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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Limas, limas burning bright--the follow-up

As I reported last week, we had some fireworks inside our microwave when we tried to heat up some lima beans for Alex (hey, he likes lima beans!). We've avoided using it since, and were concerned that we might need to replace the entire unit.

Dina called GE and the customer service rep told her that it was likely a faulty magnatron tube, which was covered under a 10-year warranty. So she arranged for a repairman to come by today to take a look at it. If it were the magnatron, we were told, the part would be free. If it were another part, we'd get a discount on it. We were responsible for a $50 visit fee, plus labor.

Here's the weird science part of the story: The friendly repairman checked out the microwave for a few minutes and pronounced it fit as a fiddle. We were out of lima beans, but he tried to reproduce the problem with the same plate and mixed veggies. No go. He was convinced there was metal in the microwave somewhere, and when we discussed it some more, he finally concluded that the flames we saw were caused by the high iron content of the limas. Who knew?

Here's the "they're always out to gouge you" part of the story: In addition to the $50 visit fee, he attempted to charge me an additional $50 "customer education" fee. When I protested, it turned out that he was actually trying to save me money. If he charged us for 20 minutes of labor for his time checking out the microwave, he'd have to charge us an additional $100 instead.

At that point, trying not to take out my frustrations on the affable repairman, I called Dina on the cell phone to make sure I had all the details of her conversation with GE straight. She'd gone over everything very carefully with the GE customer service rep. If they needed to replace a faulty piece, then we were responsible for the labor. But all the man had done was test the microwave. He ended up calling GE customer service. The rep eventually asked to talk to me, and was quite rude. The best offer he would give me would be a $25 rebate. I asked for his supervisor and was put on hold indefinitely. All the while, the repairman was standing there waiting to go on to his next call.

Ultimately, his concern about getting to the next customer paid off. He called his boss, telling him I was willing to pay the $50 fee, but not a penny more. The boss took about half a second to say "okay," and that was it. Once we cut out the corporate machine and its set procedures, we arrived at a fair price.

Education fee. I ask you. Phooey.

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