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December 31, 2008, Volume 16 Nr. 4, Issue 248
Henry and the Talking Picture Box or the World of Waste

Peter Shepherd

Henry is a friend of mine. We trade conversations when they seem important enough which is to say that we don’t talk about stuff everyday. We often talk about stings we are a part of, usually the victim. Some of these are fodder for other characters of our ilk but no less immune.

Henry’s most recent nagging sting is a new flat screen TV set his wife bought several holiday seasons ago for about $427 and about which he reported to me both in his own low key complaints and a number of phone conversations.

Event: One morning Henry turned this marvel flat screen TV on. It lingered for only a second or two and then went absolutely black and dumb.               

                                  Henry, to me on the phone

“I let it go. I had to go somewhere. But of course the whole family noticed it. This TV was set up in an alcove of the kitchen, a place we all had a tendency to hang out in. That was in the fall of the second year. I made a call and discovered it was no longer under warranty. My wife told my daughter Jean and Jean took it to a repair guy in Clarendon.., our nearest big city. The repair guy said he could repair it for $65. Under instructions Jean said OK.” 

“When it was ready the repair guy called and Jean picked it up and I put it on the wall again. Its home.”

“So…” I might have said to him.

“Well, we watched it for quite some time. You know how well people keep track of all the hours they watch on a TV and write it down in a special ‘Your TV Record’ notebook”

“Come on,” I must have said. .

“One day in the fall of last year, I turned the TV on as quite usual. It came on with its marvelously clear picture and good sound…I don’t know…the Tomorrow show or something. Well, the picture and sound lasted about 30 seconds and then the set had a heart attack again. Nothing I could do would make it tick. So I called the repair guy in Clarendon.”

                                     Lally and me on the phone

“Lally’s Repair,” the repair guy said. I told him who I was and reminded him of our past business. After some soul searching he came up with some recognition, although he seemed to have good visualization and sound recall about it.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I remember.”

“Well, it’s done it again,” I said. He didn’t seem too surprised. I shot a volley of questions at him: “Did this particular model have many problems. Was he seeing a lot of this model? What did he charge when his first fix didn’t work? And Just what was the charge for fixing it again.”

“Sixty-five dollars,” he said.

I think I may have said “What!?” but he repeated “Sixty-five dollars.”

“Did many of the other TVs have this problem?”

“Ummm, yeah,” said the repair guy. .

More questions followed by more answers: The problem is “static electricity” which knocks out the programming section stored in something like a mother board which was readily knocked out and the programming had to be reinstalled to make it work. Sixty-five dollars. Could he change the board out and put a new one in? No. Who could? If he reinstalled the programming, what were the chances that it would be a final fix. None. Aren’t there hundreds, even thousands of this same model LC TV that are on the market or have been sold? Yeah. Does he have many to repair? Not after the first repair. What could he do? Is there no warranty left on it? No. No. No.

                                 Henry conversing with the distributor

With some luck on his computer browser, he discovered a distributor in the next state. He called the distributor’s number. Yes they were the distributor. No warranty. Yes, common. Repair in Chittenden City in the northern part of Henry’s state in an approved shop. Henry called the approved shop. They were very nice. Henry explained. They said they would look at it and provide a repair estimate for $45.

                                 Henry talking with the accredited repair guy

Time passed and an old set replaced the LC TV in the kitchen nook. Henry was balking at the $45 inspection which he was sure would reveal everything he knew about the set, but he finally broke down when he found someone who was willing to make the drive, but because she had other errands of a medical nature which would take her within 25 miles or so of the accredited repair shop.

She did so and left it with instructions to call Henry when a closely estimated price for the repair was known. In a few days the call came and the very nice man on the other end said that the board had to be replaced. The cost would be $427, labor and board.

“Why wouldn’t I buy a newer model for $421?”

“You are really attached to this one?” the accredited repair guy said and asked in one breathe.

 “What’s the alternative?” Henry asked.

“We’ll junk it if you don’t picked it up in 30 days.

“And the repair would be $427?” Henry asked, hopeful for mark-down.

“Yup,” said the accredited repair guy.

“What if I said to you it might be a good thing to for us find people who couldn’t afford it yet wanted a TV for Christmas,” Henry said. “And you had one and could give it to them? You fix it at cost and I help you to pay for it. Labor free, in the spirit of the season.”

“It’s no use,” said the repair guy.

“Why?” Asked Henry

“We’ve got a basement full of these sets,” said the repair guy.

“You mean that the manufacturer knowingly sold many these sets to people? Knowing the sets were going to fail?”

“What do you think?” asked the accredited repair guy. “He fixed his next lots, put the proper board in guarded from static electricity, changed the model number, and is selling the new one with a 7 model number instead of the old 5.”

“I give up,” Henry reported he said to the accredited repair guy.

With difficulty Henry said he found the name of the CEO in Japan, but when he was emailed Henry received no response from the corporation or gentleman. He also wrote a detailed letter to the United States SEC; no response there either.

For all we or Henry know to this day there are hundreds of SHARP LC 20”, model 5, flat screen sets stacked in the basement of the accredited repair guy’s up there in Chittenden. And stacks of mail at the SEC wherever.

It’s 2009 and in the corporate world it’s still caveat emptor. Maybe more so.

 ©2008 Peter Shepherd

Peter Shepherd is a retired English teacher, sociological, and political observer recovering from nine or ten years of depression during the latter Clinton and complete Bush years. Here he reveals some of his inclination to write short stories, questionable poetry, film scenarios about justice of various kinds, and letters to his representative, senators and TV producers.  

The author requests comments on this article.  Click HERE to send.
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