Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Incredibly Stupid Engineering by Whirlpool

We have a Whirlpool dishwasher that's about two years old. It was a gift to us, and we like it very much. But last night it developed its first problem. I found it partway through the wash cycle, not running, with the Clean light blinking. It would respond to nothing I did, including pressing the Cancel button.

Well, my first approach to fixing anything I don't understand is to google it. That I did, and I found lots of pages on the problem, including one that linked to a tech video showing all of the many things that might be behind it. Fortunately, near the end of that video, they gave the secret code you need to bring your appliance out of its coma. (Press Heated Dry, then Normal, then Heated Dry, then Normal. Voila! Machine back to life.) But that's not the stupid part.

Here’s the stupid part: The Whirlpool engineers included a test routine in the software that runs the dishwasher. About 8 minutes into the wash cycle, it tests the water temperature to verify that the heating coil is heating the water properly. If it's not, the dishwasher....well, before I tell you, what do you think it does? Do you think it flashes an alert and completes the cycle making the best of the hot water as it is?

Too logical? Do you think it comes to a complete stop—right in the middle of the wash cycle—and freezes its controls so that nothing works? You win! There you are, with partially washed, detergent-covered dishes, and a machine that has locked itself up until a repairman arrives (or until you google the problem and learn the secret code, whichever comes first). This is by design! In fact, the first tech page I found said, in no uncertain terms, The consumer will not be able to restore operation. And the reason for this intentional lockup (one more time)? The water isn't heating properly.

The moronicity of this is mind-boggling, and is only highlighted by a note at the end of the video: in later models, in order to reduce the number of nuisance lockups, they changed the software so that it only freezes the machine if the problem occurs three times in a row. So it's three strikes and you're out—but we're not going to tell you about the first two strikes! Oops—your bad! Call a repairman!

Now, call me naïve, call me an optimist, but if it were me designing the software, I'd have it finish washing the fracking dishes, you idiot! And then it could inform us of the problem. (Sir or Madame, our sensors indicate your wash water might not have reached an optimum temperature. We suggest you have this condition looked at.)

Sometimes I am just amazed at the stupidity of the engineering in American-made appliances. How did we ever make it to the Moon? Honestly. (And don't even get me started about the half-cent gasket in our Calypso—by Whirlpool!—clothes washer that caused flooding twice on our new laundry-room floor.)

Really. Don't get me started.

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are." —W. Somerset Maugham

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At 8:11 PM, Blogger Jarne said...

Sounds like the engineers played too many video games in their youth. Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right B, A, Start for infinite lives and access to your dishes!

At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It reminds me all too well of the Boeing-Vertol LRV streetcar (intended for Boston) as well as GM's RTS bus (intended for most other U.S. cities). Sum boids nevah loin ...

At 10:25 PM, Blogger substandardTim said...

excellent use of the word "moronicity"

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Yes, all of those things. (I thought the Boeing light-rail-vehicles actually ran in Boston for a while--until they all broke down, proving that being a maker of airplanes does not necessarily qualify you for building streetcars or trains!)

At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe engineers should be forced to use their stupid products for their entire lives. (It's called dogfooding, or "Eat what you feed your dog").

I am staying at a rental for four months, just discovered the washing machine beeps continously until you open it, no because it has a problem, but because it has finished washing the dishes.

Mind = blown. I didn't know about this, so set washing machine and went to bed. It beeped from 1am till I gathered enough strengh to shut it up, at 7am.

How stupid can these people get? My dishes wont explode because they're clean or something, so shut the F*** UP!


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