A Better Way to Shop for Flat-Panel TVs and Cars and Trucks

One of the most generous and little-known, return policies in consumer electronics seems safe — at least for the moment.Costco Wholesale and SAM’S CLUB, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores, have long let any customer return virtually anything, at any time, to their warehouse stores. Recently, however, that generosity has started causing them headaches. Scores of customers who bought pricey plasma or liquid-crystal-display televisions have lugged them back, unhappy, apparently, with how they worked in their homes. Both companies had stated they were reviewing their procedures.In the past week, however, Costco said it has decided to leave its rules in place. SAM’S also plans no changes. Whether this is prudent fiscal stewardship, it is good news for members, who ought to add Costco or SAM’S to the shopping itinerary when seeking out fancy new TVs.
Why? First, their return policies don’t punish the confused. Many people don’t realize that their non-high-definition channels may look lousy when blown up on their big screen. Others can’t figure out how to set the sets up.But if you can bring a TV back to Costco or SAM’S at any time, for any reason, why wouldn’t you shop there? This might tempt consumers to simply return it if it breaks — and skip the extended warranty.Both SAM’S CLUB and Costco have member benefits that include an auto buying program. As SAM’S CLUB has more stores and more geographic coverage, their auto buying program has more dealers; over 1500 dealers who represent over 2200 franchises across the US. In addition, SAM’S CLUB auto buying program offers late model used cars.Each of the wholesale club’s auto buying programs work in a similar fashion. You call a toll-free number or visit a website. After doing your research with stat-of the-art automotive research tools, you decide on a new or used car or truck and enter this information into the website. You are then referred to local franchised dealers who participate in their programs and who offer low no-haggle prices to their members. You can even get low interest rate financing (through E-LOAN on SAM’S CLUB and Capital One on Costco) through the programs. SAM’S CLUB’s dealers go one better by offering their members a 10% discount on maintenance and service after the purchase.When it is time to sell that old vehicle, the SAM’S CLUB Auto Buying Program provides room on their web-page for members to place a sales ad. For a one-time fee of $15, sellers can advertise their pre-owned vehicle until it sells or until they decide to remove it from the site.
Both Costco and SAM’S CLUB offer Recreational vehicles through their websites as well as cars and trucks.SAM’S CLUB Auto Boat & RV can be reached at www.samsclubauto.com and Costco’s auto buying program can be reached at www.costcoauto.com [http://www.costcoauto.com]

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