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24 March 2021

Consumer NZ put a $29 Kmart blender to test, and it did not go well

Kmart champions “low prices for life” – just don’t expect some of its products to last longer than a few years, let alone a lifetime. Consumer NZ trialled a $29 blender from Kmart. The results were underwhelming.

For starters, according to the instruction manual, the maximum operating time for the blender is one minute “to prevent damage to the electric motor”, then it needs to rest for two minutes. After five cycles of operation the blender needs 30 minutes to cool down.

Consumer NZ product test manager Dr Paul Smith took the blender for a spin, whirring his daily smoothie of frozen banana and mango, spinach, yogurt and matcha powder each week for a month. How hard could it be to blend? Within seven days, the blade worked loose from its housing and worrying green-black liquid dripped from the base of the jug.

"A blender showing signs of failure in its first week is concerning, but what’s worse is Kmart’s failure to offer a repair. The blade is removable for cleaning, so it would be very easy to replace. But there are no repair parts on offer, so at the slightest sign of failure it needs to be tossed," Dr Smith said.

"For companies focused on low prices such as Kmart, it's cheaper and easier to replace an entire product rather than fix it. The few that fail within warranty hit Kmart's bottom line, but the majority that hang on just a bit longer don't cost the retailer a cent. There's no incentive to make products that perform beyond a year or two."

Consumer NZ’s latest survey found 54% of respondents agreed that “the warranty period was a good indication of how long a product will last”. This shows how little faith we have in products going the distance.

A replacement part for the blender was requested from Kmart customer service, but the response avoided the subject. “If your blender is less than 12 months old, please take it along with your receipt to your local Kmart store for an exchange or refund.”

Consumer NZ previously contacted Kmart to see if we could get spare parts for an Anko kettle. It responded: “We do not offer spare parts or warranty repair service [for any kettles sold] at Kmart. It is not possible to do so, within our everyday low pricing model.”

"We think manufacturers and stores that sell cheap, unsupported, built-to-fail appliances have a responsibility to clean up their act. Last year, the government announced electrical and electronic products as one of the six priority product classes that will get a mandatory product stewardship scheme. This means everyone making, selling and using an appliance will have to take some responsibility for dealing with it when it's no longer wanted, or dies and becomes 'e-waste'," Dr Smith said.

"Through our Built to Last campaign, we are challenging manufacturers to make more durable and repairable appliances and to provide spare parts at a reasonable cost. We're also changing the way we conduct our testing to introduce reliability scoring, helping consumers to be informed about product durability when purchasing a product."

As for the Kmart blender, it’s been returned for a refund. Signs of failure after just a week means it’s not likely to see out its one-year warranty, let alone a long life in the kitchen.

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