Durable Goods?

September 8, 2020

I grew up with a definition of “Durable Goods” in mind that apparently no longer includes many of the items that used to fall in to that category, especially home appliances. A durable home appliance, at least in my mind, lasts for many years, as in 10 or more. Not so for many of today’s appliances. My KitchenAid side-by-side refrigerator stopped working over the weekend. It is about 5-6 years old, which in my mind is not a long time for a major appliance. When I Googled best long lasting refrigerator, one of the sites that came up had a telling graphic that showed an old 50’s style refrigerator with “lasts an average of 20 years” written across the picture and a picture of modern stainless steel, side by side with the words “lasts an average of 7 years” emblazoned across it . That really tells it all.

Yet when I started reading things about repairing appliances on the internet not only is that apparently a typical lifespan for a refrigerator, but trying to repair them is a futile effort. We have become a throwaway society, even for our “durable goods”. I think it was the wholesale use of plastic in appliances that used to be made of metal that lead to this sorry state of affairs, The more that I read reviews from irate customers the more it became apparently theta the relentless drive to save money by the manufactures has led to great looking, but very fragile appliances in almost every category. So, now I have a great looking stainless steel hulk sitting in my kitchen, instead of that trusty and long lasting harvest gold antique that was still working fine the day that I upgraded to my fancy new fridge.

Trying to get a repair person out to look at it is another story. I called around and sometime (indeterminate) in the next week or two was the best reply that I got. While reading reviews of the various appliance repair companies that I found on Google it became clear that dealing with most of them is a crap-shoot. I suspect that the customers had higher expectations of the appliances being repaired than is warranted by the quality of modern appliances. We have been conditioned over time to just throw them away and buy another. It’s good for the economy, don’t you know.

So, I started looking on-line for a replacement. We decided to try to buy a refrigerator only this time, since we have a couple of freezers that can provide sufficient freezer space for us. Try looking for refrigerators without freezers some time. There aren’t many and virtually none are kept on the showroom floor of the local appliance retailers. Apparently, one has to order on-line, based solely on the pictures that are there. At one appliance store asked if I could return a refrigerator that I ordered that way and was told, “sure, as long as you refuse it at delivery.” I guess if I said, “no, take it back” before it was unboxed and installed I could return it; however, once the delivery and set-up has been done it is mine, with no return. I think not.

The other disturbing thing that one discovers when doing some on-line due diligence research is that many of the new refrigerators have a very high rate of failure within first two to three years and that most refrigerators come only with a one year manufacturer’s warranty. There were post after post of unhappy customers complaining also about multiple failures, even after the units were repaired under warranty. Several quoted the repair technicians as stating that the appliance companies saved money on “Energy Star” rated appliances by putting in compressors that are too small, but which used less energy when running. The trouble is that they have to run more and work harder to keep the unit cold; and thus they fail quicker. It came as no surprise that the answer to a customer question about where most of the various brands are manufactured came back with China as he answer. We tend to have some left over and unwarranted brand loyalty for certain brands; however the truth is that are only a very few companies that own all of those brands and they are all made in China, even if the brand is  Whirlpool or RCA or GE or Frigidaire or Kitchenaid.

So I guess I have to go find a new durable goods refrigerator with the expectation that it will really only last a few years. That is hardly durable in my mind, especially for something that cost as much or more than my phone. But then again, who would have thought that I would be paying north of $1,000 for a phone. And don’t even get me started about the cable/internet bill.

Rant over!  You may return to your regularly scheduled blog reading. The normal Norm’s Milford Blog posts will return tomorrow.