This once was a brand I never heard a bad word said about. Yes the machine still does great things, but the trust is gone. The person that made the decision to go about things this way should be sacked.
Very sad to see this machine lose the great reputation it had. Very disappointed to be one of the people blatantly lied to. I still love the machine, but if I was given the choice, I would have waited to have the newer and cheaper options.
— Hannah Millward, Thermomix customer.
After a torrid month of backlash against its global release strategy, Thermomix Australia has responded to its critics, explaining the background behind the surprise announcement of a new machine and how it has tried to satisfied disgruntled customers.
Over the 14 years since Thermomix was first brought to Australia it has amassed a loyal, fiery following; 200,000 Australians purchased the unit, many buying into the belief that ‘Thermomix is a way of life’.
However, a significant number of this group turned on their beloved appliance brand this month when a new model was released without significant notice or build-up. Unlike Apple, a similarly strong brand with a devoted following, there was no series of targeted leaks to make sure everyone knew a model was in the works. As a result, the Australian distributors of the all-purpose kitchen appliance that acts as a food processor, steamer, mixer, grater and kneader, are currently fielding thousands of emails, calls and complaints.
Customers who had purchased a Thermomix TM31 just weeks earlier — for a price of almost $2,000 — felt they had been short changed and took to social media to express their displeasure, even starting their own Facebook group titled ‘Thermomix unhappy customers’.
“My Thermomix was delivered on 24 July 2014,” wrote one irate customer. “I spoke to my consultant regarding upgrades; I specifically asked if a new model was coming prior to purchasing and she said ‘No!'”
This customer claims the consultant replied, “If we were to tell our customers at the time you purchased yours about a new model coming out, we would not have been able to sell any T31 [units]…think about what would’ve happened to all our business.”
Some Thermomix customers haven taken their complaints to the ACCC, consumer affairs magazine Choice and the Office of Fair Trading. While others headed straight to ecommerce sites like eBay or Gumtree to offload the older TM31.
Since 2004, the TM31 has been the hero product for Thermomix around the world. Before that, the TM21 reigned supreme from 1996 to 2004. Compared to consumer tech products, this is an eternity between product upgrades.
Thermomix’s Perth-based Australian licencee was aware a new product was being developed for a September 2014 release date but, bound by international distribution agreements, it could not share that knowledge with customers.
Thermomix is sold through the in-home demonstration market, with many consumers purchasing their unit from friends and family. The local Thermomix distributor is headed up by managing director Grace Mazur.
Mazur came across the technology while on a trip to her native Poland. After seeing the appliance in action at a friend’s home, she set about convincing the German head office of Vorwerk to let her distribute the product in Australia.
“The direct-selling model works in a way where we have the consultants, who are doing in-house demonstrations,” Mazur told The Australian in 2011.
“That way we can provide exceptional customer care and, as a customer, you will get to see the product, to taste it, and feel it. We then do a delivery demonstration one-on-one, we unpack the product, we let them have a go at it to make sure they are comfortable, and we then do another demonstration to make sure we cover all their skills. It’s a total journey for our customers.”
From France to Facebook
The Thermomix success story began in 1970 when the CEO of Vorwerk dreamt up an appliance that could mix and cook at the same time. In 1971 the original VM 2000 was launched first in France, then later in Spain and Italy.
The division has its own sales companies in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Portugal, Poland, Taiwan, Mexico and the Czech Republic, and sells through distributors in 52 further countries. In 2013, it generated sales totaling €800 million (AU $1.15 billion).
In Australia, the appliance has made its way onto the set of MasterChef and into professional kitchens. It was also cited as a reason for Sunbeam’s recent less-than-stellar financial results. “The emergence of products such as the multi-purpose Thermomix, has affected demand across a number of traditional food preparation and small cooking appliances,” Sunbeam’s parent company GUD Holdings reported.
Along with unit sales, Thermomix in Australia has been extremely successful building and maintaining a strong community through its consultants and official Facebook page.
Perhaps victims of their own success, the Thermomix in Australia’s fall from grace was publicly documented on its Facebook page with irate customers dubbing the behavior ‘sneaky’.
“I debated for three years as to whether I could justify the expense. I proceeded and the product is as good as they said it was. None of this is even remotely relevant. The action that the company Thermomix had taken is unjust and shadey. Ethically they have crossed a line that will cost them brand loyalty.”
“The Australian launch of the Thermomix Model 5 was conducted in line with global brand compliance in accordance with our distribution arrangements. We are deeply sorry that this has resulted in some customers feeling disappointed,” wrote Jo Burton.
Managing director Grace Mazur told Appliance Retailer the team at Thermomix in Australia are very sorry and disappointed to have upset some of our loyal and passionate customers.
“It was never our intention to cause any concern, frustration or anger among those customers who purchased a new Thermomix product from us over the past few weeks.
“We pride ourselves on our integrity, honesty and commitment. We have built a strong reputation for the Thermomix brand in Australia, supported by an amazing network of consultants and underpinned by over 200,000 happy customers. Every day, our customers tell us remarkable stories about how Thermomix has changed their lives and made food preparation easier, more fun and completely inspiring,” Mazur said.
September in the Mix
The argument between Thermomix in Australia and the segment of unhappy customers is now bogged down in an argument of dates, offers of compensation and the speed in which complaints are being dealt with.
5 September 2014: After months of development and planning, the new Thermomix TM5 was unveiled to the major markets and their international advisor/consultant network.
“Wishing to emulate the best features of the TM31, while also seeking to evolve the product and take advantage of new technologies, a new model, the TM5, was developed by Vorwerk and readied for launch from September 2014 onwards,” Thermomix in Australia said.
6 September 2014: Thermomix in Australia unveils the new product at a national consultant roadshow held in key metropolitan cities, “to ensure the TM5 could be made available to customers in Australia and New Zealand at the same time as the international roll-out”.
“These launch events generated a huge groundswell of interest and enthusiasm with consultants as they were able to continue with their business activity.”
Thermomix in Australia then contacted all 200,000 customers in its network on 6 September announcing the new TM5 availability.
Customers who had purchased the TM31 model in the 3-week period (20 August to 6 September) prior to the official roll-out were offered the choice of a $250 discount on their recent order or an upgrade to the new model.
7 September 2014: Within 24 hours of the unveiling of the new appliance to consultants, Thermomix in Australia also communicated the availability of the TM5 to its customers across Australia and New Zealand via email communication and Facebook postings.
“While the announcement was warmly welcomed by the majority of customers, some expressed concern and disappointment that they had not been told earlier of the news. Of those unhappy customers, 70 per cent had purchased a Thermomix just outside the 3-week qualifying period of the offer.”
9 September 2014: Irate customers venting on social media catches the attention of mainstream media.
Thermomix said “while the announcement was warmly welcomed by the majority of customers, some expressed concern and disappointment that they had not been told earlier of the news. Of those unhappy customers, 70 per cent had purchased a Thermomix just outside the 3-week qualifying period of the offer”.
10 September 2014: Thermomix in Australia apologises on its Facebook page.
12 September 2014: Concerned they had frustrated and angered a wider group of customers, Thermomix in Australia then decided to extend the qualification period back a further seven weeks so that people who transacted between 1 July and 20 August 2015 would receive a gift set of a new bowl, blade and lid (valued at $395) as compensation.
17 September: Customers eligible for the above offer were notified.
Mazur said: “We are working very hard to win back the trust of any disaffected customers and hope we can demonstrate to them we are truly sorry for any disappointment we caused them.
“We appreciate this is a fair perspective. But it must be remembered that Thermomix is sold direct through a distribution network and we worked hard to arrange events simultaneously in key metropolitan cities in Australia and New Zealand to coincide with an international launch and ensure we told our consultants about the new product first, so they could then communicate this exciting news on to their customers.
“Additionally, we put in place what we thought was a fair and reasonable plan by offering all customers who had purchased the existing model in the three weeks leading up to the launch (a total of some 2,000 customers) the option of a $250 rebate on their recent order or the opportunity to purchase the new model.”
The decision to extend the compensation period for another seven weeks has not placated everyone. For the first known time in its Australian history, Thermomix has also come under public fire for its customer service and handling of complaints.
“I am writing to inform you that I would like to reject your offer of a bowl and blade set,” wrote customer wrote in a complaint letter to Thermomix. “Thank you Thermomix for wasting my time yet again. All the time that the Thermomix was meant to save me has been spent on contacting you! I have now owned a Thermomix for a whole 13 days and have written to you three times and phoned once.
“I had possession of my Thermomix for two days prior to the new model. Had I been advised a new model was imminent I would have advised my consultant not to open the box and returned it promptly to await the new model.”
Devotees of the brand have fought back on its behalf, expressing frustration with our culture of whinging. Kathleen Mauger writes: “Giving customers a free $400 bowl set seems pretty good to me! Everyone needs to grow up. It happened! Stop posting on everything. If it were a TV or washing machine you probably wouldn’t complain as much!”
End of the Monopoly?
In what have been the worst weeks of PR for Thermomix in Australia, a new multicooking competitor has been released in Australia, to challenge Thermomix’s virtual monopoly in this market.
The MyCook Premium (RRP $1,890) is a thermal food processor that kneads, minces, chops, shreds, grinds, mixes, whips, beats, steams, sautés, weighs and blends. It has been available since 1 September 2014 and can be purchased though OzCook Ambassador in-home demonstrations.
Designed and manufactured in Spain, the MyCook Premium is the result of years of research and development by the Taurus Group, a European company that has produced high-quality appliances for the home and professional markets for over 50 years. It also has a loyal international following
It uses induction cooking technology for faster cooking and cooling processes and the cooking temperature can reach up to 120 degrees.
MyCook Premium was trialed by Hamish Ingham, head chef and owner of Bar H in Surry Hills.
Winner of the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year in 2004, Ingham said, “I really loved the MyCook Premium and all my chefs had great fun playing with it. The functions are so easy to use and simple to work out. I used it for several types of recipes — from making dough to cooking and blending a citrus curd to a set temperature which was very successful — and a lot easier than whisking by hand on the stove top.”
Some quotations in this story have been edited to improve readability.