How many usability engineers does it take to buy a light bulb?

For those of you who just want the answer, here you go:

  • Range hood bulb: 10 Watt G4
  • In-oven bulb: 50 Watt 130 Volt GY6.35

Head to your corner store and pick one up. Now, on with the story.

Recently, some of my oven’s light bulbs burnt out. I’d replaced the bulbs in the range hood before. They were easy to find—standard G4 halogen bulbs. They come in 10W and 20W varieties. I picked the 10W, since I wanted to be safe. It worked, and was bright enough.

But replacing the bulbs inside the oven was a different story, and a lesson in the idiocy of GE.

None of the bulbs in the store matched the in-oven bulb exactly. And at $11 a bulb, I didn’t want to be wrong. So, I headed home to get my facts straight.

First, I checked the manual for the oven. It showed me where the bulbs were, but listed neither a part number nor specifications.

Problem #1: The documentation is useless.

Next, I tried GE’s web site. I went to parts and accessories.

Problem #2: you can search for parts by part number or appliance model number, but not by keyword. There’s no way to search for “light bulb.”

What’s the model number of my oven? I don’t know, and it’s not on the manual, nor is it marked on the oven itself. I even check GE’s list of suggested locations. Nothing. Next, I try and browse for the model. I head to the home page, then to products, then gas cooking (a terrible URL), then slide-in ranges (I don’t think I have a free-standing range) then to stainless (an even worse URL). I look at all the pictures closely. None of them are my oven.

Problem #3 It’s too hard to find your model number.

Problem #4 GE’s site doesn’t show information for older/discontinued models.

Working on the assumption that all of these use the same bulb, I picked the first model on the list: PGS975SEMSS.

Aside: Who names this crap? That’s an even worse name than Sony’s Vaio VGN-CS290JEC (or perhaps The Apple Internet Server Solution for the World Wide Web).

Problem #5 Model numbers are incomprehensible.

I head back to the home page, enter PGS975SEMSS as the model number and click Go. Do I see details? No. I see a list of four model numbers, none of which are the one I entered. I pick first one on the list.

Now, I have three choices: browse by category, search by keyword or enter part number. Since none of the categories seem to work (BODY PARTS?), I enter “bulb” and click go.

Sorry! The part or keyword you searched for could not be located on the model you selected. Please try again.

Seriously?

Body parts it is. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Here we go:
LAMP HALOGEN 257 WB08T10021

The 257? That’s the item number in this exploded view.

Problem #6 Search is broken.

Problem #7 It took me eleven pages to find the part I want (Home, Parts & Accessories, [detour: home, products, gas cooking, free-standing], model number search, model number results page, part search, part results error, part search, body parts).

They still won’t tell me what kind of bulb this is. And they want $10.50 + 5.95 shipping = $16.45. That’s one expensive light bulb.

Problem #8 Bulbs are bloody expensive.

Fortunately, I have better luck with Google. Part number in hand, I see several sellers. None of them are too appealing. Part Advantage wants only $7 for the bulb, but $8 for ground shipping. Part Store has almost identical pricing (I’ll save 8¢). Appliance Parts Solutions has me down to $4.42 + $6.50.

I score with eBay. Only $4.20 a bulb and $5.40 shipping. I order four — two for now, and two spares, since I don’t want to go through this again.

The bulbs arrive, and they work. And, for the record, GE ovens use 50 Watt 130 Volt GY6.35 bulbs.

GE, this is why your conversion rate sucks.

2 Responses to How many usability engineers does it take to buy a light bulb?

  1. Fast Eddie says:

    Great story! I have a GE oven and had nearly the same experience. I needed a G6.36 halogen bulb (according to the owner’s manual), but could not find it locally. I called GE tech support and the rep could not even tell me what bulb I needed, BUT after I told her, she offered to sell me one for $11 plus shipping. By the way, the tech rep was unable to tell me whether I could use a GY6.35 bulb instead so my call was fruitless. So much for GE tech support. NOTE: I was put on hold for over 15 minutes waiting to speak w/ “tech no support.” Incredible.

  2. Fast Eddie says:

    CORRECTION: To my post a minute ago. Should have been….. G6.35. My typo. “I needed a G6.35 halogen bulb (according to the owner’s manual), but could not find it locally.”

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