Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Long Tale, With a Happy Ending

*WARNING* This story is about shopping for a dryer. It is a happy tale, but it is about shopping for a dryer! *WARNING*

4 PM, Jan 14, 2010 I get a call at work from my wife.

Her: "Honey, how much do you love me?"
Me: "What broke now?"
Her: "The dryer is making a loud squeaking noise and sounds like it is going to blow up."
Me: "Don't get it repaired. We'll buy a new one."

This dryer has been repaired 4 times now. At some point you have to let it go. This time it was some sort of felt gasket that is supposed to keep the drum lined up and balanced that failed. When it slips, the drum sags and it starts to squeak. Even worse, clothes fall into the crack that forms and either get burn marks, or are ripped to shreds.

It was a bargain basement Frigidaire model of dryer that we purchased new with our home in 2000. For the roughly $200 we paid for it (plus the subsequent repair costs) we got our money's worth.

Freed from any obligation to keep the current dryer running, my wife goes hog wild searching for her ideal dryer. Just before I leave work for home, my wife calls me back about this super duper Kenmore model from Sears that she's fallen in love with. Retail price $1200.

Internally, I freak a bit. I try to talk her back into the realm of reality but she's having none of it.

On the drive home, I start doing mental calculations. If a $200 dryer lasted 10 years (with a lot of help!), there's no way a $1200 dryer will last 60. For me, that's what it comes down to. If you pay more, it should last longer. Right there I decide I'm willing to go no higher than $500 on a new dryer. If we get at least 10 good years out of it, then it'll be worth it. But $1200??? The damned thing better iron, fold and put away the laundry for that price.

The one benefit of a long commute home is you get to rehearse your arguments, which I took full advantage of that night.

I state my views over dinner, and I'll just say the mood got a little bit frosty. But in the interests of family harmony we set aside the discussion for after the kid's bedtime.

That night, each of us armed with our own laptops, we hit the Internet searching for a dryer. This is a contest of wills now. A few years ago, we had a really good shopping experience with Sears when we had to replace the dishwasher. That was an expedition that involved hitting quite a few appliance stores, starting with Sears. After 4-5 hours of shopping, I wound up back where I started. Sears had the best models and selection at the lowest prices, hands down, no contest. This time, I was starting and hopefully finishing at Sears.

My wife shows me the dream Kenmore model and patiently explains the features she wants. Stainless steel drum, moisture controlled drying (it stops automatically when the clothes are dry), etc. This Kenmore model she found had it all.

Armed with that info, I research the other models available at Sears. Pretty quickly I find a Samsung model that meets our specifications. Retail price $750. A little higher than my limit, but a lot lower than the Kenmore.

My wife isn't swayed yet, so I keep hunting for reasons to convince her to look at lower priced models. I drop the product code into Google, and quickly get two hits. The first one shows that Future Shop is selling the exact same dryer for $499. I check a hunch, and yep, Sears has a price match guarantee. 10% of the difference. Which works out to about another $25 off, so Sears would have to sell to us at $475.00. My wife is yet to be convinced, but her arguments are weakening. I go back to my Google results, and find that Leons is having a blow-out sale of this model for $449.00. That knocks the Sears price down to $419.00.

At this point I no longer care what my wife thinks. Dangerous attitude I know, but at this point I see no logic in spending over $750 more for another dryer. At that difference, I could buy 2 of the Samsungs, have one as a spare and still save money!

So armed with this info we march into our local Sears. The saleslady is the same one that sold us our dishwasher (If you're ever shopping for appliances at the Cambridge Sears store, ask for Nancy, she's awesome!). My wife and her start talking dryers, and she shows a few models. I stand quietly aside and let my wife ask a bunch of questions. The two answers that seal the deal, Samsungs are great dryers and the current Kenmores are actually rebadged Samsungs.

I take over at this point. I show Nancy a print-out of the Leon's add and ask about the price match guarantee. She affirms that Sears will match 10% of the difference and looks at the ad. Her response "At this price, you'd be crazy to look at anything else. I wish I'd known about this, I just bought a dryer a month ago!"

Game. Set. Match.

Did I mention it was scratch and save weekend? After scratching for an additional discount, the bill came to $399.00 before taxes.

It gets better. Well it gets worse before it gets better.

A few days later, I pick up the dryer, bring it home and set it up. My wife comes up from the basement after looking at it and tells me the door won't close, the latch is busted.

Son of a ......

The next day my wife calls Sears and explains the issue. At this point, Sears customer service really shines. They don't question at all that the unit arrived broken. They acknowledge it is their issue and they have to fix it.

The problem is, that due to the sale prices, Samsung is having trouble keeping up with demand. We can't find a replacement dryer or a replacement latch anywhere in inventory, everything is back ordered for weeks. So we have a new dryer that we can't use.

Sears tells us to use the dryer, and hold the door closed anyway we can. If doing that causes further damage, they'll deal with it. So we devise a prop that leans against the door and holds it shut by weight and pressure. Other than the door not staying closed on its own, the dryer is a solid performer. Laundry used to be a 7-day a week chore. Due to drying times, my wife was able to only one or two loads a day. With the new dryer? One day. All the laundry is done.

Every few days, we follow up with Sears to try to get a date for the part or a new dryer to arrive. My wife is polite and understanding throughout the whole process. During the third call, the Sears rep at head office asks my wife if she's been compensated in any way for the hassle. The thought hadn't even occurred to us, and she says no. The Sears rep is upset at that and immediately knocks another $70 off our bill for our "time and trouble."

Now the cost to us is $320 for this dryer. $430 in overall savings from the list price. Damn.

Eventually, the 30 cent latch makes its way from oversees to the Sears service department. The technician comes in and installs it in less than a minute. He apologizes for the delay and is totally professional and helpful.

In the end?

My wife loves her new dryer (calls it the best Valentine's gift ever) and I'm ecstatic at how little I'm out of pocket for it. Win-win and family harmony is restored.

And Sears once again has rendered excellent service all the way from the store to the corporate office. I know where I'm looking first when we shop for a new refrigerator in a year or so!


M@ said...

I won't go into the details, but I'll mention that this is the opposite of our experience with Sears after multiple appliance purchases with them. In the store, they tend to be fantastic (which is why we kept returning). As soon as it comes to delivery, repairs, and customer support, we have had nothing but frustration.

Last November I was so upset with the [lack of] service we received, I swore that I would not spend a single penny at Sears for five years. I intend to keep that vow.

That said, we got what I suspect is the same Samsung dryer. Damn but Samsung makes some great appliances! Our washer, dryer, fridge, and stove are Samsung. When will they start making cars?!

Catelli said...

Air Canada and Sears have never done me wrong. I may be the only person in Canada with that luck so far, but hey, both have at least one loyal customer.

I've been a Samsung fan for a long time now. Started with their CRT Monitors, moved up to TVs and now on to appliances.

I keep learning that Samsung makes damn near everything for everybody. Them and Hitachi...

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some cars are actually re-badged Samsungs.

James Bow said...

I have no complaints about Sears' customer service. However, in Kitchener, there's a Scratch and Dent outlet on Gage Street. We bought a $1600 fridge there for about $1000 and, earlier this week when our washing machine went kaput, I bought a $999 front-loading Frigidaire for $725, including taxes, delivery and the small charge to make the old washing machine go away. And the models all look fine. I may never shop retail again.

However, a tip of the hat to the original washing machine a moment. When the guys came to deliver the new one and replace the old one, they commented on the "classic" model. It was, they said, about thirty years old. We suspected it was original to the house, and thirty years would be about right to that effect.

Not bad for an appliance. Had your 2000 drier lasted that long, you would have ended up paying $6.67 per year instead of the $20 you got out of it.

Catelli said...

The Sears appliance guy told us to keep our basic "original" top loading Frigidaire Washing Machine. Its the same age as the dryer (we bought them as a pair). He didn't want to knock the new front loading type of washer, but he did say there are more problems with them.

Knock on wood, that unit has kept on humming.

Catelli said...

...And to add to the 10 year lifespan, that seems to be the new norm for everything now. Doesn't matter what it is, furnace, water heater, appliance, etc. the stuff built in the 70's was built to last. Nowadays a 10 year service life seems to be built in.

Ken Breadner said...

Wow, that's some power-shopping, man. Pretty impressive. And at Sears, no less. I share James' skepticism of the place, I've had some God-awful experiences there.
Happy laundrifying.

Catelli said...

Timing, it came down to timing. right now the dryer we bought is $749 everywhere. The sales be over.

So I'm glad it broke down in January...