Thursday, April 17, 2014

Warranty Cambodian Style

This is something that I haven’t come across in my long-time experience in Cambodia. I guess this is simply because I was never in the situation where I needed to get something fixed that I recently bought. But with the building of the hotel and buying quite a bit of appliances and furniture for the rooms I was faced with this issue far too many times in my opinion.

Don’t even begin to think it works like in your country. The way it works here is like this. The store will issue an invoice stating that there is a warranty of 3, 6, 12 months, although the 12 months is almost unheard of. Usually, it is only 3 months. If they are a little more precise they will say that the warranty covers only labor charges for repairing the defective item. Any spare parts needed you will have to pay extra. Under no circumstances will they take the item back and exchange it.

With smaller appliances this is not so difficult as you can take them back to the store easily and most of the time it is only a minor repair anyway. But when it comes to installed air conditioning units or water heaters it is a different story. I wrote about the reliability of technicians/contractors already. When they finally come, they usually need to take the unit down and back to the store. Then it might take a day or two if they can fix it there. If not they need to send it to a specialist, and that is always located in Phnom Penh. If you are in another town, like us in Sihanoukville, the repair time might stretch to over  a week. If you happen to run a hotel  you practically can’t rent that one room, even if it has fan. Western people simply expect an a/c in a 3-star hotel.

The same thing happened to us with a water heater. We installed water heater tanks that are not visible in the bathroom; we bought those in Phnom Penh. When one of them broke down they asked us to ship it back. Can you imagine what that meant? Uninstalling it from above the room and shipping it to Phnom Penh, or alternatively, have a technician come here at our expense.

We ended up buying another one locally and had it installed in no time at all. We simply didn’t know they were available here. Cambodian hotels usually use those flow-through water heaters. We then had the defective one repaired on one of our next visits to Phnom Penh. Of course, the defective part we paid separately - $25.

I have never had so many new appliances break down after only a short time.  The reason for that may be, at least that’s what I think, that Cambodian importers buy second-grade or even third-grade merchandise so they can be competitive. Traditionally, they also work on very slim margins so there are no funds for warranties. A second reason is that Cambodian importers are usually not authorized agents/importers for a brand. They buy it from a trading company in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, or China. The ironic thing is that most products nowadays are made in China in the first place, even the ones sold in the U. S. or Europe. But those importers have on-site agents for quality control and usually very stringent purchase agreements. So Cambodia has to practice a make-do warranty policy, which is coupled with one thing I have also observed over my long time here. People in general do not take responsibility for anything. They simply will not admit to a mistake; they might lose face too, and that is something they can’t stomach. So when you buy something here in Cambodia you better keep this in mind.

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