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TV broken? It's likely unfixable

Mark Greer wants your business, which is why he will not fix your television.

The Salt Lake City appliance repairman started turning away TV repairs more than a year ago. Now, he either recommends other repair shops or suggests that people simply junk their old set and buy a newer, more technologically advanced set.

"It's a transitional period for TV repair," said Greer, owner of Video Wholesale Services. "When new technology comes out, like the LCD sets, it behooves the consumer to look at that new technology" instead of trying to keep out-of-date appliances working.

But it's not just the new technology that causes problems for TV repairmen. For most newer, basic sets, it's often cheaper to replace than repair, which means that TVs are becoming as disposable as many other small appliances.

"If people go back to the idea of buying quality, it would make sense to fix it for them," he said. "But people are buying the cheap ones at the big box stores, and then they just keep replacing them with more cheap sets."

In the past 20 years, the number of TV-repair busi-nesses nationwide has dropped from about 20,000 to about 5,000, said Mack Blakely, chairman of the National Electronics Service Dealers Association, a trade group for electronics technicians.

"That's due to the demise of repairing low-end products," he said. "Those have become disposable."

Blakely said there is hope for repair technicians who can learn to work with the new technology, especially if they can install high-end home-entertainment systems.

Many new TVs, especially small Chinese models, aren't meant to be repaired, Blakely said. The manufacturers often do not sell parts or provide repair manuals.

But expensive HD sets are often easier to repair than old models, he said. That's because they can be repaired by replacing broken components instead of working on the circuit itself.

"The type of skills required in the old days were more technical and difficult," he said. "You had to figure out what was going on at the circuit level."

While many shops are getting out of the TV repair business, others have become TV-only repairs to pick up the slack. Connie Kay, of Salt Lake-based Warren's TV, said that they no longer fix things like camcorders because it takes too much time.

"We stopped repairing all of the other things," she said. "It's just too time-consuming, and you don't make much on the repair."

Some repair shops are adjusting their focus, such as David Cuomo, the owner and sole employee of Master Television Service in Albuquerque, N.M., who only repairs sets 27 inches and bigger. He also works with older, big-screen TVs — a niche he said earned him $100,000 last year — and only does mobile repair. Cuomo said working at people's houses adds more pressure than working in a shop.

"For a lot of people, it's the first time they've seen the inside of a TV," he said. "Things probably would have been different if my parents had put me in front of the TV instead of behind it."

TV repair is an industry with an uncertain future, he said, because of an influx of inexpensive foreign-made electronics and the rise of high-definition technology might make the business as profitable as fixing toasters.

Many people who have been in the business for a long time are intimidated by the new technology, he said.

Cuomo said he is not sure if he will learn how to work on the new TVs or leave the business.

"It's been great to me, but I'm not sure I'd recommend that someone get into it now," he said. "It's a crazy time in the TV-repair world."