What happens to broken kitchen appliances when they’re returned to retailers?

What happens to broken kitchen appliances when they’re returned to retailers?

The fate of returned kitchen appliances that are still under warranty has been revealed.

A covert investigation by Consumer NZ using GPS trackers showed that a cheap food mixer from The Warehouse ($80) and one from Kmart ($75) went straight to the dump without being checked.

The food mixer had an easy-to-fix repair as the Consumer NZ team had simply disconnected a single wire from the power supply. One of the investigators, Tom Riste-Smith, commented that “no-one opened the box, no-one looked at them they were just buried in a big hole in the ground”.

Fair Go took a cheap food mixer with an identical fault to repair a cafe enthusiast. Without knowing what the problem was, Richard Ford opened up the appliance and was able to spot and fix the fault within minutes. He’s appalled that a new mixer that requires only a simple repair job could be dumped without any checking.

“That’s a real problem, it has value, it shouldn’t be thrown away.”

Kmart didn’t respond to Fair Go when we asked for an explanation. The Warehouse did reply, saying it works with a third party national return center which evaluates all appliances that are returned within their warranty to decide if they should be repaired, recycled or dumped.

It admits that in this case, that didn’t happen and says it will learn from the experience and continue to improve its service.

Consumer NZ isn’t surprised that both of these cheap food mixers went straight to landfill. Riste-Smith pointed out that “realistically an $80 food mixer is not going to be repaired, there’s no margin for that but I feel like companies should build in the cost of recycling as part of their social responsibility”.

The Consumer NZ team reproduced the same fault in two other food mixers that were more expensive – a Breville one from Briscoes ($450) and a Kenwood/De’Longhi one from Farmers ($740, but bought for $520 on sale).

The GPS trackers showed that these appliances hung around in their respective stores for several weeks.

Then both items were tracked up to Auckland. The Breville’s mixer went straight to an Appliance Outlet store which repairs, refurbishes and resells such goods.

Investigator Paul Smith told Fair Go “we watched these mixers go back on sale on their website for $150, their full price is $450, so someone could get a real bargain by picking up a refurbished mixer with a full warranty for $150”. This is the best case scenario.

Briscoes told Fair Go it encourages all its suppliers to repair and resell to a third party after appliances have been thoroughly checked for safety.

The even more expensive Kenwood Food Mixer stopped at Auckland Airport at a NZ Post courier depot. The team thought perhaps it was headed overseas for repair, but shortly after it was taken to an appliance recycling center and stripped down for its parts. While this is better than being dumped, it isn’t as sustainable as repairing and reselling the item.

A statement from De’Longhi, owner of the Kenwood brand, says that its repair and resell service will be expanded from Australia to New Zealand in the next 12 months. It adds that at present, all products are sent to a recycling initiative, rather than being dumped in landfill.

Consumer NZ is keen to highlight the problem of too many appliances needlessly going to landfill. It wants companies to act, but Smith also has this advice for consumers who want to do their bit.

“I would say don’t go to The Warehouse or Kmart where you’ll get a cheap mixer that if broken will go straight to landfill, instead go to a place like Appliance Outlet where you can get one that’s refurbished because it prevents another appliance getting thrown away and you’ll be getting a better mixer for the price too.”

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2022-06-13 21:48:22