Are Home Appliances Boring?

… if so, you must have the wrong brand. Moving from Germany back to North America, it has become painfully evident to me that the German obsession with perfection in engineering doesn’t translate across the Atlantic. In multiple rented spaces, I have made do with a substandard dishwasher, with clothes washers that don’t really get the clothes clean, and with vacuum cleaners that make noise but are low on suction. Each of them was a North American brand, probably manufactured elsewhere.

To be fair, I haven’t always had luxury appliances in Germany either. It was only after our appliances began breaking that I started to take an interest in the market – and as a working mom with two small children, functional household appliances are elevated to a new level of desirability!

The first appliance we had to replace was our washing machine. As young newlyweds we had inherited a used machine, and it lasted almost a decade before giving up. By then, naturally, I was washing multiple loads of laundry each day (the capacity is much smaller in a European washing machine) and desperately needed a new one. (I only knew of one laundromat in town, and it had closed down). A trip to the local appliance store and a thirty minute conversation with the salespeople opened up a world of knowledge. It’s all in the small things with these household goods: the ones made in Germany have metal latches, while the ones from the same brand, but made further east, have plastic. “Does that make a difference?” I wanted to know. “It depends on how you use it” replied the saleswoman. Oh, I use my washing machine, and probably abuse it. Better to go with the parts that don’t wear out. I paid the deposit and scheduled free delivery for the next day; it arrived on time and they removed the old appliance for free. What a relief…

And so it began: a Siemens washing machine, front-loading of course. With some handy features including a timer, so that I can load it at night and have it just finish washing the clothes when I get up in the morning – not sitting in the washer all night getting moldy.

After the washing machine, I was a loyal customer at the local Bruhn appliance store. Knowledgable sales staff, friendly, welcoming, willing to put up with my children racing through the store, and patiently answering all my questions over the years, as I replaced the refrigerator, the dryer, the dishwasher… even the vacuum cleaner. Appliances in Germany are expected to function well for the long-term, and you pay for the difference. But what a difference! The dishes actually get clean in the dishwasher; my clothes get clean in the washing machine. I let the appliances do the work for me and they get the job done right, every time. Do you pay extra for German appliances? Yes, sometimes significantly more. But what is your time worth? And how soon will you have to replace the cheap brand? Usually in about 3 years, just after the warranty expires…

So here’s to Bosch, Siemens, Miele, and the other giants of the white goods industry. Buy a German appliance once and you’ll never consider anything else again.

One thought on “Are Home Appliances Boring?

  1. I would have never thought it would be a reality. But there is a predetermined breaking point with many appliances within the American market compared to Europe.

    It’s being called obsolescence. That’s pretty much insane if you think about it more thoroughly. Americans seem to accept that issue way more easily than Europeans do. Because it pays off. You might get 30-50% off a new machine when turning the old one in – not just from the same brand – when buying at the same store.

    Completely insane. The industry is holding people for ransom. I own a Siemens brand washing machine, built 1999. Still works, after about at least 2,000 heavy duty washing loads, full spin cycles, too. I had to replace the main gasket, that gray rubber one, once. Point is: It still made more sense to replace it for like 25$ myself than to buy a new one.

    This planned obsolescence is insanity.

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