Skip to main content

Buying Electric Appliances - Cheap is No Longer Expensive




A fancy Bosch iron box with floor showing electrical damage from the appliance. Though more expensive than standard iron boxes, the appliance has proved not to be as reliable nor easy to open up.

It once used to be that the more you paid for an electric appliance, the better the quality you got.

Then, the world moved to China and it simultaneously became cheaper to make quality appliances, but incredibly cheap to make cheap appliances(here cheap means poor quality than low cost) Turkey also became a global manufacturing hub for appliances, which meant that we now had thousands of brands to choose from since anyone with some money could manufacture easily.

More choice, I am shocked to announce, has not been necessarily better.

So if paying more for an iron box or cooker does not mean you are paying for better quality, what does it mean? Well, it means you are paying for more features, including a long list of confusing features you may not need. Even more confusing is that sometimes the extra features are available in the cheaper product, but they are hidden or disabled!


Sometimes, paying more nets you an appliance that actually lasts - but with a catch. If the appliance has parts that need replacing often such as a coffee maker glass jug or nylon filter, you will find that the part is no longer available as the entire appliance has been replaced with a newer model with incompatible parts.

All these are things I found out when my Bosch iron box literally went out in a blaze of glory, and when I tried to replace the nylon filter in a Black&Decker Coffee Maker.

I had gotten the Bosch iron box about mid-2015 at a supermarket stock clearance, and it was a fancy model going for about KSh. 4,000 down from KSh. 8,000 ($40 from $80). It was a steam iron with a safety feature where it could switch itself off if accidentally left on or if left lying flat on a garment.

It was so much for safety features when sparks erupted from the bottom in the middle of ironing. Moreover, I realised that you couldn’t just open up the iron box. It uses a very proprietary screw with a 6-star slot and a protruding spike in the middle. The only place I can find that screw driver is possibly a Bosch service centre, and not for lack of trying. Few other appliances use such an impossible-to-unscrew screw.

Granted 4 years may be a long time with an iron box, but then purchasing an iron box that costs more than four times the average should deliver way more ironing days and they should not almost end in a catastrophe.

People tend to buy Bosch as a premium brand with longer lasting appliances, but I would suggest that this quality does not at least apply to their iron boxes. A cheap model from another brand will work just fine and save you money.

As for my Black&Decker coffee maker, it still works perfectly years later, save for the fact that its parts are no longer available. What you will find interesting is that it has been replaced by a model that looks exactly like the one I bought. The parts though have slight adjustments such that they do not fit into each other. You would wonder why such a model update would be necessary if it meant that parts for both models become hard to stock simultaneously.

An appliance buying strategy I once found dependable was buying a cheap appliance brand where the variety was limited and where the controls were largely manual. Such brands had few electronic circuits in them and were therefore less prone to failure as these are what tend to fail in fancy gadgets with touch and button interfaces. Such brands also took so long to replace a model that you knew what they had in stock had to be dependable.

China (and Turkey) have made it cheap for any brand to outsource their manufacturing. People also want to buy something that looks modern with fancy shapes and fancy colours. Therefore everything is manufactured at the same factories but with different names, and models change very fast based on what’s the latest feature.

The only way out of this quagmire is to buy based on reviews. This means buying last year’s or last-year’s-but-one model which was highly rated by those who bought it. Of course there may be a trade off such as increased power consumption from older devices - but you will all agree that slightly increased consumption from a fridge that lasts years is better than one that breaks down after less than six months.

For items like cheap coffee makers, old models with all-metal parts don’t need replacing and will probably last years.

It may be wise to begin your appliance purchase by looking up the brand on Google, Facebook or Twitter, or for specific models, looking up customer reviews on online sites. The challenge here is save for Amazon, most online shopping sites do not have proper customer review sections. This leaves you with searching for what people said on Google and social media.

Also brands do vary over time, and across their range of products. In Kenya, Ramtons, a local brand takes a lot of flack for fridges that keep breaking down. Yet, I have owned a Ramtons fridge for 8 years now with no issue and a Ramtons cooker oven for about the same amount of time too.

My fridge seems to be no longer available and replaced with the RF 267. Of course I should point out that the models people have been complaining about are the lower-priced smaller models which are refreshed more regularly and likely more modern compared to the larger, less moving stock. Either way, the complaints are quite numerous.

My takeaway here - Google before you buy and go with what gets overwhelmingly recommended. Price is no longer a determiner.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinions of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives a free,  extra hangover for every hangover you get from it.

For starters, like everyone else, I discovered that beer isn’t as sweet as it looks like in those adverts that show golden barley swaying in breezes,  happy men smiling and toasting chilled, foaming glasses of beer as a deep voice does some narration in the background.

Beer is bitter! Now, it turns out beer is intentionally made bitter. See,  beer shares the same ingredients as bread. The major difference is that bread isn't fermented. Bread is sweet, so why isn't beer sweet?

The bitter story of the downfall of Mumias Sugar company

Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar?

Regarded by many as Kenya's most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya's sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, "Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji".

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour's head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same - you'd therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

But what ails Kenya's sugar industry?

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

Many of Kenya's sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and trib…

Kenyan products: The art of punishing your consumer

Peanut butter used to taste so good, but you could not afford it on the pocket money that you got back in school. A few years later, you have your first real job and your first "disposable" income. You buy your first real tub of peanut butter , probably the first in your life. You feel proud that Dominion peanut butter is manufactured in Ruiru, a town that you visited in your campus days to withdraw your pocket money , it was the nearest bank ATM to your campus. This was before Equity bank became a mainstream bank and decided to open an ATM in your campus, and before M-Pesa meant that you could withdraw your pocket money next to the kibanda  where you had your one meal of the day.

The peanut butter though is a far cry form the peanut butter you remember. It does not taste that good, and turns into some sort of stone barely before you are a third way through the jar. The stone is not a kind that you learned about in your Geography classes though.

Dejectedly, you decide not …

Why we loved Mixcrate and Where to next?

There are two types of music listeners: those who listen by artist or by album, and those who listen by top hits. The second lot of us do not care much about what other music made it to an album besides the top 2 hits.

Mixcrate served the second lot of us very well. You could search for a song title or an artist, and you would have dozens of DJ mixes to choose from which contained more than the one hit you searched for.

Listening to music on Mixcrate also meant that once you settled into a mix, you had uninterrupted music for the next one hour.

Here are the "goodies" that President Obama brought to Kenya

The United States President, Barack Obama,  made the first tour to Kenya by a sitting US President. During the trip,  there was a consistent theme in the media about Obama bringing “goodies”, though much focus was placed on his motorcade and other theatrics.

State House has released some details on the goodies that Obama brought. A good number of them are not the tangible goodies we may expect, such as new,  black roads,  or new,  gleaming railways. There’s however some aspect of that.
It is a mixed bag of goodies, some heavily skewed towards US interests, but a good number are to our interests. They especially focus on the space of human development that is often ignored in the pursuit of physical development in this region. Thus,  there is a theme in human rights,  and especially those of women and girls,  and an overall objective towards increasing the value and quality of people in Kenya,  and in Africa.
Some  of the agreements involve several African countries. While Obama only v…