Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pay for what you get

Last night our microwave died.

I'll wait while you finish gnashing your teeth, rending your garments and ululating over our loss.

Feel better now? Great--now pack up your microwave and ship it to us overnight.

I'm sure that we wouldn't be so frustrated if this wasn't the latest in a long line of failures from appliances we bought from Sears. None of them are more than six years old, and the microwave is only three years old.

In fact, when I called their help hotline last night they thanked me for being such a valuable and loyal customer. Now, I'm not in the customer service industry, but I'd like to provide a little insight to those who are--having a valuable and loyal customer to your help hotline does not mean that you are succeeding, it means that you are providing products in which failure is an inherent trait.

It started innocently enough when first, we discovered that the front loading washing machine from Sears, which we loved, grows enough mold in the rubber seal around the door to provide all of the developing world with penicillin for the next decade. The problem is so bad that a class action suit was filed. Unfortunately, we were too late to get on that gravy train, so we just keep a bottle of bleach at the ready, which is a nice complement to our perfume- and dye-free detergent.

Then the pump in the dishwasher from Sears ate it. Or didn't eat it. More specifically, it might have become overloaded, got a label from a jar stuck in it, or tired of digesting our leftovers. Whatever the case, it died.

Then the range from Sears died. Specifically, the oven igniter died. Of course, the first repairman didn't figure that out and replaced another part. On a fluke, the oven lit again while he was here, but that was just a flash in the pan. So we had to pay for yet another visit from Sears to fix the actual problem. Oh yeah, and for the parts that we actually needed, in addition to the other parts we had paid for that we certainly didn't need.

A little while after the second repairman claimed to have fixed the range from Sears, it developed a case of the whoomping cough. When we turned it on, rather than releasing a little gas before igniting, it would release a fair amount of gas before igniting it, causing quite a whoomp--enough to make you turn your head. This has evolved into a case of explosive flatulence as it now releases enough gas to pop the oven door open when it ignites, plus the sound is loud enough to make everyone in our zip code jump up and turn around to see what that was.

Of course, by the time we called, the warranty on the first--and second--range repair had expired.

Of course.

And now the microwave dies. This means that not a single appliance that we bought from Sears lasted longer than five years without needing a repair that cost almost as much or more than the appliance originally did. And Sears has even failed to make good on those repairs.

When I went to the Sears appliances website last night, I saw the banner across the top of the page: Appliance Questions? Call 1-800-MY-SEARS. And just below that was an ad for their 15% off sale on appliances.

So I asked if they were offering 15% off because they knew that they'd pick up that margin, plus a healthy profit on the repairs, within five years. If, perhaps, this was a shrewd business plan to make money on the sale up front, then guarantee returns throughout the lifetime of the appliance, sort of a corporate layaway plan, if you will? If perhaps, their repair plan was modeled after the 30-year mortgage finance plan for homes, with owners making payments in the form of repair bills?

I seem to have stumped them, so that's another thing from Sears that doesn't work.

There is however, one thing we've bought from Sears that does work: our vacuum. Of course it works--it's designed to suck.

Subscribe to the Bradstein feed--Vorsprung durch Technik!


  1. The one appliance I acquired from them still works: the front loading washing machine. Mine does not seem to have the mold issue, but I leave the door open. Occasionally I run some bleach in it, but not too often. Try cleaning out the soap dispenser too, it harbors lots of water between loads.

    I feel for you Bradsteins starving in the absence of your microwave. Our family would be very hungry without that popcorn popper and food reheater.

  2. Sorry to hear that. We have also had good luck with the few things we have gotten from Sears. We also usually purchase the exstended warranty. As to the dishwasher ours has issues sometimes, but we have found that if we run it with nothing in it and fill it with vinegar it cleans it out really nicely. Unless they have a garbage disposal in them, they are really not able to handle much stuck on food without getting clogged up, but the vinegar helps. We also will put vinegar in the rinse cycle and that helps.