How To Get Repairs Without A Warranty

Nothing sucks more than having a gadget break down and finding out it will cost hundreds of dollars to fix. Don't have the cash to spend on a repair? Here are some tricks for fixing it even if you're fairly sure the warranty doesn't apply.

Title image remixed from sirikul and DinoZ (Shutterstock).

Sometimes, your gadget breaks and you haven't done anything wrong. Maybe a button breaks, or it just doesn't start up one day. Other times, perhaps you've been tinkering it in ways you aren't supposed to.

You may be kicking yourself for not buying the extended, feature-filled warranty, but remember: those are rarely worth it. Instead, try these tactics before you cave and pay hundreds of dollars for a repair -- you might be able to weasel your way into a replacement anyway.

Understand Your Rights

Before diving into these tactics, it's worth reminding everyone that under Australian law, you have specific warranty rights which are quite independent on any additional options a retailer chooses to offer, or tries to sell you for an extra fee. We've made this point many times before, but it's worth reiterating.

The ACCC (which enforces consumer rights in Australia) doesn't set specific periods under which individual goods must be covered, instead concentrating on what might be a reasonable expectation. For consumers, this can be both a blessing and a curse. While it would be nice to be able to say "you must repair my phone/TV/whatever within a three-year period", that also provides a fixed cut-off point. If you're prepared to stand up for your rights, chances are you'll get a better outcome. Don't be fobbed off with Apple-style claims that you must have purchased an extended warranty to get any form of repair; that simply isn't true.

Before Your Warranty Expires: Get a Preemptive Repair

If a specified warranty is about to expire but hasn't yet, now's a good time to make sure everything's up to scratch on your device. Remember, with many devices -- including phones, iPods, and sometimes even laptops -- companies will send you an entire replacement instead of just fixing the part in question. This means you'll have a new or refurbished device that's less likely to break soon. Even if the problem seems small, take it in now so you can avoid future problems.

If You've Broken Something: Play Dumb

One of the simplest things to do, particularly when you know you've broken the device, is to just play dumb. Call customer support and pretend you know absolutely nothing about technology, and the darn thing just stopped working on you and you have no idea why. The more clueless you seem, the more likely they are to believe that the device is actually defective. This forum post explains the idea well: if you call Xbox support saying you have a Red Ring of Death, they know you're knowledgeable and have probably researched the problem, possibly even causing it yourself. If you call and just say that your Xbox won't turn on, and that the screen says something along the lines of "System Failure", you'll potentially have more success. Some companies even have leniency built into their warranty service.

It's amazing how well this trick works. I've seen people get replacements for phones they've bricked, and even knew someone who broke his laptop's CD drive after cleaning his CD with peanut butter and toothpaste (without cleaning it off well enough, apparently). Act stupid enough and customer service will usually bend over backwards to help you. Photo by Lisa F. Young (Shutterstock).

If the Damage Is Minor Or Cosmetic: See If It's A Widespread Issue

If your device is damaged somehow -- maybe the casing is cracked, or a tiny bit of water dripped into the headphone jack -- you should do a bit of Googling and see if the problem is widespread. Apple's old white MacBooks, for example, were notorious for the white plastic cracking around the edges, and while it isn't widely known, Apple fixed this problem regardless of warranty status. Similarly, many iOS devices had problems with moisture sensors being tripped even when users didn't do anything wrong. If you can show you didn't submerge your device -- whether it's actually true or not -- you might be able to get a repair. Photo by Henrik Moltke.

If At First You Don't Succeed: Try, Try Again

Sometimes, it's all about the particular customer service rep you get. If you go into the store and they won't repair your device, try going again in a few days later. If you try a few times, you might find someone who's a bit more generous and will try to get a repair approved for you. It isn't foolproof (if you call in, they're more likely to have a record of your request), but it can be handy if you get shot down the first time.

If No One's Listening: Whine In Public

This won't work if you're clearly in the wrong, but if you're getting the run-around from a company, going public with the issue can help a lot. Blogger Matthew McMillon relays his experience on Gizmodo: After fighting with Apple over a MacBook repair, he blogged about it and Apple ended up fixing his computer. Twitter is a fantastic venue too, particularly if the company has a Twitter presence. Many companies have customer support available on Twitter, and they're often very willing to help -- particularly if you've got a bevy of followers ready to hear your story.

When All Else Fails: Tell The Truth

When you've got nothing left to lose, the truth can help. Weblog iMore explains that sometimes, honestly really is the best policy:

[I told them my iPad] was bricked because of something that I did, and just hoped they could reset it. They gave me no guarantees, but promised to try, and try, they did. After about an hour, they told me that it was as good as fried. I thanked them and did my best to hold it together.

The rep was not done talking. She said they would consider it a warranty repair, and simply gave me a brand new, 32GB 3G iPad. I was shocked. I told her I couldn't accept it, as they owed me nothing. It was not a warranty issue and I didn't want anyone to get in trouble over my mistake. She told me that Apple was more interested in making me happy. She also told me not to ever do that again.

Buying from a company with a reputation for customer service is always a good way to ensure goodies like this in the future, but it's worth a shot no matter who you're talking to. Sometimes, they'll just appreciate the honesty and help you out in order to keep you as a customer.

None of this is guaranteed, but they're all good things to try if you're sitting on a broken device and don't want to give up hope just yet. Just remember: be nice, play dumb, and don't let 'em see you sweat. And if you don't have any luck, there are other ways you can get by with a broken device.

Lifehacker's Evil Week is all about topics such as password cracking, social hacking and other 'questionable' tricks. Knowledge is power, and whether you use that power for good or evil is in your hands.


Comments

    If you've broken something: Play dumb can also turn and bite you.

    If it's a user caused fault, and the tech has to spend 1/2hr to hr to diagnose it, then don't be surprised if you then get charged for that extra time. If you are up-front and tell us straight up, you can save lots of tech time, and then won't get charged for it.

    Be really sure it can't be traced to 'user caused' before trying this trick. When coffee is found pooled in the bottom of your laptop, we know it didn't "Just stopped working".

    "If You’ve Broken Something: Play Dumb"

    Awww man I used to fix phones and this sort of thing at worst is bloody frustrating, and at most is amusing in how ridiculously obvious it is.

    When we'd get phones in with super vague fault reports, usually it'd result in us doing some tests (we didn't have much time per phone to figure out the fault ourselves, considering it could be one of a huge amount of things) and then booking the phone out with very little done with a report saying we couldn't find a fault. It doesn't really seem that helpful and you annoy the people trying to fix your shiz.

    As for the obvious ones, these would often be things like "oh, I had the phone on charge at night and when I woke up the screen was all smashed! It must have been some kind of power spike!" Yep. People would give all sorts of weird excuses to try and pan off physical damage as some kind of magical product fault. We weren't fooled, but we did have a laugh before sending them a quote.

      This was quite a few years back now though, when the original iPhone was just releasing, so policies could well be different now and you might have better luck being a cheeky bastard :P

        My ex's uncle had an iPod Touch that had been given to him as a gift by his workplace.

        For some reason, it was defective. It would NOT boot up, and even being a well-experienced jailbreaker, even *I* couldn't fix it.

        After reporting back to him that I couldn't fix it, he told me "No worries, just chuck it out", being the rich bastard he was!

        So I decided, well if he's not willing to take it any further, I will! (I always like to make sure 500% that something is irreparable before throwing it out).

        I took it in to the Apple store, and they looked up the serial number - it was out of warranty.
        They asked me when I had purchased it, and I said I was unsure, nor did I have the receipt, as it was a Christmas present from the following year, and unfortunately the grandparents who'd purchased it for me had passed away.

        They replaced it on the spot.

        I know it was a little immoral of me to tell them a load of shit, and use sympathy as a means of getting what I wanted, but that iPod WAS defective, the other guy was just too lazy to take it to the store during the warranty period. And it's not like one iPod touch replacement will hurt them, they're only going to take the other one, fix it and sell it again anyway!

          I've done my fair share of warranty replacing. I usually tell the truth and ask nicely. Except for the time I dropped my hard drive on my foot. Then I told them it 'just stopped working dang it!'.

          But I really think lying, especially talking about grandparents etc, is wrong. And it accrues heaps bad karma.

            Except karma isn't real. The universe does not care about nice and not nice and does not try to equalise these things.

              I dunno. I study people. I did a psych degree and spent a few years as a security guard, and then a personal trainer. I've noticed that nasty people tend to get mixed up in nasty situations. It's their energy. They give out negativity and they get it back.

              You give out positivity, and you get it back. Sure it's not 100% reliable, but I think broadly speaking it's true.

              It's just what I believe and how I try to live.

      kindles (the e-ink kind) did have a problem with screens that would spontaneously break. I haven't heard of it happening much in the last generation or two, but it was an issue for a while there.

      +1

      I fix tech devices for a living, and super vague reports "It doesn't work" without stating what is actually wrong, annoys me. Then when I don't find a fault, or find a different fault that I assume is the issue, I send it back, and it comes back again 1-2 weeks later "Just got fixed. Still doesn't work" Yet if they mention what the actual fault is, and if it only happens when doing certain things mention what those things are.

      i dont know about most folks who work in an electronics repair type job, but i have and when people who come in and play dumb about breaking shit that was their own fault, it is pretty much always obvious, and it makes me a hell of a lot less interested in going the extra mile to help them.

      if someone comes in and is honest, and asks without expectation, then i don't mind helping them. whatever happened to honesty in this world? people don't always have to try and be deceitful to get a favourable resolution.

      this article is really not good advice for the wider community, there are comments already here about sending non faulty items in and getting charged for repair which i agree with as well.

    Regardging the Pre-Emptive repair, some companies will charge you a fee if you send off a device and they discover nothing wrong with it. If you mean pre-emptive as "send it off and have the company run diagnostics on the device" like with a laptop, for example.

    If there actually is something wrong with the device, then what is pre-emeptive about it? You're simply taking advantage of the warranty before it runs out.

    I will always appreciate the Business Law unit I had to cover as part of my IT degree which covered the Trade Practices Act. Here are some tips I use to get problems resolved.

    1. Honesty is the best policy. I know this contavenes one of the articles tips, but I figure if it's my fault, then I cop it sweet. But if it is someone elses fault then don't back down. The store will almost always try to make it look like someone elses fault. This makes it easy when explaining a situation as you can easily get tripped up with inconsistencies when exagerating or flat-out lying.
    2. Keep receipts always. Make photocopies as the crappy thermal recipts will quickly fade. Highlight purchase dates.
    3. Always be polite and stay calm. No need for insults or name calling (this can be a challenge trying to stay calm in some situations). Generally the person behind the counter is just enforcing the rules as instructed (to protect their job) and they rarely have the authority to override.
    4. Ask to speak to a supervisor or manager or someone who does have the authority to offer an exchange/refund.
    5. Give the store every opportunity to do the right thing. Some will, some won't.
    6. have the ACCC website saved as a bookmark in your phone browser so you can stick the relevent section in their face (only if it comes to that).
    7. Chinese water torture - my Father-in-law showed me how he always gets his way. He is very softly spoken and polite but is repetitious as all hell until you cave. Sometimes can be time consuming but if you are determined to stay the course you will win. You must never flinch or indicate you are prepared to back down.
    8. Talk loudly. You don't have to shout. Just talk louder than normal to attract attention. It helps apply pressure.
    9. Large companies are usually more sensitive to their image as they spend large amounts on advertising just to get people in the door. Put this in perspective to the store supervisor or manager. "Do you realise your company spends millions of dollars every year just to get customers in the door to consider your brand and yet you are prepared to damage that over $x?". This was how a friend of mine explained his attitude to refunds while working as a manager at Kmart. It explains how they accept a lot of the dodgy returns which he has plenty of stories about.

    Here's a recent example: My daughter treated me to an Imax movie experience for Fathers day. She paid $25 a ticket which is a lot to a Uni student. The movie froze for 10 minutes during the movies climactic battle sequence due to a "security issue" at hoyts cinema complex. So when it finally finished I asked for a refund on the basis that they advertise a premium cinema experience which this was not (we were actually the only ones to complain). The supervisor repeatedly told me it wasn't their fault as they were just following procedure. I said I understood that and did not blame him as an individual but I still had a sub-standard experience which I then gave a comparison to someone ordering a coffee from a cafe and the power fails. WOuld the customer be happy with a cold cup of coffee just because it was not the fault of the business? No, it would be reasonable to expect a refund. They eventually gave us a total refund.

    The very reason why the out-of-warranty non-whiners and whiners pay the same exorbitant price in OZ is due to ACCC protection schemes. And this article is adding fuel to fire.

      I'm glad the ACCC is there to hold corporates to account and give the consumer some support. Otherwise we would be held to ransom at their whim (which would almost always be in their favour). Corporates are all too willing to take our money but do not want to accept any responsibility. The ACCC brings a little balance to the table. To say that selling a device for a few thousand dollars and it is only guranteed to last 12 months is ridiculous and the ACCC is prepared to go to bat for that. I know that on average you get a lot more than that but if you luck out and score the lemon it shouldn't just be a case of "bad luck".

    I bought a set of logitech z-5500D speakers on auction for $150. In the auction it was clearly stated that there was damage, but they were functional and no warranty would apply.

    So when I got them, I was very happy to see that someone had only opened the box and removed the fuse. Apart from that, they were perfect.

    But after about a year, the light in the centre console died. They still worked, but now at night with the lights off, you couldn't see what the settings were.

    So I called logitech support. They said "No worries, we can fix that, you'll just have to scan your receipt for us". So I told them the truth. The exact truth. That I had no warranty.

    And in the mail next week I got a whole new centre console.

    Best customer service ever, and I'll never hesistate before buying a logitech product again. They really went above and beyond for me.

      logitech are a good example of a company that go above and beyond, especially when it is a very common problem in one of their products (backlight dieing on the control box)

      +1 Logitech support are fantastic. I get a lot of gear from their online store, and they're always happy to sort out your issue

    I have a dell laptop which is about 1 year out of warranty. Just before the warranty ended the fan bricked (i got it replaced) but its doing it again... is there anything i can do? Seeing as the fan is technically less then 1 year old

      A computer is a fairly big expense for some people, is it reasonable to expect it to last more than a year? Try getting it fixed again, if denied, try claiming ACCC stuff.

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