Tuesday, February 05, 2008

You Can't Get Lower Than Sub-Zero

Image credit: http://www.subzero.com/

When we moved into our present home several years ago, the kitchen was furnished with a relatively small GE side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. That unit had been installed five years before we bought the house, and continues to run to this day, well over a decade later, having never required service. (It is now the beer-repository for a friend of mine, certainly a happy retirement for a refrigerator.) Never let it be said that I don't give credit where it is due, even to GE.

My wife was enamoured with the Sub-Zero bottom freezer model from the day she saw one at a another friend's house. "It can hold casseroles and pizza boxes!" she exclaimed, and indeed, she was right. The more ubiquitous side-by-side machines chop up their shelving to a considerable extent, and definately cannot swallow entire casserole dishes and pizza boxes. So, off we went to the high-end appliance store in search of the Holy Grail of fridges. We were assured by the honest-appearing salesman that this was a very reliable machine, favored by builders of mansions and castles, and we should be ashamed if we went with anything less (like GE). So, believing the spiel and having great desire to please my wife and to refrigerate pizzas, I went for the Sub-Zero, spending easily FIVE times what a good GE or Whirlpool might cost. But we want the best, right?

Had I been a little more circumspect, I would have checked with Consumer Reports, which rates the reliability of these things as follows:

Guess who's on the bottom! Weighing in at problems with 24% of units sold is.....Sub-Zero!

To be fair, we had few problems with the unit while it was under warranty. But then the trouble started. We have since had 4 or 5 repairs on the darn thing, the latest was today, by the way, with new compressors, rewelding of tubing, and some other amusing stuff. And while the parts were covered by Sub-Zero, the labor was not, and I'm out the cost of, well, the GE I should have bought in the first place.

What does Sub-Zero say about this? From the ConsumerMan of MSNBC.com comes this:

It’s natural for anyone who gets a sub-par rating to challenge the validity of the survey. So I was not surprised when Paul Leuthe, corporate marketing manager for Sub-Zero, told me, “The numbers are not accurate.” Sub-Zero is the only built-in refrigerator on the survey. “So it has a lot more potential for problems than a free-standing refrigerator that is just plugged in,” Leuthe says. “Someone who buys a $5,000 to $8,000 refrigerator is less tolerant than other customers,” he adds.

But Leuthe admits there could be another reason why this top-of-the-line brand rated at the bottom of the reliability survey. He says about four years ago they got a bad batch of copper tubing. It was used in the evaporators for models made from 2003 to 2006. That tubing is now rusting and causing leaks. “These evaporator problems could be skewing the ratings,” Leuthe says. He points out with some pride that Sub-Zero is making free repairs with no questions asked.

Yup. Someone who pays top dollar for a refigerator is less tolerant. You bet your freon I am less tolerant of an expensive fridge that stops cooling all of the sudden six months after the last repair. And free repairs? Try free parts (maybe), but no free labor, and here, the parts include 6 inches of solder. No more Sub-Zero's for me, thanks.

Naturally, I have to relate all this to PACS; this is a PACS blog, you know. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned here is to avoid the purchase of the wrong product simply because it has one particular feature you like. Had we not had to store pizza boxes, I would have saved thousands, and avoided much heartache. Similarly with PACS, diving into the wrong product simply to acquire one particular feature is asking for trouble. We had that experience with a certain small company that I've promised not to trash anymore, and I'll keep my word on that. More or less. Secondly, be very sure about the product, and don't fall for the hype. I thought a fridge from the World's Best Refrigeration Company would be trouble-free. I should have read the reviews and talked with more than one happy customer. Finally, don't let said company off the hook when the product doesn't work as it should, and don't be intimidated when they suggest you are being picky or whiney. YOU are the customer, and you may feel free to vote with your wallet.

How's that for a frigid response?

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Dalai.. What's the equivalent metaphor for the oversize pizza box? What is the one factor that makes punters buy less-than-appropriate systems? My thought: "those guys-over-there said it was good!".