Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Washing Machine Opera: Act II

So.   The washing machine doesn't work as well as it used to, now that it looks like this.

Welcome back to Act II of the Washing Machine Opera -- a tragic opera, I might add -- in three acts.
Act II:  Miser Mom goes to the Mall

This is the act in which I seem to spend my time railing against professional people.  

For example, our repair guy (RG) told my husband he recommended we get a new washing machine.  He also told my husband, "Don't get brands S or L; I spend all my time repairing those."  

Now, I really like RG, but I also know the dangers of seeing the world from particular angles.  He probably spends most of his time repairing white-colored machines, but that's not because white-colored machines are more likely to break -- it's because that's the color people buy most often.  It was entirely possible that RG was swayed by what statisticians call "selection bias".  So when my husband declared that we wouldn't buy brands S or L, I suggested we might do some actual research that was based on data, rather than anecdote.

Sure enough, multiple sources (Consumer Reports, Good HouseKeeping) convinced my husband that the best brands for energy use and reliability were in fact S and L.  So we figured out what machine we wanted, and we headed off to a large department store in the Mall.

I have not been in the mall for several years, except that last year I ran through the mall (as in, "going for a run") on the way to a car repair place.  So of course, the experience is a little overwhelming for me.  I have a friend who also, like me, avoids the mall, and he talks about going back in like "coming out of a sensory deprivation chamber"-- and he doesn't mean that in a good way.  

Once we got into the large-appliance section of the department store, we got to meet Jonah, our sales associate.  He was the guy I got to rail against.  Things started off well: he offered to show us machines, we said we knew exactly what we wanted and pointed to the particular machine we were interested in, and he agreed it was the most popular model he sold.  "It's a great machine!" he said cheerily.

He also effused over the matching dryer, and took our "no, we don't want that" with good grace.  But then came the pitch for an extended warranty.

Here's the thing about warranties:  that's how appliance stores make most of their money.  They advertise the machines for relatively low prices, and they supplement their income by selling warranties that can cost, in the long run, as much as or more than the machines themselves.   Extended Warranties are to washing machines what the popcorn and soda are to movies (economically speaking, at least).  I don't buy warranties, and I can understand why stores sell them.  What I really hate about them is the pressure, the hiding of the truth, and the deceptive premises that go with all the selling of them.

Once we'd agreed on the machine, Jonah turned into a Warranty Warrior.  He started with a simple sell:  would you like one?  (No thank you, we said).  He then brought out charts.  The same machine he had declared "Great!" just a moment earlier had a host of dreadful diseases that could beset it, and they were all listed, together with repair cost.  $234 for a new pump!  $137 for an electronic gizmo! Another $200 for a sensor! It was clear that this most excellent machine could easily cost us several thousand dollars in repair costs if we weren't careful.

No thank you.

Jonah tried again.  This is his job, I know, and it's his commission, but I still hate it.  I should probably have just said No thank you and left it at that, but I actually tried to reason with him.  During the years we've owned our current machine, I pointed out, we've spent less than $300 on repairs -- that's $30 per year.  (And that's even with my husband paying for repairs that we later learned to do ourselves for free). A warranty costs a bunch more than that.  Jonah countered by pointing out that companies aren't making machines as reliably as they used to; we're  going to be looking at rising repair prices.  Better be on the safe side!

Man, I really hate how combative this is.  I hate that I can't trust a single word out of a sales person's mouth. Because remember: this department store is not offering the warranty because they want to save me money; they are not looking to make a loss on this sale just so they can do me a favor; they want to make money off of me.

A bit more unpleasantness aside, and we bought the warranty-less machine.  We agreed to get a department store credit card because it meant we'd get "free delivery" of the machine.  But "free delivery" is the subject of Act III.  Time to leave the Mall and go home.


  1. Our w/d set (non-matching) is ~10 years old. We bought it new from Sears and didn't have any trouble with the salesman... possibly because he was one of my DH's students that semester and was a bit nervous.

    1. Our Sears has changed a lot over the years. I've noticed a definite upward trend in pushiness about warranties . . . but that could easily say as much about me as it does about them. I really do think I've gotten tetchier about it. I should have just said "no thank you" instead of trying to explain *why* I was saying no.

      OR I should wait until it's one of my calculus students doing the selling! Now, that one, I'll have to keep in mind. Heh.