Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crappy expensive appliances

Piece of $#!^ GE ProfileWhat's the story with poorly made appliances these days? I say "these days" because I have the impression that things manufactured fifty years ago lasted a lot longer. Or, at the very least, were easier to fix.

Case Study #1: our new refrigerator that we purchased a year and a half ago when we bought our house. The fridge the previous owners left here was disgusting and the dimwits that painted the interior of the house before putting it on the market decided to store all their painting supplies in the empty fridge. For weeks. Blech.

Anyway, we bought a fancy new Energy Star GE Profile stainless steel refrigerator with french doors. Let me tell you it was not cheap. I'm wishing we had gotten a cheapo Kenmore instead because it's not worth the cost. About two months ago a little plastic hinge thingy snapped off the door. This little piece of plastic is what ensures that the door remains closed. For the most part it stays closed without it, but when you close the other door, the pressure pops the "broken" door back open. So, you have to be extra vigilant about making sure both sides are closed.

Why don't we get it fixed so that we don't accidentally refrigerate the entire kitchen? Well, because in order to fix this tiny plastic piece, we need a new door. For $800. Needless to say, GE changed the way they manufacture this style and no longer puts such a stupid plastic piece on it because we aren't the only people having this problem. So, for now we are on fridge door watch. And when I get around to it, I'll try hot gluing the piece back in to see if that helps.

Piece of $#!^ Sharp CarouselCase Study #2: our new microwave that we bought also at the same time (we left all our appliances as part of the sale of our old house). This is a not-extravagant but not-cheap stainless steel Sharp Carousel microwave. In order to use it, there is a touch pad with the numbers, Start, Stop, Cancel, etc. You get the picture.

Well, about 2 weeks ago the touchpad starting losing touch. So, on occasion we can get the Cancel button to work and sometimes the "Add a Minute" button since that's the only one that will work to get it started.

I don't want to get rid of the microwave since it otherwise works great. Except for the not being able to start it problem. Is there any way of fixing or replacing the touchpad on new microwaves? I suppose if I can't find someone to fix it or replace the touchpad, I'll tinker around with it myself.

Another point I want to make here is this: if it costs more to fix something than it costs to buy something new, do we have the responsibility to keep it out of the landfill? I think we do, but does anybody ever actually do this?

Did we become a throwaway society because we couldn't get things fixed or can we not get things fixed because we are a throwaway society?

55 comments:

Robbyn said...

I think maybe some of it falls under that category of "planned obsolescence" mentioned in Annie Leonard's narrated "Story of Stuff"...they want to insure a future demand. Ever seen kitchen appliances from twenty or thirty or more years ago? You drop one of those bad boy blenders or mixers and you could lose a foot :)

arduous said...

Ugh. My dishwasher just broke. Well it's not my dishwasher, it's my landlord's since I'm a tenant. And to be fair, it looks like a really old dishwasher. But the only thing wrong with it is that the little lid for the soap won't stay on. And my landlord said that he can't fix it so he's ordering a new dishwasher. Which strikes me as really bizarre, but there's nothing I can do about it since it's not my dishwasher.

I think we became a throwaway society because we couldn't get things fixed. Or rather, let me rephrase that, because fixing became much more expensive than not. I think this is because in the US labor is at a premium, but capital isn't. (This is largely because our merchandise isn't made by US labor and because we're subsidizing the costs of our capital.) In India, in part because there are so many people, capital is valued more than labor. So in India you can get someone to fix just about anything, whereas in America, we would rather just get a new thing because American labor is expensive and while we've outsourced manufacturing it's not so easy to outsource fixing.

Susan Buhr said...

I have a broken toaster, alarm clock, cd player and boom box sitting around. I've replaced most of them, but the carcasses are still here because I can't stand to throw it away. And they are too broken to give away. But, I just learned that there is a gentleman who recently retired from my workplace who is such an avid recycler he will either fix the broken stuff for me, fix it and give it to a charity, or see that the parts are properly recycled. He makes his rounds in a Prius picking stuff up and taking it to wherever it will be of use. Kudos-he's a hero. I think it's planned obsolescence also. We're the ones with the money, and as you say the stuff is expensive-we need to demand better.

Anonymous said...

ahh Crunchy - We have had the same issue here with our appliances. Which is one reason - I REFUSE to get rid of our 30 yr old dishwasher. It sounds like a freight train running through the house. I mean you cant be near the kitchen and on the phone when it runs....BUT for some reason it blasts the dishes clean. There are no replacement parts available - I've looked and contacted the mfg when the little door that holds the powder in broke. This EnergyBlackHole version gets run daily here. And my Mom bought a lovely quiet stainless interior/exterior one for $600 8 yrs ago when she redid her kitchen - and that one has been replaced. She uses a dishwasher about once a week and practically washes the dishes by hand before putting them in it.

I can remember fixing my hand mixer in college - it was tricky Good for you to attempt the microwave touch pad - Thats BRAVE!

~amy~ said...

we have been having the same problems over here!
our brand new washing machine came with our brand new house. now, two years later, there is a crack in the (plastic) drum of the machine! how? we have no idea. but after gallons and gallons of water on our floors we found it. then had to decide; new washer or what? obviously our solution won't last forever but we used epoxy and duct tape and crossing our fingers! so far its working. but my mom's washer has lasted my whole life!!

Anonymous said...

How frustrating! Have you tried:
1. an internet search on how to repair these things yourself and for a source for the frig part?
2. a letter to the CEO of each company politely saying that this is unacceptable and you want them to make you a satisfied customer. You would be amazed at what a polite complaint letter to the CEO or President's office can do. I'd enclose a copy of your blog entry to let them know that you are sharing your dissatisfaction with their company's products with a lot of other people.
Good luck.

hedgeshappenings said...

We faced a similar dilemma not long ago. Our old washer broke. We disassembled it. Scrap metal, parts that might come in handy in another project, and then parts that were purely garbage. We ended up with only about 7 pounds of "real" trash out of 200.

We also did laundry by hand for 3 weeks while we debated which way to go with laundry. We ended up with a front loader. Laundry by hand is not easy!

Kim

mel said...

My vote is that we can't get things fixed because we're a throwaway society... mostly due to planned obsolescence and partly due to our stuff being manufactured in a way that makes it so inexpensive for us (not for the earth or the labourers, of course) that the cost is an encouragement to replace rather than repair.

I agree that we have an imperative to repair first... the little sealing ring on my blender needed replacement, but it turned out to be a little bit tricky to find. I can't tell you how many people have told me to just throw it away and buy a new one. Wow, eh?

DramaMama said...

I just wanted to second the comment about letters to the CEOs, etc. We had an issue w/our new van (long story!) but we went to the library and got addresses for CEOs, COOs, CFOs, anybody who sounded like somebody - even in Japan! We sent certified letters stating that we were loyal customers and wanted to stay that way. We explained that we didn't expect this to happen to our 4 yr old van and now were quite disappointed in their company. We stated that we expected them to pay for the parts and labor since it was a design flaw - LIKE ON YOUR FRIDGE. You said that they have since changed the design, so it's like they admitted it was a design flaw. Anyway - we got ALL our money back! Needless to say we wrote a thank you letter to the company, just to show them that we're not only about writing the nasty note! Crunchy if you have questions, let me know...

KellyJean said...

We have run into these same problems! Our "new" fridge has had to be worked on several times over the 6 years we've had it. We even had to have the compressor replaced. Thankfully, it was a problem that many with that model had and the company fixed it for free... after much going around of course.

One of our kids dropped the plate that goes in our microwave and broke it. We were shocked to learn that replacing the plate cost as much as buying a new microwave. We went ahead and did it because there was nothing wrong with the microwave but it sure does make it hard.

We've also had problems with other appliances... it costs more to fix a camcorder or digital camera than it does to go buy a new one. Things did use to be better built. It is a total racket.

Deb G said...

I so agree-things are manufactured to be replaced these days. And cost of labor is a huge issue in regards to repairs.

The next problem when you try to do it yourself, is that so much of our stuff isn't easy for the average person to repair. When I brought home my last car, I was told I wasn't going to get any more free repairs-to much computerized stuff.

And then there is the observation my dad always makes; the more "bells and whistles" something has, the more there is to go wrong....

DC said...

There is a light bulb in a fire station in Livermore, California that has been working since 1901. I have ten made in China CFL bulbs that were supposed to last 10 years that have burned out in less than three. Good grief.

It's just sad. Companies aren't even content to just design crappy stuff that wears out fast anymore. Now they are coming up with products that tell us when we "need to" throw them away. For example, some razors come with a blue stripe that changes color when the razor is "worn out" according to the manufacturer -- whether it really is or not. The computer industry has even found a way to make products functioning perfectly well obsolete by making new software that will only run on new machines and operating systems. Oh, but don't worry -- all that old e-waste can be ”recycled” . . . in China –- just lovely.

When we need a new refrigerator, we're hoping to be able to afford a Sunfrost model. They make the most efficient refrigerators in the world, and their factory is in a small town in northern California. The only downside is that they are very expensive. Hopefully our old one (6 years old) with duct tape holding two of the door shelves on will last a while longer.

Greenpa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greenpa said...

Have you noticed the proliferation of the MBA's? They're cranking them out, and putting them in charge of bloody everything.

I think this is a basic business principle that they teach them all, and pound in, during the first week in MBA boot camp. "Never, never, never make a product that doesn't have to be replaced constantly - profits will suffer."

Short term results- lots of profits. Long term results - what? Never heard of it. (Long term- MBA moves to a new job, after generating lots of profits to show on the résumé.)

Dramamama's experience CAN happen. It'sa lotta work, though, and sometimes they'll just blow you off. Mentioning the blog for sure won't hurt.

Durability IS a problem for the business. Case in point- the original "Earth Shoe", circa 1970. First negative heel on the market; in fact for many people (including me) it worked great for relieving back pain. I got a pair, didn't even have to stand in line for 10 hours to get them like most folks, and wore them constantly. Huge marketing success.

When they wore out- 5 years later - I went back. The company was out of business. Too little repeat business- because- the shoes didn't wear out fast enough.
(You can still buy "Earth Shoes" - they sold the name, eventually. Not not the same thing.)

There has to be a way out of this dilemma. Not sure how at the moment.

rachel, pe said...

I currently have a microwave that sparks (replacement $350, electrician to fix it $400); a brand new noiseless dishwasher that is suddenly the noisiest thing in the house; and a fridge that leaks (amount for repairman to just look at it $100 + hourly rate of $100 + unknown diagnostic assessment amount). Very, very frustrating. But our toaster oven works great! As long as my husband doesn't butter his frozen waffles BEFORE toasting them. That incident caused a small kitchen fire but the toaster oven still works great. And it's probably the cheapest appliance in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

You have struck a raw nerve! We just replaced our 4 (!) year old High Efficiency GE front loading washer. It would have cost MORE to fix it than replace it. Identical story with our 2yo over-the-stove GE microwave (which oddly failed on the same day as the washer!)

I have asked this question to many appliance people. For the washer, they are only expected to last 6 to 8 years. THAT IS INSANE!!

Here is the other infuriating part. It was incredibly challenging to re-find that same washer that would stack with the companion dryer (and ours is still working). GE has changed the design. Luckily we found an old-design that is close enough and cheaper (go Fridgair-because really the same washer is manufactured overseas and different names are slapped on the) but the fit is not perfect and it rattles.

Several companies suggested we replace the dryer too-- since it was not easy to find a match! Seriously? Get rid of a perfectly 4yo good dryer?

I like the idea of letter writing- I think I will start on that!

Sandy said...

Oh Crunchy, I just had a long drawn out six week drama over a dishwasher back in November/December. All I wanted was my dishwasher fixed. It was leaking a teeny bit by the front door. I could put a dishcloth down and it would absorb the drips, but I thought I should be proactive in case the poor dishwasher had a prolapse and let all her fluids go. So, I found a repairman. He came out and said, oh yes, this will fix it -- and charged me for the part and $50 for the house call. I was delighted. Until I washed dishes the first time. The leak was WAY worse. So I called them back and waited another week till they could come out. Brought another part. Said it would work. First time I washed dishes, about half way through the cycle, worse ever leak. The third visit (mind you, I am paying for all of these) I had to wait three weeks for the part, then for them to schedule to come out, and STILL it didn't work. Before the man could ask me for a check I showed him the door. And I got my coat, went to Sears, and bought the best dishwasher they had in the store. Mind you, I like it, but I was so very frustrated by the whole experience, I can't tell you. I asked the guy that pulled the old dishwasher what they did with them, and he looked at me like I was crazy and shrugged. He just throws them in the back of the truck. Not sure what happens. Probably squish them and toss 'em was his answer.

It's really frustrating...and I can see by the other comments that everyone else is just as frustrated by it.

I have an "old" cell phone -- maybe 4 years old. It still works, but my friends lovingly tease me about my "ghetto" phone. Between products that don't last and the media pummelling people that they need to replace, replace, replace, I really don't know what to do about the situation.

My other issue (and then I'm thru) is that I'm not strong enough to pull the old dishwasher, take it apart, recycle, etc. I have to depend on other people to help me..and that's frustrating as well. It used to be that people knew how to fix stuff. My father and grandfather, rest their souls, could fix ANYTHING! I am still, 20 years later, using an ironing board that my grandpa pulled from someone's garbage, rewelded the leg, bought a new cover for the top and gave it to me because I didn't have an ironing board. Someone's trash, and 20 years later I am still using it. We've lost the ability to do those sorts of things and it makes me sad.

Chile said...

Letters to the company often work wonders but not always. I grew up with a Hoover upright vacuum that worked great. When I left home for college, it still worked great. Loyal to the brand, I bought a Hoover. It was a P.O.S. that drove me to distraction, especially when we had a big house on the market for 7 months and I had to vacuum frequently. I wrote the company and they sent back a piss-poor letter that essentially said, "Thanks for your comments. We'll keep them in mind for our next design." Uh, thanks. That helped me a whole lot!

I now own a Bissell. And I'm very happy with it.

~mel said...

I've often thought this is all a planned out scheme by large manufacturers. Cheaply made items(though not necessarily cheap in price) are easily broken. Repairing is often too expensive, so we just completely replace, ensuring continual purchasing of itmes. Such a sad throw-away society we've become, although sometimes it feels forced.

Phyllis Sommer said...

...and getting it fixed usually costs about half of what it will cost to get a new one. so by the time you've had it fixed and it breaks again 6 months later, the new one now costs you more becuase you've paid all that money for the repair guy. ugh.

DC said...

They used to have that commercial about the kindly old Maytag repairman who was lonely because he never had much to fix since his company's products worked so well. Ha!

Here's the new commercial: The poor old Maytag dude is out of a job, takes Prozac, drinks a lot and longs for the days when his former employer cared enough about him to pay him a living wage and benefits even though he wasn't that busy all the time. The new Maytag guy is some kid out of high school that gets paid minimum wage and charges $100 an hour to bang the sh*t out of your damaged appliances until they're so screwed up there's no hope of repairing them.

Yes, our 6 year old refrigerator with an ice maker that's been broken for 5 years and tape holding the shelves together is a Maytag. We ordered replacement shelves for $30 each, and the new ones broke within a week of installing them. We didn't even try to get the ice maker fixed. We can make our own friggin' ice. There's no way Maytag is getting another cent of our money.

just ducky said...

Hands down--we are a throw away society. And I totally agree with robbyn's comment about it all being about "planned obsolescence". For anyone who may not have seen the video "The Story of Stuff", here is the link: http://www.storyofstuff.com/

It is completely worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch. The only way manufacturers can guarantee their sales is if they know you will need to buy another one of their products,so they plan for shorter product life span. It is seemingly evil...

historicstitcher said...

Older appliance really did work better.

About six years ago we moved into a house that had last been updated in the 1950s. I used the stove that was in the house - a giant beast of a gas stove with a tiny over that stayed about 140F all the time from the pilot light and two storage doors on either side of the oven.

That monster stove worked fabulously, even when it was filthy and covered in grease when we moved in! I've never been able to stir-fry as well as I did then! And bread rose on the stovetop so fast...

Moved out and left that wonderful beast behind about 4 years ago. I miss it.

Jenn said...

Ugh...I hate that it's even possible to have conversations like this because stuff just doesn't last, and it's so difficult/time consuming/expensive to get it fixed.

My folks have a dryer that broke a few years ago. It just needed a new belt, but the guy who fixed it told them to keep the 25 year old beasie as long as possible, because the new ones are nowhere near as good or repairable. They've heeded his advice.

I'm just at the point where I'm eliminating things that break and can't be fixed without replacing them (no more hairdryer), and leaving the big stuff to my landlord, since it's their responsibility. It's a pretty lousy solution, in the grand scheme of things, but it's working for now.

Christy said...

I've been noticing for the last 15 years that things are junkier and junkier. I would like to keep my stuff for a lifetime but when they break a few years later and you can't find anyone to fix it, or if you can it cost more than a new one, you can't keep things for life. I find it very disheartening.

Anonymous said...

This makes me think of my experience trying to replace the battery for my cell phone. Nothing was wrong with the phone but after 3 years the battery slowly lost it's ability to hold charge. Well I could replace the battery for 30.00 or trade in my old phone for a new one for free. Bummer, all I wanted was a new battery but I ended up with a whole new phone.

Anonymous said...

Is it any coincidence that so many parts of newer appliances that break before their time are made of PLASTIC?

Thanks for the post. You just motivated me to bug our building management about replacing the broken PLASTIC shelf in the refrigerator.

Juli in NYC

Maddie Can Fly said...

Things break more frequently because everything is made with plastic -- cheap. Also, I'm convinced things are more expensive to fix then replace because corporate America wants you to keep consuming and spending. If you don't keep spending, they don't make money. Have you tried E600 glue on your fridge? I think hot glue wouldn't weather well.

Rosa said...

Part of it is that the really high-end energy-efficient stuff is more complex. Our fancy-schmancy high-efficiency dryer has been broken since the end of year 1. It heats up find, but it's not energy efficient any more because the sensor that says "stuff is dry" and turns it off.

Plus, they seem to intentionally make it difficult to do anything yourself - our fancy-schmancy front-load dryer says something useful like "e80" when it stops running. The manual doesn't say what the codes mean, it just says if you get an error message, call a repair person. That costs $150 here.

So my "read the manual" boyfriend goes online and searches for *hours* and now we have a list of what the error messages are. The one we were seeing most often? "blocked outflow pipe". We can fix that - you have to unscrew the cover to get to it, but we can sure pull a nursing pad or baby sock out of the sucker.

But planned obsolescence *really* shows when you try to get parts or service. The little plastic doohickey that is built into the motor base on my Kitchenaid blender shattered. (the part that actually turns so the blades will turn). The thing is 3 years old. I have been trying for a month to track down the piece so we can *try* to take it apart and fix it.

(Personally, I blame ourselves for the thing shattering - we should have stored it in a dark cupboard instead of an open shelf, and it broke on a day when it was about 50 degrees in my kitchen, and I didn't tighten it down enough. But it should be fixable!)

I don't know if labor is really the cost factor, though - I wouldn't mind spending $60 on having the local sewing machine dude open up our old nonworking machine...except he says there's about a 20% chance he'll be able to get parts for it once he figures out what's wrong.

Jane said...

Try Gorilla Glue when you do get down to fixing that blasted piece. My friend used it to hold a bit of the plastic bumper on her car in place after a minor ding up. I have used it successfully too, but not as dramatically. I am all about repairs. It just kills me that I have to ditch my two TV's next year which work fine but are more than 20 years old. I doubt the gov. issued adapters will work. I hate to think I'll be watching I Love Lucy in high def when it was meant to be viewed in black and white on a small black and white set. But, I am weird like that!

Anonymous said...

I miss my O'Keefe and Merritt stove!! That thing weighed about 500 lbs, so I couldn't move it to IL with me from CA, but I purchased it for $50, spent $200 to rechrome the top and I've never had an oven bake as beautifully as that one did.

I will never purchase a new appliance, ever again. Most stores have the 'dent and scratch' dept with tremendously lower prices than the new models. There are also lots of people giving away appliances on Freecycle, where I gave away my microwave (I have a toaster oven that heats up food just as fast, and it tastes 100x better!).

I wonder what the appliance companies would do if we refused to purchase their crappy offerings? What if we just kept fixing the old ones or bought used? They'd have to think of another way to pad that bottom line, methinks.

Magpie said...

"Did we become a throwaway society because we couldn't get things fixed or can we not get things fixed because we are a throwaway society?"

Chicken & egg problem - it's probably a bit of both.

Mason and Ashton said...

Same Fridge! Same crappy plastic piece that broke off! I spent so much time researching the new fridge/dishwasher/toaster oven we purchased- all crap. The appearance of the appliance is more important these days than how well it's made.

SustainableStyle said...

We fix it if we can. Even better, if we can get away without it, we don't use it anymore. We gave away our microwave and our dishwasher in the last year or so. We did have to replace our stove, it was a health hazard. However, we went as long as we could, cooking in a toaster oven for almost two years.

Susan said...

This issue drives me CRAZY. About 6 years ago, we purchased an expensive, high-efficiency Fisher-Paykel washer/dryer set. The set cost about $1300 new, which is a LOT of money for people just out of school. Well, it's broken 3 times in the past six years, and we've had to put another $6-700 in it to keep it going. We've had the same problem with blenders (why can't you purchase replacement gaskets, for the love of pete?) but on a much smaller economic scale, of course.

Meanwhile, my dad is still using the same avocado green washing machine, and stand mixer/blender combo dating from the nixon administraion.

TheSmithZoo said...

I was 8 1/2 months pregnant when our dishwasher caught on fire. After a few days of trying to reach into the deep sink to wash dishes with my huge belly in front of me, I was desperate. My husband went out and spent about $400 on a new one. I cringed at the price, but was grateful to have a nice machine that worked well. Less than 2 years later, it stopped getting dishes clean, and since we were still under our 2 year warranty for parts, we called someone out to fix it. He was very nice and fixed it great (needed a new motor) and told us how the new dishwashers that were out then have only a 60 day warranty, and the parts are meant to break soon after that. It was $200 just for the labor on that visit.

My brother was called over to help someone in his wife's family with their hot water heater. He knows how to fix those (usually pretty basic) but this hot water heater came with a computerized control board, and that was what was broken. He said that is the only way he could think of to mess us a water heater. (It was only a year old).

My Mom bought one of those fancy front loading washers. The computer board went out, and the repair man said they are meant to go out every 3 to 5 years, at about $500 a pop.

I have been driving my mini-van for almost 9 years (it is a 97) and at 150,000+ miles, it is just starting to hint that it might need a new transmission. My parents and my brother both bought the newer version of my van, with self closing doors and all the newer stuff. The doors on my brothers are broken now (We both have small kids) and both have already had transmission problems. What has changed in the quality of the stuff they make? I am afraid to buy any new anything. My fridge shelves are held up (quite nicely thank you) with Gorilla Glue. We remodeled our kitchen and had to replace the stove, but even though my fridge is ugly, I am hoping it will hold out awhile longer, because it works great! same with my ugly washer and dryer!

Thanks for the interesting post (as usual)!

blr said...

The screws on the top of the wheel brackets on our 350$ pottery barn office chair all got stripped over the course of 4 years. The rest of the chair, very nice solid wood, is is absolutely perfect condition. I assumed, like a fool, that if I contacted the company they would supply me the part for a ridiculous fee, but the part none the less. I was told by the PB rep that they don't fix things and they do not offer the parts to fix their furniture. She did tell me that they have the same style available now for 375$. I thought that was very helpful of her.

crstn85 said...

My parents microwave LED burned out, so while everything still worked, you couldn't see what you were doing. Occasionally you typed in 1 minute instead of 10, but generally it worked just fine without a digital readout. Its been going like this for many, many years. It confuses me now when my new microwave flashes messages at me.

emily said...

Re: gaskets. This is just a guess, but you know those moka coffee makers? (Some people call it a stove-top espresso maker.) They need replacement gaskets every couple years, so they're relatively easy to find if you know an Italian food store. Try buying one of those gaskets and see if it'll work--they come in bags of 3 for not much money. If Crate and Barrel tells you to buy a new one, ask them where the nearest Italian market is. :)

Also, about screws and such for particular pieces of furniture... IKEA's stuff is cheap in quality, but they do have bins full of little parts and employees manning those bins at every store. So, if you bring something home and a part is missing, you can get it. I assume it would work okay for replacements as well?

emily said...

Sorry for being so unclear. Try a using moka gasket in your "broken" blender is what I meant. And don't buy a new blender or moka machine from C&B without trying a cheapo gasket first. :)

The Simpleton said...

Ingenuity is a wonderful thing. I have a VCR that was made in 1980, I kid you not. The first time it broke, I took it to the repair guy who said "I won't fix that; you can get a new one for less than my fee." I said "I don't want a new one; I want this one fixed." He shrugged his shoulders, and I walked out, fixed the driver band by replacing it with a rubber band from a 99c bag of rubber bands, and have been replacing rubber bands at a slightly accelerating rate ever since.

It is a good investment to find a competent small appliances repair person. Sure, it's good that they'll tell you what it costs, but it's also good if they'll do the work anyway.

Nicole said...

I'm going through the same thing with my dryer right now. The thing just won't start. My husband instictively said "We need to go buy a new one" We just bought it two years ago.. how is it that these major appliances are becoming so disposable??

Ohhhh and YES my in laws have a fridge that is from the 50s that they are still using.. hmmm...

The Green Panther said...

Personally, I think proliferation of crappy appliances is a mostly-U.S. phenomenon.

http://www.compactappliance.com/

I bought a German-designed, U.S. manufactured ventless washer/dryer that changed my life from the above website. It's one of the highest-quality appliance purchases I've ever made, and highly energy-efficient to boot. It's the tiniest washer I've ever seen, and the most powerful; you could mistake it for a rocket launch during full-throttle spinout.

Though I haven't had to get it repaired -- and for all I know, it may take a team from NASA to do that -- I'm going to venture and say the extra money was worth what I've saved in gas (to laundromats or friends' houses), water, energy, and shoddy lower-quality appliances.

The Green Panther said...

One of the highest-quality appliances I've ever BOUGHT, not made. To date, I have manufactured exactly zero appliances =)

Anonymous said...

Nicole, if your dryer won't start at all, and you've checked the house circuit breaker switch for the dryer to make sure it hasn't tripped, there's a good chance that your dryer overheated and the thermal limiter on the machine tripped. This happens when the dryer gets too hot in order to prevent fires. It costs about $100-$130 to get fixed, parts and labor. If the thermal limiter is the problem, there's a good chance that your dryer vent is also clogged and that you need to get it cleaned out, which runs about $75-$100 to have someone do it for you, and which you will need to do it even if you replace the dryer -- otherwise, the same problem could recur with your new machine. I could be wrong, but it's worth a call to the appliance guy to find out.

BerryBird said...

Our microwave has the same exact problem with the buttons not working. Well, sometimes they work, but mostly they respond in a non-sensical manner, a 3 becomes a 6 when pressed, and so on. Oddly enough, the "add a minute" button is the most likely to work on ours as well.

And I agree with those who've said that products are designed to need rapid replacement. There is no morality in profit.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I guess there is some comfort in knowing that I'm not alone and that the rest of you are also experiencing the same crappy products.

Not that that's much of a consolation!

Rosa said...

Whoo!

I just googled blender parts diagram so I could figure out what the doohickey was called. The doohickey that our local Kitchenaid-recommended fixit place says absolutely cannot be ordered by a private person.

I found a web site that sells them. They are called rubber clutch couplings and I just ordered two for $8 plus shipping from Marbeck.com, small appliance replacement and repair parts. And they have installation instructions to print out.

I ordered two because I'm pretty sure we'll kill another one - hard rubber & low temperatures = shattered doohickey. We store our blender on a shelf against a wall that was probably about 10 degrees to touch this morning.

Thank you for bringing this up, Crunchy. If I wasn't so frustrated trying to describe what the d*mn thing *is*, I would have just trusted the fixit place.

I haven't gotten my order yet, so I'm not recommending this company yet, but y'all should check out their product list. Beard trimmer parts, crock pot parts, electric toothbrush parts, vacuum parts...

Anastasia-Jane said...

We bought a new home in March 2000. Everything was new when we moved it. We moved out summer of '06 but not before replacing the clothes washer, dryer, microwave, hot water heater, toilet guts every 6 months and had the AC fixed. Everything except the AC broke right after the warranty was up. My MIL is currently using the washing machine that her parents used and it is loud but still works.

Maeve said...

We wanted a house a bit bigger than our previous 800 sq ft of livable space home. We moved into a 1950s house, which still had the original Frigidaire Flair cooktop/oven in the kitchen. The clock and such don't work, but the important parts (burners and oven) do. One burner quit working, and my husband was able to repair it with a bit of electrical wire and a fuse thing.

That stove is 50 years old and still works great.

While there are a couple of annoyances, overall I like it. And I don't think I can get any stove/oven combo on the market that is going to last 50+ years to replace it, when it eventually is no longer repairable.

Jill said...

I truely believe that companies make crap so that it breaks and we will buy new. We bought a dryer that lasted maybe 2 years. We tried to fix it ourselves but it was designed that you could not get the back cover off. It was cheaper to buy new than to have it fixed.

Anonymous said...

Companies make crap for two reasons:

1 We know it's crap, but we buy it anyway
2 As soon as you buy it (warranty not withstanding), it's your problem.

If we fixed either of these issues, we'd see a lot less crap. Demand quality. Save your money until you can afford a european model and plan on keeping it forever. Or demand that laws be changed so that companies were responsible for free disposal recycling of defunct products. As long as we want it now, cheap and in matching stainless steel, black was so last year, we will get crap.

Anonymous said...

Oh me too! So yesterday I was cracking hazel nuts. We have two nutcrackers: one my wife bought new a year ago in a pinch and one I bought used at the thrift shop 6-7 years ago, both "nunchuck style" metal posts with a hinge on the top, nothing fancy.

So I grabbed the new one and as I took it out of the drawer a sliver of chrome went into my finger. The thin coating started falling off revealing some darker mystery metal underneath. THEN when I cracked the hazel nut the hinge snapped in two! I got out the old used one and it worked like a charm.

Just about anything new is total garbage, has a life span of about five minutes, and is part of the bloating of our debt-leveraged American lifestyle. My brother-in-law was talking about replacing all his DVDs with "Blue Ray" DVDs and I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

Andrea said...

Late to the conversation here, but wanted to add my two cents to the issue of "planned obsolescence". I think that part of the problem is that, no matter how much we are paying for things, we are not paying the "true cost". True costs include everything from production, to labor, to disposal. If the companies that make the products were also responsible for all disposal costs (material recovery, costs to the environment, etc.), then the products would cost a lot more and people sure as hell would demand that things lasted much longer. The planned obsolescence thing has a balance - how quickly can we make this break but not make our customers too unhappy? The more it costs, the longer that time frame stretches. I do agree that the more we complain, the more we effect that second part of the equation.

John said...

Yes indeed, appliances are now intentionally made with short life times, yet the marketing spin is all about green "Energy Star" performance, and your associated cost savings. Ask yourself about that cost savings as you replace your refrigerator every 6 or 7 years, for an appliance that routinely used to last 30 or more years!

Furthermore, consider the global "green" effect as landfills have to aborb an ever-increasing supply of such appliances. Then don't forget all the energy used and raw materials mined to manufacture the next (similarly-made) replacement appliance.

"Energy Star" is, and will remain, a BIG LIE unless the appliance manufacturers start to design for durability and ease of repair, and then back it up with a standard extended warranty to the purchaser.

We went through this with a 6 year old Sears "Energy Star" refrigerator, actually made by Amana. We were faced with either a repair charge of nearly $600 for an $800 refrigerator (with one year warranty on the repair itself), or buing a new refrigerator. We chose the environmentally-irresponsible second option, spending $900 on a new refrigerator. Basically, we were unsure about investing further in an appliance already proven defective. The service schedule/attitude from Sears was also abysmal, plus other independent repair estimates were also similar. Finally, we naively thought our old refrigerator (which looked brand new, btw) would likely be repaired by the "free pick up" appliance folks, and then resold--insert BUZZER SOUND here. Later of course, we found out the 6 year old refrigerator went directly to the local dump.

Summary: If you have an older appliance that still functions, consider holding on to it. If you buy a new appliance (no doubt an "energy saver"), consider buying an extended warranty as part of he total purchase price. Because THEY don't make them like they used to, nor are they particularly concerned about it. Finally, look at the big picture for how "green" your purchase is.

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