April 20, 2014

Check Your Cart at Sears.com

Is Sears.com tacking on added purchases without your consent? Automatically adding on a service package is up-selling and Sears.com may have been doing just that.

Edgar Dworsky, a nationally-respected consumer advocate and founder of the website ConsumerWorld.org, says he went on the site on Black Friday weekend looking for a refrigerator. He found a model he liked, put it in his cart and noticed that a five-year service contract for $469 had been added without his consent.

Dworsky points out that the charge for the service plan is easily removed from the cart if the customer spots it. If not, they could overpay from $110 to $550.

“How many shoppers have in their mind, ‘Oh, I’d better check the cart just to make sure they haven’t slipped something in there that I didn’t order?’”

Dworsky shopped for various appliances on Sears.com and he says the same thing happened every time: an expensive five-year extended warranty turned up in the shopping cart.

After Mr. Dworsky contacted Larry Costello, Sears’ public relations director, who says the company has received “very little negative customer feedback” about its up-sell policy,the company says it will change the way its website operates. Sears will now make their extended warranties an optional add-on, just as other major appliance sellers do.

Use Appliance Cash For Clunkers or Repair

So many people have been looking forward to replacing their appliances with new ones using the government’s appliance rebate program, but a new appliance may not be your wisest choice according to Angie Hicks of angieslist.com.

Under the new program, consumers will receive a rebate – expected to be between $50-$200 per appliance – in return for getting rid of old energy-consuming appliances and purchasing new appliances certified as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

“A good rule of thumb to determine if you should repair or replace an appliance is to look at the age factor and the cost of repair,” Hicks said. “The average price of a service call is between $60-100 before parts and labor. Many companies will deduct their call charge from the total bill if you hire them to make the needed repairs. However, if a repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, you’re probably better off replacing it.”

That’s when the Cash for Appliances program could really benefit those in need of an upgrade. In addition to the Cash for Appliances rebate, some states and local utility districts already offer rebates for purchases of energy efficient appliance, leading to even more savings.

States have the flexibility to select which appliances to include in their programs and the individual rebate amount for each appliance, however, the Department of Energy recommends that states and territories focus on heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and water heaters, which offer the greatest energy savings potential. States had until Oct. 15 to present the DOE with a plan for how they want to implement their respective programs. The rebates were to go into effect in late November.

The distribution formula for the $300 million program is about $1 for every resident in a given state. California, for example, would receive about $35 million to allocate to the program, while Wyoming would receive about $500,000. Unlike the popular “Cash for Clunkers” vehicle rebate program, consumers will not be required to trade in their old appliances. The DOE, however, is encouraging states to develop recycling plans in their proposals.

“This program is designed to help spur economic growth, create jobs, make homes more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Hicks said. “Part of being environmentally friendly is to use products as long as possible, so we’re not filling up landfills with unnecessary waste. So, if your appliance is worth fixing and you can get several more years out of it, repair might be the way to go.”

Angie’s 10 questions to ask to determine whether to replace or repair an appliance:

    Is it really broken? The trouble may be a short in the plug, a tripped circuit breaker, or a bad surge-protector outlet. Check the troubleshooting section of the unit’s instruction manual for the most common problems and solutions.

    How old is the appliance?

    Have you had trouble with the unit before?
    If it’s performed well, it might be worth fixing instead of replacing with something unproven.

    How much will it cost to repair the unit?

    What would a similar appliance cost?

    Are there any hidden costs to purchase (removal, installation, disposal, tax, etc.)?

    How difficult is it to replace the appliance (Is it a built-in)?

    What additional features will I get with the new appliance?

    What energy savings will I get with the new appliance?
    Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

    What tax credits are available for purchasing an energy efficient unit? Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

Angie’s List went to the experts for their estimates on the average life of major appliances:

10-15 years for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers.

10-20 years for ovens, ranges, and water heaters.

15-20 years for central air-conditioning unit

Save When Buying New Appliances

When buying a new appliance, the Boy Scout’s motto “Be Prepared” is good advice. Before heading to the local appliance store, check out these tips that could help you save some money:

First, know just how much appliance you need. Appliance stores will often put the top of the line models out on the floor to entice the buyer. You might not need all those bells and whistles. Ask to see the basic models and then search for ones with the additional features you will use.

Remember to compare the energy use of various models. You’ll find that on the bright yellow label affixed to the front or top of the appliance.

Be aware of installation requirements and costs. If your house cannot acomadate the appliance you choose, and changes are necessary, that will cost you. So will exchanging it for one that fits – stores often charge restocking fees.

Look for deals:
Some tips from abc2news.com:
Do they offer package deals if you buy more than one appliance?
Can you get free delivery?
Do they sell floor models or scratch-and-dent models?
Do they honor price adjustments if the appliance goes on sale within 30 days, or do they know whether it will be on sale soon?
Is there a rebate or any type of promotion, such as a gift card or product incentive, if you buy the appliance?
Do they price match?
Do they accept trade-ins or at least haul your old appliance?
What is the manufacturer’s warranty? Say no to extended warranties. According to Consumer Reports, extended warranties aren’t worth buying because the appliance doesn’t typically break within the warranty time, costs less to repair, or the problem isn’t covered by warranty.
Where is a repair/service center located? Is it near you?

Be certain your appliance cannot be repaired. Other options include buying a reconditioned or used appliance. If you are buying new or upgrading, be aware that white goods (appliances) go on sale in October and January when store have new models arriving.

Get something back. You might be able to sell you old appliance or donate it to charity for a tax deduction. Your local utility office might be offering a rebate program for particular energy saving appliances. A last stop for an old, broken appliance might be the scrap yard. Copper wiring is being recycled along with other metals.
A little extra time invested in knowing your appliance needs and then being assertive in getting them can save you quite a few bucks over time.