® Home | The ProSquad | Why Does It Cost So Much To Fix My TV?

Originally published in 2008. Updated for 2016

That question is usually asked when the owner of a consumer product is presented  with an
out-of-warranty estimate to repair a product. Variants on it are:

  1. I didn’t pay that much for it!
  2. I can buy a new one for that!
  3. You charge how much an hour?

Contrary to what some may tell you, a television set is one of the most complex  electronic products ever made. In times past (referred to as the good old days),  technicians would arrive with a number of parts caddys. A Zenith TV or an Admiral or an RCA used similar replaceable components. Tubes. A simple amplifier tube in one was the same tube in another. Since most of these parts were the same, the quality of the product was based on the quality of the manufacturing.

Virtually no major part or assembly is interchangeable with any product, brand or even between models in most cases. For the most part, stocking parts is ancient history.

Remember the old ad.... “The quality goes in before the name goes on”? With rare exceptions, and usually in the very high-end products, those days are gone. Why?  

Manufacturers today only want to manufacture. Most have no interest in service and customer support. They don’t care who sells or buys their  products, just as long as someone does buy them and they make a profit. Then they can create more products to manufacture. 

There are rare exceptions, generally the Japanese and European brands. There are NO American brands anymore.

Dealers are the sellers of those products. They don’t care what they sell, as long as they have something to sell and make a profit at it. Neither manufacturers nor dealers want to talk about a product becoming defective. Why should they? They only want to make the product and sell the product. If a dealer goes back to a manufacturer, that manufacturer does not want to talk about service or support; Just how many products are the dealers going to buy this year. Dealers want to see you in their store every day, with checkbook open. That’s what they are there for.

Big Box dealers actually make very, very little money on the products they sell you. That's why those that are still in business, push extended service contracts or ESP's on everything they sell. Most of the dealer's profits come from those contracts.

In warranty, if you come in with a service problem or defective product  - they will in most cases send you back to the manufacturer. Out of warranty, they send you to the ESP company if you purchased a contract. Again, there are exceptions and generally not the big-box stores but the specialty dealers and you will pay a justifiably higher price for the significant service and support they provide.

When a product is repaired under a manufacturer’s warranty, that cost is charged back to the factory that made the product. That’s an expense they do not want. When parts are needed, they have to divert from manufacturing a percentage for service. That’s an expense they don’t want. They have to provide service literature (schematics), training on that product, a service administration department in their host country - all of which is an expense they don’t want. All of this (in varying degrees of competence) is provided by each manufacturer to independent service companies to service their product.

Add those unwanted costs to the manufacturing and selling of a product drives up the cost of each. The consuming public wants a 50 inch flat screen but doesn’t want to pay $5000 for it. The pressure to produce and sell forces the manufacturers to build products cheaper to maintain their production and earnings. Since about 1992,  manufacturers have been deliberately trying to make products cheap enough to be a commodity. They want them cheap enough so you will not call them but throw it away and buy a new one. Quality is low and the product tends to fail more often. The more you pay for the product, the higher the product’s quality and the better the service. Why? You paid more for the product and the profits are large enough to sustain quality and provide (and pay for) good service.

Since the manufacturers don’t want to pay for service, they impose all sorts of gotcha’s so they can deny paying for your repair. The biggest is the proof-of-purchase. It is required that the tech either see it or actually send them a copy. When the tech asked you for yours - what’s your usual reply?

Are you polite about it? Or do you ask "what do you need that for?" or perhaps, "I don't have time to look for it." Don’t you want your service tech to get paid for fixing the TV that they neither manufactured or sold to you? Without your POP, you just helped the manufacturer deny payment for labor AND THE PARTS. In every state, YOU are responsible for paying that denied warranty bill. Why won't you see a bill if that happens? Because the manufacturer will cancel the service company for billing you and embarassing them. The service company ends up absorbing that cost, unless he want's to get rid of that brand anyhow.

The labor cost to repair a $500 TV is the same hourly cost to work on a $5000 TV. They want you to throw away the $500 TV and buy a new one. The cost of purchasing parts, sitting on the phone waiting for technical assistance, new-defective parts (which have to be sent back and reordered) and training all drive up the cost of every repair that is borne by the service provider.
That is IF the manufacturer has parts available, training, service literature or technical assistance.

When you add the cost of going to your house - costs skyrocket. Service companies pay the same for gas as you do. Pretend your vehicle is on the road 5 or 6 hours each day or; A tech goes to your home for a scheduled call - but you forgot an appointment and didn’t call the tech to reschedule. You become a no-show. That adds to the cost of a repair. The tech changes a part and that leads the tech to another defective part. More often now, the first part that was ordered was defective new out of the box. Either way, that’s a second trip. Who pays for that?

Insurance - for the service companies property as well as yours. Insurance for the vehicle that runs service calls. Health insurance for the service companies employees (maybe). 
Don't forget livable wages for the employees. 

Remember -  that trip charge, estimate fee or hourly repair rate is not what the tech or the owner make. It’s what it takes to ring your doorbell and/or repair your product.

Manufacturers state that their independent service providers are factory “trained” or factory  “authorized” implying that they are a notch above other service companies. That is not true. It simply means that a service company signed a contract for a fixed (reduced) price. And many try hard to avoid paying even that reduced rate.

I am not even touching on the long delays for parts and their sky-high cost that jacks up the repair. That's for another Grump Report.

When there is a delay in service, who should you trust? The people who made it and sold it or the people who make a living servicing it? Whose advantage is it to delay service? 
Service providers do not make any money if they don't repair your product.

Why does it cost so much to fix your product? Don't blame service providers.

They didn’t make it. They didn’t sell it. They didn’t  buy it.