Is that a dot on your new LED TV screen or a shadow? Is that new Dell Optiplex screaming, literally? Is it making a high-pitched sound whenever you boot up? Maybe you love that new laptop, tablet or LED TV. Maybe you are one those intense engineering types and you love your new 3D printer. It was calling your name and now something’s wrong … seriously wrong.

Did you buy the extended warranty coverage on the device or did you assume it was a rip off? As is often touted by the media and consumer magazines, extended warranties are typically described as a waste of money – a nice example of advice along this line can be found here: “Six Reasons Why You Should Never Purchase an Extended Warranty.”

I will tell you right now, point-blank: BUY THE COVERAGE. These devices typically can’t be repaired and replacement or returning the unit is really the only viable option. Buy as much coverage as you can and utilize credit card extended warranties as well as warranties offered by brick and mortar retailers such as Costco and BJ’s to further your coverage. While we’re on the subject of retailers, also be smart about where and how you buy your technology. A large local retailer may be a bit more expensive, but do you really want to deal with shipping a 50” plasma back to Amazon? Have you ever called Amazon? Go ahead, try to find their phone number on the Amazon website and let me know how it goes. When it comes to high-end technology such as servers, firewalls and more business-oriented devices, a retailer such as CDW will provide much better support than a place like Amazon. So choose wisely based on the type of equipment, different warranty options, etc. and never use price as the first decision-point.

Does anyone recall (no pun intended) the Dell fiasco a couple of years ago with their computer workstations? If you haven’t read about it, I recommend hitting the New York Times article“An Unsealed Lawsuit Indicates Dell Hid Faults of Computers”

Want something more recent? Check this one out: “More Than 7 Million Samsung TVs Plagued By Possible Power Defect.”

It’s important to remember that one small capacitor or “power leak” can wreak havoc on a $2,500 LCD television, a $200,000 Aston Martin and even a $10 million supercomputer – yes, the whole “weakest link” theory defines everything. Most of your devices have some type of storage component built into the unit, or it might be a hard drive on that new Dell workstation (for some fun, enjoy reading, “The Shocking Truth About Hard Drive Failure Rates.”) It might be an iPhone or that new Land Rover. Regardless, I will tell you that sooner or later that storage device will fail. People always look at me stunned when I calmly tell them, “Do you have your data backed up for when your hard drive fails? Because it will fail … it’s just a matter of time.” (Data backup is a completely separate topic, but this previous Equipment Finance Advisor blog on protecting your data may be useful for you well.)

Simply put, here’s what to do when it comes to buying technology:

  1. Select the location where you will buy your technology based on size of device, availability (Don’t be a guinea pig – try to always buy a “seasoned” device with a proven track record), warranty coverage options and price. Find out what the exact return policy is before you purchase the device as some retailers now charge re-stocking fees.
  2. Read reviews on sites from people who have purchased the same/similar unit before you buy it. Don’t just trust Consumer Reports or an industry trade journal and base your final decision on that single recommendation.
  3. After purchasing the device, quickly OPEN IT and TURN IT ON! I know it seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people leave an iPad in a box or even a $10,000 Dell server unopened while they wait for the migration team to get to it or just sometimes they don’t have time to get to it given other work. Take the time and get the device running. This ensures that if there’s a clear defect, such as the unit not powering on – or shutting down after three hours, you can return the unit ASAP and start over. Leave the unit on and let it “burn in” as much as possible while also testing out the different features to try and make sure you didn’t get a lemon.
  4. Write down all your device information, save system recovery CD/DVD discs and all materials that came with the unit – even save the packaging for at least 30 days, in case you need to return it (and also helps if you ever resell it).
  5. Protect it. Get a power device that includes AVR (Automatic Voltage Regulation) to protect your devices. Vendors with reputable products include APC, Tripp Lite and Cyberpower to name a few. They start at around $80 and could save the life of your computer, television or similar device without you ever realizing it.

Keep in mind that your time is also money and spending hours on the phone with tech support (we’ve all been there) will not only burn hours but also seriously affect your mood for the day (or week). The extended warranties are also getting less and less expensive on certain devices these days. Take for example the Apple iPhone 5 … they’ll actually include it automatically with your purchase because they know that many people opt out only to regret it a year from now when they bring the faulty device back to the Apple Genius Bar for troubleshooting.

A timely final note: Last week I did that exact thing with my iPad 2 as the headphone jack stopped working. What did they do? I waited five minutes, then they gave me a new iPad.