Sears failed to fix my refrigerator — can I get a new one?

Margarita Palacio’s new Kenmore refrigerator is a lemon. She wants Sears to replace it, but the company has other plans. Who is right?

Question: My Kenmore refrigerator, which I purchased from Sears, is defective. Sears has sent multiple repair technicians to address the problem. The latest appointment was yesterday when there were two technicians at my house. There’s another visit scheduled for next week.

Where does that leave me? I have to shop for groceries daily since the mini fridge I purchased can only hold very little. Luckily, I did not purchase many freezer items since I was wary of freezer’s ability to do its job.

I’m not asking for anything I did not pay for. Rather, I would like to have a fully functioning refrigerator.

At a time when Sears is looking to rebrand itself and build a strong customer base, I can’t imagine this would be the way to accomplish these goals. I’d like Sears to replace this refrigerator. Can you help? — Margarita Palacio, Philadelphia

Answer: After all you’ve been through, you have every right to expect a working refrigerator as soon as possible. The question is, should you have a new refrigerator? A look at your warranty suggests the answer is “no.” Under the terms of your master warranty, Sears was obligated to repair, but not replace, your unit. It could do so if it wanted to, but it didn’t have to.

Your case was frustrating, both to you and to Sears. You tried to send the company photos of the non-working appliance. Sears couldn’t open them. Also, your interactions with the company and its technicians were unproductive, to put it diplomatically. Your refrigerator contained black mold deposits (not covered by your warranty) and was not cooling (covered by your warranty) and yet, three technician visits later, you were still without a working Kenmore refrigerator.

Related story:   Beware of "free" offers from DirecTV

You grew increasingly agitated at Sears’ inability to help you. There were several tense interactions with the staff that, while understandable, made the company less willing to help you. Time to call me for help.
I think a brief, written appeal to Sears might have turned this thing around for you. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the key company executives on my consumer advocacy site.

I contacted Sears on your behalf. It agreed to repair the refrigerator, as promised, but stubbornly refused to replace it. While that’s not the outcome you had hoped for, something tells me Sears won’t quit trying until your refrigerator is fixed.

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

  • Annie M

    How old is this “new” refrigerator?!

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “Your refrigerator contained black mold deposits (not covered by your warranty) and was not cooling (covered by your warranty).”

    If there is mold on the sidescompartments on the refrigerator…this COULD have been caused by a lack of cooling.

    To get rid of mold and/or mildew in a refrigerator, you can mix 1/4 cup baking soda with 1 qt. warm water. Submerge a clean rag into the mixture and wring it out. Wipe the entire refrigerator and freezer out with the baking soda cleanser.

  • John Baker

    I assume that the appliance is old enough to be out of warranty and she isn’t covered by a State Lemon law. May want to look into the Magnuson-Moss Act (US law covering warranties)

  • finance_tony

    That seems to be key, doesn’t it? If it’s truly new (even less than a year), then I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t get a fresh start.

  • Hanope

    I would guess that Sears probably has these repair techs either as direct employees, or contract, and the cost is the same whether they are repairing this fridge or another customer’s appliance. However, if Sears replaces the fridge, that’s a new additional cost to Sears.

  • Chriscfrn

    I would never buy anything from Sears after they delivered a brand new dryer that did not work the very first time it was turned on. Sears insisted on sending a repairman while I insisted that the unit be replaced. After a lot of back and forth with the store manager, they agreed to replace it but only after I paid a “restocking” fee which was almost as much as the cost of the dryer. I persisted and eventually (after weeks of draping wet clothes around the place since the closest laundromat is half an hour away) the agreed to replace it. I was polite but determined (and documented every single thing in writing) and it paid off. But it also soured me on doing any further business with them.

    I don’t know how old the refrigerator was but, in my opinion, repairing a brand new item is not acceptable.

  • jim6555

    I saw an item on the news last night that Sears is closing even more stores. For Sears, the end is near, very near. I have mixed feelings about their impending demise. I can remember when Sears was was a good, convenient place to shop. I used to purchase clothes there. Most of the appliances in my kitchen and laundry room came from Sears and I never had a problem with any of them. The store employees were available, knowledgeable and courteous.

    Several years ago, everything at Sears started to fall apart. The number of sales people was greatly reduced. The lines of clothing carried were increasingly cheap and unattractive. The stores began to look like K-Marts with shopping carts being available at all of the entrances. The prices didn’t change much but the quality of the shopping experience did. My local Sears store is at a mall which is only a mile from my home. It’s been at least three years since I have set foot in the store and I have no intention of ever going back.

  • Steve Rabin

    Remember the good old days, when Kenmore appliances were actually good?

  • SirWIred

    Public Service Announcement: Sears is in a near-inevitable Death Spiral. I would not get any Kenmore stuff at this point, as warranty, repairs, and parts could become difficult when they finally pull the plug. Buy appliances from Sears, sure, but stuff where the company is likely to be in business longer than Sears is.

    You’d do okay for major assemblies, which are likely to be identical to models branded by the company that actually makes the stuff, but trim bits will quickly become impossible to get.

  • SirWIred

    They’ve been doomed ever since that Hedge Fund Baron took over K-Mart (and then Sears.) The man clearly has no idea how to run a retailer, but thinks he does, and didn’t unload the job on somebody who did.

    He persists under the delusion that somehow their loyalty program will single-handedly rescue the chain from doom, even as their shelves go bare, the stores look worse and worse due to a lack of capital investment, and things just look more and more sad.

  • Bill

    Still having great luck with my Kenmore appliances and have found that all parts, right down to trim and screws, are readily available from the actual manufacturer. Sure, now my refrigerator shelf doesn’t say Kenmore, but big whoop. I find that the Kenmore version of the branded appliances have more features than the branded version. But, regardless, I’ve had no problems finding any and all parts through third parties even for 12 year old Kenmore (Frigidaire, usually) appliances.

    That being said, it’s a shame what the idiot hedge fund manager has done … it used to be Kenmore and Craftsman were symbols of quality … no more :(

  • Michael__K

    The OP is not alone. See:
    If the fridge was purchased after June 28, 2015, then according to that article the consumer should be automatically entitled to a replacement after 3 unsuccessful repair attempts.

    If this continues to drag on, the OP could also try to reach out to the Consumer Protection Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, where Sears is based.

    I experienced a similar problem several years back with a brand new Samsung refrigerator which was never capable of reaching proper fridge or freezer temperature, and which they could not fix even after three and a half months. I finally complained to the NJ AG Consumer Protection Office (where Samsung US is headquartered). Lo and behold it turned out the AG had received lots of other complaints and had already reached a consent decree agreement with Samsung and I received a letter stating that my complaint would be handled as part of that agreement. Suddenly Samsung’s stalling ceased and they delivered a brand new replacement.

  • The Original Joe S

    Don’t forget the Tri Sodium Phosphate [ for those of you who live in non-tree-hugger territory ] and the bleach and the pine sol.

  • The Original Joe S

    Restocking fee? Chargeback immediately! Tell ’em to come and pick up their piece of junk, which is located out on the sidewalk. Before some scavanger takes it for 9¢ / lb at the junqueyard……

    Sears toads just want to make a sale, and don’t care if they sell you a good item. They are on salary, so they get paid no matter what. Put ’em on COMMISSION, and watch things improve. Of course, Sears is too stoopid to figure this out. Same with Wurst Bye – lazy, stupid, incompetent schweinhunden stand around all day playing pocket pool…..

    Buy from a reputable company. I’ve had good luck with Home Desperate. I like them. Microcenter Toy Store is another…… COSTCO takes stuff back, with some exceptions. COSTCO finds your sale in the ‘puter, since you are a member……. Had a microwave go bad. Two years old. Refund and buy ‘nother one. New one lasted one week – what’s the probability? Anyway, they gave me yet another one. Happy.

    ALWAYS tunnel thru your library site to the Consumers Reports site, and find the ratings of stuff you want to buy. Likely that Home Despot will have it. e.g., needed a fridge for son. Home Destitute had the bestest one rated in CR and sent it over. First one of those they ever sold; I, son, Jose and Hector had to figure out how to put door back on after nudging it into the small house door. On sale. AND price went down day after delivery; they refunded.

  • The Original Joe S

    And the catalog came!

    Cletus: Did you get your Sears catalog yet?
    Clyde: Yep! Got it, and it’s HUNG!

  • AMA

    Never, ever, ever accept delivery of an appliance that is DOA. Make the delivery people stand there until it is plugged in and working. I bought a new refrigerator, and when they unboxed it, there was a huge dent in its side. I told them to put it back on their truck and take it away, despite multiple protests that “the warranty would cover it.” NO. I bought a brand new, undamaged working refrigerator, and you did not deliver one. The salesguy on the phone kept arguing with me until he finally gave up. Took a couple days, but a new, undamaged fridge was delivered. Appliance salespeople will try anything. Just a notch below used car dealers, IMHO.

  • AMA

    Never let the delivery people leave without making sure the appliance is working. If it doesn’t work, insist that they put it back on the truck and take it away. You bought a new, working, undamaged appliance and they didn’t give you one. Breach of contract.

  • greg watson

    Sears Canada just closed multiple stores & put about 12,000 people out of work…………I am surprised that they are doing anything for this customer…………similar story on Elliott sometime last year……I think?

  • LonnieC

    Also, you can buy Craftsman tools. They’re sold at a number of stores in addition to Sears (Ace Hardware, Orchard Hardware, K-mart), and they seem to have retained their quality. All so sad….

  • Travelnut

    I bought a Kenmore refrigerator in 1996. Never had a minute’s trouble with it. I bought a Kenmore range and microwave about ten years ago and they have also worked perfectly. Would I ever buy another Kenmore? Sadly, no. I mourn what has happened to Sears but they brought it on themselves.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.