Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Why I hate General Electric" and other fun with appliances

General Manager
Customer Relations
GE Appliances
Appliance Park
Louisville, KY 40225

Nov. 15, 2006

Dear Sirs,

Today I had my two year old GE washing machine hauled away as scrap. In its place is a brand new Kenmore, which I have every confidence will last me far longer than your machine. In fact, it is hard to see how it could possibly fail to be a better machine than yours.

Let me start from the very beginning. There was a time when I considered GE a good name. In fact, when I renovated my kitchen in California some years ago, I bought a GE front-loading washer and dryer set and installed them under the counter in my laundry room. I was entirely pleased with the units, so it was with no fear at all when I moved into my new house in Philadelphia in late 2004 and found it completely outfitted with gleaming new GE appliances.

But that's when the trouble started.

Within the first month or so, the GE dishwasher blew out and was out of service for a month while your techs ordered a new electronic control unit. They were unable to explain why a brand new control unit would have blown out in the first place, but they did eventually replace it, although I spent the first months in my house hand washing my dishes.

Within a year, the washing machine began bucking and heaving and making an awful noise. The tub leaned over in an alarming manner, hitting the metal frame with such force that chunks of plastic broke off the top of the tub. The tech who responded said that some sort of plastic collar under the agitator had cracked. He assured me he had never before seen such a problem.

A few months after that, after the warrantee expired, the same thing happened – the machine began bucking and heaving in a dangerous manner while on the spin cycle. The tech responded and found that one of the shock absorbers that hold the tub steady in the spin cycle has mysteriously popped out of its slot. Again, he assured me he had never seen such a thing. That little adventure in engineering excellence cost me $100.

In July, however, the problem reoccurred. I called customer service and was told that I would have to pay for the visit. After a long and tense conversation, the customer service rep grudgingly agreed to waive the cost of the service call. She said she would have someone from customer service contact me about the problem, which never happened. The same tech came back out, found exactly the same problem, slipped the shock absorber back into place and again assured me that he had never experienced anything like this.

At this point, I emailed a long a testy letter to your customer service email, listed on your website. I received an automated response saying I would hear from someone within two days. I have received no response thus far. I will attach a copy of my previous letter and the email response for your consideration.

In August, a very nice young lady called to survey my satisfaction with the service visit. I gave GE the lowest possible marks, told her of my growing frustration. She said she would "red flag" this for customer service right away and have someone call me within two days. To date, nobody has called.

Earlier this month, the washer began exhibiting the same symptoms. I called customer service on Nov. 6 and the rep waived my service fee and scheduled a tech for Nov. 13. After I demanded a new machine and told her you had sold me a lemon, she said she would refer my case to a board that reviews replacement requests. Today, almost two weeks later, I have heard nothing from them or anyone at customer service.

The final straw, however, came on Friday of last week, when I found a message on my answering machine saying that GE has "a number of techs out sick" and would be unable to honor the Monday service appointment. They had taken the liberty of rescheduling my appointment for the following Friday. When I attempted to call the customer service line (800-386-1215) to explain that this was neither acceptable, nor even convenient given my schedule, a recording came on telling me that operators were unable to take my call due to technical problems. Laundry was piling up in my house, which is home to two small children, and I was unable to find a live human being to discuss my problem. I find it utterly mind-boggling that GE was able to predict with such accuracy on Friday that its technicians would be ill three days hence, and would therefore be unable to fix the problem GE itself had created, but that GE was unable to put a live person on the line, or at least make a voicemail line available for frustrated customers.

The next day, I drove to Sears and bought a Kenmore. I paid an extra $10 to have Sears haul away your washing machine. It left through my front door about 12:30 p.m. today and I say good riddance. I will include a copy of my Sears receipt to show you how much I was willing to spend to be done with General Electric and to show you money flowing to one of your competitors thanks entirely to your complete incompetence in design and customer service.

The worst part of this experience was not the machine itself. Everyone makes mistakes and I was willing to forgive you for a machine that was defective. The real problem was the appalling customer service. At every step, I have found it difficult and inconvenient to schedule service through the automated service. It required considerable resourcefulness for me to find a number where I could talk to a live human being, and once I did find that number, there were occasions when I could not actually access an operator. When I did access an operator, I found them dismissive, rude and even bullying – several explicitly threatened to charge me the full price of a service visit if the problem I reported turned out to be my fault. This occurred even while my appliances were under warranty. And at no point did anyone ever follow up on any promise made to me by any employee of GE.

Frankly, I don't care anymore if you ever contact me or take any action on this letter. I don't care if your replacement board eventually decides to bestow upon me a new washer – I don't want it. You can keep it. I will never again buy a GE appliance. I might very well not even buy a GE light bulb just to make a point. I will continue to tell my friends and relatives, and even casual acquaintances, what junk GE appliances are and how bad your customer service really is. I will do everything in my power to steer them to other brands.

I am tired of being ignored. I am tired of being bullied. I am tired of living with badly designed and defective appliances. I am tired of GE. Good riddance to you all.

CC: Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO
James P. Campbell, CEO GE Consumer

My earlier letter to GE customer service:

Dear Sirs - I have nearly had it with your appliances. I moved into my home less than two years ago. It was thoroughly renovated and smartly outfitted entirely with new GE appliances.

Since then, I have had nothing but problems.

My dishwasher died within two months and was out of service for several weeks while the repairmen waited for parts. Both my dryer and washer failed within the first year. The stove malfunctioned within 14 months, though fortunately I was able to fix the problem - I discovered that the frames that hold the over racks had become misaligned, setting off some sort of switch that prevented the oven from heating up correctly. The refrigerator is so poorly designed as to border on useless - among many serious defects, the pull-out drawers in the freezer chronically stick and hang-up, preventing the door from closing fully, allowing cold air to escape and the internal temperature to rise dramatically.

But what brings me finally to express this howl of outrage is your notable turkey of a washing machine.

As I mentioned, it needed service in the first year, because the tub was not turning properly on the spin cycles. The service tech explained that there was some sort of collar on the spindle that held the tub in place. This, he said, was cracked and needed to be replaced. The machine worked adequately after that.

But just a few months later, after the one-year warrantee expired, the tub began making an ungodly noise and leaning to one side. The machine hopped around dangerously, making me fear that it would damage the floor or wall or gas connection for the dryer.

The repairman came out and discovered that, as he explained it, the shock absorbers had jumped out of their normal tracks, upending the tub. He replaced the shock absorbers in the groove, but not before charging me something like $99.

Now, only about four months later, the tub has again skewed to one side and began making the same loud noise and again the machine began jumping around alarmingly. The symptoms are exactly the same, leading me to suspect that the same problem the repairman fixed last time has reoccurred.

This happened on the same day that you had the gall to send me a solicitation giving me the opportunity to spend $73.15 per year on an extended service contract.

Let me blunt about this. There is no reason that a machine that is less than two years old should have malfunctioned catastrophically three times. There is no reason that a machine that is less than two years old should NEED a service contract unless you know perfectly well that you are manufacturing cheap merchandise.

I am now in the awkward position of trying to decide whether to throw more money down the sewer by repairing this chronic turkey, or simply replacing it with a washing machine from a more reliable brand, perhaps say Kenmore (my mother has a 25 year old Kenmore that has never so much as coughed, let alone become non-functional for even a brief time).

There was a time when I thought highly of GE products. Now I will certainly think twice, perhaps three times, before ever purchasing another GE appliance. I have, for the last year, taken the liberty of telling all my guests, who admire how nicely my house has been renovated, that my only regret is that it was outfitted with GE appliances - and I often take the time to show them precisely why the GE products are unsuitable. I certainly plan to share my story with the Better Business Bureau and anyone else who will listen.

It would take quite a bit to regain even a fraction of my loyalty. You could start by repairing, or better yet replacing, my washing machine. Oh, I know it is out of warranty now, but it is perfectly clear to me that you sold me a lemon. To add insult to injury, I find it impossible to get a live human being on the telephone line to pass along my tale of woe. At very one of the numbers posted helpfully on your website, including the numbers labeled "Live attendant," I get nothing by a circular voicemail that passes me off to yet another voicemail, and so on.

I look forward to hearing from you, hopefully in human form and hopefully before I am compelled to buy a more reliable model from another company.


dogimo said...

Sean...Kenmore is just the house brand used by Sears-Roebuck for their appliances. G.E. landed that contract about two year ago, and has been the chief manufacturer of Kenmore-branded appliances for Sears ever since.

Sike. It's still mostly done by Whirlpool! I just figured after all that, you could use a bit of a laugh.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is great. Talking about GE Appliances, huh? There is not much I could personally say about the company. But if you need a bite of bitter experience, then go to, where you will find lots of bad feedbacks about the company. Talking about consumer electronics in general, I shoul say it is too hard to find something reliable and worthy, since today cheap fakes are numerous.

Siok said...

GE is generally bad in more ways than one. Even their employees hate the company especially in Asia. I have friends who work at GE and they hate the company -- they are only concerned with profits and have leaders who only care for themselves, especially in places like Singapore and especially in HR