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Appliance Repair: A Dying Trade


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#1 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 04:30 PM

Had an interesting phone call today.

“I got a Kitchenaid wall oven and the door is locked closed after I ran the clean cycle. I called Kitchenaid and they said to call you.”

Since I’m the authorized Whirlpool/Kitchenaid servicer in the area, Kitchenaid referred him to me.

“Yes, I can fix this for you. May I have your name, sir?”

He told me his name. I remembered him from another job I did for him previously. An older guy and his wife. She seemed ok, but he was a real peculiar sort. The kind you read about in Tales from the Dark Side. I replaced the condenser fan motor in his Sub-Zero refrigerator.

“I had another fellow out here a while back,” he continued, “but I didn’t want to call him again because I don’t think he knew what in the hell he was doing!”

“Really?” I replied. “What did he work on?”

“He did something to my Sub-Zero and since then it’s been running too long.”

Now this was a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind of a customer. He obviously didn’t remember me but, oh, how I remember him. I was there twice, once to diagnose and then returned with the fan motor to do the repair. Each time I had one of my kids with me (I usually take one of my kids with me on service calls). They still shudder when the they think of walking in that house. How to describe it; let’s see, ever been in the back room of a mortuary, where they embalm the bodies? That’s what this house felt like. We were all a little creeped out by it.

“Running too long?” I queried. “Well, why didn’t you call me back to see if it was something related to the repair I did, which was to replace the condenser fan motor?”

After a bit of a pause…

“That wasn’t you, was it?” he asked, sounding a little unsure of himself. “We were very upset with you!”

“It certainly was,” I replied. “I remember the job vividly. You called me out because your refrigerator was making a loud vibrating noise. I found the condenser fan to be bad and replaced it. Are you telling me that the refrigerator is making noise again?”

“No,” he replied, “it just seems to run too long.”

“‘Seems to run too long?’ And so rather than call me to even ask me about it, you just stewed on it and bad-mouthed me to everyone you know. That about right?”

“Well, everytime you come over you charge us just to walk in the door,” he exclaimed, sounding defensive.

And he should be defensive because now he was flat-out lying.

“Mr. Stanley, you know that’s not true,” I declared. “I charge one flat fee for any repair that’s completed to your satisfaction and I tell people that fee right on the phone, when they call for service. The only thing added to that fee is the cost of parts. And I warranty my work for one year, parts and labor, with a lifetime warranty on workmanship.”

A longer pause…

“So, what about my wall oven?” he finally asked.

“I’m afraid you’ll need to call someone else to take care of that for you,” I replied. “You’re obviously a customer who can’t be pleased. And I’m not going to give you another thing to bad-mouth me about. At least this way, the worst you can say about me is that I refused to come out. But I’m telling you that straight up instead of weaseling out. Most appliance techs have been so abused by customers like you who put them under the witch hunt the moment they walk in your house that they no longer have enough self-respect to just say ‘no’ to customers like you. So they’ll either grovel in a futile attempt to please you or tell you they’ll show up, but don’t, and then not answer the phone when you call to find out where they were. Have a nice day.”

And I hung up.

This conversation reveals everything that’s wrong with the appliance repair trade. Appliance techs are already behind the eight ball the moment they walk in the customer’s house. Most people have been conditioned by 60 Minutes and other tabloid TV shows to view appliance repair techs as morally deficient cretins whose main objective in a service call is to screw the customer.

Granted, there are lots of charlatans and cretins out there, like this jive-turkey from Sears A&E. I get horror stories everyday by email or in the repair forum. But overwhelmingly, the vast majority of independent appliance servicers are conscientious and highly skilled tradesmen who’ve invested thousands of hours learning the basic skills, keeping up with the new models, and honing their craft in the field. In fact, to be good at appliance repair, you need both excellent mechanical and electrical skills. To do it right, you need a more diverse and technically demanding set of skills for appliance repair than you do for any of the other skilled trades.

But the problem is one of perception; some of it self-inflicted, but most of it just a cultural thing. Plumbing and household electrical wiring are all hidden behind walls and so are mysterious, almost magical things. But people work with their appliances everyday and so acquire the false sense that they must be easy to fix. They don’t know what they don’t know. Think about that: most people don’t know what they don’t know, but think they know it all.

The other factor working against appliance repair as a viable trade is the “how much is a new one?” syndrome. People look at what it costs to buy a new appliance and, in their muddled little brains, use that as the measure for what it should cost to fix it. Any ‘tard can see that banging out a washer in a prison-camp factory in China has nothing to do with what it costs to have a skilled and trained appliance technician drive to your home and fix it. Ah, but facts are stupid things, as the Gipper used to say.

But perception is reality and it’s that perception, along with the super cheap appliances available today, that have doomed the appliance repair trade. I said “have doomed” because it’s already done; the rest is just a long, slow swan song. I’m going on record here and now to declare that the appliance repair trade is dead.

The next mega-trend in appliance repair is do-it-yourself. The Internet has made this possible. Sites like this one and excellent online parts houses, like RepairClinic empower almost anyone with a pulse with the know-how to repair their own appliances. But even this do-it-yourself trend will extinguish at some point. Without skilled and experienced techs, you wouldn’t have do-it-yourself websites– how could you? Who’s gonna be around to write pearls of wisdom or answer questions from grasshoppers in the repair forum?

But, dontchoo go frettin’ none– as long the fermented nectar is flowin’, I’ll keep right on goin’. Yee haw!

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#2 Trying to help

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:06 PM

Great rant!! I will buy you a new soap box to stand on! You are 100% right about our industry. The number of Technicians to Appliance Repairman is getting less each day. You don't get a lot of kids saying when they grow up then want to be appliance technicians! How many times have you diagnosed a bad house wiring problem to get a call two day's later where the consumer states, my electrician says your wrong and the supply is fine. I will run a call at night, out of area, snow, locusts, or on my anniversary (sorry honey, I'll make it up to you) what ever I have to do if I know an electrician (Latin for man who pulls wire through wall) is there to try and tell me my diagnoses was wrong. I love the dryers with either neutral or L1 dropping out under load when the electrician can not find it. My line to him is always the same as I unwrap my heavy duty extension cord with alligator clips, "I need to know who is paying me for my trip after I make this this unit start in any other outlet you want except the one you tell this poor consumer is fine." I have made 40 of these cords for each of my guy's and grin from ear to ear when they call me to tell me there similar experiences. The consumer will believe that electrician till the end, sometimes even after you prove it!! I have repaired outlets, breakers & loose connections in front of consumers and there trusty electricians and watched the electricians collect the trip charge!!!! How do you sit down with stones that big!! The sad part is he will call him back, but will use a different "Repairman" next time because of the 5$ coupon in the Sunday flyer's!!! I am not bashing electricians, I have wired homes for friends and worked for one for about a year. I HATED IT!! I appreciate like any tradesman should anyone who does there job at a hi level.  I am just amazed how the appliance guy is always the scoundrel! Couldn't make it as an electrician or plumber, had to settle as a Appliance guy. I will leave my soap box for the next Technician (not repairman) who wants to howl at the moon....
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#3 Kiwi-nadian

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 11:53 PM

Short and sharp........  Only the (technically) strong will suvive!!!

While there are people who can afford high end appliances, there will have to be experienced, highly skilled Technicians to repair them.  The last thing the "HAVE'S" want to do is repair there own appliances.  That is where I see the market heading, we will become the puppets of the rich, and reap the rewards, as highend service pays more than low-end service (if you get paid at all):X
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#4 ebanator

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 04:05 PM

So very interesting. Being a brand new tech myself since June of this year I find it such a fascinating thing to talk to those who have been in the industry for so much longer. The reason I got into the industry was that few others were, thus an increasing demand. I bring years of sales, customer service and general love of people to this job. I would have to say though that the point about customer being suspicious is very valid. I find that I spend a large amount of time "re-selling" a customer about any number of things, fix or buy new, quality sevicers and how to find them, the glut of cheap low end machines and what you get for the money. I love this job, it is much like solving a mystery in some case, same-old stuff in others. The difference is that for every couple shysters out there, there are those who are true professionals. I consider myself one and obviously so do you guys. If it weren't for us though, then there would only be idiots to do the work. I don't want an idiot fixing my stuff!:yikes:

#5 Kiwi-nadian

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 10:09 PM

I have said it before "We are Appliance Geeks!"

A forum doesn't start with a subject as mundane to most, as appliance repair, and gets appliance repairers from all over the world to help joe public repair their appliances for nothing, but the fact that we can pat ourselves on the back when we get something right without even seeing the unit, or honing our repair skills.

And who are the people that do this, we are the ones that take this job seriously, see it as more than a trade, but as a skill, a craft.  But this is just one part of the job, the other part is you have to love dealing with people, as ebanator has found out.

I, too, love this job.  It is the people that make it interesting, and appliances that make it profitable, so as long as they keep making both, we should be okay.:D
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#6 BearsFan4Eva

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 02:56 PM

Excellent read!

 

 Most people have been conditioned by 60 Minutes and other tabloid TV shows to view appliance repair techs as morally deficient cretins whose main objective in a service call is to screw the customer.


 

I found a fifty under a dryer a few weeks ago and I always feel like I have 4 cameras on me.  Needless to say it made writing a check to me much more bareable for her.

#7 MacMomAK

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:16 AM

I sold cars for years and never once, not one single time, did I EVER tell a lie but because the industry does have some vile jerks out there, most everyone thinks all car salemen are dirty rotten flakes. I feel for ya'll, I really do!  I can relate!

Without you, we'd all be up creeks with no paddles, especially where I live - a remote Alaskan village!  We all need appliances - they are machines and they do break!  We need you experts to help fix'em and keep'em working for us.

Thank you for what you do and for the good grace in which you do it!  Don't take any guff from the lame-brains out there!  You all deserve respect and fair payment for both the technical education and skills learned from experience. Remember:  The part is only $5 but the rest of that $100 invoice is the $95 worth of knowledge!

 Several of you saved our Christmas dinner this year and that is something I won't EVER forget.  Payday is January 1st - I'll be sure to show my gratitude by a donation to the beer fund!  Keeps the suds flowing - and the advice!  You ARE appreciated!


[align=center]aolemb://F37FBAB2-C859-4A14-B86F-F1859B4FC851/thank%20you%20raccoon.jpg[/align]
I think, therefore I get into a lot of trouble.

#8 Kiwi-nadian

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 10:21 PM

Thank you for the kind words.  A merry christmas to you and yours from New Zealand:dude:.
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#9 ers1121

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 05:45 AM

Don't feel too bad about a lack of qualified techs in the appliance field, it is every field that has this problem. I have been in the auto repair field for over 30 years now and I cringe when I see what kind of people are applying for jobs, and worse yet; they are getting hired. I had a newly hired mechanic check for a problem with a fuse that kept blowing on one of our police cars, the first tool he took with him was a wire cutter.:yikes: He wasn't here long. Qualified tradesman today are indeed a dying breed. It seems everyone want a 9-5 office job. Get your hands dirty, forget it!

Now for a question. I have been in my line of work for a long time and am looking for a change. I have done some small washer & dryer repair for family and friends, lucky for me they have all been simple enough. I'll be retiring in a few years and would consider going into appliance repair. Where do you get the training? I have seen several home study options but not sure how good they are. I have checked all  of the local trade schools in my area but found nothing. I still have 5 years until retirement, so going to works as an apprentice isn't an option at the moment. If anyone has suggestion let me know. Btw I am an erolled student of the Samurai School.

Ed

#10 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 06:42 AM

Enrollment in the Samurai School combined with your technical background should be all you need. Go through the files in the Xdrive and download a few of the Maytag service manuals. They are excellent and get into lots of background skills applicable to all appliance repair. Also start doing some repairs on weekends. The biggest challenge in most jobs is access and disassembly. But once you learn it on a few models, many of the same principles apply to other brands. You can also get parts breakdown diagrams online that help tremendously. Biggest difference between working on cars and appliances is that appliances have more cheesy plastic parts and less rust. :P

#11 ers1121

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 07:24 AM

O Great Exalted One,

Thank you for the advise and words of encouragement.

Ed

#12 martinfishlog

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 05:41 AM

I've been in the business for four years.  The first year I did rebuilds in the shop for resale.  I would run extra service calls on easier stuff also.  Shop work is great because there is no customer breathing down your neck and no real time constraint. 

#13 Kiwi-nadian

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 08:47 AM

I'm glad someone enjoys shop work.  I prefer not to be in the workshop at all times.  I find the more time I spend in the shop, the more frustrated I get.  People aways asking where this, that and the otherb thing is.  "Do you mind talking to the man on line 4, he has a washing machine that......".  All this while you are covered in crap, pulling apart a 20 yr old washer, that is only being repaired because the customers cut off point to replace rather than repair is the exact cost of you house call fee "$300 to fix ,um....um..., hang on if I bring it in, that will save me $60, :)YEAH I'll get it fixed.  I'll get my Husband to drop it of tommorrow.  I'll use my sisters machine until it is fixed." 

Translation: I will spend half the price of a new, more efficient WM to repair it, and will inconvenience half of my family to do it, not to mention spend more than $60 hassle and lost earnings to disconnect and drop off and, when repaired, collect and install, all during working hours, of course :(

On the road, all your time is chargable, which is especially important when self employed, but even my current employer has efficiency reviews, comparing how much you have been paid with how much you have billed out for the month.  This is a good system because you have some measurement of how efficient you are, and therefore how you can improve the way you do things.
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#14 kdog

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 11:04 AM

i have to agree with both sides of that coin,but would also like to interject my views- of the 18 or so years i have spent in this business,i spent a good part of 10 years doing major repairs in a shop- the others doing in-home service and have determined a couple of things about both- there are thing you can do in a (properly furnished) shop that you wouldn't dream of doing in a customers home and by often reducing some of these units to their lowest common denominator allows you to determine much insight to the operation of the units and you can more easily diagnose things armed with this information, i had the fortunate opportunity to have worked for a very large corp with an excellent assortment of different products,info access and good mfr relations.  when you do in home service,there are many other issues to deal with to allow such total focus on actual technical analysis. on the flipside,there are many other things you lose touch with when not actually diagnosing units in their actual operating environment,which makes its own drawbacks.  i agree with the comments regarding frustration due to "so-and-so is on line 1" and "can you find such and such" etc.  but in the end,i believe that somewhere along the line there is a need for such environments to truly have an understanding of these machines- the key is to be able to balance it so that the lessons learned by such research is shared  by people on both sides of this coin as by taking this attitude of "its too much to fix,replace it" only leaves us without work to do and we will lose the ability to effectively and feesibly diagnose without this insight.  some people are more geared towards work in a shop environment as i always felt(and proved to myself) that i could be more productive in a shop environment,but economic trends are changing to make such luxuries a thing of the past, and unfortunately we will all suffer by this trend.  those of us that were able to "cut our teeth" in such a way gave us a good basic understanding in the functioning of these items. i can't imagine trying to start to do this type of work without having first gained an understanding in this manner.

 bottom line is i guess that personally i prefer the shop environment, but am glad that there are folks on both sides of this issue.

wow,time flies kiwi, it seems just yesterday that you first indicated your interest in this fine country - hope all goes well for you. keep us informed
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#15 Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 03:19 PM

The best of all worlds would be where you go to the house, no customer, fix the appliance, and pick up your pre-written check on the kitchen counter. Yeah, baby! :vinnie:

#16 Pegi

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 03:54 PM

Yea, that would be heaven...:cool:
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#17 Jedi Appliance Guy

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 05:58 PM

But they have to leave a note with their complaint.  Even a doctor ask "where does it hurt?"

#18 MacMomAK

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 09:20 AM

Ahem -- you DO know that customers read this, too, doncha? 

With that in mind, here is this customer's idea of heaven:  an appliance so perfectly made that it never breaks down!  Then we could ALL party hearty!

:party:
I think, therefore I get into a lot of trouble.

#19 Moostafa

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 09:43 AM

Hello, my throat-clearing friend. I submit that in the ideal world, indeed, in Paradise itself, people would only purchase Kiriazi appliances. In this manner, they would obtain a superior product while supporting the spread of Islam, for which you shall be richly rewarded in Paradise wherein you shall be attended by many young, scantily-clad little boys who shall bring you the finest fruits of the harvest. As it it written in the Word of the Prophet, Mohammed, blessed be his name:

Reclining there upon soft couches, they shall feel neither the scorching heat nor the biting cold. Trees will spread their shade around them, and fruits will hang in clusters over them.

They shall be served with silver dishes, and beakers as large as goblets; silver goblets which they themselves shall measure: and cups brim-full with ginger-flavoured water from a fount called Salsabil. They shall be attended by boys graced with eternal youth, who to the beholders eyes will seem like sprinkled pearls. When you gave upon that scene, you will behold a kingdom blissful and glorious.

-- The Holy Quran 76:9-20


Allahu Akbar!


#20 Jedi Appliance Guy

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 07:39 PM

  I was simply venting a frustration I sometime get on those rare occasions that I go into an empty house on a call and all I know is that somebody doesn't think something is working properly.  No note no nothing.  "Here, fix it".  

Actually, the Truth be known. is that we fix people.  Most of the time you have to be able to fix the machine to achieve this but if you fix the machine, and not the customer you have not achieved your goal.  This is hard to do with no customer present.




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