Tube Talk: You can learn helpful things from TV

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

When was the last time you learned something truly useful, if not downright valuable, while watching TV? For me it happened last weekend.

There’s usually not much I want to watch on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, but when I took a quick lunch break, I decided to turn on the news. I just wanted the headlines, so I turned on HLN—formerly known as CNN Headline News. Little did I know they had a money-themed show on at that time. I’d seen Clark Howard in passing, but had never really stopped to watch. I thought he was all about investing advice, but it turns out he shares a lot of practical, money-saving tips, too.

I was about to change the channel when they ran a teaser about an upcoming segment about the value of extended warranties. I’ve been planning to replace an aging refrigerator when the Energy Star appliance rebates become available in April, so I kept watching.

Many years ago, I was with my dad when he bought a copier or TV or some other electronic device. When the salesman asked if he wanted an extended warranty, Dad feigned surprise, then said, “Why? Do you expect it’s going to break?” He then went on a bit about how if that store sold such shoddy equipment that its customers needed to buy extended warranties, he’d go to another store. Since then, whenever I’ve been asked if I want to purchase an extended warranty, I’ll say something like, “So you’re telling me you don’t have faith in the quality of the products you sell?”

Sometimes extended warranties can be beneficial. My sister wound up with a lemon of a refrigerator a couple years ago and certainly got her money’s worth from her added coverage. But what would the financial expert Clark Howard have to say?

One of his viewers called in recounting how a sales person tried to pressure them into buying an extended warranty, even going so far as to say Clark himself recommended them. Clark was aghast. He said he never recommends extended warranties. Why? The odds are against a product breaking before the extension expires, and many credit cards automatically extend warranty periods. I’d never heard that before. To hear it in Clark’s own words, check out the archive of his Consumer Tips blog:

The timing couldn’t have been better. Four days after I saw that show, my refrigerator quit working. So when the sales guy brought up the subject of extending my warranty, I didn’t hesitate. I don’t remember my exact words, but I said something like: “No thanks. I trust that I’m buying a solid product.”

When you think about it, we all can learn helpful things from TV. Maybe Good Eats host Alton Brown taught you the proper way to bake a scone. Or maybe Norm Abram from This Old House and New Yankee Workshop explained the pros and cons of various types of wood stains and finishes.

So what’s the latest thing TV has taught you?

Programming note

Clark Howard airs Saturdays on HLN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the March 24-30, 2010 issue

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