Service of Coming Clean II

November 19th, 2015

Categories: Appliances, Appointments, Customer Care, Customer Service, Repair

hand washing dishes in sink 

A friend in NJ sent this to me. It identifies legitimate expectations of someone who invests in the best and anticipates equivalent service. She wrote:

I had an experience recently that calls service into question. 

We bought a Miele dishwasher about eight years ago.  It cost more than my husband’s first car, but we had done our research and decided it was worth it.  Up until now, we’ve been very happy with it.  But it developed a leak early this month, so I called Miele (which does all of its own servicing).  The person I spoke with in the service department was not the most congenial.  It took a fairly long time for him to find us in the system, because someone had spelled my name wrong when I made my last service call. (They had talked me through a minor repair some years back.) The appointment he gave me was a week in the future. 

dishwasherThe technician came and was very nice.  He brought a $600 pump on the assumption that was probably the problem.  But it wasn’t.  It was two inexpensive hoses, which he did not have on his service truck.  He pointed out the window to indicate how small the truck is and told me it had to hold everything he needs for a day’s scheduled repairs.  What he didn’t explain was why the assumption was that the pump was shot and the leak had nothing to do with simple hoses or gaskets. He assured me the parts were in the warehouse, said someone would call to schedule another service appointment, and assured me I would only be charged for a single visit. 

The next day I received an estimate for the cost of the repair, which said I had only five days to schedule an appointment before the estimate expired.  No one had called me so I called and waited a long time to talk to someone in the service department.  It turns out that all parts have to be shipped from the warehouse (here in NJ, where Miele is based and where I live) to the service tech (the techs work from home), and when he received them I would get a call to schedule an appointment. I insisted on prompt scheduling. My next appointment is a week from the first one. Assuming the dishwasher gets fixed then, we will have been without one for two weeks.

And I will have rearranged my schedule not once but twice to accommodate service appointments. 

repair vanWhen I asked the customer service person why Miele operated on this convoluted system, which is inconvenient for the customer, he said it’s because the company wants inventory in the warehouse, not on the service trucks.  My response was that if you send a tech out to fix a leaky dishwasher, he should have all the parts that might be needed in that situation, not just the priciest one. How much room do hoses take?  I pointed out that when you sell high-end appliances, you need to offer high-end service!  I also indicated that I’m in the process of replacing all the appliances in another kitchen and had just been in the Miele showroom two weeks ago to look at the latest dishwashers.  I’d also looked at the products of a competitor.

We have other high-end appliances, and I have had service on some of them over the years. I’ve never had to wait this long to get one of them fixed.  Most of the other brands do not have proprietary service, as Miele does.  Instead, they use authorized repair people who service multiple brands.  My neighbor had a problem with her dryer the other day and the service people were out here almost immediately!

dishwasher partsMy husband, who is very handy, even looked online to see if he could buy the parts and do the repair himself.  But unlike many of its competitors, Miele doesn’t sell parts.

I don’t mind washing dishes once in a while, although it’s a pain in the tail after a dinner party. But you don’t spend this much on a dishwasher to hand-wash your dishes for two weeks.  And I will be asking very different questions before I buy my next appliances.

People with both tight budgets and deep pockets buy top of the line appliances from local merchants because they expect to get better service when needed–though not too often–as well as to keep the equipment for a long time. Is this a myth? Are they better off buying cheap copies from big boxes and tossing them when they break?

dishwashers at dump

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16 Responses to “Service of Coming Clean II”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Even mid-priced appliances don’t hold up these days…keep and repair older units! (Sorry to the major appliance industry–but that’s our personal stance!)

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    We paid a fortune to repair a suberb Sub Zero refrigerator we inherited with an apartment because we were told that it would then last even longer than a new one, and I believe it.

  3. hb Said:

    What a hell of story! I am deeply afraid that the answer is the one you suggest. Buy cheap; do not buy a warranty; do not repair the appliance when it breaks; throw it away, and buy a new one.

    But this will all change when we use up our readily available raw materials, have to pay still more to throw away barely used appliances because we have filled up our available dumps and run short of energy. Meanwhile, what happened to all those skilled repairmen I remember from my youth? They are not all working on computers.

    No wonder life expectancy for white males with a high school education, 45-54, has declined. They are out of work. It is cheaper is buy new than fix, and no one needs them. Have you ever felt unneeded?

  4. EAM Said:

    I’ve heard similar complaints from Sears who may have pricier items but doesn’t have stellar customer service. Let’s just keep in mind that these are relatively small problems compared to some others (those in Paris, migrants coming from Syria).

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    You are right about the cost of tossing things. Upstate the dump will charge me $5 per chair made mostly of wood with plastic seat covers that someone left behind at the house. I’ve avoided spending the $40 so they clutter up the garage. Goodness knows what I’d pay for a broken appliance–that I’d have to pay someone to get to the transfer station in the first place.

    Your comment about males in the 45-54 demographic makes me sad. Add that to all the black youth without jobs and millions of refugees needing work and the future in these parts seems bleak. I have always envied all people who can fix things. I was not so blessed or trained.

    To answer your question: I’ve felt unneeded. Most don’t know the difference between decent and horrendous writing and aren’t willing to pay much for something they don’t value. Daily we learn of reporters, editors and magazine writers being laid off from their jobs. Sad. For years I’ve tried to think of a way to capture this talent, put it to work and make it pay.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAM,

    I am hoping that others are able to tell about some great appliance repair people such as John who fixes Sub Zero appliances. {I don’t have his last name but do have his phone number if someone in NYC needs a reference}.

    I get into swivets about poor service, beached publicity efforts and such and your reminder, that there are people with far bigger problems, is pertinent. I felt strange posting about museums and my client’s craft fair on Monday on the heels of the Paris tragedy but one of the things about terrorism is that we can’t let terrorists stop us from living and doing what we do.

  7. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Our stove is an old Hardwick from the ’70s (yep, the enamel is BROWN!) But it’s got a broiler over the top that we use way more than the oven, and you can turn the gas burners WAY, WAY up. And it is SOLID. So, modernization be damned!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    For this reason I feel sorry for my friend, the author of the post, as she’s on the market to buy all new appliances for a home she purchased recently. I wonder if there is a second hand market for vintage appliances.

  9. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Habitat for Humanity ReStore (there’s one here in Newburgh, so there must be some closer to the City!) Or Urban Archeology, maybe?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    New everything might sell a home faster but it isn’t always better from your comments and some on the post.

    While not gadgets, I have vintage muffin and cake tins and other baking shapes from my mother–that may even have been my grandmother’s [she died before I was born], that I wouldn’t trade for new.

  11. Anonymous Said:

    Actually, I do think the high-end appliances are better. We inherited an LG refrigerator and a Kitchen Aid dishwasher with the house. Hate them both! My Subzero refrigerator kept food good for 4 days when we were without power after the October blizzard and Hurricane Sandy. And I rarely ever have to toss food because its dual-zone technology does an amazing job, and it seals very tightly. The LG overchills and overfreezes some things and lets others wilt. It’s also badly organized. The doors don’t always close and it has stupid beepers. The Kitchen Aid heats the dishes way too much. On the other hand, the cooktop and hood we inherited are 20 years old and professional grade and I am keeping them! I’m also keeping the 19-year old toilets, which are far better than the ones you get today (unless you pay an absolute fortune).

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    Organization for a refrigerator seems like such a simple thing but when off, can drive you NUTS for years.

    We have an ugly little toilet in a guest bathroom that we’ve been told to keep. We have a hard water issue and it cleans up the best. Can’t use most products that address the minerals in the new ones as they are made of fragile stuff and instructions warn against doing so.

  13. Lucrezia Said:

    The Miele victim appears to confuse high price with high quality, and has a great deal of time to spare to write about it. Ordeals described are closer to those of Beowulf, than a battle with a company suffering from a lousy repair department.

    Remedies which are more apt to bring desired results include threats to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or drag the offending company into small claims court. Usually well worded threats end up with desired results, and if not, one acts accordingly. Filing fees are modest, no lawyers needed – just proper documentation.

    If a buyer is intent on losing money, he buys the “cheap” stuff. It usually costs a great deal more in the long run.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    When I’m irate, my fingers race across the keyboard. The friend who wrote this had wasted time due to nonsense and I SO relate to her frustration. Like you, she’s a writer and I bet it didn’t take her long to pour out the saga. I currently have a few under my belt –just need a few minutes to share them. Makes one feel better. And it took her much less time to write this than it would to gather whatever is necessary to face another agita-generating scenario, working with small claims court. What would she claim anyway? That she got the run-around by a klutzy service organization?

    I’ve never owned a Rolls Royce, Bentley or other top of the line car so I can’t say for sure but my guess is that take one of these to a dealer for repair and you’re treated with kid gloves or else. Similarly, if you do your research as my friend did [I know her–believe me she did] about the quality of a Miele–and she is ahead of the game that she didn’t need to call in service for eight years–I think she and other customers deserve a well thought through strategy for repair service. Her description sounds like something cobbled together by unmotivated staff who didn’t consider customers, only their own convenience.

  15. Debby Brown Said:

    Most recent appliance, Maytag refrigerator, not even 4-years old, “died” two days before the warranty. Service under the warranty was a Saturday Night Live skit! Russian-speaking duo finally arrived 10:30 PM after 3 bookings and cancelled appointments. Fixed it. Next to go was the freezer below. Got another repair person who fixed it. For 3 weeks. Then the “fixed” refrigerator went again! Advice from all with whom I shared this untenable situation: “if it was manufactured 8 or 10 years ago and it still works, don’t replace it!” Apparently, many appliances today are built to last only 4 – 6 years and few are manufactured in the USA! My new refrigerator is Kitchenaid with a “Made in America” label. We’ll see!! Oh yes! The oven repair man just came to adjust the GE Profile oven temperature that was 50 degrees off. That appliance is only 3 years old.

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debby,

    I am too sad reading this and wish I could disagree but I’m sure you are correct. I don’t know what consumers can do about this. Individually we don’t represent enough business to make a difference. It’s not as though we can decide to live without a refrigerator as we can collectively move away from certain food groups or clothing brands.

    My guess is that there is pressure on the appliance industry to keep prices cheap by big builders who want to pay as little as possible so they can increase profits. They are the ones who must demand a better product, they have the clout, but what do they care? Once sold, what’s in the house is someone else’s headache.

    Big sigh.

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