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Warranty firm comes clean on washer claim

Q: In July 2004, I bought an electric pressure washer from California-based Harbor Freight Tools, along with an extended warranty. The washer cost $119.99 and the warranty was $19.99. In June 2005, the washer failed.

I called Harbor Freight and after two weeks of phone calls to various individuals and warranty companies, my claim was referred to Vac Service Corp. of Middletown.

Since the unit was too big to ship, they asked that I cut the electrical cord and ship it to them via UPS. After receiving the cord, Vac Service offered me $109.99 for the washer. I reminded them that I had bought a warranty to cover complete replacement. They then agreed to reimburse me the $119.99 that it cost.

Despite several phone calls to inquire about the check's whereabouts, my claim has still not been completed. I last called Vac Service last month, but have not received anything.

I don't know if I'm stuck for the $119.99.

-- Eugene S. Pasciak, North Tonawanda.

A: Your dilemma certainly emphasizes the larger issue of consumers needing to know what they're getting when they buy extended warranties on products. While warranties can be a good thing, they can also turn into headaches when coverage terms are not understood by all parties.

It's important to be very clear on just what the warranty provides and demand paperwork that backs up the terms of the coverage so that you're not throwing your money away.

Hopefully in this case, the warranty coverage does come through for you. But it's not reassuring to learn that the warranty purchase were handled over the telephone, which leaves you any clear terms to check.

When problems arose with your pressure washer, Harbor Freight eventually referred you to Vac Service Corp., which administers warranty and extended warranty programs for a variety of products.

When we contacted Vac Service on March 1, a representative promised that she would forward your claim to the company's accounting department that day.

"His check will be issued and Mr. Pasciak should receive it within the next 10 business days," said Cheryl Johnson, executive assistant to the company's new president. Johnson said that she should be contacted if a problem arises.

If nothing materializes this week, we will continue to follow this through for you.

Johnson did not apologize for the delays, nor offer a specific explanation as to where your reimbursement has been all this time.

"What the service center representatives say is one thing. He (Pasciak) never would have spoken with accounting directly," Johnson said. "We had some internal issues and were going through company transactions, and were changing insurance companies, which was a major struggle."

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