* Sam's offers free consumer electronics tech support
* Sam's toughens policy for returning consumer electronics
* Wal-Mart has ended Dell "Solutions Station" pilot
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 23 Wal-Mart Stores Inc's
(WMT.N) Sam's Club chain said on Wednesday that its U.S.
warehouse clubs are now offering free technical support for
consumer electronics, but it is toughening up its return policy
for such items.
Sam's Club Tech Experts will help customers who have
questions about installing and setting up their consumer
electronics, and they will also assist with trouble shooting.
The No. 2 U.S. warehouse club operator also said it is now
offering customers home delivery service, starting at $50, and
installation packages, starting at $89.
But as of Nov. 1, Sam's Club said it will accept returns
only within 90 days on purchases of consumer electronics
including TVs, computers, cameras, camcorders, projectors and
Previously, under its policy of 100 percent satisfaction,
customers could have returned these items at any time.
The move comes more than two years after Costco Wholesale
Corp (COST.O), the No. 1 U.S. warehouse club operator,
instituted a 90-day return policy on consumer electronics amid
concern its open-ended return policy was hurting margins.
Consumer electronics retailers have been offering
technology services as a way to differentiate themselves and
cut down on the number of electronics, particularly flat-panel
TVs, that are returned after customers get the gadgets home but
cannot use them properly.
As part of a pilot program, Wal-Mart last year opened
"Solution Stations" in partnership with Dell DELL.O in a
small number of its Dallas-area stores to offer technology
services, like home theater installation and computer repair.
But Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said that pilot
has ended, and the discount retailer is studying other possible
models for offering services.
She also said Wal-Mart's return policy for consumer
electronics varies depending upon the product, but can range in
time from 15 days to 90 days, with a receipt.
Sam's Club said electronics purchased prior to Nov. 1 would
be grandfathered under its existing return policy.
(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)