Coffee heat rising

The Appliance Jamboree

Welp…since the (radically expensive!) kitchen faucet croaked over, every appliance in the kitchen has decided to do the same. The dishwasher died: when I rolled out of the sack yesterday morning, having turned it on about 9:00 the previous night, the damn thing was still running!

I managed to get the Bosch service folks on the phone, and they arranged to send a repairman over…next Monday! In the meantime, I’ve been cooking and cleaning out of the garage, which mercifully has a work sink. Otherwise, with no kitchen faucet and no dishwasher, the only place I’d be able to prepare food and wash up would’ve been a bathroom.

Also meanwhile…a while ago, the water dispenser on the refrigerator quit working.

Both the dishwasher and the fridge are 16 years old — installed when I moved into this place — and so it’s not surprising that they should be giving up the ghost. At one point, a repairdude remarked to me that modern appliances are engineered to crap out after 7 years. So…what is surprising is that they’ve lasted this long.

Frank the Plumber is due to show up tomorrow to install the new faucet set…sometime…whenever. So I figured if I’m ever going to get a functioning dishwasher in there, I’d better sally out today, in search of a replacement for the Deceased.

At my favorite local vendor, B&B Appliances, the sales dude tried to persuade me that I really didn’t want a Bosch; I really wanted a KitchenAid. B&B sells refurbished used stuff and also dented and returned new appliances, like the Sears Outlet used to do. You can get some exceptionally good buys there, and in addition, the staff is highly knowledgeable, inclined to chat, and honest. He presented me with a Kitchenaid dishwasher: $650;

He didn’t have any Bosch models on hand just then. And more to the point, because I just figured to replace the Deceased with another Bosch, I hadn’t looked up any reviews on the Web or done any product comparisons. So I retreated: back to the Funny Farm to look up the brands.

Googling reviews of Bosch and Kitchenaid dishwashers, I found them both highly recommended, but the Bosch was running just slightly ahead of the Kitchenaid. And there were fewer embittered complaints from whiners about the Bosch than about the Kitchenaid. Hence, it was off to Best Buy, Lowe’s, and HD, there to inspect their offerings.

Conveniently, Best Buy had the Kitchenaid and the Bosch models displayed side-by-side!!! Sooo….it was easy to compare the internal layouts and their control panels.

Fancy that.

It’s hard to beat the Bosch. Even if you’re Kitchenaid. Best Buy will deliver it on Monday. So they say. Home Depot delivers for free. Lowe’s is famed for its delivery rip-offs, so you should never buy anything there that needs to be delivered. Best Buy charges $50 to bring the dishwasher to your house, plug it in, and cart off the old one.

While at BB, I looked at refrigerators. Unimpressed. Tried Lowe’s, which resides right across the parking lot from the Best Buy. Found one that looked like it might be OK, but…. They had exactly zero (that is 0.00) sales staff on the floor. Not. One. Person. And of course you have the problem that Lowe’s is renowned for its haphazard delivery practices and customer service.

Drove down the road to Home Depot, where I found a perfectly fine sales dude but an amazingly unimpressive array of choices.

Or maybe the other way around: so impressive as to be off-putting. Have you looked at refrigerators lately? Forgodsake. They’ve computerized the damn things. No kidding. The guy proudly showed me a couple of models that have annoying computer screens on the door, monitoring not only what is in the fridge (“you need to buy milk!”) but who’s at the freaking front door! Just what I need: a televised refrigerator show.

These contraptions, I decided, are agglomerations of gadgets designed to break. And to make you crazy.

So I started looking at THE most low-tech models I could find.

Mine is an old-fashioned freezer-on-top/nontalking fridge model, with an ice-maker and a cold water dispenser, the latter of which is busted. With some effort, I found old-fashioned freezer-on-top things: $850.

Eventually I found a freezer-on-top Whirlpool that looks very much like my ancient Kenmore, only without the ice-maker or water dispenser. I see I failed to write down the price, but if memory serves, it was about $650, plus $100 to install the ice-maker.

My patience wearing thin, I decided I would think on this and then come back another day to buy…whatEVER.

At any rate, on the way home from the HD, it occurred to me that the plain-vanilla vacation-retreat-cheapo no-frills fridge is all I need. Why do I need an ice-maker, when I have a free-standing freezer in which I can stack scores of ice trays? Why not simply buy the plainest, least gadget-ridden model and call it a day? How hard is it, after all, to buy a bag of Crystal ice and dump it into the ice-cube box that I can steal out of the old fridge? Hm. We used Crystal ice back in the day, when our first refrigerator with an ice-maker made THE most vile-tasting ice you can conceive of. Crystal makes great ice.

And…hmmm… If one were going to end up with a plain top-freezer refrigerator with no water dispenser and no ice-maker…well…why buy one of those when that’s just about what I have? The ice maker still works. My life did not end with the demise of the water dispenser, and for that matter, not having to track down refrigerator filters and wrestle with the damn things trying to get the old one out and the new one in represents a positive improvement in life.

Sooo…why buy a new refrigerator at all, if you’re going to end up with a brand-new version of exactly what you have: a top-freezer fridge with no water dispenser and (soon, no doubt) no ice maker? If the refrigerator compartment works and the freezer compartment works, is there really anything else you need?

And so, we contemplate a step backward in time. Keep the fridge I’ve got. Opt the 21st-century gadgetry. If and when the 20th-century ice-maker freezes up, simply turn off the water to the thing. And run it until it dies…which is likely to be a pretty long time. Then, when it does die, replace it with the plainest plain-vanilla model on the market.

In fact, it might be worth just buying one of those plain-vanilla models right now, thereby heading off the fiasco that will happen when my refrigerator croaks altogether at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday evening right before a three-day weekend. Which, as you know, is inevitable.

Of Books, Business, and Dishwashers

So here at the Funny Farm, the proprietor continues to put in 12- to 14-hour days. Got a meeting in another two hours, which means no time to write this post AND get any significant other work done. WTF…I’m writing. Dammit, I get a chance to have a cup of coffee and rest for a few minutes.

Yesterday FaM subscribers received an email warning…uhm, advising you all that I soon will be emanating a kind of business newsletter from the Camptown Ladies site, holding forth more about the adventure of starting a new publishing enterprise than about the Racy Books themselves.

A rose, a candle, and an extraordinary man... Or is he a man?
A rose, a candle, and an extraordinary man… Or is he a man?

Speaking of the which, I see I’ve failed to mention our latest shenanigan, The Ouija Lover. Actually, this randy little number is one of my favorite books. The characters come to life quickly and are pretty entertaining — they get more so in the second book of the series, The Taming of Bonnie. The conceit — the “concept” in Hollywoodese — is really bizarre. So that went online yesterday, available for your browsing pleasure at this very moment.

The Ouija Lover is one of several spooky-themed stories that we’re publishing in honor of Halloween and La Dia de los Muertos. Only one of them, Kelpie (scheduled for publication next week), is really very dark.

Interestingly, most of the Camptown Races stories are fairly light and upbeat. That, apparently, is the overall mood of my writers. The occasional heavy or dark piece is an intriguing exception. I think that’s because these stories are very fun to write and (we hope) fun to read. We’re all getting a hoot out of creating racy stories!

Meanwhile, life goes on. In altogether different realms … I wish to sic one of our fictional spooks on the dunderheads who came up with “high-efficiency” home appliances. There’s another bizarre conceit: the idea that a piece of equipment that takes twice as long to do the job and does it badly (so the job often has to be done over again) magically saves electricity and water. Where do people dream these ideas up?

The present target of my ire is (again) the expensive Bosch dishwasher that I installed to replace the deceased (allegedly less marvelously “efficient”) model. This is the one that won’t get your dishes clean unless you run it on the “Sanitize” cycle, thereby engaging an internal heater that boosts the water’s heat enough to wash off the dirt without benefit of functional detergent. The cycle that takes two hours and forty-one minutes of electric power to wash a load of dishes that would take you about 15 minutes and no electric power (assuming you have a gas water heater) to wash by hand.

Now, I happen to own a set of Christofle silverware that the ex- and I bought back when we were flush and dumb. After we split, I took the silver with me. And I thought at the time, I am gonna use this silver and not save it for a special occasion, BECAUSE special occasions never come and I love this stuff.

So for the past 18 or 20 years, I’ve used the Christofle every day, with every meal. Early on, I found a set of stainless that knocks off Christofle’s design (no longer available: patent infringement?), which I use for cooking. And early on, I learned that if you keep the stainless separate from the silver, you can run the silverware through the dishwasher with no harm.

Well. So it went until I acquired the current “efficient” Bosch. After I figured out that the only way to get the contraption to work was to run it on the sani-cycle every time, I found that suddenly the silver was tarnishing and needed to be repolished every time I turned around. (Normally I’d polish the silver maybe once every six months or a year — if you’re using it all the time, it doesn’t tarnish unless you leave it sitting in lemon juice or some such.)

WTF? Why was I suddenly having to polish the silver every two weeks?

Finally I figured out that it must have something to do with the heat in the washer’s sanitize cycle. If you want the dishes clean, you can’t put the silverware in there.

And that means that if I want to use my silver, I have to wash every piece by hand after every meal!!!!

Thank you, dear environmentally correct hucksters, for taking us back to the 1950s in one more aspect of our lives.

Now, in general I’m none too fond of housework. But of all the housework chores, I hate washing dishes by hand with the deepest passion. It’s one thing to have to wash the laundry by hand once every week or two. But another thing altogether to have to wash eating utensils by hand two or three times a day.

It’s such a nuisance, in fact, that I’m thinking about packing up the silver, hiding it from the burglars somewhere or giving it to my son, and just going over to Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel and buying a set of decent stainless.

The Christofle knock-off stainless is cheap and light-weight. The real stuff, the silver, has a nice heft to it, which adds to the pleasure of a nice meal. A better set of stainless would have that quality, and it also would go in the dishwasher. Voilà: one annoyance gone. Sort of.

Crate & Barrel has some very attractive 18/10 designs. They’re not cheap, but they’re not horribly expensive. I just resent having to put away something I’ve made part of my daily life and that I enjoy using. Nor do I want to spend money on something like this because of some stupid “improvement” that’s utterly unnecessary, ineffective, and unfair.

Pisseth me off.

Planned obsolescence

You know, one reason U.S. car manufacturers began, lo these many years ago, to lose out to Japanese and German manufacturers was that American cars were designed to crap out in about five years. Back in the day, a vehicle with 50,000 miles on it was a decrepit bucket of bolts that stayed on the road only by dint of miraculous intervention from master mechanics who had died and been transformed into angels in heaven.

You’d think product manufacturers would have heard the message when consumers moved in droves to Toyota and Volkswagen, which were making vehicles that not only ran more efficiently and more safely but also ran for at least 10 years or 100,000 miles without requiring a major landfilloverhaul. But noooo…. Planned obsolescence not only lives, it thrives. The notoriously short lifespan of computers and other electronic products is well known, though apparently consumers are too sheeplike to mount any serious protest. Back in 2006, the Christian Science Monitor suggested that manufacturers of obsolete PCs and iPods, which are full of fine toxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and barium, be required by law to foot the bill for collecting their deliberately defunct toys and disassembling them. Too bad our soon-to-be-former leadership has proven to be every bit as irresponsible as the big-monied interests that put it into office.

If you don’t care what this ever-growing mountain of unnecessary garbage is doing to the water you drink and the air you breathe, you might consider what it does to your pocketbook.

bosheThe other day I learned my Bosch dishwasher, which has gone senescent at the age of FOUR YEARS, needs a $400 repair. The repairman assumed I would want to junk it and buy a new one, for a mere one or two hundred bucks more than the fix-it job.

Yeah. Nice timing, eh? Merry Christmas: you get to blow half your savings on another new piece of junk, just as an economic depression is rolling down on you.

Four years and a dishwasher dies? Used to be you could expect one to die in a seven years. But, my chickadees: back in the Paleolithic period, dishwashers, refrigerators and stoves could be expected to last forever.For the lifetime of your house!

Don’t believe me, do you?

Well, it’s true. In 1969 my former husband and I bought a fully renovated old house in the historic district of lovely downtown Phoenix. The KitchenAid dishwasher in the house was about two years old when we moved in. This miraculous machine allowed you to drop in dishes while they were really dirty—you didn’t have to prewash them at the sink before running them through the wash cycle. Back in the stone age, this was quite the innovation.

Despite the new technology that made such a trick possible, that KitchenAid was still running, and running well, when we moved out of the house over fifteen years later.That would have made it seventeen years old and still functional. It required, as I recall, one visit from a repairman in all those years.

The Amana side-by-side refrigerator did die about a year before we left: it ran trouble-free for over sixteen years.

Now we learn that a Bosch, a very expensive item, indeed, can’t manage to stagger along for more than four years?

I turned to Bosch after a negative experience with Maytag, once among the highest-rated household appliances. When I replaced the harvest gold clean-it-yourself wall oven and the el cheapo dishwasher in my last house, I bought Maytag appliances, having been assured by authorities such as Consumer Reports that these were top-of-the-line and would run for the full 15 or 18 years one would expect a big-ticket item to last.

Wrong. Five years later—almost to the day!—the oven’s heating element exploded and started a fire, and two days after that the dishwasher died. Both appliances had to be replaced. Fortunately, the fire in the oven caused so much damage my homeowner’s insurance paid for that. But I had to foot the bill to replace a dishwasher that should have continued to run for another five to ten years. At that time, an appliance repairman told me that kitchen appliances are engineered to give out in about seven years.

I will never own another Maytag product as long as I live. And now I’m thinking I’ll never own another Bosch, either. Four years is just not enough functionality for a $600 to $1,500 appliance! Especially one that ranks at the top of consumer ratings for “reliability”!

If this is “reliable,” do you get all of 18 months out of a less highly rated brand?

It’s one huge ripoff!

There’s simply no excuse for this kind of consumer abuse. We know kitchen appliances, like cars, can be made to last upwards of a decade. So, obviously, can computers: the only reason you’re forced to throw out a perfectly functional piece of equipment is that manufacturers deliberately design their product campaigns so that your computer soon will no longer operate in a rapidly—and unnecessarily—changing environment.
Consumers in America and worldwide need to get their act together and force their governments to bring a stop to this kind of outrageous waste and greedy exploitation. Write to your Congressional representatives and demand passage of bills to force makers of appliances and electronics to pay the real cost for manufacturing products purposefully designed to rip us all off.
landfill2photo by D’Arcy Norman