Sunday, November 8, 2009

Of Irons and Other Small Appliances or Brand Power

What does it say about me as a powerless consumer, caught in the firm grasp of companies and their marketing machinery, when I find myself faced with three choices of brands I've never heard of, unable to choose one? Each one has a pretty picture on the box; each has the product's specifications detailed on the package, some in more languages than others; and each tells you where it was made. That should be enough information on which to base a decision, right?

But when the subliminal signs as to which is the best are absent, I find myself at a loss. This has happened to me again and again since moving to Turkey, and it's gone from unsettling and disorienting to just plain annoying.

A few years ago, I needed an iron. I quickly established that Tefal and Vestel were popular, but they seemed overpriced for what they were, no doubt to their ubiquitous ad campains; Philips, Braun, Bosch and Siemens were incredibly expensive and I probably didn't need to go that far. So what was left? What were the in-between brands? Where were the Black & Deckers of Turkey? I wanted quality without the cachet, I wanted a reasonable price. I was totally lost.

I eventually stumbled upon a simple Kenwood iron in a supermarket for 35 Lira or so, and bought it immediately. I'd owned a Kenwood microwave -- or was it a toaster oven?? -- back in Canada and had been happy with it, and the price was roughly what I would have spent in Canada.

It was not the best iron I'd ever used, but it was simple and functional, and I'd avoided spending close to 200 Lira, which seemed to be the average price of an iron in Turkey, so I was happy.

Until, a year and a half later, it suddenly stopped working. It just went cold. I dug up the receipt and warranty card (see the note at the end of this post about activating product warranties in Turkey), and enlisted my husband to call the company to find out what I had to do. But wouldn't you know it, for three days, there was either no answer, or the line was busy. Ready to throw in the towel, I resolved to buy a Philips or Braun or other expensive western European brand and pay several hundred Lira, if it meant that the iron would last ten years.

And here's where the plot takes an interesting turn: a friend of mine had two irons (why she had two irons I don't know) die in the same week as mine did. Strange, isn't it? But she, a little more patient than I, showed them to our grounds maintenance manager, who had his electrician fix them free of charge! So now I'm waiting for him to have mine looked at, and can hopefully postpone my entry into the world of expensive European appliances for a few more years.

Activating a product's warranty in Turkey:
1) pay the cashier
2) take your receipt and the manufacturer's warranty card that is inside the box to the customer service area of the store, where they sign and stamp it
3) keep the original packaging -- long, painful story here, don't want to recount it now. Just trust me.
4) within 7-10 days, call the service company on the warranty card to register; they may have a home pick-up and delivery service for people who register
**5) if you don't speak Turkish, bring a translator with you for steps 1-4. You don't want to do this alone.

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