Prank-Calling On Aftermarket Warranties

On New Year’s Eve in 2016, my girlfriend and I closed on our first home. To get to that point, we had done a master’s thesis worth of research, and spoken to as many other homeowners and relatives as we could. There was one thing, however, that nobody warned us about.

A curious thing happens when you buy a home: Much like the woeful tales shared by many a lottery winner, people come out of the woodwork asking for money. Thankfully, these folks aren’t trusted friends and distant family members; instead, it’s people offering services like home security, landscaping, and volcano insurance.

Not all of the offers are related to home-ownership, though. I don’t quite follow the logic, but the thought, apparently, is that you’ve just spent a large sum of money, and you’re in the mood to spend more. Insurance offers, credit card offers, and an entire dead forest’s worth of other tangentially-related cash-grabs filled the mailbox faster than we could shred them.

Not all of the offers are presented positively, or even politely. One plain-looking window envelope caught my eye. Through the window, I could make out some very unfriendly-looking yellow paper. Intrigued, I opened it up, only to discover the standard “Urgent! Your car warranty has expired!” scam letter.

There was just one problem with the letter. As broke late-twentysomethings, our fleet consisted of a pair of cantankerous, misbehaving BMW wagons. Our warranties had ended by the time we had finished middle school. We were most certainly aware of this.

Buying a home is stressful enough without these vultures and their slimy scare tactics, so I decided to have a bit of fun. With the phone on speaker, I dialed the number, navigated through the automated menu, and, when prompted, punched in the reference number on my letter.

“Good evening, Mr. Yuppie. This is Joe Scumbag at Scuzzy Aftermarket Extended Warranty Incorporated. Are you calling about the letter you received?”

“I sure am, and let me tell you, that letter was a godsend! I’m just unclear on something. Which vehicle were you contacting me about?”

“Well, Mr. Yuppie, we’re glad to help. We can offer extended warranty coverage on a variety of vehicles. Which car would you be interested in purchasing an extended warranty on?”

“Well, Joe, we’ve got two vehicles, and I hope you can help us out. I drive a 1994 BMW 530i station wagon with about 120,000 miles; it’s in pretty good shape but it has the usual rust issues, and I need to replace the fuel-tank straps. But first I need to fix the rust on the gas tank itself where the straps were mounted. My power-steering lines are also leaking, and I know for sure that my heater blower motor is on its last legs and will need to be replaced, too; that’s a fire hazard. My girlfriend drives a 1999 BMW 540i wagon with around 160,000 miles, and let me tell you, pal, that’s just been a disaster. The timing is all messed up; we’re probably going to have to replace all of the timing-chain guide rails, as well as the chains themselves, the tensioners, and of course get the timing nailed down again. The variable-valve-timing modules might be failing, too, so those will definitely need to be replaced. Ideally, I’d be seeking warranty coverage on both vehicles so we can get all of that taken care of.”

This was followed by quite a long pause. I wouldn’t call it an uncomfortably long pause, although the fellow on the other end of the line might disagree.

“Sir,” he said, “I apologize for the error. We will remove you from our mailing list.”—Cam VanDerHorst

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