Mom’s Element doesn’t work — can you help her?

By | March 21st, 2013

Ensuper/Shutterstock
Ensuper/Shutterstock
Question: My mother recently purchased an Element flatscreen TV at Wal-Mart, along with a two-year extended warranty. I came to visit and noticed lines going up and down in the center of the television. Mom never noticed them because she is 83.

I immediately called the Element TV service telephone number where they gave me a report number and asked me to send to them photos of the lines in the TV. I sent the information and a representative called my mother and told her the TV was defective.

Element wanted her to ship the TV to them but first to give them a credit card with $300 approval to ship us a TV and then we ship them the defective TV. Element would in turn send us a new TV.

Instead, my mother decided to go back to Wal-Mart, since she’d purchased the extended warranty, and see if she could exchange the unit and save the shipping. A Wal-Mart employee spoke with Element for over one hour, but made no progress. Eventually, Element hung up on him.

Element continues to demand more documentation. They’ve asked for more pictures of the unit, even after determining the TV was defective. This is awful. The TV was in use for less than three months from date purchased.

I would like to return this TV to Wal-Mart and we would like a store credit or our money back, including the extended warranty. We have lost all trust in Element TV and we think even the replacement would be defective. We do not think Wal-Mart stood behind the product it sold. Can you help? — Diana Kennison, Dallas


Answer: The warranty on your mother’s Element was pretty standard, as far as TV warranties go. It says if something goes wrong with the TV within the first year, it will replace the TV.

Related story:   This "chunk of junk" isn't what I thought it would be

Your mother’s Wal-Mart extended warranty adds to that promise. “If you ever have a covered problem with your product, we’ll take care of all the repairs,” it says. “There are no hassles, no deductibles, and no hidden fees. We cover 100% of the repair costs, and all shipping charges, too.”

“You’ll be back to enjoying your product in no time at all, and at no expense,” it adds.

That obviously didn’t happen. As I review the account of your mother’s TV repair problem, it seems the manufacturer wasn’t aware of her extended warranty. When a Wal-Mart employee tried to help, Element subjected him to an extended “hold” and then disconnected the call. And I thought we’re the only ones whose calls were disconnected by call-center employees!

I think your mother would have benefitted from sending an email to Element and Wal-Mart, along with the photos, in order to create a paper trail. Given that she didn’t even know her TV was defective, I’m not sure that would have been possible.

If you spend another $65 for an extended “no hassle” warranty, I think it’s reasonable to expect that if something goes wrong with the TV, you’ll experience no hassles when you have to return the unit. At the same time, I’m not entirely sure if a full refund is warranted. After all, Mom enjoyed the TV for three months before having to return it.

I contacted Wal-Mart on your behalf. The company contacted you immediately and arranged for a technician to visit your mother’s home. Wal-Mart installed a new TV and offered her a three-year warranty.

Loading ... Loading ...


  • technomage1

    Really, both were responsible, as either could have taken care of the issue as it was covered by both warnaties. But wal mart promised no hassles, and that’s exactly what should have happened. I agree a full refund was out of line and the ultimate solution engineered by Chris in the end was a fair one.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    @Christopher Elliott: A perfect example of consumer advocacy in action. You listened, researched and communicated, so that all parties were given a fair chance to resolve this. Thank you.

  • y_p_w

    If it’s not working out of the box, then there’s an implied warranty of merchantability which isn’t strictly a manufacturer’s warranty issue.

    Once I bought a TV back in the day of heavy glass CRTs – a 32″ Sony. I wanted it home quickly and declined the free delivery since they had one in stock at the store to take home. I never dropped it or damaged it, but did end up messing up the carpeting and some fasteners in my hatchback trying to transport it. When I got home and put it on the matching stand I bought, it was all orange looking and there was an area the size of two thumbs where the case cracked. It was obviously not good. I went back to the store and arranged for a new TV (thought it was a chance to get the next higher up model) and pickup of the defective one. The delivery guys also did setup and checked the first TV. Their diagnosis was that the TV was DOA before they took the replacement out of the box. This was all without any extended warranty. The TV itself worked great for over a decade, although I’m not sure where it is now. I let my folks give it away to a friend of theirs.

    I would expect the same from any specialty retailer or even a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Wal-Mart is another matter.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’d have to vote both Walmart and Element are responsible. I disagree though about a full refund. They have a choice of either replacing the TV with one that works or refunding her money. Three months is spit in the ocean considering that a television should last for several years.

  • EdB

    I was thinking the same on both the responsibility and the refund if neither party fulfilled their responsibility. There is no indication on the amount of time it took to get it replaced after the initial contact with Walmart but since they failed in the “no hassle” for the replacement, I feel they should get the cost for the extended warranty back. Extending it to three years instead of the two is really worthless in my view.

  • EdB

    Yes. Chris did a great job on this. He recently helped me with an issue I was having. The sad part is, these incidents should never get to the stage where you have to get someone like Chris involved.

  • wageslave

    Normally, if it was outside of the store’s return period I would have to say the manufacturer is the responsible party. In this case, though, I think there are a few more considerations: 1) Element televisions are only sold by Wal-Mart, and while this makes no difference on paper I think Wal-Mart should go at least slightly above and beyond to support a product they sell exclusively. 2) If the extended warranty specified that Wal-Mart was the company that would fulfill all of the promises laid out, it sounds pretty cut and dry that Wal-Mart should have handed her a new TV after she returned the defective one. Usually, though, the kinds of warranties are fulfilled by a third party and may or may not turn out to be worthless.

  • cahdot

    my daughters bought my hubby for xmas a new i pod shuffle(at target with a 2 year warranty),,we were never able to DL any music..so i returned it to target(warranty says replacement no hassle for 2 years) and they could not honor the warranty because apple does the first year of all apple products so target said to call customer no service etc(some foreign country) after much phone time they said to call apple etc i did so and then had to go to apple(50 minutes away) they took the info after a long wait even with an app then finally (one week later) replaced it after another drive to apple..

  • cahdot

    motto of the story never buy an apple product from anyone but APPLE

  • I have to agree, both are really responsible. However, dealing with WalMart would, I think, generally be a lot easier than the manufacturer, especially since you can actually go to the store and talk to someone. And WalMart, I’m sure, can certainly deal with Element.

  • TonyA_says

    An 83 year old woman buys a relatively unknown brand TV from Walmart and protects her purchase with a $65 plan. Who the heck is Element Electronics?
    Me thinks this ole lady is buying the unknown brand TV because she believes she can always take it back to Walmart or Walmart will have it fixed because she bought a protection plan.
    You know how this works? A Chinese firm makes cheap TVs and an American firm imports it and slaps a warranty over it. If Walmart, Target, or a big box retail store does not sell it, no one will ever know this brand.
    Since the ole lady bought this from Walmart and also bought a prorection plan from Walmart, then Walmart should be the primary point of contact. She should not have to deal with the importer or manufacturer.
    By the way, if you want to read more about how dirty TV distribution can be, just google Tom Petters and read how they used bogus purchase orders from Costco and the likes to fool investors. You can also read in one of the bankruptcy cases how Element says they are not connected with the Petters Group.

  • NoraG

    It depends on what “responsible” means. Obviously Element is responsible for the bad TV itself. Both are responsible for taking care of the problem since there are 2 warranties, but my vote here still goes to Element. Element has a 1-year warranty on the product that they decided to totally ignore.

  • doctork

    A store is responsible for the products it sells. The manufacturer is responsible to the retailer. Interactions should be made through WMT. Seems in this case WMT
    has acted appropriately.

  • Guest

    In regards to the comments about it being covered under two warranties, most extended ones have a clause in them that states it doesn’t go into effect until after any manufacturer warranty has expired. So while a two year extended warranty was purchased, you really only get one year in this case since the manufacturer gave a one year warranty.

  • baasbaas1

    83 – so what ! She obviously has it all together. Who is responsible……both, but it is up to WALMART to work the problem with Element. Walmart should honor their agreement with the customer.

  • emanon256

    This is why I never buy these random unknown cheap brands. There is a reason the 46″ Element TV is $379 and the 46″ Samsung is $800. I bought my Samsung back in 2008 and it still works, all my friends who bought Westinghouse, Vizio, etc. have replaced their TVs several times while mine still works like new. In the end, I spent less than them. A friend of mine who used to be a manager at Best Buy told me, “Higher price, or buy it twice.” and he was right. The cheap always comes out more expensive. He also told me to never, ever, buy an extended warranty. He said that they will find any and every way possible to not honor it, and that is pure profit for the store.

    In the OPs case, I voted that Element was responsible. They were the ones who wanted $300 to ship the TV back, and would only ship a new one after she ships it back, then changed their mind on it being broken. That is horrible. Every time I have had something break under warranty, they company has sent me a new one with a pre-paid shipping label to send the old one back. I have never been out a dime, and have always gotten a new product before having to return the broken one. Element is horrible!

    Also, the few extended warranties I have read, have all said they take affect after the manufacturers warranty expires. Since this was during the manufacturer warranty period, I don’t know how Wall Mart could be responsible, but apparently the majority disagrees with me. I also can’t believe I am defending Wall Mart because I despise them. But that’s a different story altogether.

  • emanon256

    I wonder who is giving you the down votes for such an informative post.

    I have not read the latest Wall Mart extended warranty plan, but all of the extended warranties I have read have specified they take affect after the manufacturers warranty expires. So a 3 year extended warranty is actually a 2 year warranty that takes effect after the 1 year warranty expires. Also, many of them are administered by third parties.

    Just found this on Wall Marts website in the fine print on the TV Extended Warranty:

    The term of this Plan coverage begins immediately following the expiration of the manufacturer’s labor warranty

    So sadly, she should have to deal with Element until their warranty expires under the terms of the wall mart Warranty.

  • emanon256

    You are 100% correct. The Wall Mart TV Warranty fine print states:

    The term of this Plan coverage begins immediately following the expiration of the manufacturer’s labor warranty

  • Daddydo

    As my wife has a Pretzel Store in Wally World, I see people return items all of the time. They come in with products from other stores, lawn mowers beat to death, and every time, they walk away with a store credit or refund. With the TV under 3 months old, I would have exchanged it at the store first. I did some research on element and found that it has some really low ratings.

  • TonyA_says

    I went to walmart online and for element tvs they sell a protection plan not an extended warranty plan. The difference is the protection plan starts immediately whereas the extended warranty plan starts when the original manufacturer’s warranty ends.
    I also saw that the protection plans were much cheaper than the $65 the ole lady paid. Something not quite right here. I agree with EdB’s post that she should not have needed a consumer advocate to get a 3 month old $300 or so TV with $65 protection plan fixed by Walmart.
    As for Element and Hisense, shame on them.
    Emanon, if I wanted plus votes, I would get more pets.
    Our 2 cats always give me plus meows when I bring out the salmon.:-)

  • emanon256

    Oh, the one I looked at was $65, and it is actually called a 2 year service plan, it implies it goes into effect immediately, but the terms and conditions say otherwise: http://i.walmart.com/i/rb/4045.pdf

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My guess is it’s the reference to the “ole lady”. Since Tony has an 85 y.o. very sick mother, I think he’s got a pretty good insight into how that age group thinks. My mother is the same age as the OP’s mother, and I know that my mother would have demanded that Wal-Mart take care of the problem,if she’d bought the tv there. Then she would brought me in to take care of the problem when that didn’t work.

    But my mother does object to being called “old”, even though I point out to her that if she’s “middle-aged”, surely she doesn’t expect to live to age 166! But she also can’t figure out how to register under Disqus, so she can’t down vote anyone. :)

  • Deborah Orth

    Element is the manufacturer of the T.V. not Wal-Mart. The extended warranty sold by Wal-Mart means that they have an even greater responsibility to help out their customer both should stand behind the product

  • DavidYoung2

    Well, we have a Sony Bravia XBR go bad after 38 months. We paid over $3,000 for it back in 2009 and Sony basically told us to ‘go pound sand.’ We had to take it to Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get Sony to respond. And even then they gave us a $700 discount on a new Sony TV (they called it a $1,600 discount from Sony’s on-line store price, but it was really $700.00 less than the Amazon price.)

    But in general I agree with you – buy the best you can afford, and never buy Chinese if you can avoid it.

  • TonyA_says

    That is weird since I got a different plan offered to me.

    I placed a Element 46″ Class LCD 1080p 60Hz HDTV, ELDFW464 on my cart for [Online] $379.00.

    Before checkout I could buy a Service Plan:
    Add 3 years – $49
    Add 4 years – $59

    The terms are in: http://wmt.protection-plans.com/content/wmt/en/TV-Service/Index?contentType=terms

    Term of Coverage: The term of your
    Plan begins on your date of purchase and continues for the period indicated on your sales receipt or your order confirmation email. Except for the enhanced coverages outlined above, which begin on your date of purchase, all other coverage becomes effective immediately following the expiration of the manufacturer’s warranty and remains in effect throughout the end of your term, unless cancelled or fulfilled pursuant to the provisions below. In the event your product is being serviced by an authorized service center when the Plan expires, the term of the Planwill be extended until the covered repair has been completed.

    So the question is what are the enhanced coverages?

    The website says:

    This Plan includes the following enhanced coverage and services:

    All Plans:

    Repairs necessary for the product to meet the manufacturer’s written specifications.

    Two (2) annual cleanings and adjustments for DVD Players and VCRs after expiration of the manufacturer’s labor warranty.

    Repair or replacement of accessories included in the box by the manufacturer necessary for the product to meet the manufacturer’s written specifications: e.g., remote controls, additional lenses (cameras), 3-D glasses (for 3D TVs and / or 3D Blu-ray players), game controllers.

    Surge protection from date of purchase.

  • y_p_w

    They may not even be the manufacturer. Sounds almost like a marketing company. They probably have their brand and contract with companies to manufacture. This is quite common. A lot if companies buy cheap and consider the cost of warranty replacement as a cost of doing business.

    Sort of how Kenmore is only a brand whose products are made by dozens of companies.

  • TonyA_says

    Something not talked about here is the logistics.
    While most 80 year olds can go shopping for TVs at Walmart, I really doubt they can ship a big screen TV back to the manufacturer (hopefully not China) just to get it fixed.
    Plus forking 300 bucks in shipping cost for a TV worth $300 brand new???
    That logic would not pass even with my (sick) mother.
    The TV goes back to Walmart.

  • TonyA_says

    Proof that you are correct – “never buy Chinese if you can avoid it”.
    Just goggle China Infant Milk.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Personally, I was wondering just how a person who can’t see the lines on the tv due to age was able to get a flatscreen tv into the cart, out to the car, in to the house, out of the box and set it up. My mother sure can’t. My husband and I had to do that for her for her last 2 tvs (one at her house, one in her room at mine). I was also imagining her strapping it to her rolling walker and back in the door at Walmart. :)

    But I figured my mental picture of all of this had no bearing on the presentation and resolution of the matter, so I kept that rather funny picture to myself. As a fellow caregiver, it’s my gift to you today. Enjoy.

  • TonyA_says

    Must have some help from the daughter (the OP).
    Talking about care giving, my mom has an older and handicapped sister that she is taking care of :-)

    Thanks for the kind words, Jeanne.

  • TonyA_says

    duplicate

  • Jason Hanna

    Both are responsible, and it seems that neither particularly tried to duck responsibility.. However, the $300 ‘charge’ I’m betting is a misunderstanding. It’s fairly standard, even under warranty, that for an ‘advance exchange’ repair, that either a CC number is required, that will not be charged so long as the old unit is returned in a timely manner, or a $300 ‘hold’ is placed on the card, which is removed once the old unit is returned. Commonly, the option is also given that you can send the old unit back, and they’ll send a replacement once they receive the old unit, and there is no charge for that. If they just shipped out replacement TVs.. How would they guarantee that they get the broken one back without the CC hold?

    When my Phillips TV went out under warranty, I was given the above options (Don’t think it was $300, but..) along with a third option of taking it to a local repair center. Since I don’t like getting something back that someone else had, even if it is ‘refurbished’.. I went with option 3.. I’ve worked on TVs before, and it’s not uncommon for those to be roach motels, so there’s no way I would buy or accept a TV that had been in someone else’s house. In theory, refurb would mean that was checked and cleaned, but.. Why poke the bear?

  • Jason Hanna

    I worked for Samsung for a while. Trust me, their TVs go bad, too. They had a LONG string of ‘silent recalls’ from 2007-2009 or so where capacitors on the power supply were the wrong voltage and would go out. ‘silent recall’ meaning that if you called and were out of warranty, they’d do a one time courtesy repair if the caps were the problem. But.. They’d use the same wrong voltage caps and it’d happen again in a few years. Look up their DLP TVs.. Not good. They did some things I didn’t agree with, which is part of the reason I no longer work there.. Were they blantantly and intentionally screwing people? No, but..

  • wageslave

    I think you are correct about Samsung having more than their fair share of problems and I choose to avoid them, but I don’t think any electronics company really goes out of their way to use high quality components for everything. Every company is going to put out the occasional bad model or a few lemons. In my own opinion I think Apple and Panasonic are companies that put out decent items on a consistent basis, but even they aren’t going to bat 1000.

  • Extra mail

    Agreed. That is why she bought an extended warranty – so that it is repaired or replaced, no hassles, in the time frame of the warranty. Even if she reported it was broken on the last day of the warranty she should receive the same service if it was broken on the first day of the warranty.

  • emanon256

    That’s sad to hear. I am glad mine is still working.

    My only complaint is that the S/PDIF output is down sampled to 2-channel PCM, why bother having an optical out at all if its not matching the input data stream? Now I have to switch inputs on my TV and receiver separately. Not that you can do anything about it, I’m just venting my first world problems.

  • emanon256

    As long as I can still buy Chinese food :)

    I really try to avoid “Made in China” baby products, and everything else for that matter. It surprises me how few things are made in the USA these days. I heard a story on NPR a while back about China and they compared the cost of making a polo shirt in the US to China. The cost of getting it to the store, include materials, labor, freight (or cargo), distribution, etc. came to $2 per shirt if made in China, and $30 per shirt if made and sourced in the USA. That is just insane!

  • TonyA_says

    You know Element makes [CORRECTION: assembles] TVs (46″ and larger) in Detroit. Read Story here (using paywall redirect):
    http://www.google.com/url?q=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303716204577384113745825098.html

    Yeah but about 99% of the parts are still made overseas :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Emanon, Walmart has changed its protection plan.
    I guess they heard you :-)
    It is now “enhanced”. Meaning, it will repair damages from day one.

  • Guest

    I worked at one place that had all the components made overseas and then shipped to the states. Then they literally put two parts together and put it back in the box it was shipped to them in and sent to the reseller. They did this so they could slap that made in USA label on it. Seems the made in labels don’t really mean much anymore.

  • emanon256

    I want to be happy, but if all the parts are still made overseas and they only assemble it, it doesn’t mean as much. My electrician always tells me to never buy any electrical components made in china, he said the material is so cheep and so faulty it will always fail.

  • emanon256

    I saw you post something about this earlier and when I went to look the whole posting had vanished. I think you said it was a lower cost offer as well. When I look I still get a $65 plan called the “Wall Mart Product Protection Plan” and it specifically states that it starts after the manufacturers warranty expires. I wonder if they offer different warranties in different localities?

    Okay, I just cleared my cookies in a different browser and got a different warranty for $40. This one says that it starts from day one, and that certain problems are covered from day one, and other problems are only covered after the manufacturers warranty expires. The ones that are covered from day one, are ones not covered by the manufacturers warranty like surges, moisture damage, accidental breakage, etc.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s the key phrase of the NEW plan –

    This Plan includes the following enhanced coverage and services:
    Repairs necessary for the product to meet the manufacturer’s written specifications.

    Term of Coverage: The term of your Plan begins on your date of purchase and continues for the period indicated on your sales receipt or your order confirmation email. Except for the enhanced coverages outlined above, which begin on your date of purchase, all other coverage becomes effective immediately following the expiration of the manufacturer’s warranty and remains in effect throughout the end of your term

  • Michael__K

    Well-known brands don’t always provide better warranty service.

    I paid top dollar for a Consumer Reports highly-rated Samsung refrigerator 3+ years ago. I got a lemon — the freezer didn’t freeze and the refrigerator was just a few degrees below room temperature. I had to fight with them (and the retailer) for over 3 months to get it fixed or replaced. Nothing happened until I contacted my State AG’s office. And I had to get a temporary fridge in the interim (no reimbursement for that).

    Granted, the replacement fridge has worked fine for the past 3 years.

  • emanon256

    I could totally see them arguing that the manufacturers written specifications don’t specify there will be no lines going up and down the middle of this screen, so they won’t cover it and refer them back to the manufacturer. I am really jaded by these warranties. I did buy one once a long time ago and no matter what it was never honored. I think it was also fulfilled by a third party warranty company. Ever sine my friend told me they are a waste of money, I steer clear. Its probably only sold by Wall Mart and fulfilled by some third party company and she would have to call the third party and not Wall Mart. Sorry that I am so negative today.

  • emanon256

    So funny!!! When I read this site now I am seeing the attached ad!! When I click it, it goes to WalMart!!!

  • Randy Busch

    For me this is a good example of you get what you pay for. Stick to the well known brand names. You may pay more but the quality is usually better.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Now I can’t figure out who would down vote this post. Apparently a huge Walmart fan or somebody who thinks 83-year-olds can’t have it all together?

  • TonyA_says
  • Thank you!

  • fshaff

    I think there ought to be a law about these so-called extended warranties. The example cited below from Walmart is a good example of what’s wrong. The manufacturer gives you 1-yr; Walmart (or any other store) almost pressures you into buying an extended warranty for 2-years, but hardly anyone (customers) know that they are really only getting a 1-yr warranty but paying for what they think is for 2-yrs “additional” coverage. This is a RIP-OFF and I believe the FTC should say something about this practice. Also, CR magazine almost always says that extended warranties are not worth buying, since most items will outlast the warranty by many years.

    Also, I believe the TV probably had lines on the screen out of the box. An 83YO most likely would not notice it due to poor eyesight, or maybe she thought that was they way it was supposed to look like. Remember the old CRT TV’s?