Some in-home service centers offer “free estimates.”  You may wonder how these guys can afford to drive around all day and give their services away for free.

One time-honored approach is to schedule as many service calls as possible each day.  Then, the servicer arrives at each home, determines the value of the TV, and judges what the customer would be willing to pay to repair that particular set.  Usually, this is about 50% of the cost of a replacement set.  He tells the customer that the <insert the name of your favorite electronic gadget here> needs to be replaced, and it will cost $400 [or $500, or whatever he thinks they will pay], and it needs to be taken to the shop for repair.  If the customer agrees, he takes the set with him and attempts to repair it.  No matter what is actually wrong, the labor, parts, and tax will magically total exactly the amount of the free estimate.  This way, he can overcharge for the repairs he does to cover the cost of the free estimates.  If the customer declines the free estimate, the servicer says “OK, bye” and heads to the next home, where he will have better luck.

While it’s not always true that you get what you pay for, be assured that you don’t get what you don’t pay for.  You may be better off paying an honest service center for an honest appraisal of your repair.