I spend a lot of the free time afforded by retirement reading, but I only finished one new (to me) book last week. It was the seventh in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, and quite a fun read.
Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It has been said that power corrupts. When a group of average teenage mortals suddenly develop incredible magical abilities, that hypothesis is put to the test. Can humans accept magic and bring about a new age of peace and cooperation, or will they use their power selfishly to exert dominance over others? It’s an interesting experiment, but the cynical skeleton detective is fairly sure he knows how it will turn out.
This is yet another fine episode in the continuing adventures of Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain. It’s considered a YA book because one of the two main characters is ostensibly a teenager, but there is nothing juvenile about it. The characters have some depth, the world building is solid, and the plot makes sense (given the existence of magic). It’s also a bit dark. There’s no actual sex, but there is extreme violence, a bit too much, actually, for my sensitive, old man tastes.
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I spent more time than usual watching streaming video last week because of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+, Stranger Things 4 on Netflix, and Star Trek Strange New Worlds on Paramount+. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far of all three of these new shows well enough to keep watching them, but only one really stands out for me. That’s Strange New Worlds, which continues to be surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because I have been less than impressed with what Paramount has done with Trek up to this point. Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, and Prodigy, ranged from truly awful (Discovery) to okay (Prodigy). Despite being a Trekker for the last half century, I found Discovery and Lower Decks literally unwatchable.
I also spent more time than usual not doing laundry since Whirlpool has still not fixed my washer. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s now been out of service for over seven weeks. Developments since last week are:
- DAY 47 – (May 23rd) I sent an email to Whirlpool (firstname.lastname@example.org) asking for clarification on what they consider “non-repairable” and reminding them that my washer has been out of service for over six weeks and would cost more to repair than it cost me new.
- DAY 49 – (May 25th) Whirlpool responded to my email, telling me that parts being on backorder for an extended time does not equate to an appliance being deemed “non-repairable.” Apparently, their warranty has no limit on how long it takes them to fix something. The cost of those parts was not mentioned, suggesting that either their prices for parts are highly inflated or that their contract with the service company shifts some of that cost to them.
- DAY 51 – (May 27th) Whirlpool (@WhirlpoolCare) sent me a Tweet offering to help if I sent my name, address, and info on my washer via a DM. I did.
I plan on writing another email to them later this week asking for further clarification on the criteria they use to determine if an appliance is repairable because it really seems that the one I have isn’t.
Here is a brief recap of my continuing Whirlpool Customer Experience (so far):
- DAY 1 – (April 4th) Our washing machine stops working properly. I unplug it and leave it a day, hoping this might reset it.
- DAY 2 – (April 5th) I plug it back in. It still doesn’t work right. It’s less than a year old, so I call Whirlpool to honor their 1-year warranty. They say they’ll send someone ASAP, which will be in five days.
- DAY 7 – (April 13th) The promised repair technician fails to arrive. I call the service company. They say Whirlpool never contacted them. I call Whirlpool to ask WTF is going on. They apologize and again tell me they’ll send someone ASAP, which will be in another six days. This time, they send a confirmation email.
- DAY 13 – (April 19th) A repair technician arrives and identifies the faulty component. It’s a control board. These are “special order,” so he cannot say when they can get the part. He accidentally broke another part when diagnosing the original problem, so this will need to be replaced, too. He say’s they’ll call when they get the parts.
- DAY 15 – (April 21st) I email Whirlpool asking if they can replace the washer rather than repair it.
- DAY 16 – (April 22nd) Whirlpool sends an email reply that says, “Our warranty is for repair rather than replacement.”
- DAY 22 – (April 28th) I email the service company for an update on parts availability. They email back, saying they cannot ask Whirlpool for an update until the order is 21 days old.
- DAY 34 – (May 10th) I email the service company again since it’s now been 21 days since their service guy was here. They email back to say they’re still waiting for the tub (which is the part the technician broke while figuring out the control board needed replacement).
- DAY 37 – (May 13th) The service company emails me to let me know the parts have arrived! I call them and schedule another service appointment. The next one available is in a week.
- DAY 43 – (May 19th) A service technician arrives with the needed parts, but he cannot install the tub because a part needed to remove the old one won’t come loose. He’ll need to break it to get it off, which means he’ll need to replace it. They don’t have one on hand, so it and a few more parts will need to be ordered. He can’t estimate when they might arrive, but they’ll contact me when they get them.
It is now DAY 45, and we still don’t have a working washer. What is especially irksome about all this is that it makes no sense. According the Whirlpool parts website, the things now needed to fix my machine cost around $2,000, which is about $1,200 more than I paid for the new washer a year ago. Why is Whirlpool willing to spend more than the appliance is worth and inconvenience their customers this way? The only thing I can think of is that they want to discourage people from fixing their broken appliances. They want to offer the warranty as an incentive to buy their products, but it’s clear that they didn’t design my washer to be repairable.
There a couple concepts in logistics engineering (a field I worked in before retiring) that apply to this. The military calls the first one MEL, for Maintenance Expenditure Limit. Basically, the idea is that you don’t spend more to fix something than it’s worth. Normally, the MEL for an item is based on its replacement cost and goes down as the thing ages, so that something with a life expectancy of 10 years will have a MEL of 90% of the replacement cost during its first year in service, 80% during its second, and so on. The MEL is what you can spend to fix something. If the cost of repair exceeds the MEL, you replace it. This is an oversimplification, of course, but it gets the point across.
The second logistics concept pertaining to this is called RAM for Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and it is why I place the primary blame on my washer problem with Whirlpool and not with the service technicians. Yes, the first technician made the problem worse by breaking a second part, but he did not design the machine. The people who did should have applied basic RAM principles to ensure that the thing was maintainable, that it could be repaired easily with as few steps and as few tools are possible. Obviously, they failed at this. The machine clearly was not reliable, replacement parts were not readily available, and judging by how a trained service technician could accidentally break something while doing a routine diagnostic procedure, it certainly was not maintainable. This points to a flaw in the washer’s design, and the responsibility for that lies solely with Whirlpool.
This raises a second question. Is the poor design of my washer an anomaly, or could the design flaws be intentional? Now, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut, I’m going to speculate they may be intentional. Not just the basic design (which makes access to and removal of components difficult), but also the lack of parts availability and their slowness in responding to a warranty claim, may all be ways to discourage customers from repairing their old appliances and to instead buy new ones. If that is the case, the one-year warranty is a marketing strategy. Its main intent is to make buyers believe that Whirlpool has more confidence in the reliability of their appliances than is warranted (no pun intended).
It’s been a month since my relatively new Whirlpool washing machine broke. And, because it was still under warranty, it’s still broken. You see, if it was only about a week older, the one-year warranty would have been expired, so I’d have grumbled and bought a new washer, although obviously not one with a Whirlpool brand name on it. I could have had it delivered the next day. But, since the warranty was still in effect, I called the manufacturer, who agreed to fix it, which, so far, they have not.
I’ve chronicled all this previously in earlier blog posts, so I won’t repeat it, but I’m not having a very good “Whirlpool Customer Experience.” First, they sold me an unreliable machine, and then they proved incompetent at scheduling a maintenance call, and once a service technician did eventually show up (11 days after I called), they could not promptly fix the thing or even predict when the needed parts might be available.
I know this isn’t a big issue. Millions of people endure much worse things every day, but in the category of Everyday Annoyances, being without a washer for a month is more of an inconvenience than you might expect.
I am looking forward to Tuesday, though. The service company said I could ask for an update on parts availability 21 days after their service call. That day will be Tuesday, May 10. I have it marked on my calendar. It will also be 33 days since I’ve had a working washer, but apparently that doesn’t matter. Whirlpool is in the business of selling washing machines. It seems they don’t much care if their customers can still wash their clothes a year after buying one.
Last week I blogged about how my slightly less than one-year-old washing machine broke and the troubles I’ve had trying to have it either fixed or replaced. Here’s a short recap.
- My washer breaks.
- I call the manufacturer to have someone fix it.
- The scheduled repairman doesn’t arrive.
- I call the service company.
- They say Whirlpool never sent them a work order.
- I call Whirlpool.
- They apologize for screwing up and schedule a new appointment.
- This time (now two weeks without a washer), a repairman arrives.
- The repair guy says the needed part is ‘special order.’
- He also says he accidentally broke another part, so it will need one of those, too. Then, he leaves.
- I check the online Whirlpool parts store for price and availability of both parts. Even if they were in stock (which they aren’t), they cost more than I paid for the washer.
- I contact Whirlpool (three times over a few days), trying to convince them that it would save time and money to simply replace the broken machine.
- They refuse. They say the warranty is for repair, not replacement.
- A few days later, I check the online Whirlpool parts store again, hoping there’s an update. There is.
- The part that originally broke is now in stock.
- The part the repairman broke has been discontinued and is no longer available.
It has now been three weeks since I’ve had a working washing machine. I went back to the online Whirlpool parts store (WhirlpoolParts.com) and found that the control board that originally was the problem (part number W11417466, which was briefly available according to the website), is now showing as “special order” again. The other needed part, the tub that the repairman broke (part number W11219115, which showed as “discontinued without replacement” last week), is now posting as “in stock.” It’s as if you can get one part or the other but not both at any one time. Does Whirlpool really run such an inconsistent supply system or is the universe messing with me?
I emailed the service company, hoping they could provide an encouraging update. Meanwhile, my wife is leaving this morning to visit relatives for a couple days. She is bringing several loads of laundry with her.
I bought a new washing machine a year ago, April 12, 2021 to be exact. It was delivered the next day. That’s a picture of it to the left. It wasn’t cheap at $749.00. Counting the new hoses (which the store said I had to have in order to ensure there were no warranty issues), the cost to haul the old one away, and sales tax, it cost me well over $800. That’s a lot of money for most of us, but I could justify this extravagance because it would ensure that I could have clean clothes for several years to come, or so I hoped.
A week short of a year later, that washing machine broke. It was as if it had lost its tiny electronic mind. No matter what setting you selected, indicator lights would come on to show it was making an effort, but all the machine seemed to be able to do was drain and make grindy noises that sounded a bit like a love sick moose. (Really. Look up Moose mating call. That’s what it sounded like.) What that washer most definitely could not do was wash clothes.
So, I tried the trick of unplugging it, hoping that this might clear its confused memory or its cache or whatever it had. I’ve found that often works for electronic things. I gave it a full day with no possible source of power to be on the safe side.
The next morning, I plugged it back in. Lights. Moose noises. No sign of that it might be able to wash the small load of towels I had brought with me out of a misplaced sense of optimism. Annoying, but I figured I was fortunate in that the washer had a one-year guarantee, and since I hadn’t had it quite a full year, I called the Whirlpool customer service number that was on the warranty. (I had a copy in my files because I tend to keep things like that.) My call was immediately answered by a recorded voice that welcomed me to the “Whirlpool Customer Experience.” (I did not make that up.) The upbeat tone suggested that this “experience” might be pleasurable, but I had my doubts.
I was led through a series of menu options, which happily invited me to identify myself and the product I was calling about, verify my account, and various other things, before placing me on hold. The resulting twenty-minute wait was made more tedious by a short, repeating tune (that was more like an annoying ring tone than music) and occasional unhelpful tips about major appliance care.
When I was finally connected to a person, they said all the right things. They were sorry I was having trouble with one of their appliances. Of course they could have someone come out and look at it “as soon as possible.” A service appointment was made. I was given the name of the service company and their phone number and told to expect someone to come by five days later, on the 13th of April between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Wednesday the 13th arrived. By noon, I was wondering when the serviceman (or woman) would arrive. I called the service company. They asked many of the same questions Whirlpool had asked. Who was I and what appliance I was calling about? There was a prolonged pause. I was already getting an uncomfortable feeling about all of this when they guy at the other end of the phone said something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see an order for you in our system. Are you sure Whirlpool called it in?” Well, no, I wasn’t sure. I trusted them to, but then I had also trusted them to sell me an expensive washing machine that would wash clothes adequately for more than a year.
I was understandably peeved when I called Whirlpool ten minutes later. Again, the same recorded voice, the tedious menu options, and a bit longer on hold until I was connected with a real person (who seemed quite nice, actually). She checked, found the record of my initial call right away and seemed confused that somehow the job order had never been forwarded to the service company. She apologized. I didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault, but Whirlpool might have some procedural problems. She made another service appointment for me for six days later, the 19th of April. This time I asked for and received a confirmation email.
Tuesday the 19th dawns and I’m looking forward to having a working washer again. It had been twelve days since it broke, and my laundry basket is getting full. I’m not quite out of clean clothes yet, but I’m down to wearing my least favorite undies. When the service guy calls to tell me that he’ll arrive withing 20 minutes, I’m overjoyed.
Doug the service guy arrives and I show him the washer. He gets right to it. The laundry room is quite small, so I leave. I know I don’t like someone crowding me when I’m working.
Half an hour or so later, I go in to check just to make sure the washer didn’t turn on him. He says that the machine is indeed broken and that the part it needs is an electronic control board, which is “special order,” so it could take a while to obtain. He also said he had a bit of a whoopsie and broke the hose connector to the tub while he was figuring out what was wrong, so it would need a new tub as well. His company would call me when they had the parts. Then he left. My washing machine remained broken, but the service company kindly sent me a list that showed what parts were needed.
I didn’t look forward to more time without a washer, so I called Whirlpool yet again. Identity confirmation, menu options, and half an hour on hold later, I asked a real live person if Whirlpool could simply replace the machine. That person politely said no. That’s not how they do things. By this time, I was getting a pretty good idea of how they did things.
Two days later, being the curious and moderately impatient type, I went to the online Whirlpool parts store to check to see if I could anticipate when the needed parts might be available. The control board was indeed listed as “special order,” and it cost $541.43. The tub was priced at $396.15. Those costs made me wonder again why Whirlpool simply wouldn’t replace the washer. The parts alone together cost $937.58, and then there was the unknown cost of the repair service on top of that. The whole washer only cost me $749. Ah, I thought. This will convince them.
So, I found a form online and emailed the Whirlpool customer disservice office. I did not want to go through the telephone experience again. In “500 words or less,” I explained how not only were one of the two needed parts not readily available, both together would cost Whirlpool more than a new washer. Why just not replace it? It would save them money. Tomorrow, if possible, please.
Surprisingly, they emailed me back the next day, on the 22nd. They reasserted that their warranty is for repair, not replacement. Apparently cost and customer satisfaction play no parts in this at all. Okay, fine. I’ll wait. I went to the department store and bought more underwear.
Unfortunately, I’m really not very good at waiting for others to do their jobs properly, so I went to the online parts store again to see if I could find an update on availability. I did. As of yesterday, the control board is “in stock,” and the price has dropped to $440.12. The tub, on the other hand, is no longer available and there is no replacement for it. I wonder if I should call Whirlpool again to explain that without this part, the machine is no longer repairable. I don’t know. Maybe the service company can find one somewhere. I’ve got enough new underwear for a few more days.