In my last column I outlined problems with my Whirlpool Duet front-loading washer, and invited readers to share their stories via email.
I received a deluge of responses supporting my observation that modern appliances are not built to last. More to the point, they seem designed to break down soon after the warranty expires, forcing consumers to purchase new appliances. In short, they win and we lose.
I will summarize a few of those responses, but there isn’t space to publish them all. I was startled with how many had an experience roughly similar to mine.
Barbara Hillier’s husband, Dave, was in the process of trucking their six-year-old Whirlpool to the dump when she read my column. She said the repairman advised her to scrap the washer as it was too expensive to fix.
“It gave up the ghost last week because of the same problem you encountered (a failed bearing in the drum),” Barbara said. “The only nice feature of the front-loader is the look of it. They’re really expensive, but the quality isn’t there. I have gone back to the top loader, which the sales person said many people are doing, but it definitely isn’t a Whirlpool.”
Heather Roche purchased the Whirlpool Cabrio front-loader in June 2013.
“Right away it was making a funny noise so I called Whirlpool and was told that the noise was normal and to continue using it,” Roche said. “After another week or so I noticed the clothes were coming out with stains on them that looked like they were ground right into the material.”
When Heather called Whirlpool she was told that such staining was normal and that the stains would come out in the dryer.
“I told her that I don’t put my clothes in the dryer on fine days, that I put them out on the clothesline and she didn’t know what I was talking about.” (A quick Internet search shows Heather’s problem is not unique, nor is it normal, and the staining is permanent.)
Heather said she called Leon’s, the retailer, who said that once a product is sold there is nothing they can do about it, adding that they had received several calls about the same problem. “It was still under warranty but they wouldn't send a technician because everything I was saying was because I didn't know how to use the washer properly.”
Soon after, Heather visited a relative and noticed a funny sound coming from their laundry room. “I asked what kind of washer it was and sure enough it was a Whirlpool and they had the very same problem with the stains on the clothes. I called Whirlpool again and registered another complaint and they said I was using too much detergent. They were going to take the problem to one of their meetings. It is not a year old yet and it is still the same. I have to wash some of the clothes twice.”
Allan Russell of Wabush purchased a Whirlpool washer and dryer from Fitz’s Country Wide about two-and-a-half years ago.
“Exactly one year plus one month later, the timer went on the dryer,” Allan said. “I called the dealer and was told my warranty had run out a month ago.”
Allan saved some money by purchasing the part and installing it himself but, needless to say, he was not impressed by such a major breakdown after 13 months of use.
Most complaints I received involved Whirlpool, perhaps because that brand was the subject of my column, but consumers also had roughly similar issues with late-model GE Profile, Kenmore, Samsung and more.
Gerry Dalton’s Maytag Performance Series front load washer and dryer suffered a “catastrophic failure” after just three years of use.
“We contacted a repairman and were told the drum needed replacing at a cost of around $500 as there was a bearing failure. He said these front-loading machines are well known for this. Unfortunately we did not opt for the extra warranty as normally any household appliance we have ever owned lasted at least 10 years, some well over 20 years.”
What happened next is instructive. Dalton’s wife contacted the manufacturer and “after some heated discussions and threats to go public, the company decided to replace the drum at no charge as long as we pay the installation fee which was around $160.”
Some may dismiss these stories as anecdotal; isolated incidents that don’t prove anything. Well, the astonishing experience of a Topsail resident, who asked not to be identified, does prove something.
“We have lived in our home for 15 years now and we purchased all brand new appliances when we moved there. We are now on our third dishwasher, third front loading washer, second stand up freezer, second wall oven and second cook-top. That’s seven additional new appliances purchased in that 15-year period. The only remaining originals are the refrigerator and the clothes dryer. The reason for the replacement each time? The repair guy says “the parts and labour will cost more than the machine is worth.” He charges us $100 for the visit and tells me to buy a new appliance. I don’t even call them anymore. Keep pushing, maybe somebody will take notice. Incidentally, I visited my aunt’s home in Corner Brook last year and she still has all of her original appliances from the 1950s. They look dated but work fine. They certainly don’t make them like they used to.”
These stories are the tip of the iceberg and there are too many to keep publishing here (though I do want to continue hearing from you). In fact, my experience with short-lived appliances motivated me in 2012 to launch a blog to draw attention to this issue. You can find it at namingbrands.wordpress.com