Welcome to the first installment of a new series we’re calling Service Provider Spotlight. In each article, we’ll be shining a light on one of the knowledgeable service pros we trust to provide excellent work to Cinch customers. It’s your chance to get to know some of the awesome personalities behind the toolboxes.
Meet Richie Isaacson. Appliance Wizard. TV Personality. Virtuoso musician.
Richie’s been a Cinch Service Provider since before Cinch was even named Cinch. He mastered his trade 40 years ago, long before Google and YouTube came along with a three-minute answer to just about everything. He marketed his business by leaving printed flyers in car windshields. He has seen the appliance world evolve from timers to touchpads, but according to him, even after all this time, the basics of home maintenance will never change.
We spoke to Richie and learned some inside tips on keeping your appliances running, how to avoid simple mistakes and how he runs his business, Affordable Appliance, with five phone numbers and the same central answering service he’s used since the 90s.
Cinch: You’ve been a guest on This Old House, Chronicle and local Boston news, and you had your own radio show. If there’s such a thing as a celebrity maintenance tech, you certainly qualify.
Richie: I started out as an entertainer. I was a singer and musician all over Boston. My younger brother and cousin were in the appliance business, and one day, they asked me, “Richie, how are you gonna play music when you’re older?” And I told them I’d just play slower songs.
Cinch: So, that’s how you got started with appliances?
Richie: I started going out on jobs with them and learning the trade. We’d hang flyers on bulletin boards that read “Wanted: Dead or Alive — Appliances.” We’d collect old machines, fix them up and sell them. Then, I enrolled in Bay State Appliance School. That’s when I got really good. It wasn’t long before the instructor had me teach the class.
Cinch: When did you get your first job?
Richie: I always worked for myself. I started my first business at 16, as a messenger between car dealerships, insurance agencies and the DMV. I called it “Richie’s Messenger Service.” I eventually sold that and lived off the money for three years while I played music.
Cinch: What kind of music?
Richie: Everything from Sinatra to Zeppelin. Local clubs. I played guitar, bass, drums and did the vocals. I even handled the bookings.
Cinch: You’re definitely a hands-on kind of guy. When did you get back into appliances?
Richie: At first, I was doing both, but soon that became too time-consuming. I took a Whirlpool appliance workshop, and after that, I started my own business, Affordable Appliance. I wanted the name to start with an A so it would be first in the Yellow Pages.
Cinch: That’s a trip in the way-back machine. How have appliances changed since?
Richie: They haven’t! Washing machines all work the same way. Refrigerators all work the same way. The only difference is how they come apart.
Cinch: That sounds like an overstatement.
Richie: It’s really not.
Cinch: Okay, so let’s talk about some inside tips for home appliances. I’ll name it, and you give me a quick fix or two. Refrigerator.
Richie: The condenser. Biggest problem is dusty or clogged condensers. What people don’t know is that fridges don’t cool your food; they remove all the heat. Dust and pet hair accumulate quickly, and that can lead to poor performance and even malfunction. Clean your condenser regularly. Just Google your make and model number, and you’ll find out how to do it.
Another common problem is when the rubber gasket that seals the door shut gets old and worn and prevents the door from shutting tight. For this, just run a bead of petroleum jelly around the gasket, and it will close so tight you’ll need Superman to open it.
Richie: Number one advice: Clean off your dishes before loading them! It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do that because the brochure says the machine can clean anything.
Also, before running your dishwasher, run your kitchen faucet until the water is hot. That way, the water will be hot when the dishwasher cycle starts, saving the machine the energy of heating up, giving you a better wash and dissolving the soap better.
Cinch: Garbage disposal.
Richie: Contrary to what people think, you SHOULD put hard objects in the garbage disposal. Hard objects activate the blades, and if the blades don't get work, they can rust in place. Just make sure not to put anything TOO hard down there — chicken bones are OK, but steak and marrow bones are too hard. I tell my vegetarian clients to drop ice in their disposal at least twice a week.
Richie: Absolute worst thing you can do is overload the machine. Then, you’re taking that same weight and putting it in the dryer. Not good.
With washers, since a lot of people use cold water to save money, soap never gets fully broken down and leaves a residue—the soap scum that leads to that moldy smell. When that happens, the best thing is to run the cycle 5 times on hot with only bleach.
With the dryer, it’s always the vent and the lint filter. Clean the lint filter after each load, and make sure the vent is cleaned at least once a year—at least!
Cinch: You’re clearly a handy person. Can you fix other household items? If I asked you to help fix my garage door opener, what would you tell me?
Richie: Call someone who fixes garage doors.
Cinch: What’s the most obvious mistake people make with appliances?
Richie: If something doesn’t work, they panic and skip the critical first step: Always check for a service switch. Most major appliances have a service switch. Some people never even know they exist because they’re always on. I’ve gone on a lot of calls — mostly college apartments in Boston — and flipped a switch and went home.
Cinch: Has the internet had an impact on your business?
Richie: It’s made it harder. You get a lot of “my husband’s an engineer, so he tried to fix the fridge…not only is it still broken, but he also can’t put the casing back on.” Usually, when people try a DIY out of their comfort zone, it makes our job more complicated.
Cinch: Are smart appliances harder to fix than others?
Richie: No. You just check if the touchpad is getting voltage or not. If it’s getting voltage but not working, you need a new circuit board. All that does is tell the machine what to do, just like a dial or timer. The components themselves are all the same.
Cinch: Do you have a favorite brand of appliances?
Richie: Ones that are priced right and last a long time.
Cinch: Is the old adage true, like my parents used to say, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to?”
Richie: Is anything made like it used to be?
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.