The campaign to bring back No Bullshit appliances


"Er FF" = WTF is the fridge DEAD?!

No, they "don't make 'em like they used to" and that's largely our fault.

We've stopped demanding appliance endurance, in exchange for something we don't actually need. Like voice-activated dishwashers.

My grandmother's washing machine was a metal Titan that cleaned several generations of baby clothes and lived longer than she did.

1950's washing machine still churnin'

You had to stretch out your shoulder socket and exert super human force to get the clunky metal knobs to turn. And there were three not eleven cycle options.

Old School refrigerators stood the test of time

CLUNK.

CLUNK.

CLUNK!

Her lime green oven lasted well into her 80's and I can't recall a single time that her standard, no frills, no ice maker-in-door fridge ever (EVER) quit in the decades of family dinners she hosted.

Built to last.

When I saw the first refrigerator I ever bought it was as exciting as any new relationship. He was so shiny, so sleek, so - mine.

French doors that could hold all the ketchup packets I steal from restaurants and leftover soy sauce (since they give you 80 pouches per 3 ounces of rice you order). An alarm to notify me of temperature drops and yes...YES...a pull-out freezer bottom drawer.

Never again would I have to look my frozen vegetables in the eye and riffle all.the.way to the back to find the I-Had-A-Shitty-Day chocolate stash I hide in the back.

My life, would be different. Better.

And yet somehow, after only a few years of honorable service, in the short hours between an 11 pm Coke Zero and 5:30 am lunch packing that LG same refrigerator shit the bed.

He left without notice. Only some nondescript digital goodbye that read "Er FF" which, when translated, means "ErMahGah this FUCKING FRIDGE."

I know because that's exactly what I screamed into the now-warm recesses of the vegetable drawer.

Today, it was the fridge. In years past, having been through this with several "modern" appliances, I would like to give them all back in exchange for something straight out of 1960.

Old.

Reliable.

Low maintenance.

My shitty morning is not unique to me, or any homeowner, because consumer products are intentionally designed with something called "planned obsolescence."

The ingenious policy of producing goods that quickly become obsolete and need frequent replacing. Achieved by rapid changes in design, elimination of spare parts and the use of cheap materials.

It's simply not profitable to sell you appliances that are going to last.

Yes, fridges used to last decades but that means you may only buy one or two in your lifetime. Who can make a buck off that?

Designed to fail, today's appliances give most of us 2 to 3 years of stress-free living before requiring a service call. After that the future isn't looking bright.

The estimates (according to the National Association of Home Builders) for appliance lifetimes are:

1. Refrigerators: 13 years

2. Dishwashers: 9 years

3. Washers: 10 years

4. Dryers: 13 years

Compare that to washers and dryers from the 60's which in rare cases you can still find in use today. Rare because most people trash them.

For appliance manufacturers there's zero benefit to focusing on longevity through lasting parts and durable materials. If they did, you might keep the damn thing. Worse, you'll tell all your friends.

Instead, they can sell you on all the bells and whistles of the new thing and when it dies there will be even more bells and whistles on the latest to help you forget how much money you're wasting.

I should have seen the warning signs. Every relationship's death has warning signs. The seal around the freezer had to be repeatedly glued back into place and required a layer of Vaseline to maintain the bond between freezer and freezer seal. Grandma's freezer seal was screwed into the metal.

Planned obsolescence doesn't even require flimsy materials to achieve. When manufacturers constantly (and I do mean constantly) update the makes, models and names, you'll never find the right manual and since they typically discontinue "older" versions you'll also never find that one part you need to keep what you have running.

Brilliant.

Moreover, to fix a modern appliance I need not only a repairman but a repairman who also interned at Google. These aren't appliances, they're computers. Have you seen the insides of a front load washer? The only "motherboard" I want in my house is in my laptop. Not in the device that washes my bra.

How many cycles does your washer actually need? Not this many.

Knowing this, I preach the home warrantee gospel. I use Choice but have also had good experiences with 2-10. A year plan will run you between $300 and $600 plus $40-$100 per service call but it's a lot cheaper than a $1200 new appliance bill. Truthfully, I like that I don't have to spend three hours finding a repairman - they do that for you.

Choice sent out a local appliance repair company within a few hours this morning and I wrongfully assumed my fridge would be back to buzzing at 37 degrees within minutes. After all, he said it was just the a broken fan. Can't be too hard.

Wrong.

Ordering and installing a new freezer fan is not complicated. BUT, he said that often, rather than pay for parts and service, the warrantee company just replaces the appliance completely.

WHAT?

I understand that I should be excited about getting a brand new fridge for $45. Or really, the buyers of this house should be excited they are getting a new fridge. But this fridge is but a few years old and will now be a massive chunk of waste in a scrap yard or landfill.

I'd love to think they will use it to make a natural reef maybe. I can just see the little minnows swimming in and out of my crippled ice maker...as fresh coral grows around the space that once housed my extra crunch peanut butter.

Reality is it's going to a rusty grave with no chance of a second life.

We can blame the manufacturers for selling us short but the truth is consumer products are driven by consumer demand and we're all dumb as hell based on that measure.

Just look at what's rolling out into the showrooms this year.

The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator helps you "manage your food" with "entertainment and organization." It will make you a to-do list and allows you to stream music and share photos with a Wi-Fi enabled touch screen. You can TALK to your fridge and ask for the weather forecast (look outside the window, loser!).

God help you when that breaks. Just ask the guy who commented in the review section after his $4,000 investment lasted him but four years.

For about $2,000 you can have the Whirlpool "Six Sense" washer (another $2,000 for the dryer) which links to your smart phone so you can know just how damp your thongs still are - all the way from the office.

My current washer has a buffet of cleaning options. I use one of them.

Warrantees

At checkout they'll ask you if you want an extended warrantee. This is cash in their pocket. The manufacturer's warrantee will save you and that's about it.

If you actually read the fine print on the extended warrantee there are so many clauses that void it I can't see how it's actually useful. With the manufacturer's and a home warrantee not only is that specific appliances covered but so are all the others and the systems in my house.

Don't Trash It Just Yet

If they decide to send off my refrigerator for a Viking funeral I'll be ripping it off the pyer. That's because you can get a little bit of money out of these clunkers still. The government has a rebate plan called Cash for Appliances and there's always Craigslist where a handy person may wan the parts.

A Smart Appliance Is A Dumb Purchase

Before you spend $1500 on features you don't need, consider buying used. Especially if you are intending to finance that big buy.

There are lots of used appliance stores that take in the old, fix the damage and resell. I've purchased two washer/dryer sets this way for $650. They typically come with their own short warrantees - and your home warrantee can cover the rest. Besides, if the used one busts you won't have much skin in the game and they write you a check to buy a new one. Now you have your new appliance for very little money.

Craiglist is also a wealth of used appliance opportunities but no warrantees here. And, you'll have to get it yourself. You can find some great buys though by benefitting off the idiot who's trading in their perfectly good oven because they too saw something new and sexy.

Maybe instead of asking about the features and energy efficiency we should start demanding longevity? I'd trade a few more bucks on a power bill for a few more years before having to plan my LG's funeral.

The new shiny thing is always going to be enticing. But if you have an old school appliance and it's still performing the intended task...I want you to go home tonight and hug it tight.

Treat it well.

And never...never....let it go.

(Completely unrelated but this weekend I'm going to meet the owner and get a full tour of THIS beauty - it's for sale! So hit that big orange SUBSCRIBE button to get an alert when that video goes up!)

Babe Cave prospecting! Could be mine for $70K!