Secret Insurance (I bet you have it too)

On Father’s Day 2006 I finally got the “green light.” The Nazarian house would be making the leap from standard to high-definition TV. I did my homework, took my measurements and scoured the inter-webs looking for the very best deal.

Plasma, or LCD? Will 46” be big enough, or should I try and cram a 50” into that space above the fireplace? What brand has the lowest repair rate and should I bother with the extended warranty? It was a lot to process, but I wanted to get to a conclusion quickly.

Let’s be honest, every day of standard definition TV was slowly killing me, right?

After several days of data crunching, I arrived at a decision. It would be the forty-six inch, 1080p, Samsung LCD. I would purchase it online from buydig.com, who would ship it to a commercial address for free, sans NYS sales tax. Lucky for me,  at the time I worked for a company with a loading dock. The total bill would be around $2,000.

All my research said that paying a little more for the Samsung would obviate the need for an extended warranty. I placed the order and waited.

Three days later the TV arrived at the loading dock and that night it was mounted on the wall, producing the crystal clear picture that had turned the Hollywood makeup industry upside down.

The experience was everything we had hoped for, and since our youngest child was only two and a half at the time, he would have no memory of life in a standard def world.

Sigh; life was good… until.

Fast forward to August 2008. I awoke on a Saturday morning to dress and feed the children. My wife had left early that morning to work the weekend at the hospital, and she was not expected home until Monday morning.

As we finished breakfast I told the kids they could go watch thirty minutes of TV, giving me some time to clean the kitchen and get organized for the day. A few minutes later as I was carrying laundry down the stairs, I heard “Daaad” from my oldest Charlotte. Kids have a way of telling a whole story with the delivery of a single, three-letter word, so I knew there was a problem. She continued, “the TV is half broken.”

As I placed the hampers of grimy kid clothes on the counter in the laundry room, I figured it was something simple like the TV was on mute and her reference to “half-broken” was due to picture, but no sound. I turned and walked into the family room to find exactly what she described.

The TV was on, and there was sound, but the entire right side of the screen was all squiggly colored lines. Huh.

I did all the standard restart, and check cables routine, but after a few minutes I came to the disappointing conclusion that; the TV was, um, busted.

The right half of my TV looked like this.

The right half of my TV looked like this.

I Googled the problem and found nothing. That is never a good sign. After an hour on the phone with Samsung tech support. I was able to confirm two unfortunate things:

  1. I was out of warranty by three months
  2. They had never heard of this problem

I walked out into the back yard to weigh my options; which seemed to be limited to:

  • Accept the fact that my TV was busted and I might have to revert to the giant tube thing in the basement
  • Call my wife at work and tell her that the TV I had so carefully researched (and on which I had declined the extended warranty) was dead, and that we’d need to drop another two-large on a new one

Neither option was acceptable. As I paced back and forth, I remembered something, or at least I thought I did.

You know that feeling when you have a thought, but you can’t immediately remember if it was real, in a dream or in a movie? Well, I was remembering that my credit card had some kind of automatic extended warranty feature. I quickly went inside and called USAA, my credit card company.

I had not been dreaming. As it turns out, everything I buy with that card is covered by an automatic doubling of the standard warranty up to one full additional year. After a few additional phone calls to register my claim, I was told that they would pay to repair or replace the TV up to the price I had originally paid.

On Monday I called an authorized Samsung repair company, they came, they assessed, and said it was broken “t-con board,” but they would have to order it. We waited, the part came, they put it in, but it didn’t fix the problem so they said, that it must be a bad LCD panel, but that would cost $2,400!

I called the warranty provider and asked them what I should do and they simply said, “Mr. Nazarian, go buy yourself a new TV and we will send you a check for up to the total you paid for the first TV.”  I made her say it again because it seemed simply too good to be true.

Of course over the preceding fifteen months, TV prices had fallen faster than a texting teenager, so I was able to purchase the very best 46” Samsung available, and still come in under my number. Additional research had shown that I was still better off with Samsung, and since I purchased the replacement TV with that same card, the automatic extended warranty was in place… automatically.

The replacement Samsung, where it still hangs today

The replacement Samsung, where it still hangs today

We placed the new TV on the wall, and I stashed the broken one in an upstairs closet. Something told me not to throw it away.

Two years later when cleaning out that closet, my wife asked what my plans were with the “giant, broken TV.”  I had a thought. I hopped on the computer and Googled the problem again. This time there was a wealth of information, parts and fixes available for the problem. It looked like the necessary fix would cost only $35 in parts.

Not having any immediate use for the TV even if it was fixed, I placed an ad on Craigslist, describing the problem and showing a picture of the TV in its “half broken” state. Figuring if there is someone out there who knew how to fix this thing I just might be able to get some cash for it. I asked $200.

The actual Craislist ad

The actual Craislist ad

Within 2 hours I was on the phone with Igor (not making that up) and I was giving him directions to my house.

He walked in, looked at the TV, handed me two crisp Benjamins, swiftly took the TV and drove off. I think we both thought we were getting a great deal, and in the end that was probably true.

Companies trying to sell you things are always adding features that you probably don’t want, and in most cases don’t need… credit card companies are no exception. However, in this case, they had given me something I didn’t even know I needed, until I really needed it.

Read the fine print so you know everything you’re getting, both good and bad. I recommend you call that 800 number on the back of your credit card today and find out what “extended protection” plan you might have, and also ask them about rental cars. Most credit cards automatically cover all those extras they try and scare you into buying at the rental counter.

For all the hassles and fees the credit card companies try and jack you with, wouldn’t it be nice to know if they are willing to buy you a new TV?  They bought me one.

Copyright © 2014 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved. Secret Insurance (I bet you have it too)

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3 thoughts on “Secret Insurance (I bet you have it too)

  • I adore the way you phrased this part, Steve. It is so true!!

    “A few minutes later as I was carrying laundry down the stairs, I heard “Daaad” from my oldest Charlotte. Kids have a way of telling a whole story with the delivery of a single, three-letter word, so I knew there was a problem.”

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