ANALYST CORNER

I Can’t Hear You, the Washing Machine Is Too Loud

Why do my GE washer and dryer sound as loud as a hurricane? As I sit here at the beach, on the balcony, on a beautiful, sunny, warm and peaceful morning watching the sun rise over the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, something is terribly wrong.

What? I can’t hear you. Could you speak louder? Sorry, the new washer and dryer we recently bought are roaring so loud I can’t hear myself think.

We’ve had this place at the beach for a while, and it is a perfect place to unwind — that is, unless we have some laundry to do. Then this peaceful place transforms into a war zone. Suddenly it’s like living inside a roaring 747 jet engine on full throttle.

When we bought this place, it came preloaded with GE appliances — you know, stove, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer. Most worked OK, but certain things started bothering me over time.

The rack in the dishwasher has a habit of detaching. Oops. The front of the microwave oven has developed cracks. Oops again. When our clothes washer and dryer finally bit the dust, we replaced them with new GE machines.

I was smart about the purchase. I asked the salesperson to make sure this new washer and dryer would be quiet. However, after the installation we found out it was even noisier — much noisier. Oops, once again.

Why the Din?

How can a giant company like GE screw up so badly? Talk about unhappy customers. Why are these new appliances so dang loud? What is the problem here?

I don’t dislike GE. I know GE. I have always loved GE. GE is a friend of mine… but GE, you let me down.

This column is not about stock price, corporate identity or industry leadership. This column is about a loyal GE customer getting screwed.

How can a company continue to grow when its performance is so poor? That’s the big question.

Why Customers Buy

Customers make buying decisions based on a number of factors — among them, advertising, marketing, PR, past experiences, and recommendations from family or friends.

However, one thing is for sure: Customers want to be happy with their purchase. In fact, they want to be delighted — but they would be happy just to be happy.

Then why can’t GE get this right? Why are these appliances so screwed up? Doesn’t it realize that customers who buy its branded equipment will be unhappy with the quality and the noise?

Doesn’t it realize that appliances don’t last forever and do need to be replaced? Doesn’t it realize that if customers are happy, then they more likely than not will make a repeat purchase? Doesn’t it realize that unhappy customers will not return?

1st Rule of Business

There are basic rules of commerce — rules that GE obviously has forgotten.

We built a home in the Atlanta area years ago, and it’s getting close to the time when we’ll need to replace appliances. We’ve already had to replace our home washer and dryer twice in the last 10 to 15 years.

The first replacement was a Whirlpool Cabrio, which was huge, but it always gave us trouble. We had to call for service more times than I could count.

The Lonely Repairman

Next we replaced it with a Samsung washer and dryer. So far, the Samsung appliances are performing well. Why can’t they all? Whatever happened to that lonely Maytag repairman, anyway?

Our Thermador oven and stovetop, and our Sub-Zero fridge work great, when they work. Unfortunately, we have had to call for service quite a few times with them as well.

Now we just unplug the auto light feature on the gas stove, because the darn thing continually snips and clicks 24 hours a day.

Home Appliances Getting Worse

To tell you the truth, I never had problems with appliances before. Is it that they were too good in the past? Did the high quality and reliability mean customers didn’t need replacements often enough?

The appliance business is starting to look a lot like the old light bulb business. Thomas Edison invented the Eternal Light, which supposedly would never burn out.

It turns out that was a fake, but the concept is not one that bulb manufacturers would approve of, anyway. They want to sell light bulbs — that means the more limited their life span, the more they sell.

That’s right, it’s in the manufacturers’ interests to make light bulbs worse, not better, so they can keep selling light bulbs and stay in business.

Of course, you can buy light bulbs that do seem to last forever. I have some bulbs that have been burning for more than a decade. Imagine that. Why can’t all lights last that long?

Unreliable Appliances

Back to the very loud, very distracting, and very obnoxious washer and dryer that we now own and will be forced to keep for many more unhappy and very noisy years. Thank you very much, GE.

I hope home appliance makers return to making good appliances once again. That would be nice — but I see no hope yet. Something’s got to give.

So, rather than sitting here enjoying the quiet island breeze and listening to the surf, I have to struggle to hear anything over the roar of the washer and dryer. I can’t hear my wife, I can’t hear the doorbell — I can’t hear the dog bark or the phone ring.

As I sit here, the TV is on CNBC as loud as it will go. Is the stock market melting, or is this a report on the ice cream industry? There is so much noise in my quiet little beach house that all I want to do is SCREAM!

Ha… what did you say? I can’t make out a word you are saying. Wait till the washer and dryer turn off, then maybe we can talk… if I have any hearing left, that is.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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