"Use Caution When Buying Products"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, November 29, 2013

It’s my belief that we are all hostages of foreign manufacturers. If you read my column, you are aware of my preference regarding buy American!

I recently received a recall letter regarding a well known, name brand product — a surge protector.

I use three such products in my office in Michigan and two in my Florida office. The value of them ranges from $ 30 to more than $100. Numerous companies offer the product and promote it as safety equipment. It is recommended for use with various electronics and required by some. I had shopped for the best rated listed in magazines that report testing when I purchased my first one. The product brand is available in most stores that sell electronics and most sales people suggested it as the best available.

Receiving a recall is not always a bad experience. The one I received advised it was being done to avoid units over-heating and becoming fire hazards. The letter stated the recall was voluntary and explained the product safety notice involved only a small percentage of units.

A toll free number appeared just below a statement in bold red letters saying consumers should stop using recalled units immediately. The warning appeared on both sides of the notice.

Following the directions carefully, I noted the model numbers listed and discovered a match to one of my three products. After checking the serial number, I confirmed the match and placed a call to the toll free number. After an appropriate wait time, I reached a person who instructed me to remove the surge protector connection from my computer. I was told I had to file a claim via a specific IT address. To do so, I was instructed to take a picture of the recalled item showing the model and serial number as proof of ownership.

All seemed OK until I was instructed to send the photo from my computer to an address I would be given. As I see it, how could I send a picture to prove I own a product I was told to unplug and discontinue using? (Remember, I don’t make this stuff up).

Why would I have to prove I had an item being recalled when I received a notice addressed to me at the proper mailing address? Obviously, they had on file my owner’s registration that was used to send the notice.

I will try to outline this for you: The company that sent the recall and instructed me to take a picture of the product and send it to them on my computer also told me to disconnect it immediately. They already knew I owned the product, had to know what it looked like because they sold it to me, plus they had my registration card that listed the model and serial number.

After an inquiry I made, I was placed on hold which gave me time to further review the recall notice. Serial numbers on the letter dated back more than 20 years. If it took a company that long to detect a problem with a product, how long would it take to receive a replacement as promised? I asked that question when the person came back on the line and was told 12 weeks.

As I mentioned earlier, I have more than one computer system, but how about the person with only one being asked to disconnect it from the protection? They would be expected to wait 12 weeks for a replacement or as you may have expected to hear — buy a new one. If the manufacturer really wanted to help its customers — and keep them, why not send a coupon to purchase a new one.

Is this a scam to get customers to buy new products? Since they are in the equipment protection business, do they really want customers to leave their systems un-protected for 12 weeks? If damage occurred to computers while using them without protection, whose responsibility would it be?

If you receive a similar notice, pay close attention. Most of the geeks tell us to leave these “protectors” plugged in continually. According to our recall, we would be taking a chance of a fire but wouldn’t a fuse or circuit breaker be blown? It may take another 20 years to determine that fact.

Best part of my message — and my point. The product I have described was made in China but sold by a U.S. company. The only way I discovered that was when I was told to take a picture of the back of the unit and “made in China” appeared in such small print I needed a magnifier to read it.

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