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3 Sure-Fire Ways to Spot an Appliance Repair Hack in Your Home

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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[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!




16 Comments


applianceman97

Posted

Just what everyone needs. We all need to post this on our websites and blogs. Get this out there!!! Customers need to know who is good and who is a PCM! Good work brotha!

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It's a brave new world, especially for dinosaurs like me.  But the information is out there (and in here).

 

Service manuals, wiring diagrams and schematics, strip circuits, bulletins.....you name it.  And I'll consume and use everything I can get my hands on, because with today's appliances, you have to.

 

Many of us have had the opportunity to provide warranty service for every known brand, and with all of the inside information provided by the manufacturers, it's still not enough.  You have to know the basics, and be able to apply them.

 

Although I don't run many service calls nowadays, I feel that I'm a better technician than ever due to my brief interaction here at Appliantology and hope to continue my own betterment.

 

Thanks to The Samurai Appliance Repair Man, and continued success of The Samurai Tech Academy!

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

You got it, mah bruvah! Copy/modify (or not)/paste to all your social networks. No attribution necessary! Put your own name as the author-- I don't care! I just want the word to get out.

 

Brethren: Go ye forth with this gospel and we SHALL overcome the PCM scourge! 

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beyonddoubt

Posted

It's a pretty fair assessment. There's parts I could argue or nitpick, but yes, this is very accurate. I have two theoretical situations to throw at you:

 

1) What happens when it's not lack of competency, but lack of manufacturer support or documentation? When the manufacturer gives you troubleshooting that says things like, "Replace sensor. If this fails, replace harness. If this fails, replace main PCB." Granted, in that case you can be smarter than they expect and figure it out, but what about when it's board communication that's undocumented? 

 

2) What happens when you have to fix the known issue to deal with the unknown? Like a Samsung refrig with a complaint regarding icemaking, but the board won't go into diagnostics? You know you need a board, and you may need more once you get that replaced. What now, brainiac?!?

 

Thanks for a great article. We all know a few PCMs... Perhaps some of us even work with them.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Good questions, Todd, and I explain how to handle both of these situations in Module 6 of the Advanced Schematics course. Oh, the pearls that await you! (hint, hint). 

 

Bottom line: if a tech really understands what troubleshooting is and understands the technology he's dealing with, a first-time-guranteed fix solution can always be found. Always. 

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get yourself a Whirlpool

 

Yeah, like that will be better. At least Samsung gives out information to make a proper repair. The reluctance to Samsung is ignorant but welcomed by me. They are the ones that are giving the most info that i've seen out of all of them. I'll take on Samsung and might get my ass bit in the process a few times but will be one of the only ones in town that know how to work on them and quit saying there is a sealed system problem, go buy a new one even though it's a frozen drain line.

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splinterexpert

Posted

Have you heard of the practice of always ordering a part when doing warranty work for certain manufacturers no matter what or they refuse to pay for your trip/labor? Particularly if the appliance is Lowes store stock after having been returned. Many appliances come back with no identifiable problem. Lowes should pay for a check all functions for resale, but it seems there are issues with getting paid. The sure fire way to get paid is change a part. Warranty work is treacherous. Same thing in the field- customer refuses to pay when there is no warranted problem. Order a part and charge it to warranty. Get paid. Jus' sayin'.

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Smashycomman

Posted

Eh... I don't work on Samsung or LG, but that's mostly because I work for a store that doesn't sell those brands. Also, I have been repeatedly advised by techs I know to NOT work on them.

I sure hope no one thinks I'm a PCM after reading this article.

Also, the head servicer for speed queen in my area used that term during his presentation yesterday. Turns out it really is a well-used phrase!

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applianceman97

Posted

Eh... I don't work on Samsung or LG, but that's mostly because I work for a store that doesn't sell those brands. Also, I have been repeatedly advised by techs I know to NOT work on them.

I sure hope no one thinks I'm a PCM after reading this article.

Also, the head servicer for speed queen in my area used that term during his presentation yesterday. Turns out it really is a well-used phrase!

You have been brainwashed by PCM's! Not working on them because you don't sell them doesn't make you a PCM. Samsung and LG will be the biggest brands in the future. I would ignore the PCM's and learn them.

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I disagree with #1.  We generally don't work on Samsung or L.G. mostly because we don't sell them and they have draconian warranty issues.  We will do some COD work - but they are largely inferior companies to whirlpool, G.E., or Electrolux IMO.  

 

The websites alone are awful (Samsung isn't as bad as L.G.).  We refuse to install L.G.'s web services on more than one machine because it will crash your computer and give you nothing but headaches.  

 

I have a strong electronics background, so I'm not intimidated in the least by the electronics.  I actually like some o the ideas behind the Samsungs.  They are getting better.  LG still sucks though.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Brother dtech, I think you're missing the main point of the article. The point of this article is not brand advocacy. But rather, Samsung and LG are merely used as all too-common examples of brands that PCM's will badmouth to disguise their own ineptitude and lack of technical ability.

 

I would also suggest that if you're having problems with the LG tech site, then you have computer problems because I have logged into their site on a variety of different platforms and computers, including my windows seven notebook, with no problem. I'll grant that the multiple pop-up windows are annoying (and Samsung is more so) but this should not cause a computer to crash. I recommend increasing the RAM in your computer. Are you running Windows XP?

 

Finally, to make a blanket statement and trash an entire brand across all appliance types is really not a nuanced view. Anyone who has worked in the appliance repair trade for any length of time knows that all the brands have their strong points and weak points. For example, LG is having some technical and longevity problems with their linear compressors. Some techs will see this and trash the whole brand, which disregards the fact that their frontload washers are some of the best on the market today. For now…

 

Which brings me to my final point and that is that you have to change your opinions over time. The industry is constantly changing. Once upon a time, Maytag laundry was tops. And then along came the Neptune washer which turned out to be Maytag's downfall.

 

I want to emphasize again, however, that this post is not about brand advocacy. In further conversations I would like to avoid devolving into defending or attacking one brand or another because such comments completely miss the entire point that the article is raising, which is the critical skill gap that exists in the appliance repair trade today and the reality that about 80% of appliance servicers in the trade today are PCMs, not real technicians.

 

I would venture to say most everyone here is in the 20% group, since you take the time to participate in sites like this to continually improve your skills! 

 

P.S. I don't mind talking about the pros and cons of various appliance brands as a separate conversation. It's just not the point of the article in this blog post. 

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DurhamAppliance

Posted

Bro Dtech, I can tell you don't work on many LG's and Samsungs, for if you did, you would change your opinion of them when compared to the current generation of whirlpool crap.

When Samsung and LG began their entry into the world of appliances in this country, their products took a back seat to Whirlpool and the other more established appliance companies. At that time, appliances were primarily mechanical. Today, however, appliances are basically an electronic.

This explains LG's and Samsung's recent rise in sales as well as their lead in customer satisfaction as both of them are electronic companies. Appliances... ie electronics are smack dab in their wheelhouse. Now Whirlpool is having to catch up.

Every once in a while Samsung and LG  will make a foray into mechanics. For example, LG's linear compressor technology.... great idea but sucks big time.


The mistake many techs make is comparing, for example, a hi tech French door dual evap Samsung, with a low tech 2005 Whirlpool SxS. That's apples and oranges.
Samsung forced Whirlpool into the French door market before they were ready... and it shows.

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"LG's linear compressor technology" can you say GE's rotary compressor? That one paid for a new service truck :)

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I know of someone that used to do Samsung's warranty work. Before he got there, Samsung would ship out every possible broken part according to the customer's complaint. They would have him drive literally hundreds of miles and pay very low per job. I'm not sure how it is now but he got real good with fixing Samsung appliances.

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I'm here so I will not be that guy. 

 

I have lots lots more to learn still green having only been doing this for 6 months. 

 

I may not be the best tech yet, but I'm always fair to the customer. If I quote a price I stick to it.  Heck I cut breaks to seniors because I know cash is tight. 

Im in a small rural community my "dependable hometown service" is key to future referrals. 

 

I look forward to learning from all of you, my new mentors. 

 

Thanks again

Ed

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