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ATPM 9.04
April 2003




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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

Ride ’Em, Cowboy!

I’ve always been suspicious of extended warranties. My assumption was that if the product was well made, I shouldn’t have to purchase what is essentially insurance against defect. I made that argument at my last new car purchase. I said, “It’s a Honda. Either it’ll break on the way home, or it won’t break.” Hard for them to argue that their product was poorly made and might need more than the standard protection.

That reasoning does not apply to more portable consumer items, though, like laptop computers. No matter how well made the product is, there’s a better chance of damage to an item that can be dropped than one that is stationary, so users with lots of experience with iBooks and PowerBooks have generally recommended AppleCare protection plans.

I’m not here to counter that recommendation, but I do have a proposal worth your consideration. Even if you don’t follow up on it with your laptop, it may be of use for you for some other item. It’s an insurance thing called an inland marine rider, and its purpose is to insure things that can be moved. First an anecdote on why it’s a good thing, then the details.

One of my co-workers had a second-generation iBook that he liked very much. He watched movies on it and carried it around from place to place, and even let friends play with it. Since he would never be this careless himself, he believes one of these friends accidentally spilled a glass of iced tea on the keyboard. He didn’t know it was in there until the monitor started frizzing.

He sent it to be looked at by certified Apple technicians, who opened up the keyboard and pronounced it sticky. (We live in the American South. Tea is required to be heavily sweetened here. Visitors bring intravenous insulin drips to cope.) The Apple techs were the ones who suggested tea spillage. They said it was everywhere, and that cleaning would run about $300. He was willing to pay this, until they called back and said the tea spillage had also gotten into something that would require replacing the monitor. Now the estimate was $900, and he said to hold the phone.

He debated ditching the unit and spending the $900 on a new iBook. On a whim, he called his insurance agent, who had a year earlier talked him into an inland marine rider on his homeowner’s insurance policy. It cost him $15 a year, and covered his silverware and some stuff like that. His agent said if this was a portable computer, it was covered for replacement cost. New iBooks with DVD players go for $1,300 now, and they sent a check the next day. No questions.

I have to think of this as a success story for the beleaguered consumer. Again, I’m not recommending that anyone get a rider and forego Apple’s Protection Plan. I will say, though, that if I could get my insurance agent to commit to a rider that covered a laptop like my friend’s did, I’d certainly think twice about that costly warranty.

Here’s the deal on the inland marine rider: one story says Lloyd’s of London was looking for a way to insure items that had arrived by ship but then had to be transported over land to their destination. This way they could charge even more for insuring them. This story may be apocryphal. Another version has to do with cargo being transported on barges on canals, so they came up with the idea of “floater” coverage. In its current form, the rider covers items that are mobile or in transit. One good explanation of the guidelines can be found at Ask Alice.

These riders can cover everything from specialized auto tools to quilts—I found a bunch of quilting sites when I first googled this topic! These are one-of-a-kind items that must be moved now and then, and this is an inexpensive way to insure them. Just like your laptop, digital camera, and whatever other portable electronic equipment you have that should be insured but isn’t. Remember that normal property insurance will cover most items within 100 feet of your house, but if they leave the house, you may need this additional rider. Ask an insurance professional to find out what’s best for you, but now you have another weapon in the arsenal against tea spillage and other acts of gooberism.


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