Past Blast: Washing Machine Shopping – a field report

In case you weren’t sure, ours is NOT a pinterest-worthy laundry room. It is located in the cellar, a place of cobwebs and pipes and that terrific dank cellar-smell I have loved since earliest childhood.

From November, 2007: One of my faithful servants, the washing machine, breathed its last several days ago. I assumed my handy mate would pick up the odd part, rattle around in its bowels, and keep it going for another few years, but it turns out that, as with one’s car, a ruined transmission is an expensive thing to fix. And apparently we are the only folks left in the US still using such an arcane washer, because parts for our twenty-year-old appliance are not even made anymore, so a fix-it job was not possible.

This is a current shot of our set-up. The “new” washing machine is now five years old. We are still happily using the old dryer (bought in 1988) — when we bought the front-loader washer, we talked about going ahead and replacing the dryer, too, but decided it might hang on another year or two. Here we are, in 2012, still using it. If it ain’t broke…

I was torn at hearing the news. Demands to part with our money seem to present themselves daily, so I was loathe to shell out hundreds of dollars for this unexpected need. On the other hand, a NEW washer is kind of exciting. The Husband and I did just what our savvy friend suggested and took ourselves off to the library to delve into Consumer Reports back issues. We read bits of vital information to each other, paid to copy the most pertinent pages, and began the search for the best combination of model and price we could hunt down. I learned a lot during the eight hours or so that passed between settling down with the mags and watching the Adolescent Male Offspring help set up the new machine:

–Because of energy efficiency laws that took effect in Jan. 07, new top-loading washers do a poorer job of cleaning clothes than older models. Indeed! It seems that anybody who is anybody knows that front-loaders are currently the only sensible choice, unless one is purchasing a very tip-top of the line top-loader, which does an “acceptable” job of cleaning, but they cost much more than mid-line front-loaders, so those folks find themselves right back in Chumpville anyway. On the upside, if you are reading this and feeling sorry for yourself for having a decade-old machine, you can be comforted – “It may be scratched and dented and use enough water to irrigate the back forty, but blast it, at least our clothes are clean!”

–What the world needs more of: salespeople with actual, useful product knowledge. It is discouraging to the average consumer to encounter store employees who, when asked what brands their company carries, reply, “Uh…” Such a response does not make the average consumer trust that he or she is in good hands, that his or her best interests will be considered, that the employee believes he is there to serve. Really, it makes this average consumer want to slowly torture the employee to an agonizing but finally welcome death, and in a few of the worst cases I was surrounded by plenty of potential tools – in one store, a big carpet-rolling machine that to my eye resembled a medieval mangling device rested tantalizingly near the appliance department.

–If you are a salesperson hoping to sell a washing machine or anything else to the public, do not preface any of your remarks with the phrase, “To be honest”. Let’s analyze the meaning. What you are saying is, “Up until this moment I have been speaking lies to you, but now I am going to tell you the truth.” I may listen to what you have to say, but to be honest, I won’t be handing my hard-earned money to you.

–I’ve always been of the opinion that it makes sense to get the best appliance one can afford when one is purchasing something intended to last many years. I quickly discovered that the best is much more than we can afford and probably much more washer than our family needs anyway. For example, I decided we could get along fine without a machine that would allow me to program a future washing cycle up to seven days in advance. We don’t own enough clothing to keep the washer occupied with a dirty load for a week waiting for its big moment of programmed washing glory, and even if we did, I just can’t think of any scenario that would make me wish to do such a thing.

I’m interrupting this list of what I learned during our shopping day to point out that there is no need to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a stand for a front-loader machine, especially if your laundry area is in the basement and not included in the house tour for guests. The Husband knocked this together for me in less than half an hour, as I recall. One of these days he’s going to make me a matching one for the dryer, but he’s always busy with all the other stuff I ask him to do, plus, you know, his career.

–After a few hours of trying to spend hundreds of dollars of one’s money, nothing revives flagging energy like ice cream. We came out of a store to find a heavy rain, which naturally made us think of Bruster’s second-scoop-free-during-precipitation policy, which is one more reason to be thankful for rain. “Two scoops of raspberry twirl and two spoons, please.” “Mmmm. Ok, let’s go look at some more appliances!” I hated to spend the money, as ice cream does not fit our new-ish plans of retrenchment, but I decided to chalk it up to a necessary expense in the quest to get the best washing machine deal. Anyway, it made sense at the time.

–The Husband’s limit of Appliance Shopping Stamina is seven hours. We shopped for eight hours. By the end, he was ready to get me the washer, a dryer to match, a second chest freezer, and throw in the range I’ve wanted for years, if only we could go home. In a supreme act of self-control, I chose not to exploit his weakness, but this is not the sort of knowledge I am likely to forget.

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4 Comments

  1. Alyssa
    Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Haha!! I had forgotten about this post! I loved the parts about Dad, and the part about seven days — seven days? Seriously?? Unless they’ve also devised a machine to take the clothes out of the washer, put them in the dryer, *and* would start the dryer, **then** I might be interested.

    • Alyssa
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Note the word “might” in that sentence.

  2. Cindy
    Posted October 15, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Great post! We may be looking for a washer–someday. Ours is 24 years old and we were told by a moving company repairman it wasn’t worth fixing 16 years ago. We told him, “Your company damaged it in the move, please fix it”. Still going strong, with some minor repairs from my husband!

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