Facts for Families

Facts for Families

Read the Fine Print

Photo of Patricia A. Hildebrand

Patricia A. Hildebrand


Facts for Families

To be released January 17, 2006

The following is from Pat Hildebrand, University of Illinois Extension educator, Consumer & Family Economics, Effingham Extension Center.

Read the fine print

Be a wise consumer! Be an informed consumer! You comparison shop, read all the literature, talk to your neighbors, and get lots of information about the item you're considering buying. You think you're ready to make the decision, but you're still a little hesitant. After all, it is a lot of money.

You wait, but then one day you're walking through the mall and there's just what you've been looking for. You've done the research and now you've just had the opportunity to try out the item in a well-known, reputable store. You've asked about discounts, payment options, extra charges and fees, delivery date, warranties, return policy (there is a 90-day in-home trial period) and you want it. So, why not go ahead and buy it?

But...the product is not what you expected after you've used it. You contact the store and the employee says that you have to call the company. You make the call. You finally get to talk to a "real" person who says that she will send a claim form for you fill out. The 90 days are slipping by. When you receive the claim form, you find that to return the item, there is a fee and being unsatisfied with the item is not a valid reason for return.

One way to minimize problems when you make a purchase is to check the warranty. Federal law requires that warranties be available for you to read before you buy even when you're shopping by catalog or on the Internet. Coverage varies, so you can compare the extent of warranty coverage just as you compare the style, price, and other characteristics of products.

Other ways to prevent potential problems are to:

  • consider the reputation of the company offering the warranty. Be sure you have an address to write to or a phone number to call if you have questions or problems.
  • check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there are any complaints against the company. A warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it.
  • save your receipt and file it with the warranty.
  • do the required maintenance and inspections.
  • use the product according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • be sure what is promised verbally is in writing.
  • read all the fine print!

You may not always be able to avoid problems, but the more informed you are, the more wise you will be as a consumer.

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