Saturday, April 04, 2009

Miele Singapore - Avoid At All Costs

I have long held the view that when it comes to tools, you either buy the cheapest or buy the best. This approach owes its origin to Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog, which I first ran into the late '60s. The idea is that the best way to learn and decide about tools is to start cheap, then when you have determined which features/brands/quality is appropriate, you buy the best.

A domestic tool that we all have to deal with at some point or another is the washing machine. A visit to a local appliance dealer such as Best reveals a huge choice of models at widely varying prices. The question naturally arises as to whether or not there is a measurable difference between the cheapest machine and the best, which is presumably also the most expensive.

Having to set up a new flat some time back, I was faced with this challenge, and decided to purchase the best. Based on reviews and poking around the shops, I settled on a Miele W1514. They are obscenely expensive, but appear to be well built. In fact, Miele makes a big deal about the longevity a customer can expect from their products, as this excerpt from their website shows:

Long life expectancy

A test performed by wfk, Germany's renowned research institute based in Krefeld, proved that Miele appliances last 20 years. Appliances from 6 manufacturers were tested, the result: Only the three Miele washing machines survived in working order. Miele also subjects its appliances to in-house 10,000 hour endurance tests in which they operate day and night. Only Miele sets such a high benchmark.

OK, so we have the Rolls-Royce of washing machines, clearly worth the inflated price.

Except that it broke down after 18 months.

Getting ready to wash a load of clothes before a business trip, the machine turned out to be stone dead. After checking the electrical outlet and fuses, it was clear that the fault was within the machine's power control unit.

While annoying, it would be unreasonable to assume that a single fault is grounds for complaint. A call was placed to the Service number, and after some negotiation, a service man turned up.

Without parts.

It was 4 days later that another service man arrived with the proper part, and replaced the power control unit. Total cost - S$684.57

To put this in context, Best was advertising a Japanese 9.5 litre washing machine for S$320 on the same day. So for more than double the cost of a new washing machine, I had my Miele repaired.

Arriving back from my business trip to find that I had been ripped off by Miele, I wrote a polite letter to the General Manager of the firm in Singapore, requesting a refund based on the fact that the machine had barely been used, and the fault was in a non-moving part, clearly a design problem Miele has with the machine.

It has now been 2 months since I mailed and faxed the letter to Miele, and I have had exactly zero response.

It appears that Miele is trading on its (undeserved) reputation for quality, and simply ignoring customers with product problems.

My conclusion: Avoid Miele Singapore - they are unsafe to do business with.