Lileks: Winning the extended-warranty game

James Lileks, Star Tribune
·4 min read

The Amazon reviews were almost unanimous: One star. Total junk. Don't buy.

Naturally, I clicked "Add to my cart." And then I clicked the one button I've never clicked.

Let me back up a mile and explain.

There's a quiz going around the internet that asks "How Much of a Dad Are You?" Simple test, really. Have you said any of these things? When a friend enters the restaurant: "Looks like they let anyone in here." When the check arrives: "Well, what's the damage?"

In other words, the pat phrases that lose their charm after endless repetition over the years, which is why dads say them. You have to get the kids to the point where they pre-wince when the potential for a Dad Line presents itself.

I scored poorly on the test. With Daughter away at school, there is no opportunity to say things like "Looks like they let anyone in here" a lot. (Side note: I do not recommend using that line when college acceptance letters arrive.)

But there was one line that hit me right where I live: "That's how they get you."

It had to do with extended warranties, which all dads know are a scam because, well, that's how they get you.

I don't like this they-vs.-me attitude, though. Believing some great cackling malevolent force is out to get you is not a healthy way to go through life. "Half of the potato chip bags are full of air! That's how they get you." Well, no, the air cushions the chips from breakage.

"Oh," you respond, "I see someone's bought all the propaganda from Big Chip. I suppose you think fluoride's for your teeth and COVID vaccines aren't implanting microchips in your blood so Bill Gates can control your mind? Air in the bag, needle in the arm — that's how they get you."

I don't think the salesperson at the electronics store is out to get me when he floats the extended warranty option. He's doing his job, mandated from on high, and his job is to present a situation where I agree, of my own free will, that they will, or will not, get me.

It's when the guy tilts his head and gets an expression that says, "OK, it's your funeral" that I get a tad annoyed. There are some salesmen who would sell you an extended warranty on your own funeral. "I'm not saying this casket will dissolve after a year, but if it does, you're covered."

If the casket collapses, and I'm in it, yes, I will be covered.

Anyway, back to Amazon. The product was the bag for a leaf blower. Yes, I own one. It is a perfect demonstration of human nature. If someone else is using a leaf blower, you want the devices banned by international convention. But if you're using the leaf blower, you think, "This is quite preferable to raking. Thank you, inventor of leaf blowers."

The bag got a leak, which made both blowing and inhaling unworkable. I patched it with duct tape, but that was a temporary fix. I needed a new bag.

Disclosure: I had not thought about the hole in the blower bag at all, but when my wife brought up cleaning the grit from the sidewalks, she noted that the lawn-vac bag had a hole, and I should replace it. This was so wifely, I was in awe. Utter honest admission: I had not thought of the hole in the bag since I put it in the shed, whereupon my brain instantly forgot its entire existence.

I feel smart for remembering our anniversary, and she remembers in March a hole in a bag in a tool she never uses and how it will affect the lawn situation going forward.

The only possible response I have to that: "Do you remember when you forgot to turn out the garage light in 2013?"

Note to fellow men-type persons: This did not have an appreciable effect.

The one-star Amazon bag reviews all said the same thing: The company had responded to complaints about the defective zipper by reconfiguring the design and adding a new, hideous zipper in a more convenient place. All the one-star reviews said it broke within two months, and they'd returned it for a replacement.

When I placed my order, I was offered the chance for a three-year service contract for $3. I always ignore such things, but this time a thought came to mind: If the bag failed every eight weeks, not only could I get constant replacements of a shoddy product for virtually nothing, I would cover the cost of the bag. And I would have an excuse for not using the blower, because the replacement hadn't arrived. So, of course I chose the service contract.

As we dads say: That's how we get them.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks