Cheap Appliances

This photo was not taken at my house.  But it could have been.


Incident 1

Last year, our dishwasher gave out. It was about eight years old, and it had cost more than twice as much as our first dishwasher, probably because it had a premium brand name.

We called the appliance repairman.

“The motor’s shot,” he said. “It’ll cost about $400 to replace it.”

“Maybe we should just replace the machine,” the Significant Other said.

“Nah, don’t do that,” said the repair guy. “That company’s making the machines cheaper now. If you get a new one, it won’t last nearly as long.”

So we replaced the motor.


Incident 2

We bought a smaller place in another state a couple years ago. I never liked the stacked washer-driver because its capacity was very small and it rumbled like mad if the two pairs of pants inside each load (that’s about the capacity) weren’t precisely balanced in the wash tank.

One day I did several loads of laundry, and the dryer began to give off a smell.

We called a repair guy.

“You have to give it some time off between loads,” he said of the dryer. “Five or 10 minutes is all it needs.”

“Actually, I was thinking about replacing the machine,” I said.

“How old is it?” he asked.

“About 10 years, I think.”

“Don’t replace it,” he said. “That’s a good machine. The new ones aren’t as dependable.”


Incident 3

We moved into an apartment in a third state a while back.

The refrigerator had been moved from an older apartment in the building into our newly renovated unit. The refrigerator was supposed to be frost-free, but it had a lot of frost in it.

So we called the building handyman.

“Ah, that’s an old refrigerator,” he said. “I’ve got a new one downstairs. It’s a better brand. I’ll swap it out.”

So we got a new refrigerator. The handyman changed the door handles from the left to the right for convenience.

Five days later, the new refrigerator was still dripping water on the floor, and the buildup of frost in the freezer compartment was getting pretty extreme. We called the handyman again.

“That’s interesting,” he said. “The door gasket doesn’t line up on the left side of the refrigerator.”

He ordered new seals for the brand new refrigerator.

That was a week ago.

We’re still waiting.

Now we are a little worried about the dryer in our apartment. It looks new, but it takes two hours to dry a medium-sized load of clothes, even when it’s set on high.


Incident 4

Before we left the big house for our multi-state perambulations, we updated the security system and had new control panels installed.

The man who watches the house knows the codes and is a careful, reliable guy. Four times now, the burglar alarm has gone off when he has entered the house. (It also went off on the Significant Other once before we left.)

The alarm company has been out several times to “fix” the problem, to no effect.

Now we are replacing the control panels.

I’m wondering if maybe we should have kept the old ones instead.



My family is small, and our appliances don’t get heavy workouts.

When I was a child, though, my family was large. The washing machine in the basement must have run 12 to 15 loads a week of linens, school clothes, work clothes, play clothes and gym clothes. (And, no, it did not have a manual wringer.)

Recently I discussed this with a sibling.

“Is my memory wrong,” I said, “or did that washing machine last about 20 years?”

“You’re right,” said the sib. “I remember when the folks bought it. It cost $400. They sold it with the house.”

In today’s dollars, that old washing machine would cost over $1,000.

Now you can buy a plain washing machine for about $300 or a fancy Energy Star model for something more than $1,000.

What you can’t buy, I’m guessing, is a washing machine that will last for 10 years.



The only good thing I can say about these experiences is that we have a lot of really good appliance repairmen in this country. They understand how machines (are supposed to) work, and they diagnose problems very efficiently. Their advice is always helpful.

I learn something every time I talk to one of them.

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