Today’s topic – Simplehuman’s Slim Wire Frame Dishrack; planned obsolescence or just sub-par product design; a quick DIY solution to the problem; unexpected and most excellent customer service. Ever.
Some things should not break. I should be able to buy a counter top dish drying rack once and never think about it again. It should occupy the same amount of space in my brain as a toaster or a hammer, which is to say – not much. I use them and they just keep working indefinitely. A toaster toasts, a hammer hammers, a dish rack dries. Apparently that’s too much to ask even when you pony up big bucks for a “premium” dish rack model.
Dish drying racks have been a permanent fixture in every place I’ve ever lived in. When I visit other people’s houses and don’t see one on a counter I immediately start wondering how they do their dishes. Do they put everything in a dishwasher including pots and pans? What if they only need to clean just a couple of plates and rinse out some wine glasses? Do they put them on a counter on a towel then? Or do they run a half-empty dishwasher? Seems inefficient at best and plain wasteful at worst.
I know dish racks are not the sexiest appliance in the kitchen (if there is such a thing as a “sexiest kitchen appliance”). When we were staging our house for sale we’d always remove it to show off the counter space and reduce clutter. But when the pictures were taken and Realtors have led their clients out of the house, our trusty rack would reclaim its prime spot next to the sink.
After years of dealing with cheap throwaway dish racks we decided to step up our game. In a typical new homeowner haze our conversations went something like… “We’re not in college anymore so we can afford something nicer than a $10 piece of plastic junk! Our granite counter tops need something classy, perhaps something with stainless steel or even bamboo accents! We inherited upgraded stainless steel appliances with the house so we can spring for a decent rack to match, don’t you think?”
I quickly delegated this particular research to my wife who found something that fit the bill – a Simplehuman Slim Wireframe Dishrack. Sturdy-looking space-saving rust-proof frame – check. Integrated drip tray with a removable stainless steel spout – check. Removable utensil holder – check. Natural bamboo knife block – check.
Sure, $40 dollars is a lot to pay for a dish rack, but this is something we use every day, it’s permanently on display (at least until we decide to sell this house) and even the most frugal bloggers out there preach paying more for quality.
The Simplehuman dish rack served us well… until it didn’t. Little by little the “integrated drip tray” started to become less and less integrated. First a small crack appeared towards the front where the water spout is. Then the whole thing came unglued. WTF? It looked like it was all molded out of one piece of plastic. Judging by the neat separation lines it seems it was simply glued on and poorly, I might add. Is this another case of planned obsolescence?
Since a picture is worth more than a thousand words, I took a couple. In the beginning of the post you saw a promo picture from Simplehuman… Yeh, so that didn’t last!
Here is the drip tray how it should be… minus all the nasty crud! Trust me, we’ve tried washing this thing many times but there is no way to get to the dirt that gets stuck on the bottom of the tray. Instructions say to use soap and water, which is all great but you can’t actually scrub the stuff off the bottom through the “integrated” grate.
And here is a picture of the bottom of the drain pan that simply fell off one day. The good news – it’s super easy to clean it now! The bad news – there is no way to reattach it and now your expensive dish rack drains all over your nice granite counter tops instead of the sink.
Getting pissed off about it will only get you that far, so on to the DIY fix to this annoying problem.
- Don’t bother cleaning the bottom piece of the “integrated” drain that fell off – throw it out!
- Find a suitable plate that will fit under the newly emancipated dish drain. If you must know – I’m using a plate from the now defunct Macaroni Grill restaurant location where my wife’s cousin used to work. Apparently he received a bunch of plates in his severance package. He lives in a small apartment in the city and we live in a giant house in the suburbs. We get plates. He has more space. Win-Win.
- Place the plate under the dish drain.
- Rinse the plate once in a while and be amazed at how much cleaner, simpler and thus more elegant this setup is vs the original design.
- Feel good.
- Blog about it 🙂
(Wondering what that contraption is in the back there? Click here!)
If you don’t want to be bothered with that, you can just order a replacement drip tray directly from Simplehuman. They offer all the parts for this dish rack and it should set you back $20 including the $5 shipping. Personally, I like my free solution better.
Another option you may explore is trying to claim a free replacement tray under the 5 year warranty. Simplehuman states that they “use the best materials and solid engineering so our products will last for years.” If you say so! To test their warranty I submitted a claim to Simplehuman. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. At the very least, maybe they’ll update the design if they get a lot of these warranty claims.*
I can’t tell for sure if this is a case of planned obsolescence or just poor design despite Simplehuman’s “solid engineering” claims. Either way, when I spend 3-4 times the going rate on an item, I expect not to have to deal with such silly basic functionality issues.
I don’t mind paying more but, in my experience, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find something designed to last a lifetime even at the top end of the market. Yes, the dish rack market.
*Update: A few days after I submitted a warranty claim on Simlehuman’s website I received an email saying that my new drip tray has been shipped via UPS. They didn’t even ask for a proof of purchase, which is great because who keeps a Bed Bath and Beyond receipt for a dish rack purchase years ago? The only thing they asked for was my name and address. Shipping was free too.
While I still think that the design is crap for this particular item of the dish rack assembly, I can honestly say that this is the best customer service I’ve ever experienced in a situation like this. Many companies tout their no-hassle warranties only to put up roadblocks when you try to make a claim. Based on this incident, it certainly seems like Simplehuman stands behind their products 100%.
It’s also rare to find a consumer goods company that continues to carry replacement parts for each and every product they sell, so when something small breaks years down the line you don’t have to throw out the whole thing. For example, it would be SO nice if I could just get a new plastic gear from Fellowes for a broken shredder instead of junking it and buying a whole new shredder!
Unfortunately, the replacement drip tray design is still the same so it will probably break again and will continue to be next to impossible to clean. I see the return of the Macaroni Grill plate in the near future!
*Update 2: The new drip tray from Simplehuman lasted less than 3 months before breaking in a similar manner again! Talk about crappy design. Macaroni Grill plate to the rescue! It’s obviously pointless to do another warranty claim since it will break anyway.