It was announced recently that General Motors has sold its Frigidaire Division to another company.
Having paid an arm and a leg for a deluxe Frigidaire range, I found myself wondering how wise it had been to pay extra for the peace of mind that is supposed to accompany a warranty issued by a top rank manufacturer.
Soon after, the No. 1 cook at our house served my favorite oven-baked "potatoes a la Bernice." They were almost raw. A heating element in the right-hand oven wasn't working.
My executive housekeeper (same woman) called a firm authorized to provide Frigidaire service. "Your guarantee covers parts," she was told, "but not labor, of course."
Of course. I was beginning to learn how limited a limited warranty can be.
The service man arrived at the appointed hour (which is unusual enough to merit mention). To disconnect the range he pulled out its bottom drawer, which moves in channels affixed to the interior of the range. He noted that a 1-inch plastic slide was in place in the left channel but not in the right. The manufacturing cost of these slides is probably less than 10 cents.
In three minutes flat, the able service man found that a wire that had not been securely connected at the factory had "butned itself loose." He reconnected the wire.
"The gasket that seals that oven door is worn," my first wife (same woman) pointed out. "Should it be replaced?"
"Sure," he said. As he replaced the gasket, I learned that some parts are not guaranteed. Gaskets, for example. The restrictions in a limited warranty are as complicated as the instructions for some of the supplementary schedules for Form 1040.
As my bill was being written up, the service man told me he would ask his office to order a plastic slide for my drawer channel.
(A few days later, a COD package arrived. The slide was 52 cents. Plus $2 for postage, via United Parcel. Total, $2.52-to replace a 10-cent part never supplied in the first place by the manufacturer).
Service calls are strictly cash, of course. As I wrote my check (for $50.40), I found myself wondering whether the gasket should have worn out so quickly. I wondered, too, why I had to pay for reconnecting a wire that had been so poorly connected at the factory that it "burned itself loose." But the worst hurt of all came when that $2.52 package arrived. When I opened it, I discovered that it contained a piece of plastic for which I have no use whatever. They sent me the wrong part.
Guarantees have always been a wonderland of confusion, and recent government attempts to help consumers have brought little improvement.
When a "lifetime" fountain pen develops a flaw, should the buyer find that "lifetime" refers to the life of the corporate division that sold the pen rather than to the customer's lifetime or the pen's lifetime?
Should corporate take-overs negate warranties?
The timer on my range works fine until the moment it is supposed to buzz a warning that time has run out. At that point, it takes the Fifth Amendment and stands mute.
I mentioned this to the service man. He said, "While General Motors was still in charge, they made good on the timers. But after the sale of the Frigidaire Division, we were told, 'No more free replacements on timers.' Y'know, I think that's why General Motors decided to sell Frigidaire: GM tried to do the right thing by customers, and that's just too doggone expensive these days. The Frigidaire Division wasn't making any money."
If somebody in the Frigidaire family is pondering the advisability of telling me that a mistake was made and I shouldn't have been charged for some or all of the repairs, I can give him a quick answer: Thanks, but no thanks. I won't accept special treatment. What I'd like to see is a more equitable warranty policy for all your customers.
If I ran my business the way manufacturers run theirs, I would put the next paragraph in small type:
Warning: My $50.40 check is covered by only a limited warranty. This means that if the check bounces, my liability is limited to the amount that appears to the right of the decimal point. Labor and delivery charges are extra. You'll have to notify me in writing that my check was defective and then return it to me in an armored car. I will then either pay you the 40 cents or write you a new check, at my option. If any words or phrases in the foregoing seem familiar, ask yourself why.