Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Warranties Are Nice But Maybe Not As Practical As They Seem"

There are times when we need something right now, and it doesn't have to last more than the few minutes it takes us to use it. For instance, gasoline only needs to be good enough (at whatever price we choose to pay for it and whichever dealer or brand we want to use) to get us to our next destination - or the next gas station if our final destination requires more than one stop for fuel.

The gasoline doesn't have to guaranteed to perform at any certain level, and as long as we are buying it from a well-known distributor there shouldn't be any concerns on our part about it not working properly. True, there may be some brands that give a little better gas mileage than others, and there may some brand loyalty or other factors entering the purchasing decision, but the gas we choose to purchase will do what it is supposed to do - fuel or car to drive down the road.

There are other products that are designed to be disposable also - paper towels napkins, matches, packaging materials, food, condiments, beverages, soap, razor blades, pencils, and similar items. Some may provide a couple of uses, but mostly they are used or consumed and discarded. They don't have to have any guarantees or lasting promises attached to them. As long as they serve our needs at the moment - as intended - we are happy.

There's a popular saying that things aren't built the way they used to be. Partly this is true to less costly, lighter weight materials (aluminum and plastic, for instance) that aren't as durable as in earlier times. Items generally don't survive dropping as well as they did. Some small appliances seem to have an obsolescence built into them where they run a certain number of times and then stop. And there's no repairing them - not even with expensive computers, cameras, TVs, and other electronics. It's not that they can't be repaired (although some literally can't), it's that it's more expensive to repair them than to replace them. With printers having become so economical, they truly are disposable after they reach a certain age or show the slightest sign of fatigue.

Back to the idea of a warranty. Years ago, warranties weren't even discussed that much for a couple of reasons: items were built to last and stores that sold them were based in the community and would stand behind their merchandise - even months later - when there was an issue. It was just good business because they wanted repeat trade and positive word of mouth marketing.

As products changed, the idea of a warranty came about. People wanted to know that the manufacturer - if not the retailer - would guarantee performance as advertised. Originally it was a full guarantee without limits. Then came the limited warranty - limited to as few as seven days and as long as five or ten years, with various conditions attached.

Some companies, in an attempt to convince the public that their product would do just as they said - indefinitely - began offering lifetime warranties. Nevertheless, there are three ways lifetime warranties can be interpreted and enforced - the lifetime of the product (even if it transfers to new owners), the lifetime of the original purchaser, and the lifetime of the business that manufacturers the product. This last one is the wildcard. Unless they make plans to have a third party company honor their warranty (and even at that the product or the replacement parts may no longer be available), a company can go out of business - and the warranty goes right along with it. 

Our customers may want a warranty from us, and that seems reasonable. However, we need to assure them of the great steps we are taking in workmanship and materials to make sure that their remodeling solutions will provide years of satisfactory service. There really aren't any ironclad guarantees, so reasonable care and managed expectations have to govern our business dealings with our clients. We exercise diligence to make sure that what we are creating and installing will provide years of faithful service.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.