Sunday, October 28, 2007

What I learnt from the washing machine man

It wasn't pleasant, getting the washing machine man out. We had a call out back in July, when I realised the dryer bit of the washer dryer wasn't working. The call centre person tried hard to get M, who made the call, to take out an extended warranty. I was in the other room, and he asked me what I thought. I said no way. We paid the call out charge.

The dryer got fixed, but the insane noise the machine made during its spin cycle just got louder. We pulled the machine out, checked its 'transit bolts' were removed, balanced it with a spirit level. Still the noise endured. When it was spinning, you couldn't talk in the hall. You could hear it down the street.

So I called the washing machine company again. The guy tried to sell me an extended warranty again. I said no way again. 'I see you had a call out earlier this year,' he said. 'Are you saying you're going to pay another £80?'

Well, I said, it turns out that it would have saved me money *in this instance* to take out an extended warranty *last time*. But I didn't, and that doesn't mean it makes sense to now. So yes, I am going to pay another £80.

Every time I have a conversation like that, I feel a little bit dirty. And I hate the world, for making me deal with call centre people who know nothing and care less about the situation you and your washing machine are in, and are primed, poised and prodded like cattle into making as much money out of you as possible. You know it's not really their fault, they are just pawns in the game, but in order to not get shafted you often have to be rude to them. You hate yourself for this, because it's a real person you're being rude to, yet you know they are trained to put you in this position, so you hate them too.

You come away a bit bruised, a bit bullied and a bit beaten down. You lose a bit of faith in your ability to make consumer choices. You lose a bit of faith in the world. You don't know who to trust. And this is a fucking washing machine. I can't even *think* about pensions.

Two days later, the washing machine man came. I'd subconsciously blocked it out of my mind, so we were still in bed when the doorbell rang. I therefore had to show him what was what wearing my orange pyjamas and with a serious bed head, which was all quite embarrassing.

He found the problem immediately: one of the large blocks of concrete which stops the machine going walkabout was loose. He fixed it with a spanner and some glue. I took an interest -- I've never seen the workings of a washing machine before. He liked that. We got chatting.

As he was putting the casing back together, he spotted the bottle of Ecover lurking in the under-stair gloom. You've got to watch that stuff, he said. It'll destroy your machine, especially if you only wash at low temperatures.

How can Ecover be bad? I asked. And what about my EcoBalls?

He laughed hollowly.

The thing is, girls and boys, that Ecover doesn't contain the chemicals that are needed to kill bacteria that accumulate in the machine, creating sludge and slime on the outside of the drum, rotting the seal and causing that nasty 'in the machine too long' smell if you leave your clothes in any length of time after the cycle has finished.

Those chemicals have a purpose, he said. They're not for your clothes, they're for your washing machine. If you want to use Ecover, fine (and there are some good environmental reasons for doing so) but if you're not to end up a) shortening the life of your machine and b) re-washing smelly stuff -- neither of which can be seen as environmentally friendly things to do -- you should do a hot (at least 60 degrees) wash with 'proper' (he recommended Ariel biological) washing powder at least once a month. You should also descale once a month if you live in a hard water area.

The washing machine man was lovely. He knew his stuff and did his thing, but also told me things he thought I should know. Nobody was paying him for that. It's entirely possible, in fact, that the washing machine makers would prefer he didn't tell me those things, as that way they get to sell more washing machines.

*And* he managed to find a way to charge me less than the call out charge. He restored my faith in human ingenuity: at the call centre end, big companies pay peanuts and do their best to get human beings to behave like manipulative automatons, but at the business end, there is discretion and there is autonomy. And when decent people get their hands on that, they provide better than a decent service and they provide a warm feeling inside to go with it. More like that please.

And I also thought it was such good advice that I should pass it on, as I can't imagine anyone reading this regularly isn't also washing their clothes in Ecover. I know some of you smell funny, put it that way.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sez says: Gosh this is happening me and is very helpful. I thought it was leaving things to dry too long by avoiding tumble drying. Then I got stuff out of the tumble dryer and that smelt.I won't stop using Ecover tho but am conflicted having been brought up, as you know, to believe cleanliness is godliness. NB Same applies to Ecover dish washer tablets and smells.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

Hey Saz. Check this link... it backs up everything the washing machine man said. I think you might need to bite the bullet and buy some Ariel. Just once a month! x

smelly washing machines

2:53 pm  
Blogger tomato said...

Wow, thanks for this timely bit of information!

I'm mortified that you can smell me all the way from Manchester...

10:38 am  

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