Feature

Dooce vs. Maytag

Celebrity blogger Heather Armstrong's broken washing machine, and the power of Twitter

Maytag has just learned a lesson about customer service, the hard way, said Mitch Wagner in InformationWeek. Heather B. Armstrong, who writes the popular parenting blog Dooce, shelled out $1,300 for a high-end washing machine—complete with service plan—and it promptly broke. After frustrating encounters with repairmen and customer service, Armstrong urged her 1-million-plus Twitter followers not to buy Maytag appliances, and Whirlpool, which owns Maytag, dispatched someone to fix the machine within a day.

Maytag's lesson was about the power of celebrity—not the power of Twitter, said Michele McGinty in BeliefNet. I don't have a million Twitter followers, so I'd never be able to make the "hoopla" Heather Armstrong used to get Maytag to act, and to get an offer of a free washing machine from a competing company. "I'd be stuck waiting for the repairman just like everyone else"—which is why I'll never buy a $1,300 washing machine from Maytag now.

So, the question is, said Anna Viele in ABDPBT Personal Finance, did Heather B. Armstrong abuse her superstar status by broadcasting her complaint to Dooce fans on Twitter, just to get her washing machine fixed? Other real-world celebrities "go on Twitter and bitch about brands." Then again, it's hard to feel sorry for a giant corporation that can't respond promptly to its customers.

The sad fact is that talking to a customer service department one-on-one often doesn't work, said Farhad Manjoo in Slate. "The companies seem to notice something's gone wrong only after you broadcast your complaint to the world" via Twitter. So whether you're Heather Armstrong or Jane Doe, "you'd be a fool not to reach for your keyboard when a company gives you the runaround."

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