Whatís in a warranty? La-Z-Boy owner wants to know

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

I purchased a recliner from the La-Z-Boy store in Monmouth Junction, N.J., on July 31, 2013. When it was delivered in September, there was a problem with the way the fabric was put on the back of the chair so I called and complained. It was picked up and delivered again in October but they sent me the exact same chair with the exact same problems ó nothing had been done! The chair also did not recline properly and kept making a loud thump when pulled up (which never went away). It was picked up again and returned. But then I had to schedule service on the mechanism. A technician came on Nov. 29, 2013, to repair the problem.

I am now having a problem again. When I recline the chair, it does not stay in position. So I had to call La-Z-Boyís Comfort Care department and they told me the parts and mechanism have a lifetime warranty, but I had to pay $116.49 to have the problem assessed and repaired. I had to give them payment right there, over the phone, for them to send someone out.

I have been extremely unhappy from the start and I do not think I should have to pay $116.49 to have the chair repaired. I thought it would last for a very long time. I had one before (not a La-Z-Boy) that lasted for over 15 years. The quality of La-Z-Boyís product is not as they advertise

Do you have any suggestion for getting the service fee waived?

My initial guess was that Lizís recliner has a limited lifetime warranty that covers parts for a longer period than labor. To confirm, I emailed Amy Hellebuyck, La-Z-Boy residential manager for brand content and public relations. She responded that yes, the cost of labor had expired from Lizís warranty and that was why she incurred a $116.49 charge.

Hellebuyck explained the warranty specific to Lizís recliner:

"La-Z-Boy offers a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects on the parts of the frame, mechanism and springs, for as long as the original purchaser owns the product and can supply their proof of purchase. Fabric, leather and standard foam padding have a one-year warranty from the date of delivery of the product into the customerís home. Labor to repair or replace any parts is covered for one year from the date of delivery."

She additionally offered to refund Liz her $116.49 labor fee "because customer service is very important to La-Z-Boy."

Liz responded, "Thank you so much for your help. It is nice to know there are people out there that still care."

As a result of Lizís inquiry, I decided to contact an expert on warranties: Anthony Giorgianni, Consumer Reports finance editor. Giorgianni was a fount of warranty information. Below are some of his best pointers.

ó Per the Federal Trade Commission, all retailers must make warranties available to consumers prior to a productís purchase. Request it if you donít see it.

ó Just about every product purchase comes with an implied warranty ó or warranty of merchantability ó which means a product will do what a reasonable person would expect it to. This warranty is typically in effect for four years, and exists unless legally excluded. Several states, including Illinois, allow such exclusions, meaning a product can be labeled and sold "as is."

ó An express warranty is one that is clearly stated orally or in writing (hence, it is expressed) and guarantees a level of quality and reliability that ensures a product will be fixed or replaced by the manufacturer for no additional charge.

ó Many manufacturers will make good on an express warranty even if it has expired. But Giorgianni advises: "Donít go in with guns blazing. Tell the manufacturer how much you love the product and how disappointed you are that it didnít last."

ó Conduct an internet search of your issue to see if there has been a recall on the product. If a recall exists, your repair/replacement will be free.

ó If your internet search results in lots of product complaints similar to yours, document them for use in building a stronger case with the manufacturer.