{mosimage}Have you noticed on the Web sites of the big-box retailers there is a link entitled “What’s In The Box?” One click and you get a list of all the items you will get in the box when delivered or purchased at the store. The question is “What’s Not In The Box?” The answer is simple — service.
    After you have selected your item and proceeded to the “checkout,” you then get the service option, at a cost in addition to the purchase price of the item and “What’s In The Box?” A recent check on the Web sites of four different electronics retailers (all in Fayetteville) had service plans for the same item but a different cost on each site. The range was from $22 a year to $50 a year. Some have in-store service departments and others in which you have to call a toll-free number and then it’s “Pay attention as our menu options have changed recently….”
    I recently went to one of these retailers to purchase an item that was in a box about 3’ x 3’ in size, and weighed about 25 lb.. At the checkout counter the clerk asked if I wanted the service plan. As I deliberated, she mentioned “If you don’t buy it, then you will have to return the item to the manufacturer for service.”
Notice the “you will have to return” part. Better save the box, just in case.
    On another occasion, a TV that I purchased came with a relatively inexpensive service plan (less than those above). When it stopped working properly, I called the toll-free number on the service plan agreement (I actually found it!) and I was told it would be repaired locally at a company I did not know. After two weeks I called to check on the status only to find out, after several attempts, that the repair company had lost their contract with the retailer because of, you guessed, it, poor service.
    Before the advent of the big-box folks, you bought your electronics and appliances from a local merchant who in most cases had grown up in the area, knew you, and if it broke, you took it to them or a repair facility with the same type of ownership and local connections. They either came to your house or made it right in the store, and didn’t extract from you a multi-year service plan for that SERVICE. They knew how to keep customers. When you called, they answered the phone, you were not put on hold, and they called you by name. Some of these folks are still in business and still give that same service because THEY come in the box. When your product doesn’t work, you give them a call and usually within 24 hours someone you know is at your door.
    Granted that the smaller retailers now have a service charge to come to your house, but you don’t pay it until you need it. With the big-box folks, you pay it regardless, and whether it’s on the phone or at the counter, how may times does the first person you talk to know how to resolve your problem? It’s always “You will need to speak to my supervisor. ... He/she will be back in a few minutes.”
    The key is what comes in the box — toll-free numbers and long lines or someone you know.

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