Monday, August 25, 2014

Buying a TV

The title of today’s post is misleading. I did not buy a TV. At the time, I was trying to buy a new lock for our mailbox because the Belarusian lock we put on there a couple of years ago gave us endless problems and finally failed altogether. So I went to the biggest locksmith I know of and asked whether he had something better, but he didn’t have anything at all. He sent me to TSUM, the big government-owned department store where Alla bought the previous lock. TSUM didn’t even have any flimsy Belarusian locks today, but the sales guy thought he might have some more in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I walked past the TV department. Alla’s been watching a lot of TV lately because she likes to get the official Russian point of view on what’s happening in Ukraine. Our old TV has a lousy sound system, unintelligible at low volumes and intolerable at high volume. And there’s no place to plug in headphones so everybody in the building knows when she’s got the TV turned on. I figured it might be worthwhile to buy a new TV if I got a good enough deal. Alla could watch her Russian programs without speakers blaring and I could hook my laptop up to the newer TV and we could watch movies in the living room instead of crowding around my desk.

At TSUM I saw a Belarusian 32” LCD TV for 300 bucks. “Hmm,” I thought, “this might be OK.” But I had a nagging concern in the back of my mind because somebody some time advised me never to buy Horizont (the Belarusian brand). I asked the sales guy about it and he reacted with surprise. “What do you mean,” he asked, “that Horizont TVs are bad?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Tell me about your experience. Are they good TVs?” “We don’t have any trouble with them,” he assured me. He went on a bit, explaining that they’re fine TVs. I asked him if he had anything else he’d like me to consider at the same time, and he showed me a Samsung for $100 more. I asked why I’d pay more for a Samsung when the Horizont is such an excellent product. He explained that 78% of the parts in the Samsung are manufactured in Korea and that the TV itself is assembled in Russia. “It’s better. The parts are better. I recommend that you buy Samsung.”

I came home really confused. Horizont is really great but he thinks I shouldn’t buy one. So I cast about online looking for reviews. Mostly I found praise for old Soviet tube-style Horizont TVs and horror stories about unreliability and the inconvenience of repairing newer LED TVs with the same brand. Alla called some friends, who said they bought a Horizont and liked it fine. It failed after two years, was deemed unrepairable, and they received a certificate for a new TV which still works. Except that they dropped the remote control and it’s impossible to replace. They’re happy with theirs, but I’m not feeling so confused any more. As much as I’d like to support the local brand, I’ve been scared away.

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