Sam’s Club and Costco Start HDTV Install Service

One reason that everyone seems to want a large flat screen HDTV — either LCD or plasma — is that they want to hang it on the wall so it doesn’t take up much space in their room. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, most people don’t actually do this; they typically end up putting the display on a stand and setting that on an existing or new piece of furniture. In most cases, this is easier and less expensive than hanging the set. Keep in mind that a flat panel 42″ or larger can weigh 100 to 150 pounds or more, so this is not as easy as hanging a framed photo of the kids. And then there’s the question of where to run the wires.

Well, the discount club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club have generous return policies. Until recently, both offered unlimited returns on any purchase. While Sam’s Club continues that policy, Costco has limited returns on HDTVs, digital cameras and other electronics to just 90 days. Managing returns is a big problem for both companies, as customers can return a unit when a lower-priced and better alternative comes out, and keep the savings.

Both companies have tried to slow the returns by making it easier for customers to install the sets on their walls (and presumably, this makes it more difficult for them to be returned). Costco now offers third-party installation service. Sam’s Club started a similar program this past spring in stores in Florida, Texas, and Minnesota, and is evaluating the results before they roll out the program nationwide.

Will this install and mount service have an impact on returns? Or will the slower pace of price reductions dampen the motivation for customers to “trade up” to a newer set? Stay tuned….