Dear Kmart Australia,
As someone who has not got a lot of money to spare and regularly has to juggle, use coupons, and buy cheaper products to make it work, I have to say I really appreciate Homemaker products for their price. A toaster and kettle for $7.50 each has meant I’ve been able to make toast and boil water for some time now. In fact the list of Homemaker products in my home is a long one, having bought them for many years now, but I am very concerned about the quality of these products and the lack of improvement over the years. While I am aware you get what you pay for, students with tuition and book fees into the mid hundreds every semester can’t always afford to pay more, and there are standards, guidelines, and laws in place to protect everyone from these sort of things, which is why I have written this letter about your products….
The Homemaker Toaster of Electrocution
The first thing I bought was a toaster and kettle. I was pretty psyched to have a toaster, and I used it often….but within a week I noticed that it would occasionally flash yellow where the handle was when I put the toast down. I thought at first I must have pressed it down funny but after 2 weeks it was flashing every time, and would flash regardless of the buttons I pressed on it.
Being a busy student I had no idea I had rights when returning items or even shopping in general, and due to not having the receipt I wrongly assumed I would not be able to return it. So I threw it out and bought another one for $8. This one seemed to work really well at first but after a couple of weeks it started flashing too, and I just didn’t have the money to go and get another one….so I kept it. Within 6 months it was flashing blue/green at me when I put toast down or cancelled the toast. The final straw was when it flashed green/blue at me from inside the part where the toast goes.
I did indeed get another Homemaker toaster, and it too went downhill quickly in the same way. I am very fortunate to have a beautiful mother in law to be who bought me a toaster for Christmas after hearing about this problem, and was thus rescued from the toaster fiasco. That toaster has lasted about a year now and has not once flashed at me, not even after a peg fell in it and caught fire (but that’s another interesting story for another day).
The Homemaker Kettle Of Runaway Water
When I first brought home the kettle I was pretty excited. I felt more adult owning a kettle, even though I don’t like coffee or tea at all I could use it for other things like soup, 2 minute noodles, cocoa, rice, etc. The kettle was pretty great, except that pouring from it was awkward. If you poured too much it would spray hot water everywhere and coat the kettle with water, and if you poured too little it would coat itself in water and dribble it onto what ever was under it. Because I didn’t pour far from the base this meant the base would fill up with water, drain out, and burn me. The round spout was counter intuitive at best and I could not find a technique that fixed this issue (it would ALWAYS make a mess).
My first kettle started flashing green at me where the power switch was around a few months in. It would especially do this if I flicked it off early, but before long it would do it every time the switch was moved. As this was around the same time the second toaster was getting scary I tossed them together and bought a new one. The new was much better at pouring slowly but showed no improvement with faster pouring. It lasted almost a year before it started flashing as well.
At this stage I went and bought a Target Essentials kettle for $8 after seeing it in a catalogue. This kettle, which is the same price, has never flashed at me in 2 years. It also has a triangular spout which pours nicely regardless of water speed. In fact the only problem I have with it is the base is very light and it takes some strategy to get it to sit where and how you want it (but that’s another open letter for another day).
The Homemaker Slow Cooker of Loose Bits
When I saw 6L Slow Cookers for $30 (not listed on your site) I was so happy! I’d been saving up for one since Christmas expecting them to be twice the cost, and with $50 in my savings I splurged! I used it for 5 months before something started rattling inside it. It sounded like a screw or two and a really heavy bolt (definitely metal and not some sort of weird food or creature in there). I returned it and was confronted with salespeople not wanting to accept the return because I had only Facebook posts and a debit card transaction from my bank account as proof I bought it…but knowing my rights by this point I told them in no uncertain terms the product was faulty/not fit for purpose and only made by you, which meant I didn’t need to prove anything. It was replaced.
I got so excited when I first bought this machine I joined what I thought was a Facebook group for slow cooker lovers who warned me your Homemaker slow cookers had problems. I soon learned this group was full of slow cooker extremists who would use 3 or more every single day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert which is unreal (but that is another exciting story for another day).
The Homemaker Mini Blender with Drink Bottles of No Safety, No Indicators, No cleaning, and No Sense in the Instructions
When I saw the Mini Blender with Drink Bottles was $30 I juggled the hell out of my budget to get that extra $10 I needed to grab this one. Smoothies are one of my favourite things and I wanted to start eating healthy! Fast forward to 5 months later and it was starting to give off a smokey smell, and had grown mould or rust around some of the parts where cleaning was not possible and where the contents of the blender would also touch, which was a food safety hazard. The button on mine was flush with the case at all times so there was no way to tell if it was on or off, and when plugging it in one day I got the fright of my life when it turned on and sprayed me with shards of ice and other items that were waiting to be blended (no safety).
I noticed your Nutritional Drink Blender (with bottles) has been recalled because it’s “poorly sealed against liquid and internal components are made of unsuitable material” which can “cause a fire” as you put it, and I would love if you could take the blender I had and ensure the same thing is not happening here, and that it wont explode. It’s been handed over to you with the complaints clearly listed so you have access to it, where ever it is. Also “not using it for more than a minute at a time” is a really bullshit rule, let’s be honest. There’s no timer, there’s no indication that it’s been a minute or is safe to use again…so how are we supposed to reasonably follow the instructions? Is this really durable enough for the average household? Speaking of instructions it’s really confusing when you use the same instruction booklet for different products, even if they are both kettles or toasters they do have different features and specifications (but that’s another open letter for another day).
The Homemaker Fans of Fire and Noise
I think these fans would have to be the most dangerous Homemaker item in my house [and if you’re thinking of getting one internet readers I would AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS]. In fact it’s quite upsetting to look back on these issues because one of them happened days ago and scared me quite badly.
The story starts with one fan, bought because there was no air conditioning and I wanted to survive summer. This fan was pretty shitty, but it only cost me $12 and blew more air than I could muster myself so I was pretty happy and grateful to have it. Within a year of use the motor would grow hot. The first summer it was fine, but by the second it was growing hot when used and could no longer oscillate. Perhaps luckily for me, this fan was destroyed before it could get any worse due to a moving trailer accident that decapitated it along with some of my other things.
My second fan was bought for me from very far away because it was the middle of summer (January) and you my darling Kmart were either out of fans or just not selling them any more. It was used all that summer because my new home would get extremely hot due to no airflow. After summer it was packed away until the summer after, where it started to get hot when used and lost its ability to oscillate (same as the last one). It would turn in one direction and then make an awful noise as it tried to go further, the whole thing vibrating. Before long it was also leaning forward at the base. I spoke to a manager and they said that it had been JUST over a year and I could not return it…so I kept it because I needed a fan and did not have the money to buy the $24 version that was being sold that year.
Fast forward to the following summer (this summer) I put the $69 Copper Tripod Fan on layby because I saw it being used in the layby area. One of your staff members happily turned the fan towards me so I could feel how strong it was to gauge whether or not it was worth putting away for…and the damn thing nearly blew me away. I was very surprised to learn that it was on 1! When it was on 3 it became pretty loud [due to the sound air makes when it moves] but as far as I was concerned it was fantastic. I even touched the motor which had been running all day and was no hotter than room temp. It felt like the perfect solution. Solid and safe.
I was pretty relieved to be getting rid of this other fan which was running hot and wouldn’t oscillate. It must have known because within a few days it had caught fire. It seemed to be working fine, it wasn’t even as hot as normal, so I continued to use it to keep cool at night. The night it caught fire I had it at the door to bring cold air in to make sleeping easier, and when I turned it off to go to bed it was very hot. I unplugged it, went to the bathroom, and when I returned to move it out of the doorway it felt so hot if I had of left my hand there it would have burned me. I was pretty scared at this moment and turned the light off to look inside it…and when I did I saw what looked like a candle flame sized flicker on the right side through the grill. Naturally I freaked out and that fan was moved outside to concrete and I ran back inside to get my Kmart fire blanket (not listed on your site). When I returned the flame was gone but the plastic was still super hot.
The fan wasn’t even 2 years old at this point, it was roughly 20 months old and was not in use that whole time. It should not have deteriorated that fast. The next morning we went to get our fantastic new Copper Tripod Fan only to discover it’s extremely difficult to set up and the fan blades (which are metal!) “screw” into a flat part on the motor spindle….I’m pretty terrified this will eventually come lose and send the blades flying all over the room, and my confidence is already shaken in this more expensive fan when 4 hours into use the motor began to grow hot. In addition to this it makes a constant noise because the metal cage vibrates against itself, which was unexpected noise pollution and is upsetting. It’s also not as solid as I thought, in fact the legs are quite flimsy feeling and they stretch out and take up a lot of space.
To say my experience with Homemaker fans has been traumatic would be a bit of an understatement! 2 days ago when I pulled pliers out to cut the cord on that faulty fan that caught fire I was so scared I would be electrocuted that after cutting it I almost passed out from fear; having been electrocuted by a vacuum as a pre-teen when I touched a frayed cord the terror of that moment came back as the pliers made their cut (but that’s another traumatic story for another day). See below for update on this fan!
The Kmart Brand…Losing Trust and Faith
When I told your employees and managers about these products failing not one of them showed surprise. In fact, when I brought my blender back in the guy said “Is it smoking?” and when I responded that it sort of was he sighed and explained that Homemaker products “really are hit or miss” and that people complained about the issues I was complaining about “a lot”. Your managers and employees are not the only people saying this.
In the slow cooker enthusiast group people are warned the slow cookers may cook too hot, or too cold. Some people have had them take days to cook something that should have taken 6 or 7 hours and many warn the outside can become so hot it burns instantly when touched (in fact my first one did this and my second has not done this). Other people are saying they’ve had flashing and smokey appliances too…which means something is awfully wrong with some part of your process for delivering products to us. I don’t know if it’s as early as the design phase, the testing, the manufacturing, or what, but it’s preventing you from delivering quality products that work as expected (or at least consistently) and are durable and safe.
Recently you’ve recalled mugs that were made of material not suitable for hot drinks, a lamp which didn’t follow electrical standards and could electrocute people, helmets with dodgy straps that break when someone falls, an apple cutter not strong enough to cut apples and poses a safety risk, a childrens nighty that didn’t meet standards, car seat covers for airbags that don’t allow airbags to deploy, and power strips which are improperly made and can cause electrocution or fire.
I’m not upset or surprised that there are recalls Kmart, it’s part of life and we all have to be careful…what I am upset about here is the theme I am seeing. Where are your safety people who can make sure “the electrical contacts of the sockets are poorly aligned” doesn’t happen and that standards like “the plastic enclosure does not meet the flammability requirements of the applicable standard” are met? Those are direct quotes from your power strip recall. Why were clothes that were untested for standards allowed to be sold in your stores? Why were helmets not thoroughly tested to ensure they’re safe and fit for purpose? Do you care about our safety? Can you show me and everyone that you’re working to improve the design, safety, and durability of your products and actively striving towards meeting standards and guidelines?
Much love, and no hate (unless the replacement blender/new fan catches fire),
P.S: Can you please make your check out peeps ask for my Flybuys?
UPDATE ON THAT COPPER FAN:
Tonight (Dec 5th 2015) at exactly 6: 39 pm, less than a month after it was bought, the fan made a bizarre clicking, and when it oscillated to the right side (when facing it) it went slower then the motor stopped. As it turned left again the motor started up. At first I thought this was some sort of bizarre once off event, but when it oscillated to the right again the same thing happened. I then turned it off out of fear (it’s a completely metal fan which could be having electrical problems!) and unplugged it. The motor was too hot to touch and had a metallic smoke smell coming from it. I feel extremely disappointed…and it’s hot and muggy in here so I’m unhappy in so many ways right now.
Brought a new one home a few hours later thanks to a friend giving me a lift, and this one seems to have no constant noise from the fan cage rattling and is warm on the front edge of the motor but not the main part. Hopefully this 4th one is a hit!