Should You Buy The Optional Extended Warranty or Service Protection Plan?

…Not if you’re buying a digital camera and it’s from Sears!

You hear it all the time. Whenever you buy something of value at the department store, they ask:

“Would you like to purchase an extended warranty on that?”

or…

“We’ve got an optional service protection plan that will fully cover the product beyond the standard manufacturer’s warranty. Are you interested?”

extended-warranty-by-trenttsd

As a rule, we never buy into such “protection plans”, “insurance”, or “extended warranties” — believing that the odds of something going wrong that the standard manufacturer’s warranty wouldn’t already cover are quite slim. Not to mention the fact that such protection plans are quite expensive, relatively speaking.

However, there have been two occasions in my lifetime when I’ve purchased an extended warranty. Both were at Sears. One experience (on a bicycle) was good. The other (on a digital camera) was not so good.

Here’s what you need to know…

 

I (Heart) Sears

Let me just start by saying this: I love Sears — mostly for their low prices, but also for their brand-loyalty and customer service.

I’ve always felt that I’ve received personal attention from people knowledgeable about the product, no matter what department I happened to be in.

And you can’t beat the tried & true brand-name products that have stood the test of time, like Craftsman, Kenmore appliances, Diehard batteries, and now Lands’ End.

HOWEVER, I do have one piece of advice…

In the event that you’re considering purchasing an optional Master Protection Agreement (MPA) from Sears — particularly if the product you’re aiming to “protect” is a camera — you may want to think again!

 

The Sears Master Protection Agreement

At Sears they call their extended warranty a “Master Protection Agreement“. It’s supposed to be better than most, because it goes beyond the typical repair or replacement of the product should it become un-usable for some reason. The Sears MPA also includes one free “preventive maintenance check” (i.e. cleaning) each year for the life of your MPA.

This free preventive maintenance check is the primary reason that we purchased the 2-year MPA (for $129.99) on our Canon Digital Rebel camera.

Since the camera cost nearly $1,000 (we bought it July, 2003), and we knew we’d be using it a lot, we figured we would get our money’s worth from the MPA simply by taking advantage of the free preventive maintenance check each year!

We had done our homework and learned that similar cleanings cost $100+ a pop from a camera cleaning & repair shop, so $129.99 didn’t seem unreasonable for the option of getting 2 cleanings.

However, we were shocked to witness how Sears handles the “preventive maintenance checks” on the cameras they sell!

 

What?… Sears Cleans & Services Cameras?

First and foremost, I wanted to know how the process of getting your camera cleaned and/or repaired through Sears actually worked. So, the day we bought the camera, we asked. We were told by the sales clerk something along the lines of: “We (Sears) send it out to have it professionally cleaned by our camera experts.”

I went through the whole line of thought — some of it out loud with the sales clerk — some of it I just kept to myself: “Sears has camera experts? Hmmm… didn’t know that.” I can’t really picture that. I didn’t fully buy into that. But, it wasn’t a deal-breaker on purchasing the MPA.

 

The Process of Getting Your Camera Serviced At Sears

Here it is now, a year and a half later… and we decide it’s time to take advantage of the free preventive maintenance check. So I call the Sears where I bought the camera to ask how they “send out” cameras to be cleaned.

You will notice on their website where they describe their MPA’s, they don’t even have an option for servicing or repairing digital cameras!! For some reason, cameras are handled quite differently.

After being routed to 3 different people, the last one seemed familiar with the process. He said they “box it up and ship it via UPS to a camera repair place in Texas.” (He actually mentioned the city, but I don’t recall it now.)

I immediately Googled “sears (city) texas” to see if I could find anything that would allay my fears of sending my expensive camera across the country and back. I could find nothing. (Which is partly the reason for this post… I figure, if I have questions about the process, others are likely to as well.)

So I waited a few days, then I called again. When I asked how to “start the process” of getting the “preventive maintenance check” on my camera, he said to just take the camera into the store where you bought it — then go to the Repairs department.

A few weeks later, Jim and I went to the Sears store where we bought the camera. We went directly to the Repairs department. The guy there was clueless about the process, so he said to take the camera back to the camera department itself and see if they could help.

Then, another guy came in to work at the Repairs department. We asked him about the process of sending cameras out for the “preventive maintenance check” per the MPA. He didn’t know anything about “preventive maintenance checks”, but he said for “repairs”, he could handle it for me. He was ready to take my camera from me and send it out somewhere.

When I mentioned that I’d been told that Sears “ships cameras via UPS to a different repair & cleaning location somehwere in Texas”, he seemed to vaguely recall hearing something like that before. He said, to be sure, I’d better just go back to the camera department and see if they could help.

Agreed.

At the camera department, the sales clerk says, “Yep, we can send it out for you.” When I ask about where they ship it to. She didn’t know. She said, “I’ll take you back there, and we can ask them.” …as she starts to walk me back to the Repairs department where we’d started!

At this point, I’m extremely nervous to put my camera in the hands of any of these people, since no one knew exactly where it would end up! So I asked for a manager.

 

Does Anyone At Sears Know How To Get A Camera Serviced?

Fortunately, the store’s Customer Service Manager (CSM) was working. However, he admitted that he was new to this particular store and he had never handled an MPA on a camera, but he would try to find the answer to our question.

He phoned one of his bosses. They gave me a phone number to call to schedule the cleaning with Canon directly, at which point Canon would (supposedly) send me a box to ship my camera to them. The CSM also gave us his direct number, in the event that I had any other questions (…if only he’d have known!)

The next morning, I phoned Canon. They were very nice. Very understanding. Very willing to help. But they simply said they do not honor store agreements like this MPA from Sears. Never have. Period. I asked for a supervisor. (Also very nice.) I got the same story. He made a note in their company computer system and said that note was being broadcast to all Canon managers alerting them to the fact that Sears was selling such MPA’s and giving out their phone number as the contact… just so their people would a) be informed and b) possibly confront Sears if they got enough phone calls on the matter.

The next morning, I phoned the CSM back at my local Sears store. He was embarrassed that he’d sent me on a wild goose chase. (I must say, he was an admirable representative for the company, and I applaud his work ethic — for this and for how he managed to resolve all this in the end.)

The CSM promised that he’d call me back with a solution to this problem before the day’s end. (He never called back.) I called him back the next morning, eager to hear his solution. While I was on the phone, he was speaking with his store manager (who didn’t have an answer either) and they phoned someone else — who said to call this toll-free number. Guess what?… It was the SAME number for Canon that I’d been given days earlier! Another wild goose chase.

This was becoming completely ridiculous now. It was clear that NO ONE at Sears knew how to handle the MPA on a camera that had been purchased at Sears.

I decided to ask for my money back on the MPA.

 

The Difficulty of Getting Your Money Back On An MPA

Still on the phone with the CSM (who was still fishing around for something else to try)… I stopped him mid-sentence, and I told him that we just didn’t feel comfortable leaving our camera with anyone at Sears at this point, and that we would just like our money back — the amount we paid for the MPA.

He said something to the effect of: “I’m okay with that. It’s obvious that we were unable to provide you with the service you paid for.”

He said he would give me a full refund of the MPA, and asked when I would like to come by the store and take care of that. I rushed right to Sears and ended up spending my entire lunch hour trying to get my money back.

Turns out, there is no easy way for Sears to refund 100% of what someone paid for an MPA. Their system is set up to only offer a pro-rated amount, based on the amount of time that has elapsed since the MPA was purchased.

Plus, their system is set up to only issue store credit — despite the fact that I had the receipt in hand that showed we had paid CASH for the camera and the MPA.

I stood my ground and wouldn’t settle for a store credit. I was owed $129.99 in cash, and I needed the cash to go get my camera cleaned & checked somewhere else.

Boy, did they fight me on this! (“Surely you could find something to buy here at Sears with a store credit!”)

Finally, after both the CSM and the store manager had tried everything they could think of to “trick” the cash register into giving me the money I was owed, I was actually the one to suggest a ‘workaround” so they could get into their own cash registers and get me the cash I was owed. To everyone’s amazement, it worked!

…I wonder what they’re going to do when the next person wants to get their “free preventive maintenance check” on the camera?!

…I wonder if the sales people in the camera department are still selling MPA’s on cameras?!…

 

Others Share Their Thoughts On Sears & Their MPA’s

12 Reasons Why A Sears MPA Is A Scam …according to a former Sears employee. (Don’t miss his detailed summary: The Truth Exposed About Sears Maintenance Agreements and other Extended Warranties!)

ConsumerAffairs.com Posts Consumer Complaints on Sears Maintenance Agreements

iVillage’s Garden Web Posts Feedback on Sears Master Protection Agreements (…and extended warranties in general).

Planet Feedback Posts Consumer Opinions Regarding Sears Warranties

Don’t Buy Protection Agreements! (…according to a Sears as a call center operator)

Sears Master Protection Agreements…A Ripoff Or Not? (…don’t miss the “honest employee speaks” post)

 

Opinions About Extended Warranties In General

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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Fun From Around the Web

  • Tonym144

    It sounds to me like you bought at the wrong Sears. Sears does not, to the best of my knowledge, sell MPAs on cameras. They sell RPAs, which is a Repair Protection Agreement. Whoever told you that misinformed you. MPAs are only available on big, bulky items that are hard to bring back to the store, i.e. televisions, stoves, riding lawn tractors. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT dissuade people from buying an MPA on anything. I say this because I have used 5 out of 6 MPAs that I purchased (Stove, microhood, grill, riding lawn tractor, stove (yes, the stove went out twice)). I have talked to many people who have used them and they were 100% satisfied with them. I personally work for Sears and I have a code that I live by. If a customer buys a MPA from me, I give them my card and tell them “Do not call any 1-800 number if it breaks down. Call me and I’ll wait on hold, I’ll talk to the repair company and give them your information, then I’ll call you back and set up a time for the repair. I want to do all the work so you don’t have to do anything.”) And if you check around on the net, the average life expectancy of an appliance anymore is about 12 years, and they need to be maintained or you end up repairing them every 3 or 4 years on average. So the question is, an extra $150 now (median price), or an extra $200 later (minimum cost of any repair). Believe Consumer Reports if you like when they tell you not to buy them, but if it breaks down, will THEY pay your repair bill? Good luck with that…

  • Tonym144

    With an attitude like that, now we know why you are an ex-employee. They beat everyone’s prices, either proactively or retroactively. So what’s your excuse now?

  • Tonym144

    With an attitude like that, now we know why you are an ex-employee. They beat everyone’s prices, either proactively or retroactively. So what’s your excuse now?

  • Joshemane

    Yeah you had an idiot at your Sears. Sears sells either mostly SPP’s (Sears PurchaseProtect, if it’s a smaller camera), which is simply a replacement warranty. You’d get a giftcard back in that case (or, you could repeat what you did and have a manager give you money back). On some of the bigger ones, like SLR’s and Sony Digital Cameras, that’s where we sell PA’s. We send Sony’s off for repairs, and same with the SLR’s. There is no PMT on a camera, but that’s not to say that we wouldn’t clean it if it was figured that dust got inside the lens (which does happen), and we counted it as a repair.

    Personal opinion time- On some of the camcorders, and SOMETIMES with the SLR’s, I think they’re overpriced. But, granted, you’ve got to understand the cost of getting it repaired without a warranty. That’s EASILY higher than the PA cost, trust me, I’ve done research on this. But, basically, it’s best to swallow the pill that is the cost of the PA, because it will likely save you money, believe it or not.

    So yeah, sorry you had a bad experience. The sales clerk definitely needs to be trained better. But don’t mistake that for the company as a whole, I’ve worked here for over a year and I’ve never once misled a customer on what we do and don’t cover. It’s just not worth it.

  • Joshemane

    Yeah I don’t know where this guy is getting his information from.

    If you’re getting stuffed repaired WITHOUT a Protection Agreement, we will charge you. That’s because you can’t pay repairman on free smiles.

    But the only time you will get charged with a PA is if it’s a non-covered repair (which is, items that have been abused, cracked, or misused in some way). And even than, we still have you covered by giving you a 25% discount on those parts.

  • Joshemane

    Best Buy won’t cover that, I guarantee you.

  • Joshemane

    It’s called “It’s out of warranty”. You’re an idiot for getting mad at us when your contract is up.

  • Anonymous

    I just used my Master Protection Agreement with Sears about a month ago. My washer was serviced 6 times within 12 mos. When the agent called to ask me if I wanted to renew my agreement, I told her that I was going to use that money for a new washer because although it was working now, I didn’t think it would be worth putting more money toward the old washer. She looked up the records and said that I qualified for the no-lemon reimbursement since I had over 4 calls. Wow, I was surprised. I got a brand new washer, a Duet, valued at $945. Thanks, Sears for telling me what I deserved from that protection agreement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-La-Violette/1417902255 Tim La Violette

    I brought in my digital camera for repair to the store, and similarly to you, the receiving guy did not know how to handle the repair for my Canon camera, however, every store has a digital camera hotline for repairs. The phone # is 800-877-8701. I called the number; the automated system was horrible, but when I did get a person, he was quite helpful and knew exactly what to do. They ship out a UPS postage-paid box, you put the camera in there and send it off and it comes back repaired in about 2 weeks. Hope this helps and restores your confidence in Sears. I’ve come out way ahead in Sears MPAs and SPPs over the last 13 years, but I guess I’m kind of unlucky with products too.

  • jjt

    HI, yes sears still sells MPAs but not on every camera brand.  anyway, if you would like to talk to someone fully knowledgable about the process i would suggest finding your local parts and service center.  These guys actually know what their doing and can send the camera off for you.  Yes it is shipped UPS or by truck in some locations either way it is packed well and fully covered by the contractor and or sears.  It is sent to a central location, a service center and yes these service center have electronic technicians.  I hope this helps a little and I am sorry about the trouble you had.

  • Saleem12534

    lol… brother i dont kno which Sears you went to …. I purchased electronics from sears and sears ONLY. Why? Because of the MPAs and let me tell you why i love these MPAs. I Bought my double oven and washer and dryer and a dishwasher from sears about 2 years ago. Now, i spent close to $7500 on the whole purchase. About a month ago my double oven convection fan broke. So, i called Kitchenaid to see if they fixed it. They said that the sure will but since a years has passed the warranty expired and they will charge me $130 jsut to come out there and parts and labor not inculed. Upon my research i found out that parts and labor on a covention oven is about $685+130. Later i found out that my oven cannot be fixed becuse they dont make these anymore so i would either have to TRY to repair aor buy a new oven. THNK GOD I HAD SEARS 5year MPA. (by the way that 5 year MPA cost me about $439 on a $2500 oven.) I called sears and guess what, The gave me a credit for $3500 to go back to sears and buy a new oven. Are you kidding me… I dont know much about the cameras, But im glad i had that Protection Plan. My other appliances are fine and i hope nothing goes wrong with them. If something should go wrong with them, i know im covered.

  • Your Sales associate

    Apparently you did not purchased a Master Protection Agreement. You purchased a Sears Purchase Protect. And based on the story of what it was done to the camera, let me tell you…its exactly what it does. MPA is for LARGE appliances, LCD tv’s and some large ticket items within the Home Improvement department. Great blog, but you have gotten the wrong information. Sears Purchase Protect does not offer annual maintenance. Only MPA. :)

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Sorry, but mine WAS actually a Master Protection Agreement. This was 6 years ago now… Perhaps back then MPAs were sold with what were then “very expensive digital cameras”. Or, perhaps the sales associate at the store incorrectly sold me the wrong thing. But my paperwork clearly said Master Protection Agreement — which is what I started searching for online when I needed help. It’s clear that the sales guys at the store I went to were pretty clueless about any type of extended warranty provided by Sears. It seemed like a brand new concept to them… at the time.