Why Your New Dishwasher is Junk and Your New Car Isn't

Sometime in the late 1970s, we replaced our stacked washer/dryer which we had bought for the mobile home we lived in, with two appliances.  I subscribed to Consumer Reports than and read about different brands of washing machines and clothes dryers.  From that reading we bought appliances from two different companies.  It’s been a long time now, and it doesn’t matter, but I can’t remember who made them. 

Those two appliances were moved to a different location where we had a home with natural gas and I replaced the electric dryer with a gas dryer.  Our next move – according to the owner – was to a total electric home.  I sold the gas dryer and bought an electric dryer.  The house we had bought, practically sight unseen, had a gas hook-up in the utility room.  The man’s wife said I should have called her, that her husband didn’t know anything about anything except selling stocks and bonds.

So, from the mid-80s we had a washer form the 70s and a dryer from the 1980s.  When we moved in 2008 to our present home we still had those appliances.  Because clothes came out of the dryer covered with fine white material of some kind my wife thought we needed a new dryer.  We replaced both washer and dryer and clothes still came out covered with something white.

We still don’t know what it is.  L dresses mainly in black and, while I can’t see the stuff, she says it is horrible.  The appliance store ventured that it could be the detergent we were using.  New, low water use washing machines, need a different detergent.  We switched detergents without relief.

All of that, though, is not what this is about.  What it is about is that, when the dishwasher in our new home went out and we bought a Maytag we found that everything had changed since our decades old washer and dryer purchases.

Maytag wasn’t Maytag anymore and Amana wasn’t Amana.  All of the appliances, including the revered Kitchen Aid, were simply Whirlpools with another mother.  The replacement dishwasher quit within the warranty period and the serviceman told us that we needed to buy an extended warranty because all of the appliances now were designed to last about five years, that we would likely experience failures much sooner than that, and service and repairs could cost as much as a new appliance.

The dishwasher quit because the push button controls simply change the contact point on a paper circuit board in the dishwasher door that will fall apart if moisture gets in the door.  We are now on our third circuit board.

The washer and dryer – knock wood – have worked well except for the horrible white stuff issue.

We replaced the electric range and oven when we moved in with a gas stove.  The replacement was a “Maytag” that worked for the next 8 years.  About a month ago the oven quit working.  We called the extended warranty company which actually is a division of Whirlpool, and a young man came out, looked at the oven and ordered a new valve.  He came three days ago, spent the morning switching valves, other parts, talking with the engineering department in Wisconsin, changing the “gap” and after running the oven through its paces declared it fixed.  The next day it wasn’t.

We’ve been back with the service department and we will need to schedule another service visit.  Meanwhile I am baking on the gas grill on the deck.  The grill actually does a great job.  The problem is that it’s not exactly grilling weather.

Whirlpool pulled off an industry coup.  They first obtained an oligopoly of the appliance industry.  They then changed the mechanisms on all of the appliances so that they looked like something that would work, but work only briefly. 

The industry had to do something.  Do you remember the advertisement for Maytag years ago that had the serviceman waiting for the phone to ring.  That was their selling point; buy a Maytag and you never have to have it repaired.  Whirlpool had another idea.

This business plan has been called engineered obsolescence, planned obsolescence, and a variety of names – some of them unrepeatable in polite company – and goes back at least to the 1930s.  Opinions vary, but some credit G.M. with coming up with the plan.  By making cars so that they would fall apart in a few years, changing the style every year, and working out a credit plan, the company got itself through the depression by encouraging owners to buy a new car every two years.

Planned obsolescence works on what has been termed an information asymmetry; the manufacturer knows how long a product will last, but the consumer doesn’t.

The automobile industry didn’t lie about how long their products would last, they depended on the consumer desire to own the newest and most fashionable product.  If you were trading every two years you didn’t care how long the car would last.  Consequently, a ten year old car on the road in the 1950s and ‘60s was a “junker.”

Times changed, however, and the entry of the Japanese automobile into the American market made Americans realize that they had been buying junk for decades.  By the 1990s the average age of an automobile on the road was over ten years, and Toyota, Honda and Nissan had largely captured the market. 

Although American automobile manufacturers tried to make Americans think they were making good products with slogans like, “where quality is job one”, they didn’t live up to their slogans, largely lost the market, and only exist today because of the restructuring that occurred during the Obama administration.  Apparently, General Motors fired “Mr. Goodwrench” as a result of “radical restructuring.”

https://www.aol.com/2010/11/09/general-motors-fires-mr-goodwrench/

So far, the mergers of European and American automobile companies, the venture of companies like BMW of building vehicles in the U.S. that primarily sell to the U.S. market, and the working arrangements between Japanese companies and American companies have not lessened our car buying choices.

The same can’t be said for home appliances.

A friend bought a Swedish made washing machine, which held up better than any of the Whirlpool family of appliances, but when it failed he had a difficult time finding anyone to work on his washer.  There seems to be no good option for American consumers in the home appliance business.

Views: 133

Comment by koshersalaami on December 29, 2017 at 7:52am

I’ve heard good things about LG which is not American and which is capturing a lot of the market

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 29, 2017 at 7:55am

Great!

Comment by Steel Breeze on December 29, 2017 at 8:03am

hence the advantage of being a lifelong mechanic.......my truck is a '03 and my furnace is a 1980,both work like new,albeit with many repairs and rebuilds by me.as a side note,the cars today are built so your average 'yard mech' can't repair them.i work part time now maintaining a fleet for a friend.here's a few examples,on the Nissan Quest,v-6,tochange the rear three spark plugs i had to remove everything from the windshield glass forward;cowl,body panel,intake manifold,various electrical and plumbing components.on the same motor to change the altenator i removed;radiator fans,radiator,battery,battery box,etc........fucking ridiculous engineering...

Comment by Steel Breeze on December 29, 2017 at 8:09am

btw,he's got 15 vehicles,most with over 250,000 miles on 'em,i keep'em runnin but repairs are becoming more than 'part time'....

Comment by alsoknownas on December 29, 2017 at 9:10am

I'm sick of fixing things.

I'm sick of city life, the troubles and rush.

My '88 Chevy, 5 on the floor pick-up is reliable. Sure the radio squawks and the A/C is shot ( windows work fine) but it does the things I need. Can't haul 3/4 of a cord of firewood in my 18 year old Outback.

My favorite guitar is 55 years old. My favorite coat is 15 years old.

I'm paying a guy to work on the furnace today. It would take me all day and maybe more to get to the one little part that needs to be replaced. Then put it back together. He wants $150. Well worth it, but nothing like the way I have lived for all my life.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 29, 2017 at 12:35pm

SB, it's been a few years, but I have a friend who ran a hunting outfit.  He had a fleet of the old Jeep Wagoneers and  guy to keep them running.  He finally got rid of all of them and bought a bunch of old Suburbans.  They ran reliably; the Wagoneers were always breaking down and parts were hard to find.

One other thought.  A previous business partner had a brother-in-law who was a mechanic.  He was also dyslexic.  When cars got so complicated that you needed to hook them up to a machine and read a manual to work on them he was out of a job.  i recently found out that my older daughter had a job for a while rebuilding Volvo engines.  I was incredulous, not because she's not smart, but because she had no training.  I asked her how she did it and she said it was a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle.  She didn't know what the name of anything was.  She just took it apart, found the thing that wasn't right, ordered a replacement and put it back together.  I'm still amazed.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 29, 2017 at 12:41pm

AKA, after years of nursing a geothermal heat pump along (freezing during parts of the winter when it chose to "lock-out" we had a new gas furnace and A/C put in.  Cost a fortune, but we are warm now and it's not warm out.  

My dilemma is that we may outlive our retirement money.  Buy a new furnace and that money is gone for good.  OTOH, freezing in your home in order to make your money last doesn't make much sense either.  I'm ready for a tiny home with passive solar.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on December 29, 2017 at 2:33pm

Heh.

There used to be a Maytag factory not to far from here and I ended up talking to somebody who works there one weekend.  What they told me was that there are two kinds of "Maytags":  The less expensive ones (which she told me not to buy because they are pieces of crap) and the more expensive ones which reflect the quality that Maytag USED to have.  (She was an industrial engineer and ended going off on material quality levels, etc. so I kind of zoned out after that.  LOL).

Bottom line is though, I ended up coughing up around $1,100 for a Maytag 8200 washing machine and another $1,100 bucks for the matching Maytag large capacity dryer.  Oddly enough (because I am a cheap shit) I'm fine with that.  The washing machine gets our clothes a LOT cleaner than any one I've ever owned (or used... including some serious WTF! stains) and the dryer is big enough to dry two washer loads at one time (or a big bunch of towels...  and we use a LOT of towels in this house).

Comment by Maui Surfer on December 29, 2017 at 7:33pm

I think I spent about 600 of old real dollars for my first industrial strength weed whacker. That thing would knock down a forest and keep going, in fact, it was dangerous as hell and heavy and should never have been used without thick gloves, boots and a long sleeve. It never stopped working, occasionally you would take it apart and re-string it. You can buy a "weed eater" at Wal-Mart now for 30 dollars. My elderly neighbor needed some yard work so I picked one up for her without realizing what an idiot I've become. The thing lasted about 12 minutes before it was completely totaled. Useless and un-repairable. Wal-Mart killed the US mainland's downtown areas, where storekeepers could tell you over the phone how to fix things they sold they were so knowledgeable. The "Big Box" store phenomena was supposed to be that everything would be so cheap you could buy it all. Who knew you would buy and buy and buy the same things if you didn't watch out or just didn't get it.

When the hippies came to Maui they were famous for buying the cheapest cars available, regardless of condition. An older Japanese man ran a tiny, and I mean small man, auto parts store on the way up Haleakala Highway near Pukalani (amazing views- puka means hole, lani means sky), anyway, the hippies would forever have broken down cars and he would grill and quiz about the problem they were trying to fix, then, based on his own opinion, often refuse to sell them the parts they were asking for. The were so constantly wrong about what actually needed to be fixed the he quickly tired of them bringing back oiled up brand new parts, often stripped, and asking for refunds or exchanges for the right parts that were actually required to keep these "Maui Cruisers" on the road. He also had a very funny rural way of dealing with their requests for refunds and replacements; he ignored them completely as he had already told them they were buying the wrong thing in the first place. Just a disgusted stare and total silence until the longhair finally left the building ... the nearest "real auto parts" store being about 20 miles away. To add to the hilarity, it was 15 miles or so straight downhill so many of the car owners coasted down to get closer to the main road to hitchhike the rest of the way to get the wrong part again.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 30, 2017 at 3:56am

Maui Surfer, when I lived in Arizona during the late 60s, early 70s the hippies were famous for buying a car for, say, $50.00, driving it until it quit, and then just abandoning it on the side of the road.  They would then walk off into the desert and study their navel for a while.  That was an amazing phenomenon.  When I arrived in Phoenix in 1968 it was 117F, so hot that the asphalt was semi-solid, still, the hippie kids walked around barefoot in their bell bottoms and tank tops.

Amy, I'm sorry I didn't know a Maytag engineer.  We bought our appliances through Home Depot and a local appliance shop.  No one explained why some of the appliances were so much more expensive than others.  They may have been LG as kosh mentioned, or the "real" Maytags.

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