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Buying an Expensive Television – and Dealing with a Moral Dilemma

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A few weeks ago, our television started to fail on us. The bottom half of the screen went completely black. In doing a little research it seems that the Philips plasma television we have has a known issue where one of the video cards can get overheated an fail. The fix is to turn off the television for a few minutes and let it cool down. If you are watching a show on DVR, that's no big deal. In fact, a lot of shows can be watched quite well even if you just have the top half the screen. What isn't watchable though? Sports. You are getting literally only half the action.

It was time to look into fixing what we have or gettings something new. However, this presented a bit of a dilemma.

The Dilemma

When I bought the Philips, I purposely bought from Costco. Usually with big purchases, I do a lot of shopping around and comparing. That time, I didn't. At the time, Costco had one of the best return policies in the business. If the television broke the company would refund your money in full. It didn't matter when either. You don't get better peace of mind than that.

You can probably see where I'm going with this. I now have a failed television. It is a known defect. Though the television is four years old, I can bring it back to Costco and get a full refund. Plasma's were expensive back then, so it isn't exactly chump change. However, returning the television feels wrong. With that cash back, I could simply walk back in the store and buy a much, much better television set as the technology has advanced. Costco could send it back to Philips, fix the card, and then try to resell it, but refurbished it is probably only worth a $300-$400 or so in today's market.

On the other hand, I feel that when you spend more than $2500, you should get more than 4-5 years out of the television. My mother has a 40" tube television (Fisher brand, if they still exist) in her bedroom that we bought for around $750 in around 1985. It still works fine. She says the remote control has an issue with one of the buttons, but that is it. It would be crazy for me to expect all televisions to last for 25 years. There's got to be some middle ground between getting a year of television for $500-$600 (the Philips) and the $30 a year (the Fisher).

Furthermore, if I return the television how much am I taking advantage of Costco. They were the ones that had a lot of smart people decide on a return policy... and it was that return policy that got them the sale in the first place.

The Decision

I've decided that I will return my faulty television for a refund and buy a new one. It wasn't an easy decision. I will admit that the decision got a little easier when I looked at a Samsung UN55C7000, 55-Inch 1080p, 240Hz 3D LED HDTV. It is an improvement over my current television in terms of screen size, resolution (1080p vs. 1080i), and refresh rate.

While I wasn't initially looking for 3D capability, I decided to look at it in person. I have to admit that it is a game changer. I'm not going to put it with the advances of color or HDTV, but it is a noticeable improvement. It seems like every movie now has a 3-D version. Select sports are being broadcast in 3-D. I don't see it going away any time soon. It doesn't seem smart to lock myself into a television for the next 10 years that doesn't have 3-D capability... and it doesn't hurt that the Samsung has a great television that works well for 2-D.

Update: I had this post scheduled a couple of days ago, but I decided to wait to get reader reaction before pulling the trigger on the television (maybe someone had a better deal). Amazon is no longer selling it themselves... and the supplier is now charging $500 than it was just a couple of days ago. Maybe I'm stuck with my current television a little longer. Or maybe I scratch the wonders of 3-D and save myself some money.

Posted on December 1, 2010.

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13 Responses to “Buying an Expensive Television – and Dealing with a Moral Dilemma”

  1. Traciatim says:

    I don’t see how you can feel bad for costco. They set the terms of the sale and you want to uphold them to their word, how is that in any way not OK?

    I’m not sold on 3D. When I tried it out it was just so gimicky and expensive. I have a funny feeling it’s just going to die unless game consols get on board with full 1080p 3D support.

    I’ve really liked the samsung televisions that I’ve seen. I’m still not sure if I want to go with a regular CCFL LCD (for teh cost), an LED LCD, or a Plasma. I would think LED back lit would be best but as long as it’s a full back light and not edge lit. Sure edge lit makes for a thin TV, but sacrifices control of the back lighting.

    Have you seen the TV in person and compared it with some content that has dim and light areas on the same screen with any full LED array TVs? I’m sure at that high end it’s not a big deal but I’ve always found dynamic contrast on LCD screens to be pretty flakey.


  2. tom says:

    3-D is a waste of $. There are very few movies and programming that actually use the 3-D features. The glasses are hard wired to the system and have given some users a nauseous feeling (BTW they are $200 a pair!).

    IMHO, you should go with a Samsung LED LCD non-3D. Check CNET reviews and check Consumer Reports. Samsung consistently has some of the highest ratings for LCD TVs.

    • Lazy Man says:


      Thanks for the clarity on the Costco front.

      I did see the television in person at Best Buy. The LED is edge lit, but the picture is still excellent. I’ve read about the bleeding with edge lit televisions, but my eyes can’t see it. When I read critiques like that, it strikes me that people are almost looking for a flaw.

      As for the cost of the 3D, the television was only $300 more than the 2D version. However, it seems like Samsung wrapped up the 240hz refresh rate with the 3D… if you want the good refresh rate for sports, you have to get the 3D.

      Tom, I agree with you that there are few movies and programming available now… however in just the last year the amount of movies has grown greatly. It isn’t a stretch to say that in the next ten years (the minimum that I hope to have this television) the 3D program could be everywhere. Ten years ago there wasn’t a lot of HD content and no options to rent or buy movies in HD.

      The glasses for the Samsung system can be had for around $130 a pair… still expensive. However, I can wait a year or two for them to drop to $50 or $75… as you say there isn’t a ton of content out there.

      • Lazy Man says:

        I should add that I’ve checked the CNET reviews for Samsung televisions and it seems like CNET likes plasma better than LED LCD.

        Looking up the Consumer Reports reports is a great idea. I will get right on that.

  3. Contrarian says:

    Lazy Man – How many subscribers do you have? Costco just received a free advertisement courtesy of the Lazy Man and Money web site, and 4200+ have just been informed about their great return policy and excellent customer service… thanks to you.

    My advice … enjoy your new TV.

    BTW: If it makes you feel any better, that is the exact TV my wife and I have been looking at and I had no idea Costco carried them, so I’ll likely be buying mine there … thanks (again) to you.

  4. It’s not as if you gutted the internal components of a computer as returned it as “not working.” Costco had a nice return policy on failed television. You have a failed television through no fault of your own and want to return it per the terms of the policy. There’s nothing unethical about this.

    Our two main TVs are each about a dozen years old and still alive and kicking.

  5. There’s no reason to feel guilty about returning the TV. Believe me, Costco had a deal with the vendors and/or built-in margins that allowed it to offer the “bring it back anytime” policy. The policy is a large part of why you bought it and thus you should not hesitate to use the value that you purchased.

  6. Jeff says:

    I just bought a new 3d samsung tv as well however I decided to get the plasma 50 7000 series from eastcoasttv.com. They were way cheaper then anyone else I could find and the picture on the plasma was actually sharper then the LED. I know LED’s are all the rage these days but if you look at the specs you really aren’t saving energy (not much anyway) by going LED and using the “new” features of the LED.

    my 2 cents worth.

  7. Chuckles says:

    I don’t see where the moral dilemma lies. You bought a TV under certain terms from a store largely because it offered said terms and conditions and now you’re feeling guilty in asking Costco to abide by those terms? The set broke by no fault of your own, Costco owes you your money back. Whether or not televisions have made significant improvements is irrelevant- you bought the TV to get your money back should it ever fail.

    As for the TV, I’d suggest looking at another plasma. LCDs are ok and sometimes a better price, but plasma simply offers better picture. Panasonic’s Viera line offer some of the best picture around at excellent prices for both 2D and 3D.

    Also, refresh rate above 120hz is irrelevant. Video content today is either 24 frames per second (movies) or 30 or 60 fps (TV, video games). The problem with traditional 60 hz sets is that you can’t show each frame in 24 frame per second content for an equal amount of time, resulting in a jittery (at least to video snobs) picture in movies. A 120 hz set solves this problem by displaying each frame in 24 fps content for 5 screen refreshes, each frame in 30 fps for 4 and each frame in 60 fps for 2. There is no 120 hz content and probably won’t be for a long while, given that it would double bandwidth requirements. Everything set offering something beyond 120 hz is just a marketing gimmick and doesn’t improve picture quality. Your 240 hz set will look no better than an identical 60hz set at displaying broadcast sports.

  8. ruben says:

    Costco need to publish this info!!!

    Dear Ruben,

    Thank you for your e-mail to Costco Wholesale. All orders or items over two years old is up to the discretion of the warehouse or online Returns department. Since these orders are past the 2 year time frame they would be denied.

    Thank you,

    Costco Wholesale Corporation

    Date: 12-29-2010
    RE: Non specified return policy time limits?

    • Lazy Man says:

      That’s interesting. I didn’t have trouble returning my television a few days ago (it took awhile since it was a really heavy television and I needed a friend).

      When we bought the television the policy was quite clear, and I would explain that. I’m pretty sure that a company can’t change their policy after the fact. I think that Costco didn’t even offer an extended warranty because they claimed it was built-in in being a member (but don’t quote me on that).

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