Opinion: Making lawnmower repairs


Commentary by Ward Degler

My lawnmower is a Wheelhorse. One built by Toro. I’m not sure when it was made, but Toro purchased Wheelhorse in 1986 for $8 million. I bought mine from the woman across the street several years ago when she decided to pull up stakes and move to South Carolina.

At the time I bought the machine, she told me she had it serviced every year by X-company for a reasonable fee. I thought it was a fair price and called them to pick up my mower for servicing.

What I didn’t know was that the company had been purchased by another firm that I had never heard of, and after keeping my mower for months (“We’re waiting for parts” was the answer I got every time I called), they charged me an enormous fee.

When I asked why the high price, they gave me a preconceived response that included an oil change, a lube, new belts and major adjustments.

Fast forward to last week. I’m still recovering from surgery, so my son came over to mow the lawn. That’s when the belt broke. And the search for a new one commenced.

My son did all the research and bought at least three belts that didn’t fit. I asked him why he didn’t just order from the parts list for the mower.

“It no longer exists,” he said.

“Why?” I wanted to know.

“The mower is obsolete, too old. They no longer provide parts for it.”

I was incredulous. So was my son.

“I can get parts for a 1935 Ford, but I can’t get parts for a relatively new mower?” I marveled.

That’s when I remembered. Some marketing genius came up with the idea that if you stop providing parts for products, people will be forced to buy new ones.

I first saw this in practice for computers. The repair guy said, wistfully, that he couldn’t get parts for my eight-year-old computer. “But I’ve got a newer one that I can let you have for a good price.”

The good news is my son finally found a belt for my mower that works. And it is working fine.

At least for today.