What is Wrong with Appliances in South Africa?

Seriously, buying a kitchen or other electrical appliance here is definitely a challenge. For one, you never know what kind of plug it’s going to come with – Euro or South African? Three-prong or two-prong Euro? this makes a difference in what kind of outlet adapter you need. And the two-prong Euro plugs are sometimes flimsy, simply falling out of the outlet.

But there are quality issues as well. I have a friend who swears that European manufacturers send their B and C quality products to Africa, the ones they couldn’t sell in Europe because of production defects. The following story another friend told me recently seems to underscore that point:

I have had the most interesting time buying small appliances here in South Africa. First, I purchased three clock radios for our bedrooms.  Right off I realized that one of the radios could not be tuned into any stations without huge amounts of static. Took it back for a refund.  Several days later, my daughter found that hers no longer played the radio either.  Took it back for a refund as well — by the way, these were Phillips (usually quite a good name, I believe!)

Earlier this week, I bought an electric water kettle (Russell Hobbs) that upon first usage dripped water from the bottom.  Not just a little water — it gushed out the bottom.  Upon its return to Checkers, the clerk shrugged and suggested that someone must have dropped the box.  So I drove to Boardmans where someone suggested I will find high quality goods and purchased a Mellerware kettle there.  Worked great the first day.  Yesterday, it wouldn’t turn on. I returned it today and got a different one.  Guess what?  It doesn’t work!  It won’t stay on, just keeps popping off.  If I hold down the switch for 2 minutes, I can make a lovely cup of tea and deliberate my incredible string of bad luck. 

I guess I’ve learned my lesson — always keep the boxes and receipts!  I found myself digging through the rubbish bin at the street to rescue the boxes from the clock radios.

Ah, again and again those pesky clock radios keep cropping up. Note to all prospective American expats in South Africa: Buy battery alarm clocks (or dual voltage iHomes, or just use your darn cellphones) and you will have taken one huge hassle off your post-arrival to-do list!
I couldn’t help but laugh out lout at the vision of this friend going through the garbage at the street. That is SO  something that happened to me regularly when we first came here. It would have fit quite nicely into my Dustbin Saga. And if you’ll remember, I would have had no trouble finding receipts from three weeks back, if I had put my mind to it, because the garbage workers were on strike and there was a huge pile sitting at the bottom of our driveway!
Oh, and I’ll soon join the ranks of expat appliance shoppers in Joburg. Our trusted transformer just blew up (it had suspicious smoke coming out for weeks) and now we are without a toaster, Kitchenaid, waffle iron, and panini press. Of course it gave up its struggle the day Sunshine had to  make cookies for her market day at school, but once again that old box of German appliances in our garage has come to the rescue, in the form of an ancient, and I mean ancient, hand-held Braun mixer. What a testament to Braun that it has survived Noisette’s student days in the early 90s and our years in Singapore and then about 10 unused years in a bin with other similar relics of a different era.
But we still need a new toaster. I’m already bracing myself for switches that won’t work and toast flying all over my kitchen.

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