I do real-life service calls in my local area as The Appliance Guru
. A while back, I needed to buy lid switches for a Whirlpool top loading washer for stock on The Guru Mobile
. I happened to see them online from a retailer selling through Amazon at an amazingly low price. I was suspicious because the price was so low, but the write-up at Amazon said the parts were genuine Whirlpool lid switches. So, rather than use my normal suppliers, I succumbed to the lure of cheap prices and bought two.
When the switches arrived, they were wrapped in plain plastic bags without the "FSP" logo that Whirlpool puts on all packaging for its parts (FSP stands for Factory Specification Parts and is Whirlpool's official OEM parts brand). Now, I've bought lots and lots of parts in my decades of doing appliance repair and I've always bought OEM parts for my service business. I thought this packaging was odd but shrugged it off thinking maybe this was how the company could offer the parts so cheaply; maybe they bought them in bulk directly from Whirlpool and then repackaged them in plain plastic bags. Heck, they looked just like the real thing and, after all, it said right on Amazon's site that they were genuine Whirlpool parts, so it must be true, right? ;)
Not long after I bought those switches, I had the occasion to use one on a service call. I installed the lid switch and got the washer spinning again, so far so good. Fortunately, I always check my work.
That lid switch is a safety device that's supposed to stop the washer from spinning when the lid is raised. I opened the lid and that tub kept spinning like my head after a couple bottles of cheap rice wine. And this was in a household with kids. Can you say, "nasty lawsuit with no viable defense?"
I removed the lid switch I had just installed and took it out to The Guru Mobile where I had a genuine FSP lid switch. In comparing them closely, I noticed the fake switch had some plastic mold flashing left on a mounting edge that made it mount at a tilt so that the switch was always in the closed (spin-enabled) position, regardless of whether the lid was open or not. The genuine FSP switch had no such manufacturing defect. I installed the genuine FSP switch and the machine worked perfectly.
I have heard from other professional Appliantologist Brethren in The Craft as well as DIYers who were similarly burned by parts being fraudulently sold as genuine OEM parts by third party sellers on places like Ebay and Amazon. In almost all cases, the parts would either not function properly or would break after a short period of time (days to weeks).
So, if even professional Appliantologists, who buy parts all the time, can get fooled into buying generic knock-off parts online, how's a hapless DIYer, who only buys parts once in a great while, supposed to know? Fear not, dear reader, for the Samurai shall explain how to avoid this trap. After all, if you are going to expend your precious blood, sweat, and tears to repair your appliance, you don’t want to sacrifice performance, longevity, or safety just to save a few measly beans on the part. That’s called being penny wise and part foolish!