Saturday, May 7, 2011

R.I.P. Kenmore appliance

It used to be the Sears Kenmore brand was made by Whirlpool & they were the workhorse machines you could count on getting 20 years of use. Maybe a repair or two along the way, but even the middle-of-the-road priced machines were built to last. That was then .
At some point Sears decided to let other lower bidders make their signature brand, and that is when the Kenmore name went to hell in a handbasket. 

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period. 

This Kenmore washer lasted 10 years. It required at least 2 repair visits. In the end the agitator might turn once for every 20 motor rotations.  If it costs $120 bucks to have a repairman come to the house, plus additional parts & labor these days, a third strike & a decade of use,
 make it not worth paying to have it repaired again. 

The spin cycle that didn't. 
Early on the final rinse & spin option filled the tub with rinse water, but then it just stopped. 
You would come to the machine ready to rotate the load, only to find it full of water. It required a human to manually click the dial to the spin & then it would spin out, draining the water. 
This mechanism is the weak link in the system- a plastic part on the lid that pushes a metal piece , telling the machine it is OK to complete the cycle & spin out. 
Sometimes it worked, about half the time it did not. 

Some bean counter @ Sears figured out a way to increase their profit margin. Get a less expensive, less quality manufacturer to make their goods, and make more money.  I can buy a comparable Whirlpool agitator machine for less money today, than what we paid for this machine a decade ago. 
Technology has changed big time since then & now they have super high efficient machines w/o agitators, that use a fraction of the amount of water.  It sounds good, but will it be like those low flow toilets that used so much less water for flushing-- you just had to flush it 2 or 3 times to get a successful flush?
In any case, I hope Sears figures out customers who got the funky product are not coming back to buy more of their machines. So when I heard this financial update about Sears, I knew why:

"In its earnings warning after the market closed Monday, the company cited a drop in appliance, clothing and electronics sales. It forecast a loss for the quarter that ended April 30 of $145 million to $195 million, or $1.35 to $1.81 per share, compared with a first-quarter profit a year ago of $16 million. 
Revenue at Sears stores fell 5.2 percent.
Hey Mr. Sears CEO--- Here's a tip : Don't make crappy machines!
So now Kenmore & Maytag are on our shitlist. 
Although they assure us Maytag is now made by Whirlpool, the last dishwasher experience- a funky machine that did not do the one job it was designed to do- clean dishes,  from day one, then a few years later, a notice that the machine has a heating element problem & to cease & desist using the machine, due to a fire hazard. They would replace the faulty element for free, or we could have a coupon to get another Maytag machine. Game over. 

We rolled the dice on a new Whirlpool washing machine, and it will be delivered today. But it's is weird to think buying a spendy machine is "rolling the dice". Owner reviews vary wildly, including remarks that the teched up electronic machine went belly up in 2 year's time & the mfr did nothing to remedy the situation. We purchased it with much trepidation. Do I really want a fancified machine with so may features to potentially go wrong?
Plan B will be to go back to the old style agitator machine .Plan C is go down to the river & hand wash???
Is a machine with all it's sensors, chimes, electronic countdown-- so smart IT chooses the water levels & such... really smart enough to be making all my laundry decisions?
I see it runs for 73 minutes, on a normal load, yet it is supposed to be super efficient. Using much less water, but for a longer time... not sure how that makes it super efficient.... but for some reason we decided to try this space age technology. We felt that for $100 bucks, getting the extended 4 year warranty, making it 5 years total was worth it. $25 bucks a year to not have to worry about the machine going belly up, &not being a product test guinea pig was worth it. But really, that is what it has come down to in the 21st century. Buying a more expensive machine, with more bells & whistles, but feeling more vulnerable that we would be left holding the bag, should the machine fail prematurely. 
The store has a 30 day return policy, so we will have our way with this machine & see if this whiz bang machine that reviewers say "you MUST read the manual" in order to operate properly, to see if it is all that it claims to be. 
Consumer Reports call it a "Best Buy", but we'll be the judge of that. 
Goodbye Kenmore, hello Whirlpool!

Let's hope it all comes out in the wash, as they say!

P.S. This house IS Pandora's box. The installer guy came, brought in the machine, hooked it up & the cold water spigot sprung a steady drip, where there was not one before. Sometimes it happens, he shrugged, as he left.  So now we have to get a plumber to come, on a Saturday because it is not just a matter of unscrewing off the old spigot connection.  The manager said it's not the installer's fault, it is an "old plumbing in the house" issue. He also said we were lucky to be home when this happened. 

Let's see how "lucky" we feel when we get the bill from the plumber. 


D W JazzLover said...

It is amazing isn't it..

Fran said...

The machine was delivered @ 8:30 am & we had a plumber here by noon. Just $110 more bucks to put new spigots & connectors in the laundry room- hey! if we are replacing one, we need to replace both. Both probably original equipment in this 1959 house. We don't want no stinking leaking spigots.
That was less painful than I imagined.
As I wrote the check, I told him this may be the beginning of a long & beautiful relationship.
This old house has plumbing issues!

The instructions say to run this affresh cleanser before using the machine to remove any mfg crud.

The "smart machine" chose 45 min to do this.
Here we go....

DJ- It will be interesting to see if we wind up sending this back & getting the basic model.
We were willing to try the high tech deal.

D.K. Raed said...

OMG, was that your plumber's truck? too funny!

Re: your old washer ... seems like the control panels for many appliances are what drives the need for replacement cuz the price for a whole new machine is only slightly more than replacing the control panel. crazy world.

Re: "affresh" ... hope they gave you some with the washer ... it's expensive ... and as far as I can tell, it does NOTHING. but not to worry, there is a cheaper and better product you can buy anywhere (incl walmart) ... "Tide Washing Machine Cleaner". I've used that product about once/month ever since we purchased a low-water use front load washer. It really does clean out residue and leaves the whole room fresh smelling. "Affresh", on the other hand, did not clean residue and did not leave a nice clean scent. should be renamed, "unfresh". Plus it cost 3x as much.

Hope the new machine lives up to it's Consumer Report rating!

Fran said...

Well, got everything fixed, hooked up & running, had to call the installer back to come get the machine balanced. He just split because of the spigot springing a leak... which means he did not test run the machine or level it.
I have bad knees, so I'm not doing dances w appliances. It took him a good half hour to get the thing balanced too.
Glad we got the glass top machine so we could see what it was *not doing*. As others had remarked in the reviews, parts of the clothes do not get to the water. No way to adjust the water level. I watched a stinky sock move about above the water line.
It does not have enough water to roll into the water,like it is supposed to, but instead twists the clothes into really tight wads. The joke was *nobody wants their panties in a knot!*.
But seriously, even a cotton t shirt & underwear came out all scrunched up, so much so we had to really flip them around to get them so they would dry in a dryer... each & every piece- even a washcloth & hand towel-- in a twisted bunch.
The lower water level works in front loaders because the whole drum flips them into the water, but this top load design fails to do that.
Stuff will just not get clean in this way.
It annoys me that the machine design, which is supposed to be eco friendly, has a light that stays on to tell you the machine is *done*.
I'll say it is!.

D.K. Raed said...

wow ... so the clothes on top NEVER get into the water? how did it get such a high Consumer Reports rating?

you're right about the front loaders ... the rotating drum constantly flips the load into the low water level ... I had no idea they were even making low-water agitator-less top loaders and can't conceive of how they're supposed to work ... maybe only with very small loads?

re: twisted bunches of clothes ... the front loader does that to long thin things like sheets ... but since they are clean (and almost dry due to the high speed spin cycle), I simply untwist them as I'm transferring into the dryer.

well, you did give it a good try, dear ... use the 30-days to find something you like better and arrange for delivery before relinquishing the "dud".

Fran said...


nonnie9999 said...

i had my old sears kenmore washer and dryer for almost 30 years. the washer had to have new control panels twice over the years, but the dryer never needed a repair. i only got rid of the dryer, because the washer broke, and i figured i'd get machines that match.

dk, i have a front-loader, and it starts getting a smell if i don't dry it out thoroughly after i use it. i thought that tide made a product that's supposed to make the machine smell better, so thanks for reminding me. i just googled, and i can buy it locally. i read that liquid detergent is petroleum-based, and it gums up the pipes. i bought powder detergent for HE machines, and as soon as the liquid i have is used up, i'm going to see if the powder makes a difference.

good luck, fran! i feel your pain with the plumbing woes. i want to move the washer and dryer and get a new fridge that i can hook up to the water supply, but i have evil polybutylene pipes, and plumbers are afraid to mess with them. it's always something.

Fran said...

We are in the *Hate It* camp.

The next day we went & ordered a new machine- back to the agitator style-- one of the few that had a human selected water level option.
Someone had bought the floor model-- so clearly the old tried & true design is in high demand.
The clerk tried to tell us Oh the High efficiency model just works in a different way.... you just have to get used to it.

My response was with the glass top lid we SAW what was going on.

If it only fills w more water if you shove a huge almost triple load of stuff in it, choose all the high settings bulky, high soil, deep clean & soak... it will fill w more water IF it senses the load needs it AND the cycle runs for 83 minutes. Even w more water it twists clothes badly.

We figure by the time this machine dies, they will have worked out the bugs in this design or the front loaders will be less spendy.

In the end we will have spent a few hundred less & get a machine that actually cleans clothes.

What a novel idea!

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