Washer/Dryer Woes

Appearing soon at my place!

Monday is laundry day — a rare bit of regularity in my retired life. Faithful readers (all three of you) will recall I had a bit of electrical excitement last fall. (That’s been fine ever since, and I’m happy to have the new smoke detectors. I had no idea they are only good for about ten years. Their tiny radioactive source wears out eventually.)

I’ve known for months I needed a new clothes washer and a new clothes dryer. For one thing, they came with the place, so they’re at least 16 years old. More to the point, the dryer was taking two hours to get clothes completely dry, and the agitator in the washing machine was broken — it only worked with extremely light loads.

Yesterday, it died a definite death.

I was limping along fine with double drying cycles, because I routinely use double wash cycles. That is, I run the washing machine twice (only the first time with soap).

I have sensitive skin, so I use unscented laundry soap and use that second cycle as an extreme rinse. (And I use the Extra Rinse Cycle on the wash, so it amounts to four rinses plus a soapless wash.)

It was probably overkill, but you get into habits, and since I was having to run the dryer twice, it was no big deal.

(I don’t pay for water, which is great for long showers. And for the record, I’m not a believer when it comes to water (or wood) conservation. Those are extremely renewable resources, and eventually technology will get around to making good clean freely available water something every soul on Earth can take for granted.)

((Also for the record: The big trick to a better world is simple. Just get rid of anyone with only profit in their eyes. Take those who lust for money out of power, and things will work a lot better. One tip: Let the women govern for a few decades. They tend to have better sense about these things.))

§

But I digress.

Where I was for months was double-drying and under-loading the washing machine so the agitator had some chance of agitating.

The mechanism that links it to the motor broke, but there was just enough pressure from moving parts to turn the agitator in kind of a half-assed way so long as the load was light enough.

It was enough to have clean dry clothes even if it did take most of my Monday. (Three loads minimum, double cycle, the time adds up.)

Until yesterday.

§

The dead and the d(r)ying.

The first load started okay, but after a while the washing machine started screaming instead of spinning.

The scream was from the motor shaft turning inside the thing it should have been turning but wasn’t. The scream of moving metal scraping against unmoving metal with irresistible force.

Expensive noise.

(Like when I threw a rod through the crankcase of my VW Bug (my first car). That was a very expensive, and very impressive, noise.)

The thing about expensive noises is that the machine making them is usually issuing a death scream.

Obviously it was time to buy a new washer/dryer.

§ §

Which turns out to require a bit of education about what brands and types of machines you want.

There are the old standards, Whirlpool, Maytag, GE, and many new manufacturers. I own an LG TV, which makes sense to me, but apparently I can by a washer and dryer from LG as well. (And, in some cases, apparently link them into my smart home network.)

((If I were ever dumb enough to have a smart home network. All I’ve heard are horror stories. And when I learned that crap all needs to be operated by a server in the cloud… well, that was that.))

(((Long ago, in the early days of computing, I (and many others) used to imagine the computerized homes that were now possible, but no one I knew ever imagined such a stupidity as letting a remote server have anything to do with it. Except maybe in a horror movie. Such a Bad Idea.)))

But I digress (again).

Brands, models, and options, are bad enough. (Insert digression about having too much choice here.) You also need to know whether to order hoses and other et cetera a store might be pushing on you.

It’s the kind of purchase you probably need to speak to a human about. It’s probably worth a store visit and a face-to-face conversation.

§

I started with Best Buy — specifically, their website.

I’ve spent a lot of money at Best Buy over the years. Not so much because I have high regard for them, but because they’re there and generally reliable.

From the website I mostly wanted to pick a package so I’d know what I wanted when I went to the store.

I got into a chat with a BB rep, and she was very helpful. She was so helpful, I actually thought I could proceed with the order online. She suggested I contact their Geek Squad to get some questions answered.

At this point, Best Buy had the sale.

But then the Geek Squad guy reminded me how much disdain I have for them. They had really screwed up the laptop I purchased from Best Buy back in 2003-ish.

And by “really” I mean totally. I picked it up at the store, got it home, and it would not boot. Flipping it over, I noticed one access panel, held down by screws, wasn’t seated very well.

Unscrewing the screws released a lot of pressure on the panel. That pressure coming from a badly mis-seated memory chip. I’d ordered extra memory installed, and they’d completely fucked up that simple job.

Some idiot had forced the panel closed over the mis-seated chip. It was obviously wrong. And clearly not even booted at a test.

All I did was set the chip properly and close the panel (which closed easily), and the machine worked fine.

But fuck Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

And, to be blunt, fuck Best Buy.

My chat with “Matthew” (who I finally just hung up on after long delays and inept answers) determined me to buy my set from Lowes or The Home Depot.

(I mean seriously, Matthew told me hoses were included. I pointed out to him that the website says nope. Useless.)

§

So, I get in my car and drive…

…to Best Buy, which is a minor pain because they closed the one really close to my place, so it was a little bit of a drive.

Why? I guess I’m a sucker, that’s why. One more chance? (There was a Maytag package on sale that seemed like a good buy.)

So I walk in, find the machines I want, look around, and… none of the kids there showed any interest in my desire to give them money.

I stood around for ten minutes.

And then I walked out.

(When I used to hit BB a lot to browse DVDs and CDs, sales people wouldn’t leave me alone.)

In the future, I will always consider other options before resorting to “Best” Buy.

§

Next I drove to Lowes.

Similar experience. Found the machines I wanted. Stood around and was ignored.

But this time I was able to find someone in the department. Young-ish gal sitting at a desk. Not much of a sales personality. (What is it with kids today? Why such utterly absent personalities?)

I almost told her to forget it just based on her attitude. When she told me it would take 10-12 days to order, that was it for Lowes. (Best Buy would have installed it tomorrow — another reason I gave them a second chance.)

§

Final option before I resort to a river and rocks… The Home Depot.

Found the machines I wanted,… stood there for a minute,… and here comes Harold.

Nice guy. My age. Able to converse. Detectable personality.

Sale made, pleasant experience, customer happy. Install is Saturday.

§

Three stores, three stories. The exact same Maytag washer/dryer in all three cases.

And that’s the thing.

You don’t go to these places for their brand. When it comes down to it, the only things that differentiate on “big box store” from another is price and service.

And prices tend to be damn close. (Harold assured me their prices were directly comparable to BB, and he was correct.)

So it’s really down to service.

And I award huge points for good customer service. (I’ll even pay a few bucks extra.) I think that’s really what sales is all about.

At least it used to be.

Stay serviceable, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

18 responses to “Washer/Dryer Woes

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    My own dryer is just starting to take longer to dry things, so I’ll be dealing with at least that side of it at some point. It’s about 24 years old, so I can’t complain too much. I’ll have to remember that you got better service from Home Depot.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      The sales process had a pretty clear winner. Hopefully the installation will be as good. The real takeaway might be that you have a choice when it comes to stuff like washer/dryer combos, so definitely consider options and don’t take any crap.

      It’s possible The Home Depot sees itself as an “also ran” and is interested in capturing and retaining business while Best Buy sees itself as too big to bother. But it’s also possible this was all specific to time and place, and doesn’t speak to any larger trend.

      That said, I’m kind of glad it turned out this way. Had I ended up with Best Buy I’d have double that feeling of eating shit-covered raisins again. Once because there’s always been something about BB that rubs me wrong in general, and doubled over today’s particulars.

      And I do have to acknowledge that BB could have (supposedly) installed it tomorrow.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        You also have to wonder how good a job a harried installer might do if he’s committed to getting everything installed the next day. Many places contract that stuff out, but unless they’re paying their contractors for the trouble, they might be using ones who have little choice but to take the abuse.

        I wonder if the new models with all their electronics will last anything like the old stuff.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Even my toaster oven has modern electronics in it! (I can tell because it ignores the dials once you engage the timer.) It’s not something I find thrilling or impressive, but — exactly as you say — questionable in quality.

        But then I fought off buying a car with power windows or an automatic trans for a very long time. I’m just not a fan of all that cruft. Just more to break down, in my opinion.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Sometimes that stuff makes things more convenient, but yeah, it adds complexity, and complexity means less reliability. There’s a lot to be said for straight mechanical systems. I don’t need my dryer to be particularly smart. Maybe I’ll check to see if the heating element on it can just be replaced.

        I know what you mean about cars. When I bought my current car, I was dismayed to discover that everything now goes through an electronic layer. Again, it does add conveniences, not to mention fuel efficiency. But yeah, reliability is the thing.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The flip side is that my washer/dryer will be a lot more energy efficient. One aspect of my dryer’s decline is that it seems to be sucking up a lot of amps, even for an older dryer. And yet not drying well for all that current use. I suspect a short in a heating coil. It’s possible the dryer contributed to my 100-amp breaker failing.

        My latest short-term fascination involves aviation, which I’ve always liked. I’ve been really getting into these YouTube inside-the-cockpit videos that show pilots taking off, landing, and taxiing (lots of taxiing). That led to videos by pilots explaining things (Captain Joe, Dutch Pilot Girl, etc). That led to videos about ATC and aircraft construction. It’s all a lot of fun.

        But, point is, modern airplanes are exactly the sort of high-tech, the-computer-does-everything machines we’re talking about here. Older aircraft made a point of mechanical systems with specific and well-known failure modes (like the pitot tube being plugged by ice or insects). Now sensor systems feed into a computer that runs the “glass cockpit” displays.

        Which, in a machine responsible for the lives of hundreds of souls, almost seems dangerous, but one thing that’s really fascinating is the devotion to safety and how that’s accomplished. (Pilots are all about checklists, for instance. 40-year veteran pilots still use checklists. It’s all very formalized.) With airplane systems, it’s all about redundancy. Every critical system has at least one backup, sometimes two.

        It’s really fascinating how well thought-out it is.

        (I’ve really gotten into this. I bought an app for my phone that lets me listen in to the ATC traffic from every major airport in the USA and lots of major airports worldwide. There is something both fascinating and soothing about it. Lots of people apparently use it to fall asleep. The app even has a sleep timer. 😀 )

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Energy efficiency is definitely a plus. And it will likely be a lot quieter too, at least based on the experience of other people who’ve gotten new ones in recent years.

        I read somewhere that mass transportation (planes, trains, large freight trucks, etc) may actually go automated before cars do. Paradoxically, their operating parameters may be easier to deal with.

        One of the things I noticed when reading about the Apollo program (not to mention in the movie Apollo 13) were the checklists. There was a mission checklist for everything. It actually inspired me to make my IT teams plan their deployments in a similar manner. (The NASA thing also made it a slightly easier sell.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, as I understand it, quieter is a thing now, too. Not really a criteria for me given my abysmal hearing and that the laundry room is kind of off by itself from the living areas of my place.

        As I understand it, modern planes, for a while now, can fly from take-off to landing on autopilot. Assuming nothing goes wrong. I would guess the same logic applies as to cars: If all movement is automated, that works great, but automated vehicles sharing the road with human drivers is way more of a challenge. The heavy plane traffic near major airports, if fully automated, might be doable… Though, listening to things that happen — bird strikes on take-off, for instance — I think computers have a ways to go to be able to handle all that.

        I do think large long-haul trucks will be one of the first full automations. I think the parameters there probably are more constrained. I wonder if they’ll require a human go along for the ride anyway. (A story I once heard was that when synthesizers became a thing, the musicians union required filmmakers hire human musicians anyway if they used synthesized scores.)

        I remember being amazed at how detailed NASA procedures and protocols were. The amount of planning that went into all that is simply stunning. I used to wonder what the astronauts did all day and why NASA kept talking about how tired they were and so they were resting. Turns out they were extremely busy dudes. A whole day full of checklists.

        I want to know if there’s a checklist checklist. A meta-checklist that insures all checklists are checked. (There’s a visual inspection checklist before even getting on board, a startup checklist, a pre-departure checklist, a flight controls checklist, a pre-take-off checklist, an after take-off checklist,…)

        As a developer, my only complaint about managers and checklists was that many didn’t understand that the creative process of development doesn’t submit to checklists or timelines. One can estimate fairly well the minimum time a task might take, but almost never the max. A metaphor I used a lot was of standing on a hill that rose above the forest (or jungle). Your destination is another hill you can see also standing above the trees. You can estimate how long it would take to walk to that other hill assuming a simple journey. But you can’t see the territory beneath the trees, and you have no idea what obstacles might lurk there. Ravines that require building bridges. Rivers that require boats. Maybe even dragons. 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The checklists were more for system administration work, upgrades, program deployments, database work, etc. There was still lots of room for creativity, but in the testing process while the checklists were being put together. The idea, actually hammered into me during my DBA and sysadmin days, was that you never want to experiment in production, just implement well rehearsed procedures. (Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men. Planning minimizes unforeseen situations, but doesn’t eliminate them.)

        On creativity and development, I’ve seen it from both sides, having been both a developer and a manager. I definitely agree there has to be some flexibility and allowance for unforeseen issues. On the other hand, I’ve had some developers use that as an excuse to play and gold-plate functionality rather than just get it done and move on to the next thing. Always a balancing act.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Very true. I just finished watching a five-part YouTube video about the CED that was what turned out to be RCA’s last dying gasp at being an innovative company. A very big part of why it failed is that the project was turned over to the RCA equivalent of Bell Labs — a group dedicated to leading edge research.

        That was a mistake in two regards: Firstly, such researchers tended to focus on the really cool future technology with an uncertain development path. They disdained the tried-and-true approach that, after many years of failing to bring a working product to market, a non-lab group used to get the product out the door (too late for any success). Secondly, they allowed three lab groups to pursue three completely different (future!) technologies — none of which ultimately proved viable.

        A definite case of losing sight of the ball.

        What I could never get some of my managers to understand was that I was on their side and fully appreciated the constraints of a corporate environment. One of my major learning experiences (and major humiliations) involved the renovation of a college theatre sound system that, due to biting off too much and dreaming too big, went impossibly over time and cost budgets. I was ultimately booted off the project and someone else, from what I left behind, cobbled together a system that at least worked.

        (I will say that, had I pulled it off, it would have been awesome. But I was just too inexperienced to effectively plan the job and ended up in unexpectedly deep water too quickly.)

        It was a lesson I never forgot! (Humiliation has a way of installing strong lessons. 😀 )

      • Wyrd Smythe

        This is a favorite xkcd, because it’s exactly true. It’s why my sound project failed. I was trying to solve way too general a problem rather than solving what was in front of me.

        (That said, it’s a good general approach to software design so long as you keep your feet on the ground. Solving the general problem has turned out a life-saver many times!)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Well, tomorrow is the big day. Early this morning, I got a call from their automated call system about the appointment tomorrow. It went to voice mail, which didn’t catch the whole message, so I’m not sure when my delivery window is.

    But hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll have the new set.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    The installers have come and gone, and I have a new washer/dryer set!

    They were here early in their window, and the install only took about half an hour or so. The only hiccup was that the “only $9 extra” steel hoses I’d opted for turned out to be too short, so the guys reverted to the standard rubber hoses. (And I’m the proud owner of two short stainless steel hoses I have no idea what to do with.)

    I will mention, and perhaps this is different with appliance installers, that they didn’t show any concern for my floor. Which I normally would never have noticed, except that the telephone and electrical guys were really into that — they’d put on booties when they entered the house.

    At the time I kind of thought that was overkill (my carpet is very old, getting threadbare, and has definitely seen better days), but in retrospect, I appreciated that effort.

    Bottom line, no complaints, but maybe not a gold star, either. Silver star, maybe, and easily a copper star. Or to put it in other terms, a definite B+.

    Maybe even an A-, but it turns out the arrangement of the backs of the machines makes them stick out from the wall a little more than I like, and I’m a little disappointed about the hoses. Not really the installers’ fault, though. (I think the phone and electrical guys spoiled me.)

    • SelfAwarePatterns

      Good to hear it went well. I’ve got carpet and floor issues as well, particularly in the kitchen area. It needs to be replaced, but the hassle involved is making me procrastinate.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I think about what getting a new carpet would entail, and so far I’d much rather just live with it. Just cleaning it — also a fairly large undertaking what with all the moving stuff around — would help. It’s fairly easy to see the heavy traffic patterns. 🙂

        The new machines are interesting, but a little weird in their high-tech approach. The washer spends a couple of minutes “sensing” the load before it gets down to business. And it uses a seriously minimal amount of water. I’ve never seen anything like it. The control panels don’t have switches, but touch-sensitive spots. (At least there’s no touchscreen and mandatory connection to some internet server.)

        The dryer, in comparison, is almost old-fashioned, but it does have a lint screen nag light and also “senses” things. (Maybe I should name them after Troi and her mom.) I do kinda like how it has the ability to occasionally tumble clothes once dry to keep them wrinkle-free. I often get distracted and forget to unload the dryer.

        Now that I’ve done a couple of loads of laundry I realize I should have researched cubic inches more. I steered away from the 5.7 cubic inch model realizing that was much too big for me and went with a 4.7 C/I model. Both machines stick out a little too far (but I can live with it), and using them I realize they’re noticeably bigger than my old ones. I feel like I have to reach way into the dryer, which seems cavernous (but has an internal light! 🙂 ), and the washer basket is pretty huge, too.

        I just assumed the smaller models were really tiny, but it would have been smart to at least look at the size capacity of the old machines. Somehow it never occurred to me. (But I can be a little slow when it comes to those things most people take for granted.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Actually, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to measure for size. I just assumed the sizes were standard. Thanks for mentioning it. If and when it becomes necessary for me to get new ones, I’ll have to remember to do that.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think the sizes are more or less standardized (like mattresses), but the trick is picking the right one.

        The other lesson I learned is to remember the hoses and cords behind the machines when considering depth. That’s why my machines stick out from the wall a bit more than I like. The machine dimensions were okay, but the extra room necessary made a difference.

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