This morning I saw another article about the potential acquisition of Maytag by Whirlpool. For that and a lot of other reasons, this might be the death watch for Maytag. We all remember the television commercials about the lonely and definitely bored Maytag repairmen. Well it's been a good while since we've seen any of those, and there are good reasons behind it.
For starters I think the Maytag repairmen are pretty busy these days. We were having dinner with our new neighbors the other day when talk turned to washing machines. Our Maytag had started making strange noises the Thursday before, and we were surprised that the lonely Maytag repairman couldn't make it out to our house until the next Tuesday. Our neighbors, who had gotten a fancy Maytag Neptune washer and dryer set when they acquired their house, had found out that the Neptune washer had another well deserved name, the "Stinkomatic."
This morning I did a little Internet searching and happened upon maytagproblems.com . A little more searching led me to ConsumerAffairs.com where I learned that Maytag has just settled a class action lawsuit over the Neptune. This comment was typical of the complaints I saw.
The stench was awful," said Anne of Treasure Island, Fla., in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.Com. "I was told to wash the boot and the gasket in the door once a week. Use only a certain detergent. Wipe the door and the inside down with bleach once a week and then leave the door open for 2 hours after each washing."
"I was washing my washer more than I was washing my laundry," she said.
That complaint was in stark contrast to the statement that I found in the Maytag Pressroom on their website.
For the better part of a century, Maytag® brand appliances have been synonymous with dependability and quality. Today, Maytag remains one of America’s most trusted appliance manufacturers. Based in Newton, Iowa, Maytag Appliances offers a full line of high-performance appliances.
A well respected American company apparently lost their way in our world of quarterly driven profits and the never ending pressure to produce more and more sophisticated products. I can still remember the Maytags that lived in our basement when I was a kid. They never broke. In fact I think the only reason Mom stopped using them was that she wanted something with a larger capacity. I guess that kind of quality and dependability is only a fond memory for Maytag owners these days.
The Sunday after our Saturday dinner with our new neighbors, we visited some relatives who were also having problems with their five or six years old Maytag. They ended up replacing the motor which is what we ended up doing. Maybe that's inevitable, but the repairman told me that the Maytag we have is the last of the good ones manufactured in Newton, Iowa. That's a scary thought. He also mentioned that Maytag recently had gotten a reputation for cutting corners. Perhaps that explains our experience earlier this year when we bought our daughter a Maytag and it didn't work out of the box. I found the whole Maytag customer experience coupled with Home Depot's lack of concern pretty frustrating. I recorded the experience in a post, "Maytag & Home Depot 'Customer Service'." I hope my comment there doesn't prove to be prophetic.
Are appliances the next place we will lose our American manufacturing skills? Is the pressure for quarterly profits so great that corners are cut so that consumers end up with a bad taste in their mouth. I know the next time I buy a major appliance, I'll consider some other brands and make certain that we do what we did here in Roanoke which is buy from a company that sells and services the products.
In the pressure for short term profits and the next great product, companies often lose sight of how easy it is to get off track on quality, customer service, and customer satisfaction. In the world of the Internet, your company's reputation can crash and burn as quickly as a dropped egg breaks. I don't know if maytagproblems.com had any impact on the potential ownership change at Maytag or the class action suit, but I'm willing to bet that it did.
Just maybe the proposed Maytag acquisition by Whirlpool will turn out to be a good thing which will end up restoring the quality and reliability that the Maytag brand was built upon. We drive a Volvo. Ours was purchased in 2000 just after Ford purchased Volvo, the company. We have owned other Volvos and found no difference in the quality and safety of this one. Friends who have recently purchased don't seem to have had any different experience than what we've had with our current Volvo, so I think we can reasonably conclude that the Volvo acquisition by Ford was a win for both companies. A little Internet search yielded this article from Arizona Central.
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - When Ford Motor Co. bought Swedish automaker Volvo in 1999, Scandinavians envisioned planeloads of American executives overrunning this coastal city.
The fears proved unfounded at the headquarters of the Swedish auto industry's 77-year-old crown jewel, maker of some of the safest cars and sport utility vehicles.
"The only people who came from Dearborn were financial guys," says Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo Car Corp. product planning chief. "They helped us make our plans and ensure the right balance between spending and revenues."
Kerssemakers shuffles more paper now, but that's largely because Volvo is developing and building more new models than ever, a direct benefit of the Ford deal.
Of all the automotive pairings negotiated in the 1990s, Ford's $6.45 billion acquisition of Volvo ranks as one of only two unqualified successes; the other is the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Acquisitions can work, but obviously they work only when quality products continue to be produced and there is the proper application and understanding of the economies of scale.
I lived through the horror years in the nineties when Apple Computer lost their focus on quality and shipped a number of products that had to have far too many repairs. It was a tough time and a lesson which I thought Apple had learned well. Yet, this summer I've heard more complaints about Apple hardware than in a long time. On top of that, a number of folks, myself included believe Apple shipped their latest operating system, Tiger, well before all the bugs were worked out. All I had to do is go to Macsurfer and do a little scrolling to come up this article, "What to do when wiring is misfiring in early G5 iMac model." The articles come from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Apple did not answer questions about this issue. But one of the oldest and best Mac-news sites, MacInTouch, recently conducted its own survey: Of 4,508 readers who reported buying an original iMac G5, almost 23% had experienced failures (www.macintouch.com/reliability).
Owners of first-version iMac G5s with 20-inch screens had the worst results, with a 31% failure rate.
Owners of the newest model, however, did far better: Of 1,401 buyers, 11.5% reported failures, a figure in line with the repair-history figures in Consumer Reports' June 2005 survey of computer buyers.
This seems to back up what I've been hearing from the e-mail traffic of our local Mac Users. I'm hoping Apple fixed these problems better than they have been fixing the bugs in Tiger which seem to be persistent for some users. Apple has a reputation of not listening to customers, but they along with other companies need to figure out that keeping your customers happy, well serviced, and convinced of the quality of your products is one of the key differentiators that people use when making buying decisions.
In an amazing coincidence, I've just gotten off the phone with a survey group calling to make certain my 7,500 miles service and oil change for my Acura were done completely to my satisfaction. My bill from the Maytag repairman is going to be a lot more than what my bill was from Duncan Acura so how come no one from Maytag has called me?
I guess Acura and other car manufacturers which actually have a lot more dollars to play with than applicance maufacturers have figured out how to keep me as a customer since this is my second Acura. I want reliability, quality, outstanding resale value, and unmatched customer service. So far, their doing their job very well.
Apple and other companies who ignore customer complaints should start paying more attention to their customers before they become the next Maytag.