It was a real Victor Meldrew moment. The first of two, actually. There I was in Switzerland a couple of months ago, rooted to the spot in our nearest big-town washing machine retailer, eyes popping and mouth hanging open…
But let’s start at the beginning. Washing machines, as we all know, don’t last forever and mine had died. I did my research on the www and found a nice machine, but in spite of over 20 years in Switzerland I’m a canny Scot at heart, so instead of ordering online I went to see my chosen machine in the flesh, so to speak.
The machine I’d picked out cost 1,100 Swiss francs. That’s at the expensive end of the cheap machines, by Swiss standards. Now I’m the first to admit that numbers aren’t my thing – they always seem a bit meaningless. I was hopeless at maths at school. So big prices can be difficult to manage, but this one didn’t look too bad.
And it was as well I did go to the shop, because ‘my’ machine looked like someone’s four-year-old had assembled it with glue and sticky-backed plastic. A charming young salesman saw my dilemma and led me to another machine. This was the updated version of the one I’d had since last century, so I was happy to negotiate. The catalogue price for this machine was Fr.2,200, and in the end I was getting it for Fr.1,500. (A mid-range Swiss price)
So far, so good. I was happy with my new choice and coping quite well with the numbers when the young salesman ruined my day completely.
‘Come and look at this!’ he trilled, pulling me across to the other side of the shop. I stood in front of another shiny white machine. It was a bit like the one I’d just agreed to buy, actually. In fact, it was very like the one I was buying… Not to put too fine a point on it, it was identical. The only difference was the company name. Oh, and the price. This one was Fr.2,700.
‘Yes, it’s exactly the same!’ the salesman assured me happily. ‘The two companies are affiliated, and some people do buy into the name. So you’re getting a bargain, aren’t you?!’
That was my Victor Meldrew moment number one. Sorry – but what possible justification is there for a price difference on that scale?? My Fr.1,500 (and presumably the shop is still making a healthy profit here) is only a bit more than HALF the price of EXACTLY the same machine with a different company name on the front? That’s a potential to save Fr.1,200 with every machine – think what good could be done with all that money. There are people starving right here in Europe as well as in the wider world, and other people are setting crazy prices and making enormous profits – where is the justice here, where is the compassion? I was and am gobsmacked.
The second Victor Meldrew moment? That came when I was in the UK for the launch of The Paradise Trees. I was wandering round a department store one afternoon and spotted washing machines in the far corner. A kind of masochistic fascination took over… across the store I went, and there was the machine I’d bought, the Fr.2,200 one for which I had paid Fr.1,500 and which was identical to the Fr.2,700 one.
In Glasgow, it cost £539.
Like I said at the start, numbers are meaningless. Give me a book any day.
Number, numbers, my brain hurts… Don’t you think that they make washing machines that are far too complicated, and use that as a justification for charging silly money? I mean, most of us use a hot wash (sometimes) and a ‘let’s get it done really fast’ wash (more often) and a general-purpose 40 degree wash most of the time. But machines have about a million programmes, some of them so specialised that you can only use them to wash a yellow cashmere cardigan on a Wednesday. It’s just more to go wrong! Give us machines with One Big Button! They’d be cheaper too… Hope your machine is running happily and, well, you know, doing the actual washing.
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You’re absolutely right. I’m afraid though that the days of One Big Button are well and truly gone. The thing that really b**s me is the length of the programmes, I mean who washes anything for 2 hours 15 minutes?? Thankfully there’s the economy button… And at least there’s a chance of a washing machine lasting a whole decade, and divided by 10 the price is less scary, even in francs. And short of returning to nature and doing the washing à la great-great-grandma, we’re stuck with it.
Give my love to your vacuum cleaner 🙂 I hope you won’t need my condolences…
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We we are in other countries on holiday, I usually give up comparing prices as it gets too silly or depressing seeing the differences between the two countries. As for buying ‘white goods’, I really dislike it: that whole comparing models (some manufacturer’s make about 10 almost identical models), choosing one, shopping around and learning to use something different.
I’m just glad it’s not something we have to do very often! Of course we live in Switzerland, earn Swiss wages and pay Swiss prices so it’s fair enough. It’s just crazy the way prices are so different in different places, tho’. At the moment we’re ‘building’ a flat, and when I compare the prices we have here with the prices on ‘Location Location Location’ etc… WAAH!! But then, it’s only money. It can’t buy happiness tho’ a functioning washing machine goes a long way towards an happy washing day!
I’m impressed that the UK is cheaper for something, given current (ha ha) exchange rates. Remind me not to shop for white goods in Switzerland. I suppose that’s the price we pay for not having the Euro. Never thought about it before.
We don’t have the Euro either; we still have good old-fashioned Swiss Francs. White goods are massively more expensive here, as is housing. Most other things are more comparable though Switzerland tends to be a bit more expensive than the UK. But then wages are higher too. Where I live we’re right on the border with both Austria and Germany, both of which are less expensive than Switzerland though there’s a limit to how much meat etc you can bring in as a ‘day tourist’. The only things I really stock up with from Germany are shower gel etc and cosmetics, which are about a third of the Swiss price. Look after the pennies…
Reblogged this on linda huber and commented:
My 9-year-old washing machine has been making ominous noises recently, and I was reminded of the horrors I experienced while buying it. So while I’m deep in the editing cave, I thought I’d reblog the post I wrote then. Grab your calculators and buckle up…
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Wow! I can’t believe how expensive washing machines are in Switzerland. Good luck with finding a new one, Linda. x
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Yes – and those were the prices in 2013 when I wrote the post!! Heaven knows how much the next machine will cost. I’m keeping the old one for as long as it’s still limping along…
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