What’s your problem? “The fridge makes these crazy sounds at night when it is forming the ice”

Question: I am at my wits’ end with Whirlpool. I need your help.

In April 2010, we bought a new Whirlpool refrigerator from a store called Pacific Sales here in Camarillo, Calif. A few months after we bought it, we noticed that it was making weird sounds and found that a sheet of ice has formed under the food basket in the freezer. It is a bottom freezer unit.

We called Pacific Sales and they sent someone out to fix it. He replaced a part and went on his way.

But we noticed that the refrigerator continued to form the ice sheet and would scrape it off hoping it might self-correct. We meant to call Pacific Sales and have them come out again, but you know … life got busy. So by the time we could not take scraping the ice sheet anymore, a year had passed since we purchased it.

I went to Pacific Sales and they said there was nothing they could do since we had not purchased the extended warranty. We explained that the original problem was not properly fixed. They said too bad. We offered to buy a new fridge from them if they would credit our original purchase price. They said all they could offer was to sell us a new fridge at cost, which was not a huge discount.

So then I tried Whirlpool. They said too bad, so sad that we did not buy the extended warranty. I said you have a faulty product, aren’t you obligated to fix it? They said, “No.”

So here we are. The fridge makes these crazy sounds at night when it is forming the ice. And we are scraping the ice out every week. Is there any recourse? — Rachel Huff, Camarillo, Calif.

Answer: Whirlpool’s distributor should have fixed your refrigerator the first time you called to report the problem. But you were responsible for making sure that the repairs were successful.

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“Life happens” (while certainly true) is not a valid excuse for failing to contact Whirlpool within your warranty period.

I’m one to talk. I encountered this problem with an early version of Apple’s iPhone. I had refused to purchase the extended warranty (conventional wisdom says it’s a rip-off, and it usually is) and my phone stopped working just before the warranty expired. It was “fixed” but then stopped working after its coverage elapsed.

Apple initially refused to fix the useless phone. But when I politely explained the situation to a manager, and underscored how many other Apple products I owned, the phone was quickly replaced.

An equally polite letter to a Whirlpool executive might have yielded similar results.

Whirlpool should have sold you a working refrigerator, but I can’t fault it for failing to correct the problem after you were outside your warranty period. You should have said something. (And indeed, this is one of those rare times when a pricey extended warranty would have done you some good.)

I contacted Whirlpool on your behalf for one reason: I don’t think any company wants you to be unhappy with its product. And even though it doesn’t have to fix your refrigerator, I thought it might want to.

I was right. A company representative contacted you and sent a technician to your home to repair your refrigerator at no extra charge.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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