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What we learned about Guarantees and Warranties in Portugal
Our coffee maker experience
We’re not big coffee drinkers. Paul makes a pot of coffee in the morning, and we drink maybe a cup or two. That’s about it. Maybe someday in the future, the longer we live in Portugal, we’ll get accustomed to a shot of espresso in the afternoons or a cappuccino in the evenings like many Europeans do, but probably not.
In the United States, we had a nice Cuisinart drip coffee maker that sufficed our simple coffee requirements. So, when we moved to Portugal, we went to Worten which is kind of like a Portuguese Best Buy and asked if they had just a plain old American-style drip coffee maker. They did! They didn’t have a large selection (most folks want the fancy machines that grind beans, do espresso and cappuccino and other coffees I can’t pronounce), but all the choices in stock without having to wait or special order were in the thirty-euro-or-less range. We chose the top priced one in stock (twenty-nine euros) which is definitely the cheapest drip coffee maker we have ever purchased. Nevertheless, we returned home, happy to have freshly brewed coffee for the morning.
It didn’t last long.
The little coffee maker didn’t last long – maybe about six months - and then one day it wouldn’t turn on. Paul tried other electrical outlets, but it wasn’t that. As typical American consumers, we figured it was just a cheaply made thing and tossed it into the trash bucket. For the next couple of days (this happened before we owned a car), we suffered through some instant coffee in the mornings until we could get back to Worten by bus to purchase another one.
They were appalled at us.
When we returned to Worten and said that we needed to buy a new drip coffee maker because the one we had purchased from the store broke, the clerk wanted to know where it was. We said that we trashed it. He was appalled. “Why didn’t you bring it back?” he asked, “It was under warranty.” We sort of chuckled and said we didn’t realize that there was a warranty, all the while thinking how much of a warranty could a cheap twenty-nine-euro coffee maker possibly have. So, we chose another coffee maker that the clerk said was their top brand (same price range as the first). What could go wrong?
The “top brand” lasted a little bit longer.
Then one morning, our “top brand” coffee maker stopped working and wouldn’t turn on – this one made it to nearly eleven months before it crapped out on us. But this time, I had kept the receipt (and we also kept the original box), so off we went in the car back to Worten, expecting (another American consumer assumption) that we would return the broken coffee maker, get a refund, and then purchase a new one (yet again). But that’s not how it works in Portugal.
The guaranty and the warranty.
Worten stores in Portugal have customer service counters called Worten Resolve. Among many other things, this is where you return products that are damaged or not working. You take a number from a machine and wait your turn to be called. So, that’s what we did. When our number was called, we walked up to the counter. A pleasant young man who spoke English assisted us.
Side note: I have to say that all the clerks we have ever encountered at Worten have been extremely helpful and pleasant.
We told the clerk what the problem was and showed him our receipt. He then explained the process to us which is for Worten to return the coffee maker to the manufacturer to determine if the item can be repaired. If so, the manufacturer will repair the item and return it to the store within a maximum of thirty days for the customer to pick up. If it is determined that the coffee maker cannot be repaired, then Worten will issue a full refund or replace the item.
We were a bit surprised that an under thirty-euro coffee maker would have to be returned to the manufacturer for repair (is this really cost-effective?) or replacement/refund, and that it could take up to thirty days. I’m guessing that the clerk saw the look on our faces because he emphasized that this was a European Union rule Worten was obliged to adhere to. He further went on to say that we would receive an email with a link to track the progress of our cheap little coffee maker.
The EU Rule.
Later, I did a little digging around and found this resource from Your Europe. It’s a portal that gives individuals and businesses practical information on their rights and opportunities in the EU. It’s a handy resource I plan to keep close.
To briefly summarize, under European Union rule, a retailer must repair, replace, reduce the price, or provide a refund if the goods purchased turn out to be faulty or do not look or work as advertised. Consumers have the right to a minimum two-year guarantee at no cost, regardless of whether the goods were purchased online or in-person. In Portugal, a seller may offer the consumer a commercial warranty that is longer than the guarantee period required by law.
If it is determined that the item can be repaired, the manufacturer has thirty days to complete the repair.
No freshly brewed coffee for us.
We handed over our broken coffee maker to the young man and faced the possibility of no freshly brewed coffee for possibly a month. Not willing to sacrifice comfort over cost, we walked over to Worten’s drip coffee maker section (yet again) to purchase our third coffee maker since our arrival in Portugal in August 2021. We reasoned that if the broken coffee maker were repaired or replaced, at the rate we’re going, we’ll always need a spare. The drip coffee maker selection was again minimal, and we didn’t want to special order a better one, so we purchased the same model that we originally purchased (you know, the one that broke within six months).
Thirty days later…
Thirty days later, Paul received a text (in Portuguese) advising us that the coffee maker had been repaired and was ready to be picked up. We’re still baffled by how realistic the cost-effectiveness of a repair is for such an inexpensive item, but rules are rules…
When we picked it up, the clerk told us that there had been a short in the heating element which caused the machine to not turn on and that it had been repaired. So, we headed back home with it. Since we actually like this coffee maker a little bit better than the third coffee maker we purchased, we took the repaired one out of the box and placed it on the counter.
Then we noticed that something wasn’t quite right with the pot handle. It was broken – not something that we had done, but apparently happened during shipment from the manufacturer back to the store, as Paul found the handle pieces in the box. Sometimes you just have to laugh in spite of your frustrations, which is exactly what we did.
But what about larger, more expensive purchases?
This experience got me to thinking about larger, more expensive purchases that we already have made (as well as future purchases). What happens if something breaks or stops working? This resource from ePortugal.gov.com provides detailed information on consumer rights and obligations.
Of course, if it’s a large item such as a washer or refrigerator, the manufacturer will send a technician to your home to make a repair and/or an evaluation. But that also means that if it’s not repairable on the spot, you as the consumer, may have to wait until the repair can be made. I’m not sure how many folks keep a spare washing machine or refrigerator on hand for these such occasions, but this type of occurence can happen to folks anywhere including the United States.
Lessons learned in Portugal.
We’ll also ask the retailer in advance about their refund/return/repair policy, but I’m pretty sure from what I’ve already read, that we might have to wait up to thirty days for a refund, repair, or replacement.
I know that some US credit card companies offer customer purchase protection, but I’m unsure that it applies to residents (temporary or otherwise) living in the European Union. In any case, I’m thinking that the EU Rule supersedes any credit card purchase protection from the US.
Patience is a virtue. We must practice more patience.
Repairing an item instead of discarding it can help the environment and keep unnecessary waste out of landfills. We respect that.
We need to accept that some rules are not what we’re accustomed to. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Just different (and maybe in some instances they’re better). When in Portugal, do as the Portuguese do…
This was another experience that we can file under “lessons learned in Portugal”. And I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping (and scanning) our receipts for purchases just in case.
Anyone want to take bets on how many months our repaired cheapie coffee maker will last?
UPDATE: I was hoping our repaired coffee maker would last at least a month - but no. It lasted less than 3 weeks. And this time, we’re not bringing it back…
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Until next time…