How Social Networking Saved Me Money and Exposed Corporate Dishonesty

by Robbie Johnson, Partner, Social Media Performance Group

About a week ago, my washer stopped working. It was taking up massive amounts of time for both my wife and I: more than 6 hours to do a single load of laundry.

Something had to be done, but before I called in a repair person, I went online to GE’s Website to try to find a solution. Finding none on GE’s site, I checked out several forums and discussion groups where I found lots of people with the same problem. There didn’t appear to be a solution other than to a certified GE repairman come by and charge them around $300.

Confused that there didn’t seem to be any explanation available for such a common problem, both my wife and I posted updates on our Facebook pages about our frustration with the situation. That same day, a neighbor replied to my wife saying that her husband was on the way over to help us fix our washer. Cool!

My neighbor – we’ll call him Gene to protect his identity for reasons that will become clear – showed up a few minutes later saying the fix was a piece of cake. They had had the same problem with their washer, and fortunately the GE repairman who showed up to fix it was a friend. He said, “You know, I’m not really supposed to tell anybody this, but it’s a really simple fix.”

Gene said the guy wasn’t kidding. “All you need is a Philips head screw driver. Got one?” Of course I did, and we proceeded to remove three screws at the bottom of the front washer panel and unscrew a filter slowly while excess water that was stuck in the washer drained out.

After the water was drained, we removed the filter (which was filled with about two cups worth of hair and other debris), and then simply cleaned the filter with tap water and put it back in. That’s it. I was flabbergasted that this simple fix was such a big secret.

My neighbor said the GE repairman told him that 90 to 95 percent of the service calls they receive are for this problem, and that they charge a $75 trip charge plus $225 for the work (which takes 30-45 minutes max). He went on to say that this problem will occur every two to five years depending on how much laundry a household does.

Not only is this simple fix not in the washer’s manual, but the filter is not even on the schematic!

Although some people would willingly pay the service charge because they wouldn’t want to do the work, it is absolutely dishonest of GE to not put this fix in their manuals for those who want to do it themselves. There are no mechanical skills needed. If you can use a Philips head screwdriver and twist the cap off of a jug of milk (while holding your nose – the junk in the filter can be nasty), you can fix this problem. GE is wrong and completely
dishonest in omitting this from their manuals and Website in order to make very easy money.

The story gets better. When the GE repairmen pull the debris out that is blocking the filter, they usually throw it away. When Gene and I got the gunk out of the filter, I put it aside in order to look through it later. When I did, I found several coins, some LEGOS, some costume jewelry and then something fell to the floor that stopped my heart. There gleaming in the fluorescent light was my wife’s wedding ring that had gone missing almost 2 ½ years ago!

The ring is worth over $3,000 and we had written it off years ago as gone.

As it happens, that night we had dinner plans – Date Night. So I cleaned up the ring, and stuck it in my pocket. Then, during the dinner, I said casually, “Oh, honey, I got you a little something” and handed her the ring. She started to say, “Oh, that looks just like my old . . .” and then she was unable to speak for three minutes because she was weeping. Needless to say, I got a lot of hubby points for that one!

So let’s add this up: If GE had come out to repair my washer, it would have taken over a week for them to get there; they would have taken a day of my time (their window for repairs is somewhere between 8 am – 6 pm); it would have cost me $300; and odds are, they simply would have thrown out the debris stuck in my filter, and we would have never found my wife’s ring.

Also, I would have never have known how despicable GE is.

I credit social computing for saving me time, $300, a lot of frustration, and giving us back my wife’s lost wedding ring! Next time I’m buying a Maytag.

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