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.
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.