Slippery slope

In recent years manufacturers’ warranties have increasingly become part of the marketing side of the business rather than the service side. They try to get the upper hand on their competitors by offering ever-longer product guarantees.

In the January/February issue of Plumbing and HVAC Bob Bettles and Brian Guttormson talk about the problems this is causing for contractors and wholesalers.

When the warranty is used as a sales tool, the homeowner promised a ten-year warranty won’t give it another thought until the furnace, water heater, air conditioner or whatever breaks. In their mind, they are fully protected – the salesman promised a 10-year warranty and it’s less than ten years, so they figure they’re covered.

But with the longer warranties come conditions. The appliance has to be registered. Sometimes the contractor does that at the time of sale. In other cases the home or building owner must do it themselves on the manufacturer’s website.

There may be a condition that an authorized contractor or dealer services the unit once a year. All these conditions allow the manufacturer or warranty holder to wiggle out of doing repairs. But it’s a risky strategy. The name of the manufacturer and the installing contactor is going to be mud if that happens.

Part of the problem is that homeowners don’t really expect to do any kind of maintenance with their HVAC or hot water heating equipment beyond occasionally changing a filter. It’s just a metal box or tank that quietly does its work year after year. There’s security in having a warranty, but it’s not really something they expect to use. When something breaks say, after seven years, and the warranty is not what they vaguely remember the salesman promising when the unit was installed, tempers flare. They feel cheated.

Perhaps it’s time the industry took a hard look at this. Just how long should a piece of equipment be under warranty, what’s involved in maintaining an exceptionally long warranty and who makes the decision?

Surely it should be the engineering department, not marketing. And let’s go back to making warranties simple and straightforward so both the sales person and the homeowner can understand them.

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Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS)
JAN. 19-21, 2015

Las Vegas Convention Centre, North and South Halls, Las Vegas. Visit or call 1-800-843-6522. 

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December 2015
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