Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Don’t buy American

I consider myself to be a patriot, or at least I once was. But I have become so disgusted with the horrendous customer service in America, and the low quality of products. I’m not sure I’m still proud to be an American. Case in point, a few weeks ago my toaster oven died. It was a Sanyo, I believe; we picked it up in Tokyo while I was working over there. It was compact and had only one control on it, a timer. Twist the timer and you can toast, bake or broil for the number of minutes you select up to the max on the dial which I think was 20 or 30 minutes. You could grill fish and toast bagels or bread. We frequently melted cheese on both for the kid’s breakfast, lunch or a snack. After 10 years it died.

I went to Amazon to read some reviews, but unfortunately for something like toaster ovens, models change and come and go so quickly it’s hard to buy what’s reviewed. Since we couldn’t live a day without a toaster oven, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond with one of their ubiquitous 20% off coupons in hand. Although Black & Decker got poor reviews on Amazon, there was a stainless and black model for sale for $59.99, and it was the second cheapest after a Hamilton Beach at $49.99. I didn’t think I needed to spend $199 (or whatever) to get a Cuisinart but maybe it would have been a better idea. The Black & Decker sucks. It is cheaply made, it takes forever to make a piece of toast, and the timer sounds like a ticking time bomb from an Inspector Clouseau movie. Within one week, the toasting knob busted off. A call to the factory service number did make one appear in the mail after 10 business days, during which time we were forced to bake our toast.

Fast forward to yesterday, I took delivery on a Frigidaire range, that lists for $749. After installing it according to the instructions, I discovered that 1 burner would not light, and that the knob spindle on another was badly off center. The instructions said it may or may not come with a broiler pan (it didn’t you must buy one for $19.95) and that it may have a either a warmer tray or a storage tray on the bottom. I called the toll free number on the manual, and was given a selection of recordings to listen to that didn’t help me. There was a selection for “Other” which gave you a toll number, you pay for the call, for more help. After calling that number, listening the voice prompts, getting put on hold, I finally got an English speaking human in a foreign call center who informed me that it was the dealer’s responsibility in the first seven days so I needed to call them.

Calling the dealer, I needed to speak to the owner, since they had fired most of their sales staff. After leaving messages and talking to an intern (the owner’s son) and another salesman, I confirmed that I am not entitle to a broiler pan for a $749 stove (list price, I paid $515 + tax & delivery), and that the tray on the bottom was storage not a warmer. “Call ya back about getting the problem fixed.”

They did call back, and I got a toll free number for Metro service which I called, only to hear a message that they were closed for lunch from 12-1. Calling back and finally getting an English speaking human in this country, I got an appointment for six days from now, call ya in the morning to give a four hour window for you to stay home and wait for the repairman.

So here’s my question, how much do you have to spend to get a stove that is of high quality and not defective? What has happened to quality in America? Customer service? Pride of workmanship? It is no wonder all of our manufacturing jobs have been off shored, not only is it too expensive to manufacture here, but if you decided to keep your factory open here, you won’t get a quality product anyway, so what’s the point?

Warren Buffet in a recent interview said that he thought America’s best days are still ahead of us. If I was a 70-something billionaire, I might think so too. But I’m not and I don’t. It seems to me, unless there are some drastic changes in America, it’s best days are behind us…


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