back to article Farm machinery giant John Deere plows into two right-to-repair lawsuits

Two lawsuits have been filed in the past two weeks against farm equipment maker Deere & Company for allegedly violating antitrust laws by unlawfully monopolizing the tractor repair market. The first [PDF] was filed on January 12 in Illinois on behalf of Forest River Farms, a farming business based in North Dakota; the second, …

  1. JimboSmith Silver badge

    "About an hour later, Wells’ card was charged $615 for approximately 2 1/2 minutes of work," the complaint continues.

    Around the world lawyers and accountants having read that are thinking

    “We’re not charging nearly enough.”

    $14,760 an hour makes my accountant and lawyer look dirt cheap in comparison. That’s taking price gouging to a whole new level.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      While I agree with the sentiment, I suspect your numbers are a bit off in relation to hourly earnings. There's a call out fee included in that because farms tend to be out in the middle of nowhere. It takes time to get from one job to the next. And probably an hourly charge with a minimum of one hour.

      On the other hand, as an IT field engineer, nice prices if you can get away with charging them! We certainly can't get anywhere near those prices without losing all our customers! Plumbers on the other hand...

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Yep I thought something like that might come up (and my post was slightly tongue in cheek). So it’s maybe $15 for the work $600 call out fee. Doesn’t excuse the fact that the end user/other firms should be able to get the needed parts and software to make the needed repairs. Then the call out wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. Imagine if only Microsoft or their authorised agents were allowed to work on your computers. Even Apple aren’t that bad

        https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2021/11/apple-announces-self-service-repair/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @JimboSmith.

          I totally agree with what you are getting at. But perhaps, if people who are signing up to these contracts, actually read them first..,. I mean, they are blindly signing up to paying a huge amount of money? Sod "right to repair" they have signed that right away. It is their problem.

          I use only Apple products in my business. Yes I know the downside. But I got a solicitor to read and explain the contracts to me. maybe the complainers should have done the same? How can you run a business, and sign a contract without taking advice?

          It is the person who signed the contract who is at fault

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            So then you spend a lot of money on a lawyer that says "the contract sucks, but you have to sign it because nobody else can fix your tractor"

            That's a win-win, eh?

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              I totally agree with what you are getting at. But perhaps, if people who are signing up to these contracts, actually read them first..,. I mean, they are blindly signing up to paying a huge amount of money? Sod "right to repair" they have signed that right away. It is their problem.

              They never had the right to repair in the first place.

              So then you spend a lot of money on a lawyer that says "the contract sucks, but you have to sign it because nobody else can fix your tractor"

              That's a win-win, eh?

              Precisely and as I pointed out even Apple (now) aren’t as bad as these guys, which is saying something.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              So then you spend a lot of money on a lawyer that says "the contract sucks, but you have to sign it because nobody else can fix your tractor"

              FWIW, I think he was talking about the contract of sale for the tractor, ie read it and maybe choose a different brand that does allow you or independent contractors to do repairs on it.

          2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            You forget. The machine was inoperable. The farmer calls the repair shop. Who won't give a quote, or even a call-out fee price, just demand a debit card number. You can only do that if you are the only show in town.

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Additionally, the machine was inoperable not because there was a severe mechanical fault, but because one sensor was damp and Deere programmed the thing to shut down if even the slightest whiff of a non-ideal situation turned up. Which, in turn, makes it necessary to call for a repair technician for something that perhaps isn't all that necessary.

          3. doublelayer Silver badge

            This argument is rubbish for a few reasons:

            "if people who are signing up to these contracts, actually read them first..,. I mean, they are blindly signing up to paying a huge amount of money? Sod "right to repair" they have signed that right away."

            Incorrect. For one thing, there isn't such a contract. The tractors don't come with the right to repair in the first place. There is no contract that, if it had remained unsigned, would allow the owner to retain the right.

            "I use only Apple products in my business. Yes I know the downside. But I got a solicitor to read and explain the contracts to me. maybe the complainers should have done the same? How can you run a business, and sign a contract without taking advice?"

            You're very intent on contracts here, even when the contract is not the problem. The problem is the technology and how it was designed to provide additional revenue streams. The situation which the farmers dislike is not due to legal or contractual restrictions.

            Incidentally, contracts can't override laws. If the courts find that the restrictions are abuses of monopoly power, then, even if it was a contract that every user signed (it wasn't), the contract would be in violation of laws and would be nullified when the court renders its verdict. So even if your argument was factual, it would still be wrong.

          4. StephenATx

            Voluntold is more like it

            Person runs a farm and needs a tractor. All tractor companies do this. More like he signed voluntarily with a gun to his head. His choices were sign then you buy, or kiss your farm goodbye. What kind of choice is that?

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Sure, but if there was a more helpful error message than a red light, most people would have been able to do the fix themselves. Most of the remaining people would have been able to do it with a call to a level 1 script-monkey, and a very tiny number of people would have had to call the technician out to the farm.

        1. Caver_Dave
          Big Brother

          I suggest a bulletin board or similar for all John Deere owners where they log each "fix" so that the others can try it before having to resort to JD. I wonder how long it will take JD to try and shut that down?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I suspect you'll face the same situation as has existed with cars for quite some time: you need their gear to reset the alert condition.

            I hope they lose these cases in such a way that it applies retrospectively. I hate rip off merchants, and these farmers had no choice in the matter.

            1. MrDamage Silver badge
              Joke

              https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/john-deere-tractor-hacks-ukrainian/

              Obviously, John Deere are co-sponsoring Russia's invasion of Ukraine in order to put an end to this practice.

          2. Mark 65 Silver badge

            For a stop engine light you'd need a diagnostic tool - the bit they won't share. I doubt farm equipment is as open as OBD-II, hence no third party diagnostic to even tell you where to start looking. Even then I'm sure certain, if not most, car manufacturers play silly buggers with config etc.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Not all that bad.

      As an IT consultant, I implemented a four hour minimum for on-site visits in (roughly) 1990, a couple years after I went solo. Double on weekends/holidays. A few clients balked at the new rate ... I simply told 'em "Don't call me unless you actually need me". Or, as I tell prospective new clients "It's my job to ensure we see as little of each other as possible".

      A new issue arose. Convincing 'em to pay 4 hours for a one minute visit. The old TV repairman's maxim applied, "I'm not charging you for thumping your telly with a screwdriver. I'm charging you for knowing where and how hard to thump your telly, and for showing up to do it". The explanation seems to have worked ... although about four years ago a child CEO wondered why I'd need to thump a telly with a screwdriver.

      This is NOT the reason for the lawsuits. The lawsuits are because Deere is a defacto monopoly, if your farm runs on Green.

      John Deere is so bad that when attempting to restore a 55 year old tractor, the local dealership refused to sell me engine and transmission parts! Told me I was "stealing" from JD by having the gall to do my own work. So I called corporate to complain. They told me it was policy.

      Needless to say, I have sold all my JD kit, and will never purchase anything from them again.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      2.5 minutes for the repair, but there is also the travel time to the customer from the dealership.

      That information is missing from the story. Whist $615 is excessive, even if the dealer was 2 hours away, the "lost" work time of the technician has to be accounted for. Those 4 hours travelling are hours he cannot work on other vehicles.

      Probably still much too high, but it was more than just 2.5 minutes, unless the farmer was literally next-door to the dealership.

      Without all the information - how much is the call out charge, how far was the customer away, hourly rate and minimum charge time (15, 30 or 60 minutes?), it is hard to see how that $615 was arrived at.

      And, no, I'm not defending them, just pointing out there is not enough information to reach a conclusion, just enough to make a great story. I think Deere need to change their ways.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        And if the farmer as owner of the equipment, had access to a full workshop and troubleshooting manual as in the past, he would not have needed to call out anybody,expensive or otherwise to get/keep his tractor running.

        All the farmers I used to deal with in the UK could strip down and repair almost all of the kit on their farms, something that used to be taught at aggy college.

        Now the manufacturers have colluded to deny them their rights to repair in the name of profit and cash flow.

        The practice has also put a lot of agricultural engineers out of work because the manufacturers would only approve them if they worked only for the one maker.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          he would not have needed to call out anybody,expensive or otherwise

          Or, worst case, ring the local mechanic who'd either tell him where and how hard to thump, or, being local, be there in fifteen minutes when it requires two thumps and a poke in between them.

          1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

            Nope

            The machine says no. Thats it.

            And then, the field technician comed with the proprietary sw and the machine tells the technician the actual problem. Not you.

            So you local out of work tech would be as clueless as you, as a combine is extremely complex and you only get a "pay now" light.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              FAIL

              Not, when the previously mentioned condition would be met:

              "And if the farmer as owner of the equipment, had access to a full workshop and troubleshooting manual"

        2. big_D Silver badge

          I agree totally. My point was, the price quoted for “2.5. Minutes work” is not the full story, it is aimed to increase the outrage.

          The whole situation is outrageous enough, as it is, it doesn’t need such sensationalism with such half baked facts.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "The practice has also put a lot of agricultural engineers out of work because the manufacturers would only approve them if they worked only for the one maker."

          I'm fairly sure that that is an illegal business practice and anticompetitive. Any legally trained people here care to comment? (pro bono, of course :-))

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        2.5 minutes for the repair, but there is also the travel time to the customer from the dealership.

        My grandfather's brother made his fortune in the US by setting up a company which repaired milking machinery on farm. His services were very expensive, not only because they could be (you can't leave cows unmilked long) but because they had to be. In order to get his technicians to farms in the middle of Buttfark, Idaho within four hours of the call, he had a fleet of Piper twins and pilots to get the technicians around.

  2. gobaskof

    Farmers are the most practical and the most ingenious at getting thing to work when they need them to work. If you spend months growing a crop and have a few days of window to harvest it you get what you need to done. Knee-capping farmers with DRM is criminal. It affects the farmers who have the newest gear, but it has skyrocketed the resale price of older non DRMed machines, this affects small farmers, and really limits the export of even older gear to low income countries where it is sorely needed.

    This case should have been filed years ago.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      It doesn't help matters that many farmers are literally hundreds of miles away from a JD concession. You'd think that the purpose of remote diagnostics was to cut out time wasting technician visits rather than to mandate them.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        > It doesn't help matters that many farmers are literally hundreds of miles away from a JD concession. You'd think that the purpose of remote diagnostics was to cut out time wasting technician visits rather than to mandate them.

        Yes it's ludicrous that surgeons can do remote diagnostics, even remote surgery by robot on humans but a John Deere concession can't have a trained technician remotely guide the operator on how to "dry out an emission sensor".

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      I don't get it though. If John Deere's practices are so terrible why aren't farmers buying from the competition.

      Feels there's a ripe market here.

      1. jake Silver badge

        We are. Well, the human farmers are. Corporate farms are a whole 'nuther kettle o'worms.

  3. R.O.

    Deere in the headlights? Good!

    They have a well earned reputation for outrageously prized parts and service. I think a couple law suits won't change that at all. Likely they will raise prices to pay the lawyers.

  4. HildyJ Silver badge
    FAIL

    Small farmers are a dying breed

    And John Deere is helping to plow their graves.

    By making the initial cost and the locked in maintenance more and more expensive small farmers are increasingly being forced to sell out to factory farms (which exist in grain as well as livestock). Soon they will only exist as "living museums" for school field trips.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Small farmers are a dying breed

      "And John Deere is helping to plow their graves."

      Nah. We're still hanging in there. JD kit brings quite a bit as scrap if you don't feel like parting it out yourself, and there are plenty of other vendors who are happy to work will us little guys without screwing us over.

  5. Kev99 Silver badge

    When we were farming in the 1970s, we didn't need all that electronic crap to plow, plant or harvest. You read the manual that came with your equipment and talked to you seed dealer to get things set just so. One nice thing about our Oliver 1750 and Case 770 both had caps in the center of the forward hood which made perfect sights for lining up with with row marks or other centering targets. (We used a huge buckeye tree in our one field to start our rows.) 90% of the repairs could be made in the field. We used to joke that our local Oliver mechanic only need three tools to keep Ollie running - a BFH, a BFW, and a blowtorch.

    Why do you need GPS? Electronic seed counters? If you pay attention you can drop the seeds as accurately manually. Same goes for plowing, harrowing, combining, and baling. Oh, and all our tractors and combine had speed control and power steering. The only electronics on the rigs was the radio. And at 2-3 AM, it was worth its weight in platinum.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      "No one will even need more than 640k Memory for a personal computer" - Bill Gates.

      Not to argue with you too much, but I guarantee on newer models there would be quality of life improvements you wouldnt mind having. At the very least, new models should be far more fuel efficient, which would save you significant money over a full year. Is it enough for you to change over? Well that's up to you to decide, but just because you're happy with 70's tech, doesnt mean that others have no need for the newer capabilities.

      John Deere needs to be taken around the back of the barn and said goodnight to, permanently, for it's operating practices, but that's not the fault of the new Tech. That's purely a business decision, one that needs to be fought strongly... And finally it looks like that fight is starting...

      1. jake Silver badge

        ""No one will even need more than 640k Memory for a personal computer" - Bill Gates."

        Bill Gates never said that. It's a myth.

        However, I personally remember Steve Jobs saying that "128K should to be enough for home users!", at a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in late 1983, as he was demonstrating the original 128K Mac, just before the public unveiling. At the time, he had a point ... people were running flight simulators in 64K!

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Facepalm

          *sigh*

          Whether the quote is true or not, you understood the sentiment I was getting through, no?

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            See my other reply.

            Beer?

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Windows

          640k

          Bill Gates never said that. It's a myth.

          What he did say was that OS/2 would be the next PC OS in general use. It's in the foreword to an OS/2 programming manual I have (in a box in the attic most likely).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 640k

            And NT was basically a fork of OS/2, and all modern versions of windows are descended from NT. Looks like he was right after all.

            1. analyzer

              Re: 640k

              No it wasn't.

              It was based on PRISM that Dave Cutler and team were working on at DEC as a 32/64 bit replacement for VMS.

              When it got rejected by DEC manglement MS just happened to be looking for a new OS team and the NT kernel was born.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: 640k

                Not so.

                PRISM (Parallel Reduced Instruction Set Machine) was the architecture. The OS was called MICA ... binning this and then letting Cutler go (along with a lot of other high level engineers), only to attempt to pick up the pieces again with Alpha the following year is a major portion of what lead to DEC's downfall.

            2. bpfh

              Re: 640k

              Not quite. Bill declared that OS/2 would be the future but started working on an in house replacement which became NT

            3. jake Silver badge

              Re: 640k

              NT wasn't a fork, it was a new OS that included the OS/2 API, which was later changed to a Win3.x focused API after the unexpected explosion in sales of first Win3.0 and then Win3.1

              Interestingly, NT kept the (minimal) POSIX API because Microsoft felt that chasing the government mandated FIPS 151-2 standard was worthwhile. This went away with the release of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

              Early NT also kept a variation of the OS/2 API, but it was depreciated more and more over time.

              1. david 12 Silver badge

                Re: 640k

                POSIX API went away? The unix subsystem was still available for 2000, XP and 2003.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: 640k

                  It was not the original POSIX subsystem (based on XENIX[0]) ... XP and Windows Server 2003 used the new Windows Services for UNIX, which was essentially "borrowed" from BSD.

                  [0] Xenix was bog-stock AT&T UNIX Version 7 source, rebranded by Microsoft and offered to other companies "as is" to port to their hardware of choice. Microsoft was essentially a reseller of AT&T source code licenses.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Yes, there are many creature-comforts that are well worth having on modern Ag gear. I particularly like the ability to spot adjust fertilizer quantity as it is being delivered according to the results of soil tests. Has cut my fertilizer use by around 50% and increased yield by about 15% on the AZ property where we grow most of our critter chow. Couple this with GPS controlled steering for planting and harvesting, leaving me free to keep an eye on the equipment and look out for rocks in the field has resulted in both fewer breakdowns, and less damage because I can usually spot it before it gets bad. If you produce large acreage crops, these things are a godsend. As are heated seats, air-ride cabs, air conditioning in the summer, proper lights at night, etc. etc.

        Don't get me wrong, I love my 1915 Case traction engine ... and I enjoy demonstrating my manually operated 12 bottom plow ... but 8 guys to plow a field is not exactly labo(u)r saving. (Driver, engineer/fireman, and 6 guys, each one responsible for raising/lowering two of the actual plows. Can get away with 3, but 6 is more impressive at a county fair.).

        We have issues in our modern society, but making Ag workers lives easier is something that all of us benefit from. Well, those of us who eat, anyway. Support your local farmer.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          The thing is the traction engine WAS incredibly labour saving at the time. An acre was supposedly the area one man could plough with an ox in a day. The traction engine could do far more than 8 acres in a day but more importantly it could do land that oxen couldn't - assuming you could position the traction engine safely you could plough steep fields!! Where I live the amount of plough land tripled almost overnight with the advent of traction engines! Alas it was shrunk considerably by the advent of modern bred grains - the effective handout of 'modern' wheat and barley varieties killed off the local varieties that produced year in year out as the higher yielding (in 3 out of 5 years, nothing the other 2) meant it became uneconomical to buy in seed corn...

    3. NXM Bronze badge

      We have relatively new equipment because if it's going to break, it'll do it at the least convenient moment in the worst way. Secondhand gear can be great, but only for non-mission-critical stuff. What if the loader fails and you can't feed the cattle?

      But that sort of thinking doesn't work if your new gear breaks and can't be fixed quickly and cheaply. What's the point of John Deere if they blackmail you when you just need the stupid thing to work?

      We have New Holland tractors, and the dealers could not be more helpful. For instance the planetary gears in a front hub committed suicide and because that machine shouldn't really have been sold with a loader on (which overstressed the metal) they traded it in as if it didn't need the repair. It would've cost us about £6000 otherwise. Seems like JD would've just taken advantage.

    4. Gene Cash Silver badge

      90% of the repairs could STILL be made in the field if John Deere would let them have the information and tools.

      That's what the lawsuit is about. Not about the flashiness of the kit.

    5. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Compete

      The new machines allow you to be way more productive. But are also designed to fleece you.

      So you are at the mercy of the qctual owners of the machines, Deere.

  6. msobkow Silver badge

    If John Deere has such a bad reputation, why did they buy their equiment instead of another brand? I live in farm country - there are is no shortage of non-Deere equipment around here, likely because of such bad practices.

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      In Oz

      simpler alternative tractors are being bought. Ironically new Russian made machinery is doing well now despite appalling quality in 1980s because it has adequate instrumentation to do job, well enough made and no software and stupid "smarts". It can be fixed by owner. How much this happens on big factory farms I do not know. Different economics altogether. How times change

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: In Oz

        I think farms pioneered JIT. Mainly by needing to get stuff done in short weather windows. And of course Oz being kinda massive, meaning parts could be days away. So farmers also pioneered the bush fix. Might void the warranty, but saves the crop. Plus I've been amusing myself watching a Discovery show on Aussie truckers. Interesting challenges.

        Personally, I think the best thing that could happen to John Deere is people stop buying their stuff. If you lease it, having servicing rules is reasonable. If you buy it, you should be free to work on it yourself.

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    John-Dear

    A rebranding is needed!

    Meanwhile farmers send them a Dear John letter

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: John-Dear

      Winky, you didnt mention the location of rebranding. I suggest backside or forehead with traditional hot iron applied to board and past CEOs

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: John-Dear

        Porque no los dos?

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    I hope the courts see the farmers way!

    I have an uncle in Illinois who has been in this exact situation. Also, had a borked tractor in September, and couldn't get service for 4 months, good thing farmers also look out for each other. There were half a dozen nearby farmers that helped him harvest that year!

    DRM on a tractor? Who'd have thunk?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pity the lawsuits didn't include

    Tesla and Apple.

    Tesla is worse than Apple as my brother has found out with his Model 3. 3 months to get a spare part that other makers could get in days. In the end, he got the part from a wrecked car. Tesla got a bit shirty when he told them how he'd come by the part and refused to fit it saying that it was probably fake.

    He fitted it himself and sold the computer on wheels. He now drives a Polestar 2. Far higher quality in the components and build than the Tesla.

    We all know how repairable FruityCo crap is.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Pity the lawsuits didn't include

      Always start with the slam-dunk case.

      Then you've got precedent to win the rest more easily.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. AndyFl

        Re: Pity the lawsuits didn't include

        No need to be abusive, nowt wrong about someone posting as AC, often a lot of good reasons. It is even possible they didn't want their brother being identified.

        This obviously touched a nerve. Was it the comment about Apple or Tesla products which got you going? You bought something which you now realise isn't worth what you paid for it?

  10. ZeroPete

    Different approach

    In my country (and probably neighbouring ones) the brand 'importers' (= main agents) of major automobile brands (like the VW group) are buying up the larger dealerships thus cutting out the middle man. They are cleverly allowing *some* smaller dealers to continue. Only then, in case of warranty handling or parts supply, the independents are in direct competition with the 'importer owned dealerships'.

    Of course you can immediately imagine how this will lead to fairer competition and better customer service !

    ZeroPete

  11. Fred Daggy Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    People stand agog and simply don't believe it when I tell them that the closest to the communist ideal will actually come from capitalism. I don't rant about this but if the conversation turns that way, say, after a few beers. "All property is theft". Not from the common good, but from the common corporation.

    Other than a few personal care items, we won't end up owning much, but will pay to use the essentials we need. House? Rent. Car? Lease. Music? Personal communications device? Subscription. Books? Subscription. Clothes? You buy it but with one season focus from fast fashion one is basically subscribing annually. Even furniture is getting in on this caper. Rent/Lease, but at least some make it clear that the good bits are upcycled and the rest recycled. Software? Sub.

    What John Deere is doing just fits in with this model. They probably should just charge for "power by the hour" and then the farm decides what service priority they wish to purchase. No arguments then.

    To prevent these types of monopolies then really we need FRAND type deals done. That is, commercial, Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory dealership/franchise business model for all suppliers. Factory and Independent. Paying the same price for parts, diagnostic tech, getting the same help from head office, etc. Not going to happen, the financial incentive for the politicians is too great.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Yes but

      "Property is theft" is more related to anarchy than communism.

      For the rest, I wholeheartedly agree with your point of view.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
  12. EricB123 Bronze badge

    Garbage

    When I lived in Idaho, my Massey Ferguson was repairable in minutes, fixed by myself. Thank the lord we now have so much more technology to improve the quality of our shareholders, I mean our lives.

  13. SMDTS

    If farmers are so smart why do they keep buying green machines?

    Jcb make superior products and support third party maintenance pretty well with parts and manuals, and a lot of the diagnostics can be done through the dash menus.

    1. bpfh

      This. Also valid comment for cars

      Modern cars with their lcd on board nav system and “greed driving” monitors but you can’t use that to see the OBD and possible errors other than an orange or red warning on the dash. The error code strings for the car can’t be more than a meg or two and building in an OBD screen can’t be hard when you can DIY one for the price of Torque and a Bluetooth obd 2 dongle - except then the garage would not be able to bill you 50 quid or more to read the error codes for you and say the passenger seatbelt sensor is disconnected due to a broken wire and glow plug 3 has failed.

  14. TeeCee Gold badge

    Or...the communist option.

    I had this first hand from a colleague whose grandfather owned a farm in the heart of US grain country (guns, bibles and such come with).

    The old man was very much his own man and didn't so much take his own course through life as act like an icebreaker to it. So, at the height of the McCarthy witch hunts in the '50s, he bought a Russian tractor(!) John Deere as a company and their local rep in particular regarded the presence of this commie interloper on their home turf as a personal insult and resolved to Do Something About It.

    The slight snag was that, despite their best efforts, they couldn't match the Russian object and always ended up leaving (well-fed and entertained) with no sale. The problem was as follows:

    1) The Russian tractor was guaranteed never to break down. Actually it did, frequently, but there was a 24x7 number to call which resulted in a truck turning up within a few hours containing a loan tractor (always brand new) and whisking away the existing one to be repaired. JD repeatedly quizzed the old man on the repair quality and return process, but as he'd never had "his" tractor returned he was unable to help them.

    2) Servicing consisted of phoning the dealership and making an appointment for the truck to turn up. then things would proceed as per a breakdown, but at a mutually agreed time rather than ASAP.

    As John Deere were unable to provide a service that basically consisted of "give him a new tractor to keep him quiet", things stayed as they were for many years.

    Roll on to the late 70s and the old man decides it's time to hang up his pitchfork and hands the farm over to my colleague's father. The local JD rep was round like a rat up a drainpipe only to find, sitting in the yard, the latest model of Russian tractor. Like father, like son.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Or...the communist option.

      In the 80s I bought an ancient Belarus tractor for £500 and a few bales of hay.

      Some parts had welds on top of welds where they had broken but that was the selling point, it was easily and roughly repairable and the engine would start easily in a British winter and even more easily in the summer.

      I had it for a bit over two years and got the same price for it, I never even charged for the extra couple of pounds of weld that I had added.

  15. Mark C 2

    Right to Repair

    It has been law in the US for some time for automotive so not sure why it can't be extended to farm equipment.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_Vehicle_Owners%27_Right_to_Repair_Act

    USA...the land of the free

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    Are JD tractors notably cheaper outlay than the alternatives?

    I don't get, unless the upfront costs are much lower, why anybody would actually buy in equipment from a company with this business practice.

    Just vote with your wallets and buy from a company that isn't run by asshats.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Are JD tractors notably cheaper outlay than the alternatives?

      buy from a company that isn't run by asshats.

      Ha! That lets very few things to buy

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Are JD tractors notably cheaper outlay than the alternatives?

      buy from a company that isn't run by asshats.

      There's such a company? My purchasing decisions do involve "who is least dickish?" but usually that's not a very large scale. For example, for a phone, I get to choose between Google and Apple. Yay. I'd even buy Microsoft if they still made phones.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Are JD tractors notably cheaper outlay than the alternatives?

        For example, for a phone, I get to choose between Google and Apple.

        or Ubuntu Touch on a Fairphone* if you went to the extreme other end.

        * Several less non-asshatish options available

  17. aerogems Bronze badge

    Headline Writer Strikes Again!

    Whatever El Reg is paying the headline writer, it's not enough.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Headline Writer Strikes Again!

      Must be a US-centric headline writer since s/he can't spell "ploughs" :-)

  18. hayzoos

    Bait and switch

    John Deere of old earned a reputation of making good farm equipment. The reason why people bought the new DRM'ed equipment is because they had no idea. They were buying on the reputation. It was not until something broke down that they became aware that John Deere had changed. By then it was too late to vote with their wallet. Although, you can be sure next time they will shop around for a better deal.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Bait and switch

      Sadly, as we age, we all get caught out by that. In particular, old, well established and reputable brand names being bought and/or resurrected, selling cheap tat that's no where near the quality we expect from said brand.

      The weirdest one I've come across is Polaroid branded LCD TVs! At least those of use of the right age probably won't be taken in by that one. I have a vague sense Polaroid did sell stuff other than self-developing "instant" cameras, but I can't think of any of those products off the top of my head :-)

  19. SodiumChloride

    One afternoon in the John Deere office

    Steve > We need to make more money and the punters can buy cheeper stuff from other manufacturers... what can we do..?

    Bob > Do you know the printer people make very little from selling printers and make nearly all their money from ink refils? They lock the cartrages to the printers via DRM and little chips so the punters cant use other brands.

    Steve > Interesting.. could we... wait. hold my beer.

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