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In Search of a Better Toaster

Our toaster is ailing. The button won’t stay down, though if you stand right there and hold it down, it will still toast the bread. I don’t remember going through toasters so fast when I was a kid. Seems to me we had the same toaster forever back then. Maybe it was only ten years, but that seems like forever when you’re a child. Somewhere along the line, toasters got fancier, but less reliable. Or maybe it’s just that for a toaster, serving our family is akin to running a daily marathon, and they just age before their time.

Although I am the type of person who saves manuals and even staples the corresponding receipt to them, I don’t have a complete record of our toaster history. Some of the manuals with their attendant receipts seem to be missing, but I think after consulting my financial software I can fill in the gaps. Anyway, after enduring hand-me-down, half-broken toasters–the kind where you had to know "the trick" to get them to work–for years, I’d finally had enough and decided to spend some serious money for a well-functioning, durable toaster. How naive I was, actually thinking "you get what you pay for." As the following chronology proves, it ain’t necessarily so.

  •  December 1996: It pains me to say this, but I actually plunked down sixty dollars of my husband’s hard-earned cash to obtain a Krups Toastronic Ultra. Not without first, I hasten to add, conducting extensive research as to what was the best toaster then on the market. Back in pre-Internet days, that probably meant Consumer Reports and perhaps a cooking magazine as well. All to no avail, for in
  • August 1997 this fancy, expensive toaster was broken, still under warranty. And I shipped it out to an Authorized Service Center, which replaced an element, an adapter, and a rear element and shipped it back. It must not have done much good, because according to my records, in
  • December 1998 I purchased a Krups Sensotoast for fifty bucks. Lest you think I am a slow learner, I believe I took advantage of my credit card’s extended warranty program, and they paid for this second toaster, which was probably the nearest equivalent to the first Krups. However, by now thoroughly disillusioned, in
  • September 1999 I spent a measly nine bucks for a toaster from Wal-mart. It was probably not worth spending, because in
  • October 1999 I see I spent three dollars on the postage for a new Proctor-Silex toaster to be shipped to me, and I also had to pay to send them the severed cord from the defective one. I wonder if some of this shipping was refunded upon their receipt of the cord? Otherwise I think I lost money on this deal, even if I did eventually get a toaster that worked until
  • March 2003, when I purchased our presently failing Black&Decker for fifteen bucks from Target, which Titi and Rundy have now replaced in
  • December 2005 with a spiffy looking stainless steel GE Bagel Toaster, for $18.77, again from Wal-mart.

On a cost-per-year basis, I think I did the best with the least expensive toaster, the Proctor-Silex, even adding in the shipping to replace the defective one. So, if the fifteen-buck toaster lasted two-and-a-half years, do you think the twenty buck toaster will last two years even? It has a two year warranty, if that’s any clue.

If any toaster manufacturer wants to torture-test their toaster (try saying that three times fast) I volunteer our family. We really don’t eat that much toast for breakfast, but on any given day eight of our thirteen residents will be eating toast for snack–often twice a day. And sometimes they toast the same slice two times, because our homemade bread doesn’t get toasted dark enough, even on the darkest setting, for some of our more discriminating toast connoisseurs. And then there are those who push down the toaster button and leave the room, forgetting all about their toast for a good fifteen minutes, so of course they have to toast it again to warm it back up. I wasn’t kidding when I said being a toaster at our house was like running a marathon, except maybe it’s more like running a fifty-yard dash, over and over and over. Even a toaster can only take so much.