For anyone shopping for a major appliance –dishwasher, refrigerator or a washer/dryer –how would you answer these questions?
What should you expect from an appliance dealer when its service department has had multiple, failed attempts to repair an appliance still under the manufacturer’s warranty? Just how many bites at the apple should repair technicians have before that item is replaced or the customer offered a refund?
“We bought all our appliances from them for over 40 years.”
It was so sad being on the phone with 72-year-old “Sylvia,” who, with her now deceased husband, Bakersfield dentist, “Dr. B.” had been both friends and clients of our office for many years. He was from that generation of health care providers who placed the needs of patients first, money second, accepting whatever they could afford.
“We were loyal customers for over 40 years, buying all of our household appliances from Urner’s. We never even thought to shop anywhere else, and so, January, 2017, I bought a beautiful KithenAid refrigerator, along with an extended warranty,” she explained.
Urner’s has been an institution in Bakersfield for almost a century, its name synonymous with “always been here, always will, has the most knowledgeable sales and service people anywhere, takes care of customers.”
Sylvia has good reason to no longer believe that, and she’s not alone.
New Fridge - 3 failed attempts under warranty to repair
Almost immediately after installation, her $2,500 refrigerator, “Forms a huge block of ice, wasn’t cooling properly, which led to Urner’s making three separate attempts to repair it during the one year factory warranty. But it was the same thing, repeatedly; they replaced a fan, some wires, drove off, and it iced-up again.
“Then I learned Urner’s had shut down their service department, so when the factory warranty expired, under my extended warranty, two separate, failed repair attempts were made by different technicians,” she related, in a trembling voice, adding:
“There is this big block of ice in it again and Urner's is telling me to deal with the extended warranty company who couldn’t fix it after two tries.
“That’s why I called you, Dennis.”
So, I’m thinking, “Why didn’t Urner’s replace it after their own service people couldn’t fix the thing? What do they expect the lady to do after a year and a half? This is nuts. It’s more than nuts. How can you treat anyone this way?”
'We replace after two failed repair attempts'
We phoned appliance dealers across the country, asking, “What would you do?”
About 3 percent were as heartless as Urner's. But Rick Pommenville, California Regional Manager for Atlanta-based Aaron’s Inc. eloquently stated what I found to be the dominant attitude of the many highly-reviewed dealers we spoke with.
“If we can’t fix it by the second time, it is replaced, we take the old one back to our store and obtain a credit from the manufacturer. It isn’t that complicated, and where our tech, or a certified technician is called out and tells us this appliance won’t last, we will even replace it after just one repair attempt. That’s how you should treat your customers, especially the elderly,” he underscores.
'Wednesday, Sept. 19: Where is your courage?'
With Sylvia on the line, I called Urner’s and spoke with Customer Service Representative “Mr.N.” These are the people who should help the customer, not wimp out. Soon it was clear this guy desperately needs testosterone injections, confirming all the failed repair attempts and had the nerve to say that her only remedy “Was to deal with the extended warranty company.”
“That’s not going to fly,” I replied. “Why didn’t you get on the phone with KitchenAid and insist on getting Sylvia a new refrigerator a year ago?”
Oh, I didn’t have their phone number, and besides, they want us to use email.
“Ever hear of Google? Why didn’t you at least try to get someone on the phone? She has been jerked around for almost two years. Where is your courage? Do you guys care about customers any longer? You need to either replace the fridge or give her a refund.”
Thursday morning - Sylvia phones:
“They want to come over, remove the KitchenAid and refund all of my money, but I told them this will result in spoiled food. I need a couple of days to get a new fridge.”
“Wow! Great! Tell them to coordinate picking up their fridge with the delivery of your new one. They won’t argue.” She did and they didn’t utter a peep.
Moral to our story
Today’s appliances are often failures waiting to happen. Find out in advanced what your retailer’s exchange/refund policy is on a lemon, and have them write it on your invoice. And get an extended warranty.