Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Decline of Civilization part 1

 We had an interesting couple of days. 

It started when the washer was in pieces on the laundry room floor-- yes, I was trying to fix it. After some phone consultations with a repairman, it was advised that we had to get a new washing machine. 

Now you think this would be a happy event in a homemaker's life to get a shiny new appliance, but I am usually reluctant to spend on large purchases. I'm not the one to make those large decisions. The only ones in the family available to do this purchase were my daughter and I, however, so off we went to a Lowe's. I will preface this story by saying I used to know all the employees in Lowe's by sight, but all the workers I encountered were new to me (they seem to have had a big change-over during the pandemic) and it feels like I am in a different town whenever I go there nowadays. 

I went straight to the washer that had manual controls and was the lowest price, as is my wont. The one lone employee lady was busy with another customer, but promised to be with us when they were done. After wandering around the appliance section for quite a long time, I realized that the employee and the other customers had been gone quite a while. I saw a couple employees in the neighboring plumbing aisle, who were in casual conversation. One was the Manager Lady. So I went over there, and as much as I hate to interrupt I knew that I was a purchasing customer, so when they paused to acknowledge me I explained that I was here to buy a washer, and the appliance employee had disappeared. Manager Lady: "Oh, I don't know anything about appliances. You are better off talking to the lady in that department." Plumbing guy said something similar to brush me off and I was sent back to wait while they continued their conversation. 

I told my daughter, "You know, they could have just got on their radios and called someone." So after politely wandering some more in the appliance aisle, I went across to the decorating department, asked the employee there to call someone to help with appliances, which she promptly did. An knowledgeable, older employee appeared in astonishing rapidity, answered my questions, got the appliance up to the front, managed my purchase, and loaded it in my van for me. Although the Manager Lady's lack of interest puzzled me, this fellow made up for any complaint I had!

When I got home I realized that the washer I bought was too small in capacity-- I totally forgot that I needed one that could wash all those sleeping bags and camping stuff in the summer! My husband thought a front loader would be better anyway, and why not a matching dryer? It was about time for a nice pair. He talked me into it. The new store policy meant I only had 48 hours to return or exchange, so as the next day was a Saturday I was able to get my husband to come with me (yay-- a date to Lowe's!). We had not even unloaded the washer from the van. 

This time in the appliance department we were told to wait again by employee who was beyond retirement age. He was the only one there, covering everyone's lunch break, and was helping other customers. We spent time looking at our choices, and picked a front loading machine. Thankfully the man didn't disappear on us, but came and helped us understand that anything we saw online that said "in stock" was a lie. This one here had no washer available. This one here had no dryer. Furthermore, all of our choices were out for weeks. 

So we went over to look at one of the new, large capacity top-loaders. I made my choice: it had all manual dials and only one computer-button, and was as retro-looking as a classic car. I took a shying to those white-and-silver dials. Anyway, the employee checked stock. Not in here, not in at the other store either. One of the washers we were looking at came with  the most astonishing news:  "I don't have any here, the next town doesn't have any there, my warehouse has none and as a matter of fact, none are available. I cannot sell you the floor model, I cannot sell you this model at all."  I did not scream "Then why is it sitting here with a price tag!!!" but went over whatever "choices" we had left. Older employee asked about our family size, cracked a few jokes that were not in good taste about another large family he met while we shopped, but it was best to ignore that and just keep the employee close by. 

We ended up with an all-computer run, flat panel buttons, large capacity top loader, that smacked of 1980's styling (including the dark tinted window). At least it wasn't beige. Not what we wanted, but it was one of the few we could actually take home that day. The matching dryer was out for another week and a half. "Everything you see here is a lemon," the employee offered. "They don't make them to last anymore. My Maytag lasted 30 years before I sold it. You won't get that now. Nothing here is going to work after a while. You just have to accept that." We knew that in the back of our minds, but we needed a washer at home pretty soon, not two weeks later. Although we would have loved to spend a month researching, finding, traveling for and purchasing a Speed Queen of large capacity, we neither of us had the time. 

Like the fellow the day before, this employee was determined to take care of us from start to finish. He went up to the customer service desk to make sure that we got an exchange. Who should we see but Manager Lady, and I didn't hold out much hope for help from her. Older employee told her what he wanted her to do for us, and we went we went out to haul the previous machine in. We had parked so close, we were only gone a few minutes, but that was sufficient time for Manager Lady to disappear. Older employee went around to try and find someone else to help us. As we were standing there waiting, I noticed another couple next to us in customer service who had been standing patiently longer than we were. They gently spoke to their cashier and enquired, "Do we need to go and help them find it?" I felt for them, really I did.

Finally the older employee came back with another manager, who had to leave his "team meeting" to come and help us. He was a younger guy but super friendly, as if we had not interrupted him at all. He proceeded to find out that he couldn't get into the computer, but took it all with a smile. He found out he couldn't get into the other computer, but continued to smile although it surely was annoying to him. He eventually got our return done, our new purchase made, and helped us out to the car. We all begged the older employee to go and take his lunch break, otherwise he was going to to get that washer in our van for us. Never saw Manager Lady again through all this, but wonder how she ever got to that position. First impressions, but she seemed the most unhelpful employee in the whole store (besides her companion the plumbing guy, perhaps). 

If there is any joy in buying a new home appliance nowadays, it was dashed by the end of the purchase. The "date" with my husband was the only fun I got out of it. I was trying to find the most straightforward, manual, repairable model, even though I knew that our only choices were throwaway junk. I knew that before the employee even told us, but hearing it spoken aloud was extra discouraging. Towards the end, my husband had to keep patting me on the shoulder and telling me it will be alright, it will work, and if it breaks we'll get a new one again. 

My new washer is extra large capacity, extra choices and features, and in some ways much better than my old one. In the end, the only thing to cry about is purely cosmetic, because of the lack of white-and-silver dials. My only hope is that because I think this machine is so ugly, it will last as long as orange shag carpet, avocado green refrigerators and harvest gold ovens. 


Anonymous said...

Love this story. It's very sad, but so true, and we lived this recently, only ours was a story about a mattress (our first purchase of a new mattress for ourselves in 27 years). But what really made me laugh was your clincher. Yes, indeed. There's always hope! xx Jen

Sanne said...

I sympathise! I bought my last washing machine online and it was brought and installed the next day, plus they took the old one away. I did give them 10euros for extra work as it was the 2nd floor.

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