Ask Andy: Warranties, bankruptcy ...and engagement rings

This one just killed me.

Marshell Tabron of Whitehaven wrote a desperate e-mail about how her fiancee Eric bought her engagement rings with a lifetime warranty at Whitehall Jewelers at Oak Court Mall in East Memphis.

He apparently hadn't been reading the business journals.  Whitehall filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy last June.

Tabron wrote:

"My fiancee purchased my rings at Whitehall Jewelry store in the Oak Court Mall and we thought we were being proactive by purchasing the lifetime warranty. This warranty included the replacement of diamonds, unlimited sizing, and quarterly cleaning. Now what are we to do with a useless lifetime warranty?"

Marshell, there is absolutely nothing you can do with that warranty -- unless Eric bought it with his credit card.

If the warranty was purchased with a credit card, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.  You're never liable for more than $50 on any credit card purchase, and most cards offer zero liability as a way to attract customers.

If Eric paid cash or wrote a check, it will be up to the bankruptcy judge to decide if Whitehall should honor its warranties.  With a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Whitehall will be selling its assets -- liquidating its inventory -- so there really won't be any inventory to support the warranty as far as replacements are concerned, and cash will be used to pay off creditors.

With other products like electronics and furniture, you could lean on the manufacturer's warranty to either get a replacement or your money back.  Jewelry, however, typically does not have manufacturer warranties.

Some jewelers may sell third-party warranties.  I hate third-party warranties.  The companies that write them are prone to disappearing.  But in the case of an engagement ring, they may be helpful if the jeweler bottoms out.

But Marshell and Eric's warranty -- was a Whitehall warranty.

Marshell, if Eric bought those rings and warranty with his credit card, get him on the horn with his credit card company and cancel the charges.  That would be a nice wedding gift!