As consumer complaints go, a problem that keeps someone from eating always pops to the top of my list. Veronica Binz of Elsberry, Mo., recently experienced a sudden pinch in her mouth: Her upper denture was fractured. Binz was confident that Dentures and Dental Services (DDS) in nearby St. Peters would cover the repair costs since the clinic included a seven-year warranty when it sold her the dentures in 2008. She was wrong.
"When I called, they told me I'd have to pay $75 because the warranty didn't cover that type of repair," says Binz. "They said that only the teeth were covered, not the plate."
Though Binz noted that her receipt said "complete upper denture-seven year warranty," DDS wouldn't budge. And as long as that denture was broken, she'd be on a liquid diet.
When I called Andy Merrill, then the office manager at Binz's DDS clinic, he said patients receive a form at the time of purchase that states the warranty's limitations. But Binz says she never received one.
Insisting that DDS did nothing wrong, Merrill wouldn't give me his headquarters' phone number (the DDS website only lists its 22 clinics), saying I'd receive a call from someone there in a couple of days. Dubious, I called other DDS offices.
One front desk supervisor at an Oklahoma clinic who said she'd been with the company for more than a decade, Rhonda Andrews, confirmed an important part of Binz's story when she told me, "The customers are not given a written warranty." I also eventually got the headquarters' number, called and explained Binz's situation.
A woman told me that I'd get a call back from one of the principals, who were currently out to lunch. Within five minutes, however, Merrill was back on the line from Missouri, this time with a very different tone. "Hey Ron," he started out. "Let's go ahead and get her in and do a free repair."
A week later, Binz happily reported that DDS had fixed the fracture and she was eating solid food again.
It's always important to get the terms and limitations of any warranty in writing before you buy. DDS never bothered to give me a definitive answer on its policy, and failed to provide me with a copy of its warranty despite assurances that it would. I'll keep after them.
Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For.
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