April 19, 2014

Check Your Cart at Sears.com

Is Sears.com tacking on added purchases without your consent? Automatically adding on a service package is up-selling and Sears.com may have been doing just that.

Edgar Dworsky, a nationally-respected consumer advocate and founder of the website ConsumerWorld.org, says he went on the site on Black Friday weekend looking for a refrigerator. He found a model he liked, put it in his cart and noticed that a five-year service contract for $469 had been added without his consent.

Dworsky points out that the charge for the service plan is easily removed from the cart if the customer spots it. If not, they could overpay from $110 to $550.

“How many shoppers have in their mind, ‘Oh, I’d better check the cart just to make sure they haven’t slipped something in there that I didn’t order?’”

Dworsky shopped for various appliances on Sears.com and he says the same thing happened every time: an expensive five-year extended warranty turned up in the shopping cart.

After Mr. Dworsky contacted Larry Costello, Sears’ public relations director, who says the company has received “very little negative customer feedback” about its up-sell policy,the company says it will change the way its website operates. Sears will now make their extended warranties an optional add-on, just as other major appliance sellers do.

Dishwasher Buying Guide – Special Features You May – Or May Not Need

Dishwashers come with many options to help you get sparkling clean dishes. Some come standard on a basic machine and some will add considerably to the price of your new dishwasher. Read on to see what Consumer Reports had to say about these features.

Adjustable racks and loading aids
Racks that adjust up or down, adjustable tines, and silverware and stemware holders let you reconfigure the interior and organize the contents. Those devices increase flexibility, especially when you cook for a crowd, and they can help accommodate large and oddly shaped items.

Dirt sensor
It adjusts water use and cycle length to soil level. A dirt sensor can improve efficiency, but not all work well.

Rinse/hold cycle
It lets you rinse dirty dishes before you’re ready to start a full cycle. This cycle can reduce odors and prevents soil from setting while you accumulate enough dirty dishes for a full load.

Filters
These keep wash water free of food that could be redeposited on clean dishes. There are two types: self-cleaning and manual.
Most filters are self-cleaning; a grinder pulverizes the debris and flushes it down the drain. That’s convenient but noisy. Some models have a filter without a grinder. It’s quieter, but it needs periodic cleaning, a job that takes a few minutes. It’s your choice.

Special wash cycles
Most dishwashers come with at least three cycles: light, normal, and heavy (pots and pans). Some offer pot-scrubber, soak/scrub, steam clean, china/crystal, or sanitizing cycles as well. The three basic cycles should be enough for most chores–even for baked-on food. A sanitizing option that raises water temperature above the typical 140° F doesn’t necessarily clean better.

Stainless-steel tub
Steel is more durable than plastic, but models with a plastic tub tend to cost far less. While light-colored plastic might become discolored, gray-speckled plastic should resist staining. Even a plastic tub should last longer than most people keep a dishwasher.

Hidden touchpad controls
Controls mounted along the top edge of the door are strictly a styling touch. They’re hidden when the door is closed. You can’t see cycle progress at a glance. (Partially hidden controls are a good compromise. They show that the machine is running and often display remaining cycle time.)

How to Save Money Buying a New Appliance

Buying a new appliance is expensive and everyone wants to get a good value for their money.  Sometimes getting less can be more.  According to Consumer Reports, some of the extra features offered on new washers and dishwashers are not needed and just add unnecessarily to the final cost.

Take new dishwasher cycles with names like “turbo zone” and “power scour.” For those, special nozzles are placed in the back of the dishwasher to take care of tough jobs.

Although those cycles do a good job, Consumer Reports testers say they are not essential.

“We find many dishwashers, using just the regular setting, do a great job cleaning our very tough challenge: baked-on brownie mix,” Consumer Reports tester Kim Kleman said.

You can also save by skipping the often-pricier stainless steel tubs and get a plastic tub in your dishwasher.

“People love the stainless steel look, but how many people are looking inside your dishwasher?” Kleman said. “The plastic tub should hold up just fine.”

Many washing-machine models come loaded with lots of extra features – such as cycles made specifically for bedding, active wear and sanitizing. Consumer Reports, though, says you should take a pass on those options.

“Stick with the regular heavy-duty, normal, delicate and white cycles. That’s all you really need,” Kleman said.

As for dryers, don’t be wowed by claims like extra-large capacity, super capacity and king-sized capacity.

“We find most dryers hold plenty, whether it says super capacity or not,” Kleman said.

Although matching washer-dryer sets look nice, they can cost more.

If you’re buying them at the same time, Consumer Reports recommends getting the best-performing, most efficient washer – one that extracts the most water from clothes.

Among dryers, get the one that has a moisture sensor.

Consumer Reports ranked its Best Buys among dishwashers, washers and dryers:

  • Dishwasher: Sears’ Kenmore 1374 for $650.
  • Washer: Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940F for $650.
  • Dryers: GE DBVH512EF[WW] for $650; GE DPSE810EG[WT] for $500.

Keep to this strategy: Don’t pay for features you don’t need.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances- Dishwashers

If you have a dishwasher in your home, you know how convenient it is. Many don’t consider a dishwasher to be a luxury anymore, but a necessity. (Especially if you have a large family) I happen to know of some homes that now have two dishwashers – one is always full. If you are shopping for a dishwasher, here are a few facts from appliance.net and about.com to consider before you head out to the store.

The first consideration is capacity: An 18″ dishwasher generally is adequate for 2 – 3 persons and can hold up to 6 or 8 standard place settings. A regular 24″ model has a capacity for 12 to 14 standard place settings and is sufficiently family-sized. The number of place settings can be deceiving and for this reason, I would recommend a standard 24″ dishwasher for family use. A compact 18″ unit is great for a couple or small kitchen and occasional use.

Your choice of whether to buy a built-in, portable or countertop model will depend greatly on whether you are renting or own your home. Each model has its own benefits and constraints.

Built-in Under-Counter Dishwashers and Dish Drawers

dishwasher drawers

These built-in installed units provide the best operating convenience, being permanently located for easy access with no need to relocate it to the kitchen sink every time you need to use it. Since there is no hook-up to the faucet, your kitchen sink can be used for other purposes at the same time your dishwasher is running.

These dishwashers do require a plumbing installation to your home’s waterworks, and instructions are usually available with the purchase, or through the manufacturer or dealer.

You will also lose a fair size cupboard for this installation, with the standard width of dishwashers being 24″, and compact ones that have an 18″ width. If you have ample cupboards in your kitchen, the convenience of a built-in dishwasher will quickly outweigh the loss of storage space.

After installation, if perchance you have a 6″ to 8″ width of cupboard space left under-counter, this provides a terrific narrow storage cupboard for cookie sheets, trays and muffin tins and a custom hinged door is easy to cut and hang for this size of cupboard.

Dish drawers are a wonderful dishwasher style providing a very stylish look for any decor with ease of drawer access and increased capacity convenience. However this newer styling comes with a higher price tag, and installation may differ slightly from a regular built-in model.

Keep in mind that if you are planning a move in the future, a permanently installed dishwasher would be expected to remain with the home. For this reason, built-in dishwashers or dish drawers are not advisable for a rental home or apartment.

Portable Free-Standing Dishwashersportable dishwasher

Suitable for a family and with no special plumbing installation required, portable dishwashers are a great option for apartment and rental home dwellers. They only require a parking space in your kitchen, and operation requires relocating it and connecting with an adapter to the kitchen hot water faucet when required.

These units generally have the same features and capacity as their built-in counterparts, and they also provide additional counter workspace since most have a butcher block or durable counter top. There is also no storage space sacrificed for these models, but it is advisable to review your kitchen format for the most convenient location for it. At one time these units were higher priced, but now they are comparable in price to built-in models. It’s the capacity and additional features that mostly affect price.

Countertop or Tabletop Dishwashers

These are the most economical of all models and require a counter space to locate them close to the sink. Operating connection is a simple faucet hook-up and units generally run as long as the faucet is turned on. Capacity is usually a place setting for four and cookware or serving pieces would require handwashing. Dishes can either be air or hand dried. However, these are impractical if counter space is at a premium and inadequate for a large family.

A dishwasher that proudly displays the Energy Star symbol will save you energy dollars compared to non-qualified models. Some dishwashers even have low water features or ‘quick wash’ options which will benefit you if you are paying for measured water use. A delay-start timer will start your dishwasher when the energy rates are lower. Read here about Energy Star and how much energy and money you can save.

Another feature you’ll like is a built-in food disposer. It grinds up food particles and flushes them out with the waste water. So they won’t end up re-deposited on your dishes. This is certainly a priority feature if you do not like to scrape, pre-wash or rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Installed right in the unit, you wouldn’t even know it’s there. If unsure if this feature is included, don’t hesitate to ask the dealer.

The most important dishwashing cycles  are Light, Regular, Pots & Pans and Econo settings. The econo cycle will air dry dishes saving on heating element energy costs. Additional enhanced cycles are Glass or Stemware, Rinse, Quick Wash and Sani Wash, which all add to convenience benefits. Some dishwashers use sensor technology to detect how dirty the dishes are and then adjust the cycle accordingly. You can start the washer with a touch of a button, and this feature prevents water from being wasted. There has been a trend toward stainless steel interiors. Many manufacturers now make–or are introducing–models that have durable stainless-steel tubs. stainless steel dishwasherThese can’t compete in price with models utilizing plastic tubs, but they are quieter, easier to maintain and more efficient during drying cycles because the metal reflects heat better. They can employ a lower-wattage heating element for drying, which saves energy and helps protect heat-sensitive items on the lower rack. A stainless steel washing arm will not rust and will be more durable.

Performance is influenced by the number of washing levels – how and where the jets of water are distributed during the washing cycle. Check the size of the spray holes on the wash arms. The smaller the holes are, the more scrubbing power they provide your dishwasher. A three tier system will provide a good washing and more levels will ensure even better coverage, but price will be influenced. Detergent and rinse agent dispensers are usually standard features. A child safety lock is important if you have small children.

If you have an open floorplan, and your kitchen connects directly to your family room, or if you plan to entertain in your kitchen, sound  will be an important consideration. The amount of insulation around the dishwasher tub reduces the noise, so check to see how thick the insulation is. Thicker insulation will make the dishwasher more quiet.
Standard dishwashers usually have two racks for dishes but some models now have three expanding on loading options and capacity. Special features can also include adjustable shelves, racks built to accommodate tall glasses or stemware, odd shaped and tall items, or convertible racks for multi uses. A small closed rack for baby bottles and rings is also available on some models. The position of the silverware tray is usually a matter of preference, and is generally not influenced by washing performance.

Dishwasher size, type, washing cycles, special features and energy savings are a few things you’ll want to consider before you check out those shiny new dishwashers on the showroom floor.