Vol.1, No.12

US appliances vs foreign appliances

The deciding factor when comparing foreign versus domestic appliance manufacturers prior to purchase may just boil down to service.

Dirty laundry in a washing machine
Photo Credit: Jack Schiffer
For the price-conscious consumer in need of a major appliance, there is nothing like a bargain. Cheap prices draw customers every bit as much as brand names and reputation. As a customer service representative, the one important factor I see most often ignored by frugal shoppers in their decision to purchase a foreign versus domestic appliance is the availability of authorized servicers.

Before you decide that foreign-made appliance is right for you and your budget, I suggest you call the manufacturer's customer service line and ask for specific names of authorized servicers in your area. If the company cannot provide you with at least one, you may wish to reconsider. Any repairs done by an unauthorized technician will void the entire warranty immediately. Follow-up calls should be made to those servicers the manufacturer recommends simply to ensure they will work on your appliance, especially if you did not make your purchase with them. While you have them on the phone, it cannot hurt to ask their opinion of the product. They may not wish to discuss the manufacturer with you, but then again, by doing this you may inadvertently learn that their technicians have had little or no experience outside of a short training class. Not very reassuring if they are the only servicer within a hundred mile radius. In my line of work, I have run across far too many instances to count where the customer with a foreign-made appliance under manufacturer warranty has encountered untold difficulties and obscene waits for repairs. Plan for the worst. Overlooking this small but vital factor can be costly.

For examply, a European outfit had so few customer service representatives staffing their American lines that a consumer whose wet clothes were literally locked inside a washer was forced to leave her name and number in a voicemail that instructed her to wait for a call back. When she finally contacted me for assistance, the woman had been waiting two days. As much as I tried to help, there was little I could do for her. The company's website had no listing of servicers unlike those of the major American brands. My call to their toll-free customer service line on her behalf produced exactly the same voicemail results. A long distance number for corporate headquarters allowed me to leave the consumer's name and number with a real person, but that was all. The woman in this case had to wait for the callback or risk voiding her warranty simply to save her clothes. A call to the manufacturer's service line prior to purchase might have at least given her pause. The price tag for this washing machine ran in excess of a thousand dollars.

I cannot stress enough that you read every letter of the warranty prior to purchase, whether you choose a domestic or foreign manufacturer for your major purchase. Don't hesitate to call the toll-free service numbers to judge for yourself how well each company values their customers. A few minutes spent now can save you not only money, but days, even weeks, of frustration later.