Thursday 26 August 2010

The Maytag Repairman: Lonely No More!

It’s been a terrible month for appliances chez moi. First, and disaster de tutti disasters, my laptop of nearly 4 years’ vintage crashed. Literally, taking a swan dive off our kitchen table and landing, screen first, on the floor. It seemed none the worse for wear at the time, but next morning, on rebootation, I received a message so traumatic, I seem to have blanked it out (either that, or the Alzheimer’s is proceeding faster than I thought). Worse than the blue screen of death, it said, “No recognized operating system.”

Cue stab scene music from Psycho.

And the best part—okay, the worst part--is that the crash happened in early August and my last external backup was—cue sad chamber music by string quartet on the deck of the Titanic—June 21st. So let that be a lesson to you: back up your hard drives, people.

But I digress: today’s subject is Maytag repairmen, and the complete opposite of their loneliness, and my laptop wasn’t made by Maytag. My dishwasher, however, is another story.

Last summer, we finally decided to renovate our 1950s kitchen. It wasn’t quite the reno of our dreams--that would have cost at least another $5,000. Let’s call it the-reno-of-our-dimished-but-wholly-practical expectations. But there was the dishwasher dilemma: ours still worked, but it was 10 years old. Should we keep it till it died, or spring for a new one?

We opted for door number 2. Cue buzzer for wrong answer from Family Feud. Worse, instead of our usual bottom of the line, department store brand, we sprang for a Maytag.


I have no answer except the salesman’s recommendation, the middle of the road price and—let’s face it, they’d hardly spend the billions if it didn’t work—the advertising. Did we want the extended warranty?

No, we did not.

Foolish us.

But in nearly 30 years of marriage, we’d had 3 dishwashers and maybe 2 repair calls. Extended warranty? What for? It was a Maytag. Extended warranties were how they gouged you; everyone knew that!

Did I mention we were foolish?

Dishwasher purchased June 2009; expiration of manufacturer’s warranty: June 2010; dishwasher death: August 2010.

I called the toll-free repair service. Did you know that Whirlpool bought Maytag and now comprises some 8 or 9 brands? Together they represent the OPEC of household appliances.

A tech came and consulted the entrails of a chicken: we needed a replacement electrical panel. Replacement electrical panel: $100. Two service calls: $150. The feeling you get spending $250 to fix a year-old dishwasher bought for $750 (and still being paid for): priceless.

I was ticked. Seriously. Told the pudgy young service dude, “Tell your supervisor how seriously ticked I am that our dishwasher is broken a mere 14 months after purchase.”

His answer: “I never see a supervisor. They’re in Ontario.” To a true Quebecois, Ontario is like, oh, I don’t know, the frigging moon or something. And vice versa, I’m sure.

Four business days to get the part, he said.

Of course, I had to wait much longer than four days, and finally called to inquire where said part was, only to be told the repair wasn’t in their system.

This frightened me: they had a system? For manufacturing substandard appliances and failing to repair them in a timely manner?

Who, exactly, was in charge of this “system,” the ex-cons from Enron?

I told Katie, the customer service rep with the nice Southern drawl—and I’m not talkin’ south’n Ontario, neithah—how upset I was to be paying $250 to fix a dishwasher purchased for $750 not quite a year ago. She put me on hold. I waited.

They would cover the part, she finally told me; the service charges, however, were all mine.

I subsequently googled Maytag dishwasher repair: in June 2010, some 1.7 million dishwashers—same manufacturer, but branded Maytag, Jenn-Air, Amana, Admiral, Crosley, Magic Chef, and Performa—had been recalled. Produced between 2006 and 2010, the dishwashers risked “an electrical failure in the dishwasher's heating element” posing “a serious fire hazard.” As opposed to an unserious fire hazard.

Twelve reports of fires, one “of extensive kitchen damage” but luckily, “no injuries.” So far.
Of course, my dishwasher didn’t fall into that recall, but I have high hopes for the next one.

At least, with 1.7 million dishwashers recalled for servicing, you can be certain of one thing: that ol' Maytag repairman sure ain’t lonely no more!