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I know — it doesn’t have anything to do with computers, but it has a lot to do with technology and hardware, so that’s why I’m writing this story today.
Back in 1993, when we bought the 4-bedroom house with the 1.5 acres out in the country in the Frostbite State. I bought a 14-horsepower Sears Craftsman rider mower with a Kohler engine. Within the first 2 weeks, its transmission started making horrible noises.
Sears took it back. I paid several hundred dollars more and got a Sears Craftsman 18 horsepower rider mower with a wider cut. That mower did a great job for more than a year before it started giving me problems.
Things became loose and rattled loudly. Other things started falling off of it — I spent many hours walking around the yard, following the path that I had partially mowed, looking for bolts, adjusters, and other parts. The drive belt broke. The mower belt broke. And no matter what part it needed, I had to carefully study a multi-page schematic in my owners manual and decipher the exact part number before I could drive to Sears and try to buy a replacement part — even if all I needed was a new mowing blade. Then, invariably, I’d discover that the local store didn’t carry that part in stock, so I’d have to order it, pay for it in advance, and wait a week or more for them to call and tell me that it had arrived.
After just three of four years, that mower was completely worn out. Despite the fact that I regularly greased it, its ball joints were so worn that you could turn its steering wheel almost a quarter of a turn before its front wheels would start to turn. And its blades were made of such soft material that I had to sharpen them every other week or they’d completely round-off and tear the grass instead of cutting it.
I finally gave up on that mower after it cost me $150 to have a local welding shop re-weld a part of the mowing deck that had fallen off. That’s when I gave it away to a neighbor and finally bought a John Deere rider mower that served me well until we moved to the Sunshine State. At that point, I sold the Deere to a different neighbor who was extremely happy to buy a less-than-two-year-old John Deere rider mower for 1/2 price.
In 2004, when we bought our dream home here in the Sunshine State, it came with a normal-sized suburban lot, so I went looking for a push mower instead of a rider. As luck would have it, Sears was having a mower sale at the time. I bought a Sears Craftsman self-propelled push mower on sale. Given my bad experience with my two Sears Craftsman rider mowers, I knew that I was taking a chance to buy a Sears Craftsman push mower, but I figured that there isn’t as much that can go wrong on a push mower as there is on a rider mower.
That turned out to be true. But I learned that there’s still a lot that can go wrong on a push mower.
Within a few months, the mower’s drive system stopped working. I took it in for warrantee repair. A few months later, it had the exact same problem. I took it in for repair again. After the fourth of fifth repair in the first sixteen months, it took me countless telephone calls and hours of waiting “on hold” to finally convince Sears to give me a refund for that mower.
But when I went to the store to return the mower and get my refund, they told me that it wasn’t a refund — it was a store credit. I would have to spend it at Sears.
So I bought a different Sears Craftsman push mower — one that had been highly rated by users on the Internet.
That mower is now 2 years old. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that it was really hard to pull down the “safety bar” that you have to hold down in order for the engine to run. It quickly got worse until a few days ago, when the spring on the engine that controls that lever broke. My next-door neighbor and buddy, Mike, deduced that heat from the engine had made the spring brittle. I took off the top engine cover and tried to bend the end of that spring so that I could keep using it, but It broke again.
Home Depot had a spring that fit as a replacement for about $4, but it wasn’t strong enough. I’d let go of the safety bar and it would just lay there, instead of popping up and shutting off the engine.
This morning, I called Sears. They told me that they don’t keep that spring in stock, so I’d have to order it, pay for it in advance and then wait for them to call me, to tell me when it arrives. It would cost $12, plus $1 for shipping, plus tax. That’s almost $15 for one 2-inch spring.
I told them “No, thanks.”
An hour later, I found a suitable replacement spring at a local Ace Hardware store. A package of two of them cost only $3.69 plus tax. But it wasn’t quite long enough, and when I stretched it to fit the 2″ gap, it was way too strong, making it impossible to pull down the safety bar. After studying the mower’s safety mechanism for a few minutes, I bent the left end of the spring to make it vertical and hooked that end onto the safety lever itself, instead of on the spring-mounting slot on the left end of that lever. Now it works just fine.
Does anyone want to buy a Sears Craftsman 6.75 horsepower, 22″ cut, self-propelled mower? I’ll let you have it for half price.
And I’ll even throw in an extra spring for its safety bar.
Update, October 7, 2011: I finally bought a new Toro lawn mower today.
Update, June 5, 2012: Unfortunately, my new Toro lawn mower turned out to be a horrible nightmare.
Update, June 22, 2012: Fortunately, I found and fixed a Honda mower that one of my neighbors had thrown away, and I’ve been happily using it ever since.
Update, August 15, 2012: My Sears Craftsman lawn mower found a new owner today.
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