Thingish Things

Help Me, GE

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 03•11

My wife is smarter than I am. I’m more sentimental, although she’s half Scottish, so she may just be faking that.

When we shop, I buy American. She buys Japanese, German, Italian, Swiss, English — whatever she thinks is best in the long run.

Three years ago when we moved to the ‘burbs, for example, she bought a Honda Odyssey; I went Ford Focus hatchback. (Sexy vehicles, I know.)

When the Honda seized up on the road a couple of months back — the Ford has run flawlessly — I was secretly happy, even after a bill arrived for $1,300. Finally I was right — or lucky. I had been batting zero; this brought me to around 1-9. I couldn’t eat lunch for a month, but it was worth it for the smile.

Like I said, my wife is smarter than I am. She’s also a better researcher. Whenever we need to buy a durable good, she buries herself deep in the internet, emerging days or even weeks later with a pearl of a pick. I go on a website or two, filtering out everything but American products. That’s my starting point.

The one thing I have over my wife is that I’m more stubborn than she is. I’m 95% Irish. Evidently she finds that endearing, because she let’s me make my mistakes and then patiently waits for me to be proved wrong. It’s patronizing, but a small price to pay for getting, say, a brand new GE 8,000 BTU air conditioner. “You see, you see!”, I say excitedly as we’re unpacking it.

After one season that died. It had a five-year warranty, with tiny fine print. Guess who didn’t read it.

Then there was the American refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, and brand new dishwasher (also GE) that came with the house – it still had the plastic on it.

After three years, they’re all gone. The refrigerator and dryer died; the washing machine didn’t wash.  I actually felt sorry for the dishwasher, in an ugly-duckling-that-never-turns-into-a-swan kind of way. It never knew what it was. It clearly wasn’t a dish washer.

My house today is filled with machines with names I can’t pronounce. My soon-to-be-88-year-old father still has German shrapnel in his leg, so it grates at my innards to even try.  But their performance is as smooth as their names are guttural. That tough, baked on grease like in the TV commercials? Phu!

They cost more than the American brands, but my wife calls them “investments”, assuring me they will save money in the long run. I’m beginning to see her point.

I’m sitting a train while writing this with a man who just spent $100,000 – at least his insurance company did  — tearing up his entire kitchen floor and replacing it after a new, top-of-the-line American refrigerator sprung a leak.

“It was a 50-cent hose connector,” he explained. “Everything in this unit was state-of-the-art; then they cheaped out with a 50-cent hose connector.”

That’s a really interesting point, and, I think, GM and Ford are now onto it and doing well as a result. It doesn’t pay to cheap out on 50-cent hose connectors or cheap plastic cup holders. Scrimping and cutting corners can badly erode consumer confidence. Quality has to come before price sometimes.

American companies will never be able to compete on price with the Chinese, South Koreans, Vietnamese, or India Indians (If we ever can, we’ll be in big trouble.) But we can build better quality products than they do and re-build loyal customer bases in the process.  It would be a life-line for American buyers, like me, who have to face down spouses time and again with a plug in one hand and an I-don’t-know-where-this-came-from in the other.

My wife just told me that my Ford Focus was built it Mexico.

La, la, la, la. I can’t hear you…



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  1. Your Friend says:

    Love it. My wife just bought a new KitchenAid dishwasher, which I understand is made by Whirlpool, a MI, USA company. I was kind of expecting to learn that they were bought by some trans-national company. It seems good. It’s very quiet. I would probably be more willing to buy American if the companies followed your advice. Or if it wasn’t so hard to find decent products. China is everywhere.

  2. You really have look hard for the good American stuff. Glad you found it!

  3. cede says:

    You spend $1,300 a month on lunch?!?

  4. Have you seen my gut?

  5. Pugs says:

    Ford stock was at 1.5 in Feb of 09…now at 14.75 … somehow they have driven out of the ditch…I want to believe it was good old American hard work, creativity and a never quit attitude…ole!

  6. cede says:

    No way bro – you were looking pretty svelte last time I saw you!

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