No mercy in manufacturer’s guidelines

I opened my e-mail last week to find correspondence from Philips Sonicare. I got on their e-mailing list back in 2000 when I registered my purchase of their fancy schmancy Sonicare electric toothbrush with its timed brushing cycles. When I got braces, my orthodontist recommended I purchase a Sonicare to ensure I brushed long enough in those hard to reach areas.

The only thing it really ensured was the Philips folks would still be periodically contacting me nine years later, despite my having lost possession of the Sonicare in my 2004 divorce. My ex-spouse should have to at least take the e-mail harassment along with the toothbrush. It’s only fair.

According to the recent e-mail reminder, “Philips Sonicare users have said it…and studies confirm it — a new brush head is clinically proven to remove more plaque than a brush head that is 3 months old.” In other words, run to the store and buy another of their pricey replacement heads lest your teeth rot out of your head! Hey, it could happen.

While manufacturers insist they include the guidelines for our own good, we’re not stupid. The cheerful appearing “How to Care For Your New Product” hints are really there to be violated by consumers, then used to invalidate our claims when something goes wrong with the product.

Here I reference a heated mattress pad purchased three years ago. After it partially quit working its first season of service, I called the manufacturer. First question, “Did you use it for a purpose other than for which it is intended?” My mind raced to what that might be. Tablecloth? Bath towel? Keeping my pump warm at night? But I answered, “No.”

Next they wanted to know if I had ever laundered it. “Yes.” One of my kids had wet the bed, necessitating a thorough machine washing.

“What washer setting did you use?” I paused. That had been a week and several loads of laundry ago, during the middle of the night. As I did not give the correct answer of “gentle cycle” with the necessary degree of certainty, I found myself out buying a new mattress pad. A different brand, I might add.

The experience taught me to role-play these kinds of conversations ahead of time with an attorney friend before placing the call to the manufacturer. I’m avoiding ending up in court someday, having to produce a falsified spreadsheet showing the frequency with which I flipped my mattress or vacuumed the coils behind the fridge.

Manufacturer’s guidelines give companies an excuse to remain in regular touch with us so they can sell us other products and accessories with equally oppressive guidelines. The sweeper shop where I purchased a (used!) basic Panasonic model four years ago for $50 recently reeled me in on a replacement part issue, then tried to sell me an $80 tune-up, which sucked more powerfully than any of their vacuums.

I’m sick of being at the mercy of fear- and guilt-based manufacturer’s guidelines. Doing everything by the book, in this case the manufacturer’s guideline booklet, would be a full-time job. You’d be endlessly cleaning grills, dryer vents, VCR heads, and ceiling fan blades; replacing furnace filters, air fresheners, and smoke detector batteries; and polishing furniture, shoes, appliances, silverware, and jewelry. Better quit your day job.

Just ask my friend, Stan, who I secretly believe has remained unmarried and childless for 76 years just so he can remain in perfect compliance with all manufacturers’ guidelines. So faithful is he to the “Every 3,000 miles” oil change concept that he’ll stop on the spot when he hits another 3,000 miles and call for a tow to the dealership where he purchased his (accessorized with brainwashing) car.

Writing this has reminded me to return to the jeweler where Kerry got my wedding ring. It’s time for a six-month “inspection” to keep its warranty valid. The real question is, should I barf at this trumped up requirement before or after I go? Better yet, while I’m there. Right into a case of over-priced jewelry! Justifiable vomitcide.

I surely hope they observe the cleaning product guidelines, using the proper amount of disinfectant when cleaning up the mess. It’s only fair.

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