‘Rely on Defy’? You must be bloody joking

*Update (6 May). I linked this post (first published 2 May) to my Facebook page, and also put the link on Defy’s home page. Within an hour, the regional manager, Jason Crowther, had phoned me, patiently listened to the whole saga, apologised profusely, and asked me to send him my bank details so he could arrange for Defy to cover my electrician’s bill. When I emailed my details, he promptly responded by return email. (The senior staff at Montague Gardens really need to be told how deeply infuriating it is to customers when they’re routinely ignored.) And I’ve just got a cheery note from the admin person at Defy Montague Gardens to say that the money has been paid.

A salutary lesson in the power of social media.



For my entire adult life – 30+ years – I’ve had only Defy appliances and been a very loyal Defy customer. At the moment, in my kitchen, I have an ancient and much-loved Ocean fridge, handed down from my parents, which just keeps on trucking (Ocean is another brand name of Defy). I also have a Defy dishwasher (which I’ve had problems with in the past, but which problems were eventually resolved by Defy) and a Defy washing machine, which has required one replacement motor but has otherwise served me admirably for years.

I’m in the process of building a house, and there was never any question in my mind as to what make of appliance I was going to put into it. Until about 2 months ago, when Defy in Cape Town started spectacularly messing me around on a wild-goose chase that has never ended. Regular phonecalls and emails don’t help – the way Defy deals with unhappy customers is, it seems, to simply ignore them.

Here’s a precis. (The fact that this is the short version of the story will say volumes about what nonsense I’ve had from this company over the last couple of months.)

You probably don’t realise it, but your oven door has a gasket – a simple piece of rubber that seals the door when you close it, keeping the heat in. I had never even noticed this little component until the original one on my Defy oven snapped.

A phonecall to Defy eventually* revealed that yes, they had the part, but no, they wouldn’t post it to me, even if I agreed to cover the postage and packing costs. (It’s small – it would fit into the smallest padded envelope provided by the post office.) So I drove all the way into Cape Town, to the Defy offices there (+-180 km round trip, almost 3 hours of my time, about R250 in petrol), to buy the new gasket.

Through the plastic in which it was sealed, the new one looked smaller to me than the one it was replacing – a detail I pointed out to the guy who sold it to me, and who I specifically asked if he was sure it was the right gasket, as I’d come a long way for it; and whose answer was, ‘It’s a standard part; don’t worry, it will fit.’

It didn’t. It was a 3-sided gasket when the original had been 4-sided. But that was a fact I didn’t realise, of course, until I got home and tried to fit it in my oven.

Another phonecall to Defy eventually revealed that I should, in fact, have given the spares department the model details from the back of my stove in order to be supplied with the right gasket. I was immensely irritated by the waste of my time and resources (and bear in mind that my oven wasn’t usable during this time), but somewhat mollified when the salesperson I spoke to agreed to post the right gasket to me. (It was never explained to me why, when I first phoned about the gasket, it couldn’t be posted; but this time, it could.) He couldn’t, however, agree to deliver it by Speed Services (an overnight option), and the weekend was approaching during which I’d need my oven, so in the meantime I asked my father, who was coming through from Cape Town to visit me, to also go to the Defy offices and personally buy a gasket and bring it with him (the gaskets themselves aren’t expensive – under R100 each) – better too many than too few, right?

As it turned out, dead right. Because the gasket my father bought lasted less than a week before it snapped.

first gasket snapped

I was irritated, and I let Defy know by email (including the photo above) what had happened, but by then the gasket they had posted had arrived, so I was able to immediately replace the broken one.

That one – the fourth Defy gasket –  lasted less than a day.

second snapped gasket

Finally, thinking that perhaps I was inadvertently doing something that was causing the gaskets to break, I asked the local electrician to pop in and have a look for me. He immediately put his finger on the problem: ‘It’s just way, way, WAY too tight,’ he pointed out. His assumption was that, in trying to save costs on materials, the manufacturer had used too little rubber for the gasket, putting it under immense pressure once it had been stretched into place. (I emailed Defy to tell them that the latest gasket, too, had snapped, along with the photo above, plus the electrician’s diagnosis. As with all other emails to Defy, I didn’t get a response until I’d followed up at least a few times, and topped this off with some kind of threat.)

The local electrician bought some lengths of rubber and clips, made me a gasket, and fitted it. It fits without having to be forcibly stretched into placed, and it works perfectly.

His bill came to about R600 (materials, labour and callout). Naturally, I sent this to Defy, asking them to cover it.

It took Defy 2 weeks and many prompting (and some threatening) emails to elicit this response from Theunis Veldschoën, Western Cape regional service manager in the ‘after sales department’:

‘Re the gasket: All Defy products, including the spare parts related to it, are approved by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specification, NRCS, whereby upon approval a LAO, Letter of Authority, gets issued.

‘Defy will supply you a new gasket at no cost, but unfortunately, we cannot be held liable for the cost of the call out of the Electrician.’

Seriously, Defy??

As I explained to Theunis in a return email (the last one, I sincerely hope, I shall ever send to Defy), the gobbledigooky first paragraph does nothing whatsoever to explain to me, their irritated and dissatisfied customer, the reason for the failure of 2 of their replacements gaskets in short order. And the fact that Defy is offering me ‘a new gasket’ is simply astonishing – why on earth do they think that I would accept something (even if it’s ‘at no cost’) that two previous personal experiences have conclusively proven DON’T WORK – worse, SIMPLY FAIL??

This much I know for sure: I will never buy another Defy product.

*The word ‘eventually’ can be used in all instances in which I phoned Defy (and it was a lot), as once your call has been answered, you’re put on hold for what seems like forever, and it’s apparently a matter of sheer luck if you end up talking to an actual human being. And, ironically, while you hold, there’s a pre-recorded looped message that endlessly tells you how utterly fabulous the company is.