March 03, 2009

Used to waiting

And now it's the fridge.

Our previous one broke down irretrievably just over a month ago, after 15 years of trouble-free service. We bought a new one on January 21. This morning, that new one is dead as a dodo. I sit around waiting for the company technician to turn up, a wait I'm getting sort of used to. When he does come, he tells me a fuse on its "circuit" has blown, and instead of replacing just the fuse, the whole "circuit" has to be replaced. Two days that will take.

I tell him that this never happened with the previous fridge. "But that one didn't have a circuit", he tells me as if speaking to a child, as if the presence of this "circuit" is somehow a benefit to me.

An earlier wait, only a few weeks ago, was for the washing machine company technician. Our decade-plus-old washing machine had also finally broken down irretrievably. Impressed with its years of hassle-free service, we bought the same brand. The second wash load we bunged into it -- the second load -- caused the machine to vibrate so much it bopped all over the room and woke up the neighbours with its racket. The technician came and made some adjustments. On its fifth wash load -- the fifth -- after that, it stopped in the middle of the wash cycle and would not be persuaded to go on. The technician came and blamed, you guessed it, the "circuit". Luckily, he was cynical enough not to pretend that the presence of this "circuit" was somehow beneficial to me.

Anyway, he recommended that we tell the company to replace this 7-wash-load-old machine. It took them three weeks -- weeks filled with more bopping and inexplicable halts -- but they did replace it.

Meanwhile, an electrical switch and socket in our bathroom suddenly started emitting smoke a few days ago. I had replaced them from a previous such episode only about six months ago, and I did it again now, once more stunned at the cost of these devices that last only months. Meanwhile, two other switches elsewhere in the house stopped working. This is a continuing saga with our switches. For nearly thirty years since this flat was built, not one switch needed to be replaced. But in the four years since a few failed and we replaced them, we've had to replace those replacements, and those replacements, etc, again and again. I'd say at least two dozen replacements in four years.

You with long memories will remember that I wrote on this theme here, a little over a year ago. I mentioned switches, my washing machine, and a shaving brush. Note especially what the washing machine technician had to say then about new machines from his company.

When I wrote that article, I got an email message from a reader, quoted below verbatim:

"Whats'the matter with you, have you heard or not heard of SURVIVOR BIAS with regard to machinery? You are only remembering the machinery which is lasting from the past? What about that which failed from the past? Look at Great Wall in China, how it has survived? Dos it mean ancient wall-building technologies was better than now? Or does it mean all faulty walls are falling down and we have forgotten those? This is called SURVIVOR Bias. You are idiot if you think past was better than present becos of your stoopid washing machine and switches."

The man may be right, who knows. But Survivor Bias or not, I am getting used to waiting.

13 comments:

Blueshift said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aparna said...

I think all of us have a problem with our new appliances. Instead of making our lives easier they have made it more hellish. I regret the day I bought the fancy cooking range from the well known brand - Glen. My old gas range worked without trouble for 9 years whilst this new fangled product conks out almost every month.
The technician comes to check after umpteen calls and that when I live 1 km from the service centre! I have seriously pondered about going to the consumer court with this monstrosity of a cooking range; not so much as to claim damages but to teach these companies a lesson of not taking us for granted.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Blueshift, you're telling me that Hindutva is to blame for the failure this morning of my fridge?

Really?

What else can we blame on Hindutva, let's see ... my filthy fingernails?

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Aparna - you may not actually need to go to consumer court: if you act serious about going to consumer court, they will react. See our experience with a dishwasher.

Dilip - perhaps your experience is unusually bad, or perhaps Mumbai sucks in these matters. All our consumer electrical equipment (bought between 2004 and now) is fine and troublefree, except the aforementioned dishwasher and an Onkyo CD changer. No problem with switches, but these mini-regulators for fans are dreadful. I got the big old-fashioned kind now in one room, and am planning to do so for the other rooms too.

Nazim Khan said...

Ah. Your home appliances are on a giving up spree — your survivor bias (or lack of it) notwithstanding.

But really, wonder what's happened to the new gadgets. Our previous fridge gave us close to 25 years of almost close to hassle free service. The new one (bought a year ago) has already given up on me a healthy 4-5 times.

Anonymous said...

Yarr...these domestic appliances have design life of about 7 - 8 years. In reality they may not last more than 5 years...I mean in good working order...On top of it we abuse these machines an then we have irregular power supply and other inputs of questionable quality.

So I think Dilip in wrong in expecting his machine to run properly after all these years. Let it go and get a new one.


@Aparna

This is what happens when manufacturers push value engineering to the extreme.

Don't worry ..Glen may stage a great comeback one day.

I think this global slwodown and recession is going to teach humanity to keep things simple and straight...gadgets, relationships, expectations et al.

Anonymous said...

..and where possible buy extended warranty so that you're covered for manufacturing defects for some years.

Anonymous said...

...All failing please read RK Narayan's 'Engine Trouble' ...will do a lot of good to your heart.

Sumedha said...

The electrician who visit our house fairly regularly to fix our relatively new automatic washing machine told my mum that the problem is that these machines are too advanced for India. Apparently, the companies are able to visualise the idea (or take it from somewhere else) but are not able to make it properly. And once the machine breaks down, the local repairmen aren't skilled enough to deal with the problems, because the technology is too advanced for them.

I think the part about the local repairmen is probably right, but I don't know about about the know-how of the Indian companies.

And this problem even happens with small machines.. my parents recently bought a digital weighing scale, and it's soo hard to get it to work. You have to tap it just so, and then give it a minute, and then it works. :)

myopic astronomer said...

Hi Dileep

often poor electrical voltage supply (power) in India may be to blame for many failures.

the thing is: voltage is supposed to be around 230 V. many times it jumps from 180-250 V very fast. The supply frequency should be 50Hz, whereas in reality found to be between 42-48 Hz.

Also, many power cables (inside our house) are meant for only 3 A current and low wattage. Whereas, washing machines can draw large power (230*5 = 1100 W).

The appliances are built for certain power consumption. Given the above situation, appliances may fail more often.

any electrical engg to call my bluff? :-)

Pareshaan said...

Boss,
it's not Suvivor Bias - it's the planet Mercury that seems to have gone retrograde in your Natal Chart!!
Purchase emerald (one carat for every 10kgs of body weight) and wear on Pinky - halt purchase of all electronic goods for a few months until baleful Mercury smiles on you again.

GBO said...

Please find a Havell dealer in your part of town. Please visit him directly. Please buy directly from there.

Or go to the Havell website.

And tell them what you want, call their 1-800 toll free number.

Most everything else in Mumbai is lousy 2-number.

xanindia said...

LOL. I like your style of writing your everyday concerns. True enough, there are technicians that are not so honest enough to tell the real situation...sometimes we want to learn the trade so as not to call their attention every time "a bug" invades the machines. And for the modern appliances, the built are not the same as yore. I know this because I experienced this too. Our old refrigerator reached its "death" after almost 20 years. When we replace it with the same brand, uppsss, just a year (lucky it reaches a year) it went down.