When you check out a playground equipment company’s warranty, make sure you look beyond the headline.
Headlines are designed to catch your attention. Whether it is a newspaper, online post, or warranty, the headline copy is interesting and easy to understand, but the true meaning of the headline requires a bit more digging.
The real value of a warranty headline is typically determined by both the fine print as well as the philosophy of the company itself.
Here are some tips on figuring it all out.
First, the length of the warranty is not the most important thing.
It isn’t? It seems like it should be, doesn’t it? Not necessarily.
The first thing to note is that the headline warranty length typically only applies to certain components of the play system. Other components will have a shorter warranty period.
In addition, most warranties have an array of conditions and terms that must be met before the warranty claim will be approved.
And, finally, the fact that an item is covered under warranty does not mean that you will receive a replacement part at no charge. The length of the warranty does matter, but it needs to be supported by the terms and conditions of the warranty and how it is serviced.
Important Terms and Conditions
As a general rule, terms and conditions exist to protect the company, not the consumer. The more terms and conditions you see, the more wiggle room a company has to deny a claim.
The following are terms and conditions that you should look for when evaluating a warranty:
If a warranty is pro-rated, it means that the value of the warranty diminishes every year. For a 5-year pro-rated warranty, you would receive replacement parts at no cost in the first year, but you would pay 20% after one year, 40% after two years, 60% after three years, and 80% after four years. In reality, this is more like having a limited value 2-3 year warranty because no one wants to spend 60% or more of the cost of a replacement part.
Original Invoice or Sales Receipt
It is understandable that a company would want to confirm that you are the original owner. However, for sales from a dealer or for sales direct from the manufacturer, there is little reason for this condition since the dealer or manufacturer direct company should have its own record of the original owner. This condition can be used as a pretext for denying a claim.
Maintenance or Staining
Maintenance is a typical condition that is reasonably included in most warranties. However, it is important to determine what level of maintenance is required and whether staining is included as part of the required maintenance. If staining is a requirement, it is important to note the frequency required and to keep personal records of when and how the playset was re-stained. Failure to do so can void a warranty.
Shipping or Freight
Be very careful to understand which party is responsible for the cost of shipping replacement parts. Sometimes the term “freight prepaid” is used, which means the company will cover the costs, while “freight collect” means that the consumer is responsible. Because many swingset and playset components are very expensive to ship, these costs significantly impact the overall value of the warranty.
This is the hardest thing of all to determine, but it is probably the most important.
On one end of the spectrum, there are companies who view a warranty as a marketing tool to bring in customers but then use the terms and conditions of the warranty as a tool to limit claims costs. In essence, these companies over-promise with the warranty and under-deliver with their servicing of claims.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are companies whose goal is to satisfy their customers, so they avoid over-promising in their warranty, even at the risk of losing sales, in order to be able to over-deliver when servicing claims.
The best way to determine where a company falls on this spectrum is to first look at the warranty. Is it loaded with legal jargon and exceptions? Are there a significant number of requirements to comply with the terms of the warranty?
And once you have done that, a quick search of consumer reviews may provide insight as to how existing warranty claims have been treated.
In a Nutshell
For many churches, a playset is a major purchase, so it makes sense to check the warranty before you buy one. Most major manufacturers will have some kind of warranty, usually ranging from one year to “lifetime.”
Doing some online research can help you make sure your playset has a good warranty. Look for warranty information on the company’s website, and make sure to read the fine print, so you can see how straightforward it is. Then do a search for reviews of the company’s warranty to see other customers’ experiences of how the manufacturer actually services warranty claims.
This information is courtesy of CedarWorks, which designs and manufactures beautiful, environmentally responsible products for active play, www.cedarworks.com.