we’re losing our ability to repair
Over the past two weeks I have been riding an emotional roller coast thanks to my KitchenAid blender. My blender is a wonderful device – it’s been faithfully serving my family for nearly 8 years, making everything from my proprietary fruit-and-yogurt “purple drink” for the kids to my uncle’s strawberry daiquiries for the adults. One recent day when attempting to make a drink for the kids, it would make noise but not actually blend. Somehow, the blades and the star-shaped wheel that is driven by the base started spinning independently. My blender was broken!
Obviously, with only one part malfunctioning and everything else in perfect working order, it only made sense to try and get a new blade assembly so we could have a working blender again. I called up Whirlpool Canada, who oversees the line of KitchenAid appliances, endured the 25 minutes on hold, and ordered a new part for $40. I was happy to have managed to save the blender… almost.
The part was not the correct part, and did not fit. I called again, and once again they shipped another part. This time, inexplicably, they sent a wire with a switch on it, and a light bulb. Now I was angry. I called a third time and expressed my intense dissatisfaction with what was happening. Only on this call did Whirlpool take my serial number as well as my model number, at which point they told me the part I was looking for was no longer being made, and the last of their stock was sold 4 weeks ago. My only hope was to contact a local dealer to see if they still had one of these parts in stock.
“Local” is entirely relative – the closest dealer that supports KitchenAid small appliances is in Hamilton, a good hour away from me. The next closest are Burlington and London. I called up the Hamilton dealer, told them what I needed, and purchased the part for $70 including shipping. Two days later, the same wrong part we got from Whirlpool the first time arrived.
All my money will be refunded when these parts are returned, but that doesn’t do a thing for my broken blender. A complaint I phoned in to Whirlpool Canada’s head office resulted in nothing more than a “we’re sorry”. In other words, you’ve wasted your time trying to fix your old almost-working blender, please buy a new one. Certainly not from you again, Whirlpool Canada or KitchenAid.
Thankfully, I decided to take the broken part in to work with me. I showed it to the machine shop manager. We discussed how it likely got put together, how it broke, and how it could be fixed. By noon he had the blade assembly back on my desk, fixed solidly. He wouldn’t even take any money for it.
Our blender is now working again, at no cost to me. Were I charged for the time spent on fixing the blade, I would have perhaps payed $20-30; well worth it, especially considering that I would have to landfill nothing. The only problem is that not everyone has access to a machine shop, and not every broken small appliance requires machining skills. In the case of my cordless drill’s battery packs, I need to find someone with soldering ability and basic electronics knowledge. The same knowledge could refurbish my electric toothbrush.
Recently, Sarah asked if I knew where she could get her electric clippers and a drill fixed. Sadly, I don’t. Even on Sesame Street the Fix-It shop has closed up, and all those skills that used to fix small things have gone into hiding. With some luck they will resurface, but we have to do our part to help that along.
I would like to challenge everyone who reads this to take action. Find something in your house or at work that is broken. Either fix it and let people know you know how to fix it, or find someone who can fix it for you and spread the word. We need to redevelop the “Fix-It Shop” infrastructure that has disappeared, just to get the skillsets available to everyone again. Just because you can buy a replacement cheaply doens’t mean you should.
If my blender ever does break such that it simply can’t be repaired, you can bet that I’ll be purchasing one that is not only durable, but has local dealer support, and an established history of parts availability. That may mean purchasing a commercial blender. If that also means it’s the last blender I’ll ever need, it will be the right choice.