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General Electric shock

One story about why you should avoid ever buying General Electric brand major appliances

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This page last updated on or about late 3-10-09
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My parents are an elderly retired couple. My dad was suddenly beset by severe pain and nausea a few months back. Two back to back emergency room visits in the same day revealed he had a large tumor on one kidney.

Over the next days he was in and out of doctors' offices for matters relating to it. Surgery as-soon-as-possible was recommended to remove the kidney. However, the surgeon was booked up, so the soonest we could get it was some weeks off.

Luckily dad's pain and nausea eased off in the week after the emergency room visits (I sure wouldn't have liked seeing him suffer that whole time: even morphine didn't seem to work well for him in the ER!)

Again, dad had more scans and exams done to prepare for the operation. All this entailed long drives from our hometown to Knoxville.

We tried to keep dad clear of anyone with an infectious illness, being afraid if he caught something that might delay his operation, and maybe doom him, due to cancer possibly spreading from the tumor.

Only days before the operation was due, BOTH dad and mom were suddenly in need of emergency room services. Fortunately neither ended up being as serious a condition as they could have been. But it left mom advised to avoid driving due to the condition and remedial meds, and dad with an infection to be treated with anti-biotics that made it hurt for him to breathe.

We wondered if this would delay his surgery. Because for one thing, his infection forced him to cough at times now.

It was about this time that the 'new' General Electric washer dad and mom had bought only one year before decided to quit. It was an expensive, extra large capacity machine. The best they could afford to buy at the time.

Mere days from his operation, dad naturally called the GE service number in the sparse owner's manual for the machine. And got an unhelpful response.

The GE washer's warranty had expired just days before. So GE didn't much want to fool with him. They also (either lying or by mistake) told dad the nearest GE repairman was possibly hundreds of miles away, in a tiny Tennessee town neither he or I had ever heard of before-- and we'd lived in Tennessee our entire lives. Dad got the distinct impression that not only would it be quite a while before a GE repairman might deign to visit us, but it'd be expensive as well.

Since it appeared there'd be no quick help from GE (and dad only had days before his surgery) dad contacted a local washer sales center to get help from their own washer repair man.

The fellow examined the washer, said he'd never seen one built like it before, and couldn't fix it. But he'd go get another repairman who might do better. Turned out the second guy couldn't fix it either.

They both had just stared in awe at the unheard-of complexity-- for a washing machine-- of the dead mass of metal and wires before them.

And they'd both been repairing washers of other brands for years.

Being tied up with his imminent operation and hospital stay in a place two hours drive away, and uncertain when anyone would be able to be at the house to take another service call, dad had to let things stand as they were after that.

Dad ended up being in the hospital for a week. I stayed with him the first night, and was ready to stay other nights as needed. The entire family was in and out visiting him the whole time.

We didn't try to get a service appointment then, since we couldn't know if or when anyone would be around to let anyone in.

Once dad was released, I used the internet to further things along. Finally locating a GE web site which listed repair people locally. Sevierville (about 30 miles away) possessed the closest GE-authorized man.

This sounded far better than what GE had told dad over the phone.

I called the office on a Monday. They said they had one man, who was kept busy as hell fixing GE stuff regionally, and maybe he could see us Wednesday. If not then, it might be a week or more.

Wednesday arrived, and I called to confirm he might come. Oh yes, they told me. If not Wednesday, then Thursday for sure. They wanted to know if someone would be here, and we assured them they would.

But we might as well have left the place deserted. For Wednesday came and went. Then Thursday too. My mom absolutely hates being without a washing machine. Dirty stuff was piling up, especially since lots of family members had been in and out and staying at the old homeplace overnight as well, in the week since dad was released.

Friday came, and I called again, and they said he'd definitely be there Friday. By afternoon the repair man himself called, saying he was on his way. He asked for directions.

I made it a point to personally be out in front of the house to help make sure he found it. After a bit more trouble locating the house (and another phone call) he finally arrived.

No: apparently the GE repairman had no GPS. And apparently he wasn't very familiar with the region he was supposed to be servicing, either. For my parents' house may be one of the easiest things to find in the whole area, only one block away from two major landmarks that have been known in these parts for generations, and on likely the most well-known suburban street in town. A long, straight street named after one of the most famous US Presidents, that stretches for more than a quarter mile. My dad has emblazoned his house number in multiple high visibility spots on and around it. And an easy to spot rock church with a bright red door sits just across the street.

But despite fairly detailed directions, and me pacing back and forth in front watching for him, the GE guy drove right past it.

I didn't flag him down because his truck looked purely civilian: with no signs or lettering on it, and no extra utility storage cabinets or professional looking equipment anywhere on it. His truck looked just like the hundred which preceded it up the road, and the hundred which came after.

He finally arrived, used a small electrical meter to test the washer, and surprised us again.

You see, we'd had the impression he might actually be able to repair the washer then and there. Or, at worst, have to order a part and we wait the weekend for him to return and fix it then.

But no. The washer warranty had expired, and apparently GE frowns upon its repairmen working on them under those circumstances. Maybe even doesn't allow them to order parts. For he told us the washer needed a new motor, and a fuse kit. And we'd have to order them. Once they arrived, we were to call him to set up another appointment.

Dad questioned him, and the repair man seemed to reveal that the fuse kit had been defective from the factory. Which allowed the motor to burn up when something went wrong, rather than the fuse simply blowing, to make for a much cheaper repair.

Dad was skeptical, as there'd been no burnt smell of a motor being fried. And dad's actually an all around repair man from way back, as indicated in Junkstorming. For literal decades, dad had almost always performed all repairs required around the house himself-- including washers and dryers.

But dad's now around 80 years old. And so a bit less spry than he used to be. Plus recovering from a kidney operation. He wasn't supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds. And didn't feel much like it, either.

Plus, this washer was supposed to be the latest and greatest thing from one of the world's biggest companies. Brand spanking new, to our way of thinking! Why should we have to scrounge around and try to jury rig it to run?

I sure didn't welcome the news that I'd have to initiate a whole new round of calls, this time to corporate robots, to try to get through to a person. But the repairman seemed to ominously think we'd want to try to plead our case to a human being at GE to try to get the parts cheaper. He'd called while there, but hadn't been able to accomplish it (we heard him).

He told us to call and see what was the best price GE would give us on the parts, and if we were still willing to buy them, order them. After they arrived, call him back again. He told us to use our real-life story of dad's operation to try to get a sympathy discount.

Yeah, this sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

But it was no wonder he was urging us to do that. It turned out the parts would cost about $250, not counting shipping (which could be quite high, for such heavy stuff, and depending on how desperate we were for delivery). And the repair man had informed me his labor would be about $75.

And of course GE dealt with my operation story by simply running me in circles between departments, finally handing me off again to the very first department I'd called, etc., etc., etc. Or in other words, there would be NO discount.

And atop all that, if he got it working again, we'd still be riding naked into the future with this washer, in terms of warranty. It could very well break down again the day after he got it working, and we'd be up this same creek a second time, only still angrier and poorer.

Plus, dad didn't believe the motor was burned up. Plus, even if it was, it seemed plainly due to a protective fuse which was defective from the factory. Which meant the washer was a doomed machine before dad and mom had ever bought it.

So we talked it over, and decided it best to bite the bullet and start all over again. With a different washer. With an extended five year warranty. Declare the $700-$800 GE washer bought only one year before a total and complete loss, and never EVER buy anything made by GE again. Painful (and expensive!) lesson learned.

Plus write up this experience on the web to alert others to the danger. GRRR!

I drove them to Lowes, and we picked out an expensive Maytag, hoping to God the brand name meant reliability this time-- although it's unsettling to hear that Whirlpool had bought out Maytag sometime back-- for usually when that happens the buyer does it simply to milk the good name while hollowing out the company and its products. At least in modern day America. GRRR!

But we also got the 5 year extended warranty. Hoping like hell that means something, too.


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