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Monday, August 29, 2011

Post# 205 - General Electric Light Bulbs: Why Won't They Work?

What if a person who didn't know how to screw in a light bulb complained that the bulbs didn't work?
My note to G.E. Chairman and CEO, Jack Welch, dated 4/23/1998:

Dear Mr. Welch,

I recently bought a condominium as a means of escaping the constant pampering that occurs when a 29 year-old lives with his parents.  It was time to show everyone that I wasn’t a “Mama’s Boy” and that I could live just fine out of the watchful eyes of my loving, nurturing, and understanding, mother and father.  I moved a few miles away “just in case” they ever needed help with anything.

When I moved into the condominium, my parents and I agreed that the lighting is quite poor in the kitchen, especially around the counter.  My dad offered his unremitting assistance, to which I drew a line in the proverbial sand.  “No dad,” I said.  “I can field this one.  You take care of mom.”  For the first time ever, I felt independent.  My dad said “Son, I’m proud of you.”  It felt good.

The following day, I was running some errands (dropping laundry off at my parents’ house, picking up my five dinners for the week that my mom carefully packaged in reusable Tupperware), I stopped at the local grocery store and picked up several of your Soft White Light Bulbs.  My father recommended these because he said they were “the best.” 

When I returned home, I was excited.  I unwrapped the bulbs, placed them around the kitchen where I thought they would “brighten the place up.”  One on the kitchen counter, one on the microwave, one on top of the refrigerator, one I hung with a piece of string above the oven, and the last one in the center of the kitchen table.  When I went to flip the light switch, none of your light bulbs that I had purchased seemed to work.  The lights that the previous owner had hung in the ceiling fixtures still worked, but not my new GE bulbs.  So I picked up the bulbs, placed them back in their packaging, took them back to the store, and exchanged them.  I brought the replacements home and tried again, only to encounter the same problem.  Your light bulbs don’t work!

How could a company so focused on Customer Satisfaction allow several light bulbs to slip past their careful eye?   How could General Electric compromise quality?

Wondering in the Dark,

Note from Paul, Product Service Manager, dated 4/23/1998:

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for taking the time to advise us of the unsatisfactory service you have received with your GE lighting product.  We regret the occurrence and any resulting inconvenience it has caused you.

Every precaution is taken in our factory to produce a high quality product; however, it is possible for the bulb and internal parts to become damaged as a result of accidental mishandling in shipment which could result in shortened life.

When customer dissatisfaction is brought to our attention, we try to do everything possible to satisfy our customers and maintain their goodwill.  Under separate cover, we are sending you a pre-addressed postage-paid mailing container in which you can return the product to us for analysis in our laboratory.  Enclosed are store coupons which can be redeemed at your favorite retailer that handles GE Light Bulbs.

Thank you for calling this matter to our attention, and please accept our apologies for any inconvenience you have experienced?


Paul, Manager
Customer Service
My response to Paul, dated 5/4/1998:

Dear Mr. Cwiok,

Thank you for your swift response to my letter.  I appreciated your reassurance, as well as the free light bulbs.

I was, however, a little puzzled by the generic apology note, which requested my questionable product.  Do you get that many complaints about your light bulbs that you need a form letter? 

I bought a few more bulbs, thinking that last time, maybe I had just found a bad lot.  I tried arranging them around the room in different places.  I tied one to a string and taped to ceiling in my bedroom like a pinata.  I dropped one into the fish tank and it floated around in circles like an inebriated duck.  I taped one above my door.  In each case, again, when I flipped the nearby light switch, only those bulbs which were here when I moved in seemed to work.

One thing I noticed with these bulbs is that on one end there is a silver-colored metal piece with a spiral shape that is tough to describe.   It looks a little like the spirals on a two-liter pop bottle that the cap goes on.  I hate two-liter bottles.  It seems like the cap works fine the first time, and then when I place the cap back on the bottle and lay it in the refrigerator on its side, the cap falls off and the beverage empties.  If only there were a way to fasten those lids to those bottles.  But my beverage problem is not your concern.

Could this spiral metal shape thing be causing the problem?  It’s handy for taping the string, but it looks weird. 

I have enclosed as many bulbs as I could fit in the packaging you provided—I had to break a few bulbs to get them in there.  Those I put in a sandwich baggie (for safety).  Please let me know the results of your analysis.  Thanks.

You (Are Supposed to)  Light Up My Life,


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