I’ve been talking with a grasshopper, AngryatAmana, via email about his Amana refrigerator (now a Whirlpool brand) with a sealed system failure. The refrigerator is less than four years old, still under warranty (the sealed system, which was the problem in this case, has a five year warranty) and Amana (Whirlpool) is refusing to honor their warranty. The “authorized” servicer told him the warranty was void due to “sulfur corrosion” and, for a bonus kick-in-the-pants, charged him an $80 service call fee!
Keep in mind that most appliance servicers are honest, hard-working, highly skilled and conscientious tradesmen who take pride in their craft. But this “sulfur corrosion” story is a lumpy line of bullshiest that is popular among the relatively small but odious underworld of sleazy appliance servicers. (Please note who the service company was in this story.) I’ve dealt with this very same issue before in this post.
Anyway, here’s another saga of slime in this same vein. Forewarned is forearmed!
With a growing family, we bought our new Amana refrigerator in November of 2004. We moved the old one, a smaller “starter” fridge to the garage, where it was happy to live on for a couple of more years as a beverage chiller and party food cooler. With the newfound storage capability of our brand spanking new Amana refrigerator, my family of 6 was thrilled, until recently.
On Sunday, July 20, 2008, three years and 8 months later. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were visiting, and when I went to get ice out of the bag I had put in the freezer, I discovered it was melting. Formerly frozen meat surrounding the ice bag was thawed too. Strangely, the fridge still seemed cold though. We tossed out the contents of freezer, because we weren’t sure how long it had been unfrozen. We lost a lost of roasts we’d bought on sale. 2 for 1 is a good deal!
The next morning, July 21, 2008, I went to pour milk in my cereal and it didn’t feel cold. The milk smelled funny too. We poured the three gallons of milk down the drain, dumped the leftovers, put the condiments in a cooler with the cheese and veggies we could save. I thought that there might have been an ice build up on the coil due to the hot humid weather, so I figured we’d unplug it and let it thaw, then see if it got cold again. It didn’t. I located the manual, which I found had fallen behind the refrigerator, after I had torn up the house up looking for it, and discovered it had a 5 year warranty on major parts. I called the number listed in the book and talked to a Maytag Customer Care Specialist. They contacted A & E Appliance Repair to set up a time to come out and diagnose the problem. I was told it would cost me $79.95 for this diagnosis and that A & E only did warranty calls on Fridays. The soonest they could get me in would be August 1. It told them I thought that was ridiculous, and the customer care specialist told me I should call the number for Whirlpool Customer Care, as they were all under the same ownership. I was given the number and called. They could not connect me directly. I might add that every time I called I had to navigate multiple levels of voice prompts, and I can’t even remember how many times I had to give the model number and the serial number.
The Whirlpool Customer Care Specialist eventually contacted Household Centralized Service. Through a three-way call we set an appointment up for Friday, July 25, 2008. I was supposed to get a call telling me what “three hour window” the technician would arrive during. Instead, he suddenly shows up. My wife is home, luckily, and he looks over the fridge. He tells her the copper pipes have holes in them and some fluid is leaking. It is not repairable. He goes on two say that the sulfur from our well water is to blame for the corrosion, and we should have “painted” the copper tubes before bringing the appliance into the house. “Painting” after it was in the door would be a waste of time because it would just seal in the sulfur. He also said we should have bought a cheaper fridge, because they don’t use copper like the expensive one we had. He then leaves without any mention of what happens next. After hearing about all this from my wife, I call and talk to another Whirlpool Customer Care Specialist and ask what is going on. She says they will try to reach the technician on the radio to see what happened, because they don’t have his report yet. I am told the I will hear back from them on Monday or Tuesday “at the latest.”
On Tuesday, July 29, I call them in the morning, because I have not heard anything. I relay my story to a Whirlpool Customer Care Specialist and get connected to a supervisor. The supervisor tells me they still don’t have the report. She asks me, “Well, what do you want me to do?” I say: “You could call them again!” I am put on hold and get cut off. I needed to do some actual work at my desk, but I get a chance to call later in the afternoon. I ask the Whirlpool Customer Care Specialist to connect me with a supervisor. After a wait, I explain my situation again, and I am told that my problem is not covered by the warranty because the parts were not defective. I point out that it shouldn’t go bad so quickly, but they refuse any further action. I tell them how long my last fridge lasted (17 years), but nothing further can be done for me. I am told it is the sulfur from my water that caused the breakdown. I tell them what the technician said about painting the tubes, and they said that would be an unauthorized modification. I tell them that nothing in the manual says that people with well water should not buy this because it will soon fail, but still nothing can be done for me. I ask if there is anybody else I can speak with about my situation, and the man said he was the highest authority I could speak to. I then asked what nameplates their company sells under, and he listed them: Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, Whirlpool, Estate and Roper. I told him I wanted to be sure I never bought a single thing from them again, then our conversation ended.
UPDATE: I received an update on this saga from my abused grasshopper. Let’s listen:
I have an update to the saga.
My wife got a call from Whirlpool Corporate Headquarters a few days ago. They were responding to the BBB complaint and offered to “buy back” the refrigerator. They wanted to be faxed a copy of the receipt for the fridge when it was purchased, and a copy of the service call report/receipt from Household Centralized Services. I faxed them the papers yesterday. Today, I called and spoke to the corporate contact for my case, who has been very pleasant on the phone, and she told me they would be sending a check, for the full amount I paid for the refrigerator, in my name, to the company that did the warranty service call, and they will come pick-up the broken fridge and hand me the check. She said it would be 10 to 14 days to get accounting to issue the check, and the service company would contact me when they get it to arrange the swap. Whirlpool has come through.
She also told me that normally they would exchange appliances, but they were worried my sulfur problem might affect a new appliance in the same way, and they didn’t want me (or them, presumably) to have problems in the future.
I am happy with the resolution of my case, but a few questions remain: How exactly did they cheapen the manufacturing process that lead to this problem? How many people just gave up and didn’t fight with the company? Does every manufacturer use the same manufacturing technique, so this is going to be a problem regardless of the brand I buy?
If you have any answers, I’d be happy to hear them.
Thank you so much much honorable Samurai for your wisdom and patience.
I am cautious about celebrating this victory of the little guy just yet, as I do not have a check in hand.
Formerly AngryatAmana, now AlotlessangryatAmana
Let’s hear it for BBB! Yeah, OK, and I guess Whirlpool, too… finally, but not without much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Look, you just should not have to wade through the pond scum of lies that the parts changing monkeys fed this guy. If (formerly) AngryatAmana had *not* stuck to his guns, he would have been SOL. Why is Whirlpool continuing to use such companies for warranty service who, in turn, treat their customers like doggy-doo door mats? Maybe Whirlpool is stuck in a contract with the devil. Maybe there aren’t enough appliance servicers in that area. Or maybe Whirlpool just doesn’t give a rip and is cynically playing this game knowing that, statistically, most people will simply roll over like a jailhouse ho and won’t fight back like AngryatAmana did.
Moral of the story: always fight back, whether it’s government regulation, police abuse, or corporate sleaze. If you don’t fight back, bureaucracies, whether governments or corporate, just get more and more brazen and abusive. Don’t let ‘em! Be a pain in their azz and FIGHT BACK even if it means personal harm to you. You’ll have made ‘em spend time and resources dealing with you. If enough other people do the same, companies and governments will be forced to mend their shoddy ways. And, eventually, we’ll make the world a little better place to live.
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