We love a happy ending

When James Davies and his wife return from a trip to a house that smells of rotten food, they call Sears for the third time in two years for help with their Kenmore appliance. This time, they want a replacement instead of another repair, and the company’s customer service staff refuses. So Davies hits the web.

Question: Both our kitchen and laundry room contain only high-end Kenmore appliances, and, overall, my wife and I have been extremely satisfied. We have, however, developed a problem with the refrigerator.

About two years ago we opened the refrigerator only to discover that everything had frozen. We had a service call in about a week; the technician identified the problem, ordered parts and about a week after that, the unit was fixed. The fix appeared to involve replacing the computer boards.

In April of this year, the same thing occurred. Technician was dispatched, parts ordered, and about two weeks later, the unit was fixed. Again, it appears the computer boards were replaced.

Yesterday, we returned home after being gone for a week only to discover the unit was no longer cooling. The front panel did not indicate any problems and the unit was running but not cooling. Everything was spoiled, and you can’t begin to imagine the smell in the house.

We have an appointment scheduled for next Wednesday, and I am confident that the problem will be identified, parts ordered, and in about two weeks, we will have a working refrigerator.

Our concern is just how long the unit will continue to work. My wife and I have several trips planned for this summer and fall and don’t really want to have to have someone babysit the refrigerator. Top-of-the-line appliances should not require this type of activity. Our only option appears to be replacing the unit with one that functions 100 percent of the time.

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What consideration, if any, would Sears offer us on a new Kenmore unit to keep us as loyal Sears customers? — James Davies, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Answer: I’m sorry to hear that this refrigerator has been giving you trouble for the past several years. I travel a lot as well, and I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to spend two weeks wondering if I would be assaulted by the smell of rotten food the moment I opened my door after a long flight home.

It seems that when you purchased your Kenmore refrigerator, you also bought a Master Service Agreement, which promises “If we can’t fix it, we’ll deliver and install a new, comparable product. Guaranteed. Other plans give you a gift card for the depreciated value of your product. Not Sears. We give you a real replacement.”

After multiple repairs involving the same parts, it seems reasonable to expect a replacement. But when you initially called Sears and requested a replacement instead of another repair, the customer service representatives you spoke with did not agree. What you did next reminds us and our hard-working team of research volunteers why we do what we do.

You visited our website and looked up the customer service and executive contacts we list for Sears Holdings Corporation. Five hours after sending an email to the primary executive contact we list on the Sears contact page, you received a response, and the executive team agreed that your repeated problems warranted a replacement:

I am authorizing a replacement under your Master Protection Agreement. I will send your information to my processing team, and they will do the PA research. Once they have completed the research, they will provide an authorized dollar amount for the replacement. I will send the replacement information to you in an email once it is completed. Also, you should be eligible for food loss under your protection agreement.

An additional five hours after receiving that email, you had the authorization for the refrigerator replacement. The company also apologized for your frustrating experience and provided the contact information you needed to apply for reimbursement of your food loss.

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Shortly thereafter, you emailed us to let us know that you used our contacts to self-advocate your case. Now that’s what we call a happy ending.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans.

  • The Original Joe S

    First of all, a refrigerator doesn’t need a computer in it. Any fridge which has one is over-engineered. You want it hooked up to the web so that everyone can see that you have run out of chocolate milk? High end doesn’t mean better; it means that it’s over-engineered to the extent that something is more likely to go tummy up.

    I have a 35 year old analog Amana fridge. It’s had 2 problems:
    1] Coils froze up – moisture on coils didn’t get melted off sufficiently. Sensor on coils which triggers auto-defrost cycle needed to be changed for one with a higher temperature trigger. Problem solved. Easy to install. Cost about $10.
    2] Automatic icemaker stopped functioning. This is because the wire arm which is bent around and goes into the mechanism rode in the plastic housing. After 20 years or so of riding in the plastic, it wore the hole to oval, and the tab stopped engaging the switch in the icemaker. Removal, bending, re-installing fixed it. Cost a half hour of time.

    I have a 1954 Generous Electric heavy steel boat anchor rotating tray fridge in basement which was replaced by the big Amana above. Only thing wrong with it is the switch for the light failed, and I’m too lazy to pry it out and replace it. These old ones were low pressure, meaning long-lasting because they won’t blow out like hi pressure new ones. Hi pressure is more efficient, but lookit what happened to the Navy destroyer they built with a 1200 pound steam plant as opposed to the 600 pound standard: LEAKS LEAKS LEAKS.

    Avoid over-engineered nonsense. Get one that does the job, and isn’t encumbered with stupid stuff.

    Notice that the old ones had glass shelves? Everything now seems to be plastic. Plastic breaks more often. They’ll sell you a $2000 unit made of PLASTIC, and drawers break. Buy quality once, and it should last.

    Put a $20 surge suppressor on it. You’ll be glad you did, especially with the computerized fridge. Likely a spike destroyed the computer. Had that happen with a stove – computerized oven. Figured it out after the 2nd fail. Surge Suppressor on stove, Dishwasher, everything. Yup……

  • finance_tony

    A refrigerator doesn’t need an automatic icemaker in it. Any fridge which has one is over-engineered ;)

  • The Original Joe S

    Not as over-engineered as a computerized wifi ice box.
    While it doesn’t NEED an automatic icemaker, it’s nice. They’re analog, usually.
    Over-engineered is simply your opinion, as is mine concerning computerized ones.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I love my automatic ice maker. I go through lots of ice and it is much nicer than having to refill the trays. And I’m sure there is someone who loves their computerized fridge that lets them know when they need to get more milk (but I’m not that early adopter).

  • greg watson

    verrry cool ! ……………………..

  • Don Spilky

    Well done!

  • Mel65

    My Samsung does have WiFi in it. It gives me the weather, news headlines, I can look up recipes based upon the ingredients I have in the refrigerator and pantry. And while it doesn’t tell me if I’m out of chocolate milk if I put in the dates I purchased milk cheese eggs Etc it will tell me when they are expired or going to be expired. It also has Pandora on it and I listen to music while I cook. The only issue we’ve had with it in the five years that we found it is at the shelf on the door has broken twice and I’m almost positive that is not a result of the “computerized over engineering”..

  • jsn55

    I think it’s great that people can buy appliances that do tricks. The rest of us really would prefer quality, basic simple quality. A refrigerator that cools, a freezer that freezes … and keeps it up for 20 years. An ice maker is great, but if the waterline develops a pinhole leak, after six months your kitchen floor is ruined, so I am willing to fill ice trays.

    If my refrigerator full of food quit working and the repairs took more than 2 weeks, I’d have the thing trucked to the bottom of the driveway … the seller could pick it up after he delivered the replacement..

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