An engineer decides a name-brand appliance that fails in less than 36 months isn't worth the added cost. (In case you ever wondered why Costco exists.)
By Charles Glorioso, EE Times Guru
We had a simple crock pot with a three position switch, OFF/LOW/HIGH. It had lasted over ten years and was still working fine. At some point my wife decided it was too small and we went shopping for a larger one in a high-end kitchen store. We ended up buying a fairly expensive name-brand unit that had a nice feature.: In addition to the HIGH/LOW setting, it had an LCD display and a count down timer. After you input an hour value, it would cook for that amount of time and then switch to a warming temperature until ready to serve.
In just over two years of light-duty use, the timer stopped counting down and we overcooked a batch of food. When I removed power and then repowered the unit, the display was blank and stubbornly refused to work. Being a pack rat, I dug out the original store receipt and the owner’s guide. I was advised that the unit was past the one year warranty.
I decided that the less-than-36-month life was not reasonable for a high-priced, name-brand unit, no matter what the warranty said. So I called the manufacturer’s customer service line.
A polite lady there informed me that the unit was out of warranty, and that they would not be able to service it. Nor could they replace it, as it was no longer being manufactured. The best they could do was to sell me the present model, which was serviceable (red flag!) for 30% off. Not bad, except that the dead unit cost me $80 and the new unit was $129 after the discount.
In the end, I ended up buying two no-name-brand units with the same features at Costco for $30 each. Even if they fail in three years, I figure I am still way ahead.
I disassembled the unit (engineering curiosity), which required removing two nuts and 10 screws, only to determine that there was no repair I could do. The circuitry was on two PCBAs with connectored wiring, and would have been easy to service, given the availability of replacement PCBAs.
I found no obvious failure. Some piece of silicon either had given up the ghost, or possibly the slight corrosion visible around the one IC killed it.
Charles Glorioso has a BSEE from Purdue and an
MSEE from Illinois Institute of Technology. He has over 40 years
experience in electronics design and management for industrial and