The Nightmare of Being an Informed Consumer

Oh, sure.  You probably think that getting a new washing machine is no big deal.

I used to be like that — trusting, naive, innocent.  I stayed that way through part of yesterday, when our old washing machine stopped right in the middle of a cycle that included most of my underwear.  So, I did what any enterprising, desperate woman wearing her last clean pair of underwear would do: I moved the dial.  When that didn’t work, I raised, then banged the top shut.

Hey, that lasted for a few minutes, till the machine thudded to a stop again.  This time, I bashed it with my fist.  Then, I kicked it.  Voila!  It managed to lurch through another several minutes, long enough to get the load “clean” as opposed to clean, but at least that took care of my immediate hygiene problem.

Still.  I could tell the machine and I were on a downward trajectory.  “We’ve got problems,” I told my husband.

I won’t say his eyes lit up.  But there’s no denying he’s been unhealthily interested in replacing our household appliances ever since a friend told him expenses like that — as we get ready to rent out our house for the year — are tax-deductible.

I hear those words “tax deductible,” and I think fine, great, all that jazz, we won’t owe the government as much as usual.  My husband hears those words and he thinks FREE!  Ever since, he’s been hanging around the refrigerator, issuing dire warnings.

“The icemaker doesn’t work as well as it used to,” he’ll say.

“Yeah?  So what?”

“We need to replace the refrigerator, that’s what.”

Remarks like that have become the commencement of a running argument between us.  (New refrigerator!  Forget it!  Icemaker’s slow!  Who the hell cares?)

But the washing machine — well, it was clear to me this was a critical case, unlike our perfectly healthy refrigerator.  I had the feeling I couldn’t keep up even my rather low standards by constantly kicking our washing machine throughout the day.  Machines had feelings, too, and pretty soon this clunker was going to be flooding our floors with slippery water and unwashed lingerie.

That’s when I learned something: You don’t just go around indiscriminately buying any old washing machine today.  You have to think about everything: Front load or top load?  Green or wreck-the-environment?  White or platinum?

The next thing I knew, my husband had happily renewed our subscription to Consumer Reports and was whipping through the washing-machine section.  He found a couple of good-looking models that were highly rated.

“OK,” I said.  “That takes care of that.”

But, no.  He was now dive-bombing into consumer feedback, most of it from women with Octomom-size families who described themselves as “heavy and frequent users.”  These women, I had to say, had very strong feelings about their washing machines.

THIS MACHINE IS A NIGHTMARE! said the heading to one vehement account of life with a highly-rated machine.  YOU’LL HATE YOURSELF IF YOU GET THIS MODEL!  another one said.  WANT TO RUIN YOUR LIFE? another said.  No, I did not.  I stopped reading.

Too much information.  Way too much information.  All I wanted was some clean underwear; I didn’t want somebody’s long, horrific stories about a failed relationship with the wrong washing machine.

So!  We’re getting a little platinum number that seems to be green and is definitely more than we wanted to pay.  But, hey.  Nobody called it a nightmare.  At least not yet.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

3 comments… add one
  • I recently got a “new” washing machine. New to me, anyhow. I got it from my middle (she doesn’t have a blog) daughter’s foreclosed house. It works okay. Is there a moral there? That’s about what I know about washing machines. Either they work or they’re broke.

    I love the way you write.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Thanks, Anne.  I’m still waiting for the new machine — and my clothes aren’t getting any cleaner.

  • Cindy A Link

    Since Maytag was bought, we had no idea what to do. We had our Maytag for 15 years. So we called an independent appliance repairman. No, you can’t depend on Maytag any more. And he gave us the name of the new “lonely repairman.” I’d tell you what we got, but we still mourn for our elderly Maytag.

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