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Gas Powered Equipment Returns and Warranties and How To Deal With Them

I received this review on the Craftsman PTY 9000 Model 28970 24 HP 42 inch Professional Yard Tractor a few days ago and it reminded me that I wanted to write a new article about return policies, warranties and how to get your gas-powered lawn, yard or garden tractor repaired. This article is what I know from my experience and is only intended to help you get the best repairs. Refer to the item warranty document from the manufacture for the actual information. (Usually in the owners manual)  by: Paul Sikkema

The Review: I bought this mower on 30 Nov 12, we mowed the leaves up in Jan 2013 (two acres), went to clear up the remainder before the grass started growing, made it about 200 feet from my shed and the mower quit moving. This machine has a total of 7.3 hours on the machine, called Sears and they said since it’s past 30 days there is nothing they can do, called the manufacturer number on the machine and it’s going cost roughly $100 just to have them come out. It seems like this should not be the consumers problem with 7 hours on the clock, I will have them come out and fix this mower since I have no other choice, I just know this is the last K-MART item I will buy…Lowes or Home Depot would not tell you it’s been over 30 days when your machine only has 7 hours on it, I called them and they said they would replace it and they would handle the manufacture. So long story short…stay away from Craftsman, it’s not what it used to be.

My response: Just so my readers don’t get confused here are the official return policies for the 3 companies mentioned in this review. All three state a 30 day return policy on gas-powered equipment and none of them have any statement about hours on a machine. Any deviation from these policies is an individual decision or LACK OF INFORMATION/TRAINING by a store employee. You will find that most of the time an employee forgets about the 30 day limit on gas-powered equipment and tells you over the phone the general return policy. ALL retailers have restrictions on certain types of equipment. If you end up talking to a person from a call center instead of a person in the Lawn & garden department you will always get the general return policy statement. When you actually go to return the gas powered item that has been in your possession over 30 days the store may not honor the phone conversation.

Lowes return policy: See Lowes Website
Home Depot return policy: See HomeDepot Website
Sears return policy: Sears Return Policy
John Deere Residential: John Deere Residential Return Policy

Here is the Federal Trade Commission’s page on warranties: FTC on Warranties

A Manufacture’s Warranty is different from the return policy or an extended warranty/protection plan.

1. Return Policy: The retailer or dealership selling you the product will have a written policy. Any deviations to the written policy are between you and the individual you are talking to on the phone or in the store. Most retailers today will not honor “the guy on the phone told me” reasoning because different items sold by the store have different return policies. Most of the L&G retailers we deal with have 60/90 day “satisfaction guarantee” that does not include gas-powered, appliances, electronics and electrical items. This return policy is written on the back of your receipt or somewhere easily available to you at the store. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BEFORE YOU BUY!

2. Manufactures Warranty: The company who built the product. Besides the written statement in your operators manual, the manufacture in most cases reviews warranty repairs and will only reimburse the mechanic for certain repairs (it is very much like the hospital bill you get versus what the insurance will actually pay) In addition, most manufactures use specific repair centers to perform their work (just like car dealerships) In other words you can’t take your new Cub Cadet you bought at Home Depot to your local repair shop down the street. You have to call the number in your warranty statement (in the manual) then take it to the “authorized” repair center Cub Cadet tells you to. (I’m not picking on Cub here, all the manufactures have this procedure now)

I just want the part! In most cases the manufacture will not just send you the part for you to install yourself. Why? Because most of the time the part that failed is not the underlying cause of the probelem. The manufactures rely on a trained service tech to troubleshoot the problem and then fix not only the broken part but the real reason the part broke.

Just so you know: Sears Retail Stores, Sears Hometown, Craftsman, and Sears Repair Services are now all different companies and while the store/sears.com can assist you in getting your item fixed, Sears Repair Services Tech now makes the repair and determination if it is a warranty repair. BEFORE YOU USE YOUR EQUIPMENT READ THE WARRANTY STATEMENT IN YOUR OPERATORS MANUAL!

3. Extended warranty/protection plan: Think of these as an insurance policy or prepaid repair/service plan. Most include wear and tear items and operator error but do not include bad fuel, fire, or operator abuse. None of them include regular maintenance items like oil changes, air filters, and filling the item with fuel. KNOW WHAT IS NOT COVERED BEFORE YOU BUY!

Why is he being charged a “trip charge”?

Manufactures only cover defects. It is proven that over 80% of the problems a customer will have with a mower during the factory defect warranty period are not defects but are wear and tear, operator error, not reading the starting directions, bad gas, bad gas, BAD GAS, or operator abuse. The manufacture will not pay the repair service anything unless there is an approved factory defect. In the case at the beginning of this article the person on the phone does not know if the transmission is bad (covered) a bolt or clip fell off the control linkage (may be covered) the belt broke because a stick got wedged under the deck (not covered) or someone was playing around with his new toy and didn’t put the coast rod back in all the way. Because they can’t troubleshoot your repair over the phone, most repair services will charge you a trip charge up front. If it ends up being a covered repair most of the retailers will reimburse the cost of the trip charge. If you are required to deliver your item to a repair center they usually will not reimburse you for your time and expense.

Here are few common questions about warranties.

Q. When does my warranty start?
A. Warranty begins on the date of purchase or in the case of a John Deere the date of product delivery to the original purchaser.
Q. What is the expiration date of warranty on my unit?
A. The duration is listed on the warranty document and the length depends on the manufacture of the equipment and in some cases the use of the equipment. For example, an item may not have any warranty at all if is used commercially, rented to someone else or even used on a property not owned by you (your place of residense)
Q. Who can do warranty work?
A. An authorized repair center. This may be your local dealer but don’t be surprised if it is not your closest dealer. For example, Husqvarna has dealers and servicing dealers. To locate your closest authorized call the service number in your warranty document or go to the manufactures website. There may be a different servicing dealer for your engine than there is for your mower. (Note: Lowes and The Home Depot are authorized retailers but are not authorized servicing dealers.  Sears Repair Services is an authorized servicing dealer)
Q. Is transportation covered under warranty?
A. Transportation costs are the responsibility of the purchaser. This includes costs for the authorized service provider to travel to the product or transportation of the product to the authorized service provider. Most Deere and Husqvarna dealers will pick your mower up for a charge (my father’s Deere dealer charges $125 for a 12 mile trip) In the case of Sears Repair Services, they come to you to repair your tractor and charge you a “trip charge” up front if you did not buy the protection plan. Lowes and some other retailers have some reimbursement allowances, etc. in their extended warranties.
Q. Is a maintenance part covered under warranty?
A. Normal maintenance parts and service are not warranted.
Q. What are maintenance parts?
A. Typical maintenance parts include but are not limited to belts, blades, spark plugs, filters, lubricants, bearings. Please see your operator’s manual for detailed maintenance information.
Q. What is the warranty period for my battery?
A. The coverage period for batteries is different from the unit itself (different manufacture) and varies with type of battery and application.
Q. What is not covered under warranty?
A. Items not warranted include:
ƒ Normal wear and tear
ƒ Used products. Most L&G warranties are only good to the person who purchased the item. If you are buying a mower for your relative be sure to use their name and address on the purchase.
ƒ Those altered or modified in unapproved ways. You can generally add attachments and accessories but you can’t modify the unit.
ƒ Depreciation
ƒ Improper maintenance
ƒ Normal maintenance parts
Abuse including hitting items with the blades and running into things

In summary: Know your warranty. Read it before you have a problem. Because warranties are so limited, two of the major retailers now offer protection plans that take most, if not all of the hassle out getting an item repaired. These protection plans usually cover trip charges or free pickup and return, many wear and tear parts and some even include gas related problems.

UPDATE 4/10/13

Just an update…they replaced the transmission and all belts free of all charges (but they weren’t even considering coming out until I called the corporate office). They kept saying at the local store it has been more than 30 days, the guy at the corporate office with me, I told him I would understand if I bought a refrigerator or some other appliance that ran all the time, but when I have a piece of equipment with a digital hour meter that reads 7 hours, there has to be some wiggle room. He actually told me I made an excellent point and that he will bring up in the next meeting that perhaps they need to put some hour time frame on things that are intermittently used. I’m sure he was just telling me what I wanted to hear…but who knows, right? Well I guess they came out smelling like a rose this time, I know they kept me as a customer, I have since bought a new craftsman chainsaw & weed eater, both have performed as all my other old craftsman equipment, which is great. Thanks for taking the time to help me and others deal with “Corporate America”.

Yes, you are allowed to vent in the comments about your best and worst warranty experience. No, foul language please.

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