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Gaggia Importika Espresso Maker Importers are a Ripoff

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by venusrising

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Happened: 
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In December 2010, I heated up my “Gaggia Espresso Color” machine, to make myself a fine Illy and what I nearly got instead was a burn. Boiling hot water was pouring from the espresso maker, so it was hard to see exactly where the problem was stemming from. It was less than a year old when the machine failed. The Gaggia “Color” model is identical to the exact build of the “Gaggia Espresso Pure” model  except that it is red instead of grey.
 
I immediately tried to contact Gaggia Italy directly by phone and email, after being unable to reach anyone at Importika, which is the only U.S. importer and responsible for any repairs that fall under warranty parts and labor. Gaggia never got back to me in any form, not even by email. I have literally never heard from the maker. Importika finally called back after five to six weeks, leaving the most general return message of “hi, call us back.” After much trial and error in trying to reach customer support, I learned the only one way to get a live person on the phone at Importika 888-389-4123 is to choose the option for “Super Automatic Machines,” or high-end espresso machines (option 2).
 
The lack of return communication from Gaggia and Importika gave me time to pore through every piece of warranty and related paperwork, hoping to find some clue that could lead me to someone, anyone. That’s when I discovered the “Parts Guru” company name on a diagram. I was able to diagnose the problem with my Gaggia espresso maker myself, through using a parts blow-up diagram that was included with the machine’s original warranty information. The base of the blow-up diagram document listed a company called “Parts Guru” – an excellent company for anyone stuck with a non-functioning Gaggia machine.
 
Timing was fortunate: an exact model of the “Gaggia Espresso Color” machine was being ditched by a customer (gee, wonder why) as a trade-in to Parts Guru. The traded-in espresso machine was literally on the bench while I was on the phone with “Parts Guru” support; the probability is that those Gaggia parts would’ve been snapped up by another unfortunate customer.
 
Removing the top of my “Gaggia Espresso Color” (which, by the way, is also supposed to serve as a warmer/warming tray – ironic, considering the following), I immediately found a tube  that was no longer connected to anything. The source of the problem became clear: the top of the tube, which was no longer attached due to a broken part, is located near the very top interior of the machine. Gaggia made a very bad design decision, not to mention cheap. Heat (powered by steam) rises – a fact which Gaggia is obviously well aware of, since the exterior top of the espresso maker is designed to be used as the cup warming tray.
 
The small plastic piece, which inserts into the tube is nipple-shaped. The remainder of the small nipple piece attaches (with a washer) to the steam wand by way of an o-ring and coupling. When there is a problem occurring (i.e., high heat which eventually or quickly weakens a small piece of plastic), the nipple-shaped piece basically snaps off, leaving half of the piece (the nipple-shaped side) stuck in the tube/hose – and the tube/hose, where boiling water normally pumps through, unattached.
 
Obviously Gaggia knows that high heat and moisture are pumping through the top, since the placement directly above serves as a warming tray, yet the company uses a small plastic part that is exposed to constant extreme heat temperatures – to eventually weaken the plastic piece to the point of breaking. This particular espresso machine was less than one year old, properly taken care of, used on a twice per month basis.  While this model isn’t in the company’s most expensive line, it’s not exactly cheap either, at a few hundred dollars a pop.
 
If you’re receiving a large amount of boiling water pouring out of your  Color or Pure model, check the clear tube that ends about an inch or two down from the top. If that tube isn’t connected to anything, the part needed is the “Union Spherical Grivory,” Gaggia Part Number  of 433204900 for ordering. The “Union Spherical Grivory” piece is best described as a nipple-shaped part, smaller than a penny, plastic. On the (attached) “Parts Guru” blow-up diagram, “Union Spherical Grivory” (Gaggia Part # 433204900) is labeled as piece #41 for reference. Basically, water is sent from the espresso machine’s boiler, to travel through the tube, connecting to a plastic nipple piece, where the nipple piece attaches to the backside of the machine’s steam wand. Because of  location, the piece is under high heat and pressure whenever the machine is in use.
 
Prior to the piece breaking, I also had a problem with the top of the espresso machine (cup warmer on top) lifting. I continually tried to press the lifted (“chrome”) part down but the problems would continue to occur. Gaggia had struck again, with bad design, using two-sided tape, to seal down the piece. It’s unclear why the company would possibly use tape in an area that constantly receives heat.
 
When I finally reached Importika, the company told me to call them back in one month, near when they were supposed to be receiving the part in stock. The company doesn’t keep parts in stock, and doesn’t put a customer’s name on a call-back list for any needed parts – but instead makes the customer call back to check with them. In about six weeks’ time, I was required to send no less than 14 emails in order to be able to obtain the part, simply so that I could fix the espresso maker myself.
 
Don’t count on Importika rewarding customer patience with courtesy. For the tiniest, single plastic piece needed in this repair (Part # 433204900), the part cost was $6.50, but the shipping cost was absolutely outrageous at $10 for an item that weighs the smallest fraction of an ounce. Don’t expect any courtesy of “Priority Mail” or expedited shipping services. It seems I squeaked by with an absolute bargain in comparison to reports from Gaggia customers who say they spent nearly a hundred bucks in getting the parts they required.  All said and done, after hours of wasted time in customer emails, phone calls and frustration, Importika got over sixteen out of me for the one tiny plastic part that I myself am repairing.
 
After repeating and confirming credit card information twice, I also received an email 4-5 days later (not even a phone call, despite the fact that Importika confirmed my phone number when I called to straighten out the issue), that my credit card had been “declined.” Knowing a “declined” card was impossible, I had to call the company again and asked whether the part was still available. The rep said “we have lots of those on order” so apparently the exact part is a frequent problem.
 
I’ve spoken to Greg, Mike and two separate female customer service or technical support representatives at Importika, and communicated in no less than fourteen emails (including tracy@importika.com and sales@ importika.com) between December 2010 and February 2011.
 
 
 

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Comments

I had the same EXACT part in

August 4, 2011 by Klezmaniac, 8 years 19 weeks ago

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I had the same EXACT part in my Gaggia Espresso Color break- twice! I have had my machine for no more than 6 months and when it broke the first time, I called Importika, hoping that either they would allow me to ship it to them free of charge to repair it, or at least send me a replacement part. No dice, like you had to pay for the grivory plus shipping myself. The actual repair was pretty simple and straightforward, but I had to use a different type of hose clamp to tighten the connection between hose and grivory "proboscis" because I couldn't get the original clamp tight enough to lock. Once I got the cover back on everything worked fine for about TWO WEEKS, then the new grivory, the part I JUST replaced, broke. So now I am faced with ordering yet another grivory, or seeing if I can convince Importika to take the whole thing back. What is the latest on your repair, venusrising?

Hey Klezmaniac- Well I

August 4, 2011 by venusrising, 8 years 19 weeks ago

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Hey Klezmaniac-
Well I replaced it and it is working so far. I am still pissed about paying $6.50 for a bad part and $10 dollars for shipping. I don't know who in their right mind would make a product that uses a plastic piece (Union spheral Grivory) to have steaming boiling water running through. I also had contacted parts guru before I finally got ahold of Importika after a month and they sold me a part from a junked machine, yes they had a color on the workbench and I paid $30 bucks for a bunch of little pieces. I would have never done this if I did not feel like I would be stuck with a machine I would have to trash. The whole process made me bitter and their service really sucks. Did the nipple part of it break off inside the hose for you too and if so was it the same break. The Gaggia color seems like it might be leaking a bit I have also had to tighten the metal ring underneath as it was pouring water out of the part that loads the coffee. I feel like this thing is a lemon. I know they know this is an issue but they keep make money off of it. Did you buy it right from them? www.partsguru.com said they get quite a few of these they also will give you a credit for a bad machine they will part out on a credit for a new one. They also have parts blow up on their site and I wonder if any of the machines have metal grivories. I like using the machine but it has been a real kill joy. How much do you use yours? I use mine about once a week so that may be why mine is still in tact. If it is only 6 months you might try a different model check the www.amazon.com reviews to see it got some mixed reviews. I guess I have an extra grivory and figured it was still cheaper than buying another machine, I was in warranty period but I too did want to pay UPS to send it back so i paid for the part. The people at parts guru can tell you if they have a machine that is more realiable as they fix them too.

The same break both times-

August 8, 2011 by Klezmaniac, 8 years 18 weeks ago

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The same break both times- the nipple part broke off inside the hose. I like the idea of finding a metal version of the grivory part, but I'm not sure that exists. I use my machine (well, not at all right now) about 3-5 days a week, so I guess I was getting a bit more mileage out of it than yours, but not more than what should be expected from a consumer appliance. I bought my machine from WholeLatteLove.com, and ordered the replacement part from Importika. I'll probably end up ordering one more grivory from them in the off-chance that I wasn't gentle enough when I repaired it the first time and perhaps weakened the new part. BTW, I also had to order a new knob for the steam valve 'cause it broke on me too, so watch out for that one!

When I got the old parts from

August 11, 2011 by venusrising, 8 years 18 weeks ago

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When I got the old parts from Partsguru.com it cost me $30 because the girl sent the nipple attached to the tube (The place is like a pick-your-part for Espresso Machines) I said I only needed the grivory and she said she would suggest the grivory attached to the tube as her tech said it could be broken when inserted into the hose. It is a pretty tight fit so I used the one attached and had the new part from Importika in a drawer. The little clamps however did not seem tight the second time around and I swear the thing was hissing some air and water the other day when it go too hot but perhaps I am imagining it. I wish I could mold my own metal part, I have been eyeing weird things lately to see if it would do the job. If it did not have to have the round part to seat near the wand I have seen these things at auto part stores for hoses.
Also, how is your metal cover on the top? From day two the thing started popping up, the damn thing is connected with two-side tape and they wanted the whole thing back via UPSandit could sit there a month so I glued it with this called amazing goop which works great for things BUT when I did it the part I pulled up got bent and it still pops up all the time. Why you would use a faux metal tray glued to plastic beneath heat. The tray is suppose to warm Espresso cups, just so dumb. I wonder if the $1000 machines are really any better, for some reason I feel like it would be the same thing only I would be even more ticked off. For some reason the Sanford and Son theme just popped in my head with visions of these Machines with missing knobs and parts sitting piled alone in a lot.

Btw if you click on the image

August 11, 2011 by venusrising, 8 years 18 weeks ago

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Btw if you click on the image a big version of the picture will show the details

Klezmaniac Did you ever get

October 10, 2011 by venusrising, 8 years 9 weeks ago

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Klezmaniac
Did you ever get the parts for your Gaggia color? If so what did you end up doing. The Grivory I have that was attached to tube seems to be working fine still. However not too happy that the top chrome plate keeps popping up due to the heat.