The first time I had something break, it was my new refrigerator in 2005. It was only 6 months old. A GE. It was under warranty and the store had given me an extended warranty. My Argentine friends had told me that warranties were worthless in Argentina.
"You will see." They told me. "No one wants to do warranty work. It is better to just buy a new one." That made no sense to me coming from consumer oriented California. How could that be? You have a product from a big company,bought from a big store. Famous last words. It took 2 weeks to replace the fan on my new refrigerator.
I would call to find out the disposition of my refrigerator part in my bad Porteño Spanish and they would either tell me A) Soon B) They would call C) Hang up on me. It didn't matter what I said or how I said it, the customer was the least important part of this equation.
When the repair man finally came to install the new fan, he told me that the company does not like to do warranty work. They don't pay us well. I didn't really understand that either until now. Although I am still happy to report, that my refrigerator is still working.
I was used to calling Sears and having the Sears guy come with his truck loaded with parts. In an hour so whatever needed fixing, was fixed. If it wasn't fixed properly you could call them back. Here they hang up on you. Customer service is not a strong suit.
My most recent dalliance in appliance hell has been with my clothes dryer. My dryer worked great until last year. Then it stopped rotating. It blew hot air, but it didn't tumble. I didn't have a warranty. Iasked all my friends if they could recommend someone. No one had a good story to tell. The encargado of my building said the guy they used to recommend retired. Time to let my fingers do the walking...
You have no idea how much fun this can be. You see in the U.S. the repair services have a set labor rate. So at least you can have an idea of how much you might be charged. They also will tell you how much the parts are. Here you get none of that. They offer to come out for free and give you a quote.
Now I completely understand why the companies who do warranty work don't like it. They can't rob the customer. Seriously. The manufaturer sets the price they pay for the warranty work, not the repair company. I googled the make of my dryer and set out to call companies to see if they could repair my dryer.
You don't make appointments here. The appliance repairmen in Buenos Aires make the cable companies in the U.S. look like military time precise. I made appointments with 3 places. No one would give me an idea over the phone of costs. No one has an hourly rate. Everyone comes out to give you a "free estimate."
I had to stay home on the days the repair companies said they would come just in case they decided to show up when they said they would show up. One of the 3 never showed up, never called.
The first candidate came the day after they said they would come. These guys always travel in pairs. Maybe they are afraid of housewives? Doubtful. It is how they work their intimidation tactics. I am amazed at how stupid they think the average person is just because they can fix a dryer. I should challenge them to a race in fixing a computer...blow their little macho minds there.
An Argentine male friend of mine told me I was going to have a problem. "Estas re-mal amiga." he told me. Not only was I a woman, I was foreign, and I lived in Palermo. "Van a estafarte." He told me. (They are going to screw me over) Yeah, Yeah, I know, the foreign import tax as we call it. I never pay it.
Anyway..these guys enter my apartment. They look around. One asks me if I live alone. I ask him if this is an important question to fix my dryer. He stares at me. I wonder if he thinks I am intimidated. I grew up in Detroit. This guy is small crackers in the intimidating looks department. I ask him if he would like me to call my husband. He says no. I take him to my dryer. He looks at it. Asks me what is wrong. Opens the door. Tells me that it will cost $1200 pesos to fix. I ask him how he knows this without looking at it. He doesn't like this question. He tells me with Chinese parts it will cost $900 pesos. The guarantee is for 3 months. I ask him to write it all down. He gives me a card that he writes $1200 pesos on it.
Then he starts to explain inflation to me and how this is not France. Really this is not France? Could have fooled me. He obviously thinks I am from France. I am escorting him and his sidekick to the door while he vigoursly explains to me why I should do this soon. This is the strong arm sales tactic. Chau, bye bye. I almost have to push them out the door. I would have rather pushed them off the balcony.
The next day brings candidate #2. Another couple. I just love how they travel in pairs. They size me up as they walk in the door. I take them to my dryer. I explain what is going on. They also do not look at it. "$1500 pesos." "Muy caro." I tell them. The taller and meaner looking one asks me where I am from. "Here." I tell him. "Do you want to see my documento." "No, where were you born?" "Where were you born?" I ask. He looks confused. "Why do you want to know?" He asks. "Exactly." I tell him. Then he starts to tell me in Germany things are different. I tell him I wouldn't know how things are in Germany, because I have never been there. ¨So," I ask him, "How are things in Germany?" This confuses him even more. "I hear they have good beer." Now he is really confused. "No sos Alemana?" No, I am not German, and even if I was, so what? He says something to the other guy.
"OK, esta bien." he tells me. It will still cost $1500 pesos. He writes it on an invoice pad. Seccaropa Ariston $1500 propuesta. Nothing more. Not the labor, not the parts, not what is wrong. Bye Bye you have to go now. These guys really need to take a short cut off the balcony.
Frustrated I talk to the encargado of my building. He comes upstairs to look at it. It is the belt. He can't replace it because of how it is hung inside. Ariston must have secret tools to open and fix their dryers. He tells me to get some names of service places and he will call for me.
First we do an experiment. I call a place and ask them how much to replace a belt in my dryer. They ask where I am at, model number etc. They tell me $750 pesos. Well, this is better than $1500 and $1200 pesos. Next I have the encargdado call. He tells them everything I have told them. They quote him $520 pesos. I guess I was quoted the same with the woman/foreigner tax included.
He calls several other places before we decide on which place to come out and fix it. He makes an appointment and the guys show up on time. In fact the repairman has the same name as my dog - Maxie. He and the other guy think it is funny. They give me a written estimate for my dryer of course no details. They cannot fix it in my apartment. They take it with them. They never have the parts with them. No one ever stocks parts. A belt for a dryer is not exactly an exotic part. Please explain this to me.
In any event, in two weeks they return and it works. Only they want to charge me more than the estimate. $200 pesos more. I start to get mad. I call the encargado and he comes upstairs to defend me. I cannot believe that after all these years I now have to ask a man to defend me. It is so maddening. WHERE IS THE SEARS MAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Not here. Finally after lots of yelling (Yes, yelling, this is Argentina, nothing is discussed calmly.) I didn't have to pay the extra.
So here I am 8 months later and my dryer breaks again. A friend recommends a repairman to me who works in the hotels. He comes right out. Checks out my dryer and says to me "Throw it out. It will cost to much to fix. I will never get the part for it. It is a shame, but that is how it is. The imported parts just don't exist." He tells me it really is not a major thing, but unless the manufacturer has the part, there is no way. He said someone would try to fix it, and in the end it will just break again. "Just throw it out."
I call the manufacturer for the part. I can feel the girl on the phone getting ready to be attacked. No they don't have the part. She apologizes and says they are very short on most parts.
Where is the Sears Man when you need him most? Not here.