Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Newspaper column

When we purchased a new dishwasher about three years ago, I had the naive misconception that it would outlast me. Now I’m convinced appliance companies have started manufacturing products to break intentionally.

And that certainly isn’t reflected in the sticker price either.

Sure, new appliances have all sorts of fancy gadgets and settings, but inside each one there is a part — a small but expensive one — that has a very limited lifespan. And that small but expensive part will probably become faulty at the most inopportune time possible.

I know because it just happened to me.

My dishwasher, which would be labeled a toddler if it was human, will never see anything remotely close to its golden years. It stopped working two days before I threw a bridal shower and a week before we hosted out-of-town guests. I guess it would’ve been too convenient for it to hang in there for the massive influx of dirty dishes.

Not even an extended warranty could’ve helped me in that case. Unless, of course, it had a clause where a repair technician would stop by in an emergency to help towel dry.

In hindsight, I guess I should’ve seen it coming. At first the indicator lights stopped working, so I never knew when the wash cycle was done. I always seemed to open it prematurely only to get enveloped with a cloud of hot steam that nearly singed my eyebrows off.

After awhile, it only worked on occasion. I would put each dirty cup and utensil in while saying a tiny prayer that the machine would oblige when it was full. Eventually I got sick of jamming at the start button to no avail and taking everything back out filthy to wash them by hand.

So I gave in and called a repair shop.

When the service man showed up, he immediately asked me if we had purchased the extended warranty. At the time I remember thinking it was a waste of money. It seemed completely reasonable to expect a new appliance to work for five years — minimum.

I mean my grandmother’s dishwasher is decades old and probably still has 10,000 cycles left in it, so certainly a brand new model with better technology would last longer, right? Logic tells me that’s a reasonable expectation.

But when he opened the front panel and explained that the electrical wires were fried and that it would be more economical to purchase a new one, my jaw dropped.

We can build rocket ships that fly hundreds of thousands of miles into space, but we can’t build a dishwasher that lasts more than five years? We can construct pocket-sized devices that respond to touch and connect people on different continents, but we can’t make an electrical wire on a dishwasher that withstands a few thousand transmissions?

Frankly, I don’t buy it.

Then again, I don’t really have much choice, do I? I’m stuck buying what’s for sale. And apparently every three to five years forever after.

Unless I can find an old 1970s model somewhere. I’d take a working olive green version over a faulty stainless steel model any day.

.