My GE Dishwasher Tragedy, Manufacturer Parts, Car Repairs and Doctor Visits: Let's Be Mad as Hell and Not Take it Anymore!

09/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

I had some experiences recently I thought I'd share that may have happened to you. Experiences that cost time and money and seem designed to screw us, while perpetuating a steady flow of income for other parties. In the first case, before you remind me, I will readily admit I caused the problem. My objection is with the available solution that now confronts me.

I bought a General Electric portable dishwasher a number of years ago. It has worked fine, and I have no complaint with its operation. The problem is its design. In order to connect it to my sink, I have to fasten a unicouple -- a device that delivers water to and from the dishwasher -- to the faucet and over time it has become worn, making it a bit more difficult to disengage. After the last usage when I tried to take it off, the entire faucet adapter (which connects it with the faucet) came along with it. Try as I might to detach the unicouple, I couldn't get it to budge. I finally tapped it against the sink and, in the process, the unicouple broke.

Okay, it was my fault. However, instead of being able to replace a cheap plastic part that might have set me back a few bucks, I am stymied by the fact that the unicouple, designed by mega-corp GE, is attached to two hoses that extend well inside the machine.

Now it's a humongous job. The part alone costs over a hundred dollars, not to mention a repairman who would charge anywhere from $75-$100 an hour. A new machine costs about $450, so it'd be dumb to pay so much just to get my dishwasher repaired. However, the simple question is why wasn't the machine designed so that the unicouple might click in and out of the hoses or attach with common screws, enabling a simple and inexpensive replacement instead of combining all elements of the operation into one device? Not to mention the fact that the hoses go all the way inside the machine, requiring me to open the dishwasher up and figure out how to disconnect and reassemble the part.

It's absurd that a simple appendage made of cheap plastic and thus easily breakable under many circumstances cannot be replaced without undergoing the options I've described. And yet without the unicouple, the machine, even with its primary operating functions working perfectly, is now kaput!

And consumer headaches don't stop there. Have you looked under your car hood lately? In order to repair something otherwise very cheap, a mechanic often has to disassemble many of the parts to get to where your $5.95 hose or fuse might be. The other day a dashboard light came on in my Toyota Corolla -- one I'd never seen. I looked in my manual and discovered it was the "Check Engine Light." I went to my local PepBoys, and they said the "Check Engine Light could be a myriad of causes and they'd have to hook my car to an analysis machine, costing $90, which was in addition to any work they might have to do. Fortunately, I'd secured a coupon from their website for, among other things, checking the engine light. They happily agreed to do so and later informed me it was smog device related, referring me to a Toyota dealer.

As I was headed for an important appointment, I got their assurance that my engine was not in jeopardy and the car wouldn't break down. However, out of curiosity I called the Toyota dealership and gave them the engine analysis code number PO 404, and was told the repair could cost over $400.

I consulted the Internet about this PO 404 code -- thank God for Internet "Ask" sites -- and was advised the light might simply be due to a loose gas cap (which I tightened) or possibly some water in the gas. Such circumstances might correct themselves after a few days of driving. Sure enough in a couple of days the engine light went off.

But why is this "Check Engine Light" such a catchall of scary possibilities? There are separate light indicators for oil and battery and overheating problems. Since newer cars have computer systems, couldn't they have a number system that would identify the problem, e.g. a "32" appears on the dash, and your manual lists the problem or at least localizes the area of the dilemma?

Manufacturing CEOs do very little to reduce the need for maintenance work and perhaps there should be legislative enforcement requiring them to do so. We have laws about emission controls and gas mileage. Why not for manufacturing devices mandating modular parts that are easier to get to and for systems that would more easily identify the problem and not subject us to "analysis" costs?

And while I'm at it, there should be a recoupment procedure available when doctors make us wait an unreasonable amount of time. It's quite common to be made to wait more than an hour -- sometimes two and three -- and when you complain to the receptionist you are treated in a "how dare you" manner, as if it's unconscionable to gripe about a doctor. Not to mention the fact that many people are intimidated from doing so, perhaps after years of being told that that profession was the gold standard when nailing a husband.

A friend of mine, who has severe glaucoma, waited two and a half hours, having already inquired about the tardiness of the doctor after the first hour. Only after almost three hours of waiting was she told there were emergencies that had come through the door. My question, of course, is why weren't the waiting patients notified so that they could determine whether they wanted to reschedule? Indeed, my friend decided not to wait further and she told me the receptionist looked at her like she was crazy for not hanging out longer.

Why can't we bill a doctor for our time when we are kept waiting -- let's say -- more than half an hour? What's our time worth? After all, they have the cheek to bill us if we cancel our appointment within a short time frame or don't show up at all.

It's time to rise up and not take crap, like Peter Finch's character Howard Beale advised us in Paddy Chayefsky's classic film Network. Isn't it time for Anderson Cooper to do a Keeping Them Honest report on CNN? How about 60 Minutes on CBS, Dateline on NBC or 20/20 on ABC? Maybe Oprah could do a show.

Meanwhile, as I live alone and mostly cook for myself when I'm home, I'll just deal with washing my dishes the old fashioned way. As I said at the outset, this particular problem was my own fault. Pity the solution isn't less costly and complicated.

Michael Russnow's website is