Saturday, February 16, 2013

Need a Microwave Oven? Don't buy Emerson.

OK, my last post was a product endorsement - unsolicited, as is everything I post. That's a joke, son.

In the interests of keeping the universe in balance, today a product gets slammed, a product nearer and dearer to most of you than cloud storage: microwave ovens; more precisely, one maker of microwave ovens.

A few years ago Debbie and I were living in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and planning to move to the east coast. One day Debbie was nuking something and called me into the kitchen. There was a sense of urgency in the call so I hopped to it. The microwave was flashing red. Right after I got into the kitchen it glowed red steadily - no more flashing.

I yanked it away from the wall and pulled the plug out of the outlet, and everything was OK, except, of course the microwave.

Now this was an Emerson microwave oven, less than a year old (I think. In any case it was still under warranty). When I was younger, and perhaps even at the moment of the glowing microwave, Emerson had a reputation as a first class maker of products. I had, in fact, had it in mind to acquire an Emerson TV at some point, just for that reason.

I called the 800 number, explained the situation, and was given the name of a local business which Emerson used for the repair of their products under warranty. I no longer recall the name of the business, so let's just call it "Repair."

I took the microwave to Repair, they gave me a receipt with make, model, and complaint, and estimated three days for repair, telling me they would call when it was ready.

After a week I called to see what was going on and was told that for six days they'd had a request in to Emerson for replacement parts. They would call Emerson and call me right back. A few minutes later they did so, saying that Emerson had promised to ship the parts immediately and I should just pop in three days later, because it would be fixed.

Pop in I did, but the trip was wasted. Emerson had not had the parts on hand and had sent parts for a different model. The gentleman behind the counter at Repair said he had called Emerson to tell them they'd sent the wrong parts and was told, "We know, but we had to send something. The customer was complaining."



I was sure I had missed a phrase or two somewhere, and asked him to repeat what he said. He laughed, shook his head, and repeated the information.

How, exactly, does sending the wrong parts make the customer happier, as opposed to incredulous?

He explained that the "real" problem was that Emerson no longer sold that model and so did not *have* the parts, but were trying to find some.


It's funnier today than it was then, I assure you.

The move to the east coast was at hand and Debbie and I wound up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. I gave Repair our new address and asked about progress, receiving the expected answer of "None," although surrounded by more conciliatory words.

I wrote the President or the Chairman of the Board of Emerson, I no longer remember which, explained the situation, and asked him to boot someone's butt. I included my new address. In fact it was on the envelope, at the top of the letter, and especially repeated in the body of the letter.

In return, I received a letter from a woman (hereinafter "Assistant"). I received this reply somewhat later than I had expected because it had been mailed to Hoffman Estates. Sigh.

The reply confirmed what Repair had said. They no longer sold that model and had no parts for it, alas. However, they offered a replacement, another Emerson microwave oven, one that was perhaps two thirds the size of the one I had bought.

I responded, saying that the smaller oven was inadequate and I would need one the same size or larger, or a refund. In this response I wrote (yes I did, trust me) "Please, please, please, no matter what your records show" yada yada yada Upper Marlboro not Hoffman Estates.

A week or so later, having traveled first to Hoffman Estates and then to Upper Marlboro, a response from Assistant arrived. I wondered whether anyone at Emerson could hit their butt with either hand.

Cutting to the chase, we wound up with a smaller Emerson microwave.

A year or so later Debbie and I split. She went back to New Hampshire and I remained in Falls Church, which we had moved to when we both found employment there. One of the things that went with her was the microwave. Our separation was amicable and we frequently emailed, occasionally talked on the phone, and even visited each other a couple of times.

One day she informed me that Emerson Microwave Junior had pulled the same stunt - flashing red while cooking and then settling down to a solid and permanent red. She was an apt student and had learned two things from our experience, as a result of which

1. She pulled the plug immediately.

2. She junked the microwave. This was wise. It had a downside, however, in that it deprived us of the humor of seeing responses to her letters travel to Hoffman Estates, Upper Marlboro, Falls Church, and, finally, catching up with her in New Hampshire, no doubt in a state of complete exhaustion.

Soooo . . . don't buy an Emerson microwave if you want my advice, which, by the way, you did not take the trouble to solicit.

The quality of the customer service, in my experience, is diametrically opposed to the quality of the customer service cited in the preceding post here.

I, in fact, would dip my arm in boiling oil before buying *any* Emerson product.

An afterthought: I just googled and sure enough, Emerson still sells microwaves. Perhaps they offer choices now. microwave ovens that glow blue or green instead of red when they break down.

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