacement services, not sure us canucks even get it.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      I had a pair of Skullcandy earbuds. Which, like every other pair or earbuds I’ve ever owned, lasted about a month. Where they always died: where the wire meets the headphone jack. Hence the reason why I bought a Bluetooth stereo headset. Sounds great for its price ($60) and I’ve had it for many months. Works with my tablet, my phone, my iPod touch–no real issues at all. Considering how quickly wired earphones crap out on me, I consider this more than paid for itself.

      • Cerne says:

        I find that my earbuds die from sweat way before anything else and that Skullcandy buds last months longer than others. How’s the sound quality from your blue tooth headset?

        • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

          Quite amazing, actually. Great bass/treble balance, and the only issue I have with them–like anything else Bluetooth–is that the signal may cut out when I’m walking directly beneath hydro wires. They’re made by a company called Bluefox. I bought them at the local TigerDirect for $60. They’re wraparound stereo headphones which are extremely durable (considering my rather large-sized head–my previous pair of Bluetooth headphones snapped since they couldn’t quite accommodate my big head.) I don’t exactly remember the model number, but a little Googling will probably point you the way. Before you ask–yes, they have basic controls on the headset (answer phone, volume, track skip etc.)

          • Cerne says:

            Thanks for the info. They’re Bluefox Extreme. I might check them out for my next set of headphones, but I’m not a huge fan of the wrap around style.

            • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

              You’re welcome. Yeah, I coulda just checked my Bluetooth settings on all these things those headphones were paired to and said “BF-401” but didn’t think about it at the time. Sorry. But next time you’re in need of headphones, I personally do recommend them.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        I bought two sets of Skullcandy earbuds on an Amazon Deal of the Day and have been using one pair every day for about 18 months now – and the second pair is still in my desk drawer. Good sound and seem to last for a long time.

    • Noir says:

      skullcandy is shit, no better than bose, monster and any other crappy “for the status” brand. in that case stick to a nokia/sony/motorola headset or spend more for plantronics

  13. Costner says:

    Go to Amazon… order the cheap imitation Apple earbuds for less than $2 with free shipping. Order 10 at a time, and when the cat chews up a set… grab another.

    Boom… problem solved. You can find the cheap versions for sale for around $2 any day of the week, so why pay $5 for a replacement plan when you can get a few sets for that same money?

  14. Overheal says:

    I’ve been trying to explain this loophole to customers for over a year and they look at me like a con artist when I offered them a $5 replacement plan on a $15 pair of earbuds.

    Speaking of which, I’ve got a $60 and a $160 pair of headphones both with the protection on them. the $60 already is pretty bad from wear and tear and the expensive one is a trooper but it will wear down eventually too. If you think I’d rather buy a new pair for $60 or $160 every 2 years you’re crazy: just buy the plan for $15 and when they break down: new headset, and you renew the plan on the new pair for another $15.

  15. CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

    Kinda hard to win around here….

    • I look at both sides of the story says:

      “Kinda hard to win around here….”

      Here, as in “Best Buy”? Yes, it’s literally (not virtually) impossible to win at Best Buy. Best Buy’s paradigm is to screw the customer over. The employees are phenomenally ignorant of the products since they’re not trained and due to the lack of commissions, they have no incentive to learn (but, by dog, they do love to sell you their worthless extended warranties). If I ask a question, the clueless employees either just point to a rack then walk away or look at the boxes. I tell them not to bother reading the boxes, I can read on my own thank you very much, please go away.

      I have no idea what came over me the day I walked into BB and bought a HDTV and a laptop. I’m smarter than that. Not only did I have a gun, but I loaded it and then shot myself in the foot by getting (are you ready for this?) not one, but TWO (2) extended warranties!

      I had problems with the TV and despite about 10 home repairs, they couldn’t fix it and they couldn’t calibrate the TV. I canceled the extended warranty and got back about $700. I called the manufacturer who sent a local repair shop guy over. Problem fixed in several minutes. TV never needed a calibration and I’ve been happy with the TV for the past two years.

      Then there’s the laptop and the extended warranty debacle. But that sad story is for another day.

      I giggle each time I see a closed up CC. I can’t wait until BB goes belly up. A pox upon them.

      • CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

        Actually, it was more meant as the Consumerist blog, since 99% of the time no one wants to be bothered with warranties and such, but then a post like this where people come to complain about them not being offered.

        As to your other comments, there are always two sides to every repair. The truth is somewhere between them. I have offered to look into people’s service tags in the past to see if I could unofficially advise them on getting something resolved and would be happy to do it for you. If in both cases you were horribly wronged and my company completely screwed you over then I’m sorry.

        But I dealt with 14 successful repairs/replacements today in just a small 4 hour shift. So your examples are definitely not the normal way of business.

  16. muzzleme says:

    People who use their extended warranties and replacement plans are exactly who these retailers do not want as a customer. Because they used their plan. They did not forget about it, ignore it or lose it. They had the unmitigated gaul as a consumer to excercise their right and use a service they prepaid for-how dare they.

    Must rember all of these plans or warranties are nothing but insurance. What is insurance- a bet. The seller is betting you won’t need it or use it and the buyer is betting they will.

  17. Red Cat Linux says:

    I guess I’m not that hard on my earbuds. I don’t think I’ve damaged any of the Skullcandies I’ve owned. I will lose them before I damage them.

    The Sony earbuds, as comfortable as they are, don’t last more than a couple months though.

  18. mattwillis4 says:

    In the OP letter… straight up damage caused by pets is not covered. It’s considered negligence in terms of the plan.

    (Full disclosure: Worked for BBY/GS for 9+ years, currently in Corp. IT Field now)