The Pain and Joy of Purchasing an HDTV (or Moving On Up)


During my lunch break on that day I went up to Wal-Mart to purchase the TV, along with a friend. We found the display model and then one of the Wal-Mart employees hauled one out from the back of the store. Well, it turned out to not be the exact same model but it was the same price. The main difference was this Polaroid had a built-in DVD player and a few other enhancements over the other model. At this point I felt very fortunate. It had several features such as a VGA input and I figured the DVD player would upscale movies better than my X-Box could do.

Oh, was I in for a surprise…

It worked great when I came home after work and set everything up. Using the HDTV LCD as an external display for a MacBook was amazing and the Nintendo Wii (I already had component cables) looked much better than it did on my old 27″ CRT (which wasn’t HD). I toyed with every feature of the system that night and went to bed happy with my purchase.

In the morning I awoke and went into the living room to turn on the news, which I usually do when I prepare to go to work. Several times I pressed the power button on the remote but the TV did not turn on. I checked the remote and its batteries but everything seemed fine. Then I noticed one of the LEDs would light up, but not the normal color when it turned on the night before (it may have been blue, I don’t remember, but it was only red then).

At this point I had a very strong sinking feeling. I tried unplugging the power and then plugging it back in. I tried leaving it unplugged for a while. I even tried disconnecting various inputs to no avail. Finally, I had to give up and get to work before I was late.

It was on my mind much of the day and finally I decided to head back home that morning and see if leaving it unplugged had helped. It did not. I checked a fuse in the television and it looked good. To make matters worse I had left a Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 DVD in the DVD player, which did not respond when I attempted to turn on the TV nor did it have a manual eject mechanism. Disheartened, I packaged up the television and lugged it back to Wal-Mart.

The folks at Wal-Mart did not give me any problem with returning it. I explained that it simply would not turn on. I also mentioned the fact that it “ate” one of my DVDs, though at the time nobody seemed interested in resolving that problem (but keep reading – there’s a happy ending to that issue as well). I was asked if I wanted to exchange the TV for another of the same type or get my money back.

Earlier the same day I had read reviews for the same model Polaroid television and just reading them made me feel ill. Many people complained of the same problem though for some it happened well outside the TVs warranty. A couple even mentioned the hundreds of dollars spent to repair the television. One person paid almost the amount of the television just to have it repaired.

I told them I just wanted my money back.

But getting a credit meant I couldn’t turn around and buy another television that day. This worked in their favor because if I had received my credit instantly I probably would have gone shopping somewhere else. At the time I was still ticked off that they didn’t seem to care about my lost DVD.

I still find it somewhat amusing that such large corporations can take money out of my account instantly but need several days to return it…

Unhappy about the DVD situation I went to the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters Web site and submitted some feedback. It was strongly worded but not profane. I cooled off and looked around on the Web some more for another good deal.

In the end I decided a Panasonic LCD HDTV at the local Wal-Mart was actually a good deal. I wasn’t thrilled about going back to Wal-Mart after my last experience, but I also wasn’t thrilled of the possibility of buying a TV from a retailer outside of town only to find myself having to make the trip again because of another dead TV. Mind you, that wasn’t the only factor.

So, I bought the TV. As it turns out, I’ve been very happy with it and the picture quality actually appears much better than the previous TV. The price was higher but  it has a higher contrast ratio and the perfect set of inputs for my current devices.

About a week after I had submitted my complaint to Wal-Mart headquarters I received a phone call on a Saturday. It was from an assistant manager at the local Wal-Mart. He had received my message and apologized for the incident. Not only did he apologize but he checked to see if the TV was still in the store so he could retrieve my DVD.

It wasn’t.

It had already been shipped out. Next, he told me he wall call me back and let me know if he could find a copy the Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 DVD set  in the store.

It wasn’t.

He apologize once again and I explained that I was just glad that someone had made an attempt.

A little while later he called me back. He found the same set on the store and was left a $40 gift card at the customer service desk, which I could pick up at my convenience. I went up to the store and sure enough the card was waiting for me. I thanked the assistant manager. When I came home I immediately sat down and ordered a replacement copy. After shipping and tax it cost thirty-nine dollars and some change.

At this point I felt obligated to submit positive feedback to the same Wal-Mart headquarters Web site as I had originally complained at, which I did. It’s unfortunate that Wal-Mart had to replace the entire DVD set, but on the other hand it was also unfortunate that I had lost one DVD in a collection that could only be purchased as a set.

And in the end I bought a nicer TV from Wal-Mart and it ended up with an additional profit from the second TV I bought (and still enjoy).

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