[A Note to my Brethren in the Craft: This article is released into the Public Domain. You are encouraged to copy it, modify it as you wish, post it on your website and social networks, with or without attribution, your choice. The objective is to raise consumer awareness about the rampant problem of moral and technical deficiency plaguing our trade today. We need to expose these hacks and parts changing monkeys who are ripping people off, either knowingly or through willful ignorance, and giving us real technicians, who know how to troubleshoot and take pride in our work, a bad name. Together, we can clean up our trade and remove the tainted image it has in the public perception.]
A Consumer's Guide to Recognizing Charlatans, Hacks, and Parts Changing Monkeys in the Appliance Repair Trade
Have you or someone you love been victimized by an appliance hack?
Have your appliances been defiled by a Parts Changing Monkey?
Do you feel clueless when trying to decide which appliance repair company to hire?
Do you feel helpless and vulnerable when trying to evaluate the accuracy (and truthfulness) of the guy standing in your home telling you what's wrong with your refrigerator?
To protect your appliances, your precious time, and your wallet from incompetent repairmen, first you need to know a little bit about the trade.
The Problem with the Appliance Repair Trade Today
An epidemic of ignorance exists in the appliance repair trade today. In fact, there is a shortage of skilled labor in all of the skilled trades across all sectors of the US economy. For a variety of complicated reasons, all the subject of a separate interesting and scintillating article, the appliance repair trade in particular has been hit by a brain drain and a critical skill shortage. This has actually been building for the past 20 years but has become particularly acute in the last five or so years as appliances have become more computerized and more complicated to troubleshoot.
This situation leaves consumers especially vulnerable. Because, on the one hand, more complicated appliances makes it even more difficult for consumers to understand how the appliance works. On the other hand, it has accentuated a critical skill gap that already existed in the trade because many of the guys who were able to get by on the older, simpler appliances by simply guessing and changing parts find that it's a much more expensive proposition to do that on these new, electronic appliances with their pricey control boards. And who ends up paying for their ignorance and guesswork? You got it: YOU the consumer.
In the trade, the remnant of us real technicians call these bad actors various names such as hacks and charlatans. But the most common one that you will hear among the Appliantological Illuminati is Parts Changing Monkey (PCM).
You are not alone! The manufacturers are also getting screwed big time by these PCMs. That's because they have to hire these PCMs to do their warranty work. So, Monkey Boy goes out on the service call, guesses the wrong part, then has to order another part and come back at a later date to try his next guess. This costs the manufacturer money in extra parts and it costs you aggra-dollars-- time and inconvenience in a delayed repair for something that should have been done in the first trip and in a timely manner.
If these PCMs are so gawd-awful, then why are the manufacturers even using them? The answer is: What other choice do they have? Yep, it's slim pickins out in the appliance repair technician field today.
The other fact of life is that the manufacturers pay so little for warranty work that many of the sharp technicians choose not to do it and instead focus exclusively on the more profitable COD work. The end result is that getting a warranty technician is often (not always) a lot like getting a public defender; you're usually getting a second or third rate guy.
By the way, these are the same guys that the manufacturer will refer you to if you call them to ask for their "authorized servicers." You will still need to evaluate these guys yourself!
Who am I to be telling you what constitutes a charlatan, hack, and PCM? Well, if you're really interested, you can read my bio. Over the last couple of decades I've been running my own service business and I've also interacted with thousands of consumers and techs, as well as many manufacturers, through my online appliance tech-help (Appliantology.org) and tech-training (MasterSamuraiTech.com) websites. I know what's out there-- the good, the bad, and the butt-ugly.
So, the burning question you're asking yourself right now is, "How is the hapless consumer to recognize a Parts Changing Monkey when he's telling me what he thinks is wrong with my appliance?"
Come with me now on a Journey of Total Appliance Enlightenment...
How to Recognize a Charlatan, Hack, or PCM in Your Home
1. If your “tech” walks in and sees you have a Samsung, LG, or Miele (or other higher-end brand) and immediately goes off on how these brands are junk and how you need to get yourself a Whirlpool, this is a surefire sign that the guy is a hack. A lot of parts-changers don’t like Samsung, LG, etc. because those brands have a lot of new, electronic parts and control boards in their appliances, which require technical skills such as reading the schematic diagrams and taking electrical measurements to accurately troubleshoot the problem.
Parts-changers don’t know how to read schematics and therefore don't know how to make real diagnoses, and despite the availability of ways to learn that skill they refuse, out of laziness or pride, to learn real troubleshooting. Willful ignorance is rampant among appliance hacks. They like brands like Whirlpool because they are familiar with them and know how to change the right parts to fix common problems. If a “tech” comes into your home and acts like this, you’ll know what he really is.
2. The second indicator that a “tech” is really a PCM is when he is confronted with a warming refrigerator and says that it "needs more Freon" in the sealed system. This should rarely–if ever–be done to a fridge. The procedure to add refrigerant is time-consuming and expensive, and really not worth it compared to the cost of replacing the fridge. Furthermore, most of the causes of a warming refrigerator are in the defrost system, fans, or controls, not the sealed system.
3. The most infamous charlatans out there like to a play a certain game with their customers. After the problem has been “diagnosed”, they’ll replace a part. If that doesn’t fix the problem, the hacks just say “Oh, it must have been something else in addition to that”, and replace yet another part. They continue to charge you, the customer, for each part they replace. In other words, you are paying for them to guess at which parts will fix the problem until they finally get the right one.
There are very few instances where a trained and skilled technician would troubleshoot your appliance and justifiably not be able to tell that a second part was involved in the problem. And if he did miss that the first time around, a good and honest technician will own up to that oversight and not charge you as if there was nothing he could have done about it.
In particular, if a servicer wants to replace a control board, ask him what will happen if that doesn't fix the problem. PCM's are infamous for not being able to accurately diagnose a faulty board and will often guess at it. If they answer "you'll still have to pay for it," show him the door. A real technician who knows how to troubleshoot will be confident in his diagnosis, will be able to explain it to you, and will stand behind the repair.
If you've experienced any of these three behaviors from an appliance servicer, it's time to try someone else! Look for a technician who invests in his training, including ongoing training over the years. Many of the best techs are active at Appliantology.org and/or get their training from reputable training institutions such as the Samurai Tech Academy!
Dielectric grease has two main properties that make it especially desirable specifically for use on electrical connections, especially in wet environments such as refrigerators and washing machines. In fact, this is its primary intended design use. Those properties are:
1. Low viscosity. This means that the grease will readily get out of the way of two metal contacts touching each other and flow around the contacts giving rise to the second desirable properly...
2. Sealant effect. As the dielectric grease flows around the contacts, it seals out moisture and oxygen preventing them from reaching the contacts and causing corrosion and/or oxidation.
Still don't believe me? How about Frigidaire tech bulletin RF1207:
Bulletin is in the Downloads section here, starting on page 1-5.
Recommendation for Use of Dielectric Grease on French Door Models with Bullet-Style FFIM (RF1207)to improve electrical connections inside the FFIM. Application is recommended on EEV, TH3, TH1 and fan connectors, however it can also be used on any connector within the FFIM assembly. In general, if all diagnostics pass and the unit has 8.1/8.5 FFIM board yet the unit is either not producing or not maintaining ice, water intrusion into electrical connection can be suspected and dielectric grease may resolve the problem.
Water intrusion into electrical connections within the FFIM causes intermittent interruption of ice production and melting of ice in the bin.
Symptoms: No ice in FF
Ice melting in the ice bin while FFIM is
Models Affected: All ICON, Electrolux and Frigidaire models with Bullet-Style FFIM
Solution: Use dielectric grease Part number: 5304485963
There are two ways to deal with such reviews on Yelp, both of which are focused on perception damage control and so are written with the potential customer in mind. But they are very different strategies:
1. The Serious Business Approach: This is a direct approach where you politely explain that, although you don't know who the reviewer is, that you would be happy to refund all his money if he contacts you with his real name. Then go on to showcase how your business works. This is the approach that 99.9% of service companies take.
2. The Surreal Approach: This strategy employs the principle of Judo where your opponent's own force is used against him. In the context of dealing with a fake review, the idea is to extend the reader's experience of reading a bogus review into the surreal and, in so doing, lampoon the bogus review. It's the proven technique of illustrating absurdity by being absurd. Again, this approach is not for a typical negative review by an actual customer. This is for over-the-top, fictional reviews by people who weren't even your customer.
And for most service companies, the first approach is probably the best strategy. However, if you have access to a creative writer (you can hire my son, Stephen), you can take the second approach.
Here's the reply we posted to our 1-star "review" on Yelp:
Why bother to tell a tale, William E., if you are going to leave out all the best parts? Come, gentle reader, let me tell you the rest of the story.
Things admittedly got off to a rough start when I walked into his house and stepped on his dog and dropped my toolbag on the cat. I then tried to diffuse the situation by paying a compliment to his grandfather, who tearfully explained that she was his wife. When Mr. E started to complain about all of this, I interrupted him by loudly imitating goat noises. I do this periodically to connect with my totem animal. It’s a spiritual thing.
Mr. E showed me to the oven and left to comfort his wife. I then felt the call from The Beyond and began to meditate. I was carried off to the seventh Heavenly Realm where Fixituru no Dotukami, the Great Samurai Repairman in the Sky, dwells. There, we drank sake and had our back hair braided by cherubs. I then started up the path of total appliantological nirvana, but was rudely brought back to earth by the voice of Mr. E asking what the *bleep* I was doing. This is why I appeared angry to him: never interrupt a man who is hallucinating vividly.
After skillfully applying duct tape to the oven and making a random guess at what the problem was, I went to pull up the repair cost on my tablet, when I realized I'd mistaken a piece of cardboard for my iPad. Again. Punching the cardboard with my fingers and making beeping noises, I made up a price on the spot using my keen, appliantological wit.
After he told me “no way,” I quickly hid the piece of paper Mr. E thought the part numbers were written on because I didn’t want him to see the sacred doodles of divination scrawled on it. They are not for the eyes of the uninitiated.
We here at The Appliance Guru are sorry that, as Mr. and Mrs. E stood in their doorway and watched me soar away on my magical, flying toilet, wishing one and all a merry Kwanza and sprinkling enchanted pixie dust across the land, they were not thrilled by my services. If it pleases Mr. E, I can return to his home to perform ritual suicide—perhaps the sight of my steaming entrails spilled on his kitchen floor will be enough to repair any ill-will.
We thank you for using our business. Have a nice day.
This Christmas, give the gift of learning to someone you love. Whether they're making a mid-life career change, a young person looking for an interesting and lucrative career, or an already experienced appliance tech wanting to back-fill their knowledge gaps and up their game, the courses at the Samurai Tech Academy can get them where they want to go.
If you have any questions about the Samurai Tech Academy that aren’t answered on our FAQ page, just contact us by phone or email.
Read about our current offerings of online appliance repair courses. Then take our sample course to get a feel for what it’s like to learn appliance repair online at the Samurai Tech Academy. Finally, enroll in the course or courses of your choice.
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