Me And My MTD Snow Blower and the Blizzard of '011, A Rant
A snow blower by any name...
If I'd have chosen to name my snow blower Lucille, I'd have found myself singing, "You picked a fine time to leave me." If anyone has been watching the news, there's no secret that a major winter storm just blew through at least half of the country over the last 48 or so hours. Not in that news is, of course, the fact that my snow blower is sitting in a warehouse waiting to be repaired. Can I just take one short moment to give a little shout out to our friend Murphy? Can I simply state, here and now for the record, that your law stinks to high Heaven?
Three years is a lifetime!
The long and short is that just three years ago I had decided that a new snow blower was in order. I had had a Toro, but it was no longer in service, and well, the wife and I wound up buying a brand new 21" MTD snow blower. The MTD seemed like a good enough deal to me. For the money it had everything that I was looking for. It had a 4-cycle motor so there was no need to be mixing oil and gas like my old Toro, it had electric start, and if you think about it, MTD makes other popular brands like Yard Machine, Cub Cadet, and Troy-Bilt. So, there's some brand recognition behind the outfit. I could have faith that my MTD would give me great service for years to come. At their web site they claim that MTD has been a leader in designing and building easy to use, and durable outdoor equipment. Durable is a key word, right? They claim that quality is important, that they aim to provide products that are dependable, and then they use another interesting word in that sentence. "Value." They are saying they provide all of these things and value.
Big value, big savings, big line of bullsh....
The snow blower was on sale. I did pay less than $400 for it. Its price was normally around $500. Not a lot, perhaps, to some degree for such an item. You could throw the line at me that one gets what he pays for. But even Toro, which gets such great accolades for performance and lastability (if that's even a word) sells a snow blower for around that same amount of money. So if Toro can offer a good snow blower that is dependable, durable, and will have value for less than $500, surely so can MTD. And MTD says that they are a leader. That must mean something, right? They are saying their products aren't just good. They are saying their brands are better than the competition. They are saying that the competition is following their example. We all know marketing and advertising is usually a load of crap. Still. There must be at least an iota of truth to what they are saying. And it sounds like they'll back those claims up.
Nothing lasts forever
Did I tell you that the MTD snow blower I bought had electric start? You see, that really is a key thing to note here. I say this because just in the second year of owning my MTD snow blower, guess what broke? You guessed it. It was the pull cord. The pull cord, which was pulled maybe 10 or 15 times. The pull cord which did not get a lot of use because the electric start is a feature that just makes sense to use more often if you have it to use. So, if logic were to serve me correctly, I think I could come to the conclusion that if any of the two possible starting mechanisms were to fail, the most likely possibility would be that the most used mechanism would be the first thing to fail. In theory then, the pull cord would have long outlived the useful life of the electric start on my MTD snow blower. That really is another nut. But I thought I'd throw that little tidbit in for good measure.
Do not forget that three years is a lifetime!
In the third year, which would be this year, the auger broke. Completely. Shear pin and all. The entire part simply broke. After three years of use that part, that durable and dependable part has reached the pinnacle of its useful life? Of course, not to worry. Because, you see, there are places that you can take things to when things break, and they will fix them. So, of course I took my MTD snow blower to a place nearby my house who repairs snow blowers and other yard equipment like lawn mowers and the like. Granted, the repair shop generally deals in Toros and Husqvarnas, so MTD really isn't their thing. But they do repair them. I put my MTD snow blower in the repair shop on the 17th of January. On February 1st and 2nd, 2011, we were barraged with record breaking, blizzard conditions. I can't tell you if what we wound up getting really broke any records because I didn't look into it, but I can simply tell you that in my back yard, and in the front of my garage I had snow drifts that were nearly 4 1/2 to 5 feet high.
Of course the definition of dependability is parts breaking, and then not having replacement parts when they break...
According to the repair shop they were waiting on the part. According to the manufacturer they didn't have any parts to ship. Now why on earth would anyone expect that a company who makes snow blowers—and not just any snow blowers, but leading, dependable and durable snow blowers—would actually have parts to ship for their easy to use, quality machines? In the middle of winter this company, of all companies would not leave its customers high and dry—or cold and wet and shoveling in this case—would they? They simply were the best of the best, accordingly to all of that fine literature. Leading builders of outdoor power equipment. More simply cannot be said.
Who was it that once said you can't believe everything you read?
So, I decided to speak with the wonderful customer service folks at MTD. I wanted them to know that I was unhappy with their product. I wanted them to know that not only was I disappointed by the fact that my three year old MTD snow blower was in the shop needing repairs, after just three years, but that now because the company did not have any parts for my machine to be fixed, I was left to shovel record breaking blizzard snow.
Thank you very much MTD. What were you saying again about dependability? Quality? Value?
Their response was simply that parts were made available on the 31st and were being shipped accordingly. Great and fine. It still doesn't explain why parts weren't somewhere, already on a shelf ready to go. Being dependable means you are there when I need you to be there. It means when my parts fail, as parts sometimes will, that at the very least you'll be there to help me get through it. Quickly. Efficiently. My snow blower will be ready for anything that comes my way in short order.
Instead your response to me was, "What would you like me to do, sir? I told you the parts were unavailable, and now I'm telling you that they are available and will ship accordingly."
Clearly a point has been sorely missed, has it not?
I simply told the guy that, "Okay fine, I have a three year old machine that has had its main part fail. I accept that sometimes things fail for whatever reason. I'm not going to bust your chops about that even if I think your parts should last longer. I'm trying to be reasonable. Still, irregardless of whether or not that part failed, I simply want to know why there was not a part on hand? What does dependability mean, exactly to you because I know what it means to me? How about the words quality and value? What do those words mean to you?"
...and so the conversation shifts
This is where the "valued" customer gets his kick in the butt. "Well, what were you doing when the auger broke? How did you break it?"
Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You make a crap product—and I'll easily call it crap now because you've gone there—and now you are going to blame me for breaking it? I wasn't asking for a free auger. I was simply asking for you to have an auger to replace the one that broke. Who cares how the darn thing broke? We can acknowledge that it broke for a reason that could be the fault of me, or the fault of MTD. Fine. I'm cool with that. But again, the word I'm looking into is the one about dependability. Why aren't we seeing eye to eye on what that word means? Again, not to beat a dead horse, but to me it means at least reliable. It means, there when you need it. It means we all accept things go wrong, but we make them right in any event. It means we are prepared to deal with a matter, no matter what happens.
In their train of thought, then, a car that starts some of the time would be considered dependable. A city bus that showed up when it got there would be dependable. An emergency room doctor who was stationed hours from his hospital would be considered dependable. Need I go on? You simply cannot make a word fit what you want it mean.
As a sidebar thought, it does seem to suggest to me that perhaps applying for a job at MTD would be a great idea. According to their definition of the word dependable, so long as I showed up when I was "available," I'd still be considered to be a dependable employee. But I digress.
What it means to me?
What it all means to me is simply that MTD has chosen to use certain language in describing their company, their products, and their product's reliability. It means that they have only chosen words, and have not chosen to institute anything substantive to back those words up. It means that they are simply interested in leading customers into a false sense of value, of quality, of dependability, just to get them to choose MTD over their competition. Once the sale has been made, and the check has been cashed, MTD simply does not care. They will not back up their product, they will not honor their words,and quite literally they are simply not the company that they present themselves to be. Their actions speak louder than their words.
My first and last MTD
So, I bid farewell to MTD and their line of snow blowers. I bid farewell to ever owning a single Yard Machine, or Cub Cadet, or Troy-Bilt. You won't find a lawn mower, or a weed whacker, or a leaf blower bearing any of those names in my garage. Not ever. Even if you ever make a wrench, I'll know it, and it'll never see the light of day in any of toolbox of mine. That's my ammunition. That's my pay back to you because you didn't sell me something that you were willing to back up. That's my firing of you because you said you'd be dependable and you were not. You have sold me a bill of goods and I am keen on that. You have put the burden of my not having a snow blower to get me through this blizzard on my shoulders. Thank you to MTD for leaving me out in the cold to deal with the blizzard of 2011 with nothing but a shovel and a pipe dream about dependability. I'd tell you that your snow blower blows, but that would be offering a compliment where a compliment is certainly not due. Mine certainly didn't blow anything...
And unfortunately the hot air in your advertising won't be enough to melt my snow either!