Chuck Reiter hoped the third time would be the charm for his new Whirlpool stove. The company had already delivered two faulty appliances and reluctantly replaced them, but his weird adventure in Whirlpool hell was about to get even weirder.
Reiter’s case is a cautionary tale for anyone buying a new stove, refrigerator or washing machine. His problem is also maddeningly complex because it involves an uncaring retailer and Whirlpool policies that are not disclosed when you purchase a stove or any other appliance.
We’ll turn up the heat on Whirlpool and find out:
- If Whirlpool stoves have a manufacturing defect.
- If the company has any secret policies involving product returns.
- How to avoid getting stuck with a defective stove.
Ready? Let’s set this one to “broil” and get cooking.
What’s wrong with this Whirlpool stove?
Reiter ordered a new KitchenAid downdraft cooktop through Best Buy last year. (Whirlpool owns KitchenAid.) But it was doomed from the start.
“Whirlpool delivered my first new cooktop with a shattered top,” he recalls.
The company promptly replaced it.
“It delivered my second new cooktop with a warped top,” he says.
Whirlpool also replaced it.
Finally, he received a third stove that appeared to work.
But soon, the cooktop also began to warp. Then it started to leak grease into the cabinet while he was cooking.
Reiter contacted Whirlpool again. The company sent a technician to diagnose the problem. And here’s where things get interesting.
“According to Whirlpool, Best Buy’s licensed professional downdraft installer didn’t properly install my cooktop,” he says.
But Whirlpool could fix the problem. At least, that’s what it said.
Do Whirlpool stoves have a manufacturer defect?
Before we get to the fix, let’s answer an obvious question: Does Whirlpool make defective stoves?
We know Reiter’s appliances didn’t work right, at least according to him. But it turns out the company is no stranger to stovetop problems. Although there have been no recent recalls of KitchenAid downdraft cooktops, it has something of a negative reputation with its cooktop surfaces.
In 2019, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported a recall of some Whirlpool-manufactured stoves sold under Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air brands after receiving 133 reports of the cooktop surface elements turning on by themselves. There were four fires and two minor burn injuries. That led to a class-action lawsuit that alleged those stoves present a serious safety risk to its consumers and an accompanying risk of property loss
Whirlpool also warns of possible warping of pans on the stovetop, although there’s no evidence any of these incidents are linked or even tied to a manufacturer’s defect.
But we can connect the dots here and say Whirlpool knew there could be trouble with its stovetops and should have quickly addressed any problems that arose.
The proposed fix has a few strings attached
After months of back and forth, a Whirlpool representative agreed to a warranty replacement of the third warped cooktop.
“But they said the current installation done by Best Buy was not acceptable,” Reiter added. “I have to fix the installation before Whirlpool will do a warranty replacement.”
But Best Buy won’t fix it. In fact, the company has repeatedly insisted that it installed the stove properly.
“I do not want to have to arbitrate between Whirlpool and Best Buy to obtain a proper install,” Reiter says.
Nor should he have to. Best Buy is a reputable company that sells appliances manufactured by Whirlpool. Reiter should only have to make one phone call to get this taken care of, not become an amateur shuttle diplomat.
What’s Whirlpool’s policy for replacing a defective stove?
Whirlpool covered Reiter’s KitchenAid downdraft cooktop under a warranty that took care of “factory-specified replacement parts and repair labor to fix any defects in materials and workmanship that existed within one year of when your appliance was purchased.”
In other words, it covered the stove but not the installation.
Reiter also purchased a five-year extended warranty through Best Buy. The warranty makes broad promises, including, “After we resolve what’s wrong with your range or cooktop, we’ll reinstall it if we originally installed it.” So Best Buy should be able to get this warped stove uninstalled properly so that Whirlpool can fix it.
But, according to Reiter, Best Buy thinks the leakage is normal. So he’s at an impasse. Or is he?
How to resolve this problem
Normally, a brief email to one of the companies would fix this quickly. We publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Whirlpool executives on this site. We also have the names of all the Best Buy managers here.
Reiter sent a brief, polite appeal to one of the Whirlpool higher-ups using the Elliott Method.
“I believe that when you review the facts, you will want to make this right,” he noted. “Whirlpool should replace my defective KitchenAid downdraft cooktop with a model that is known to NOT drip grease and install it properly, and complete this before my warranty expires. Please confirm when you will complete a proper installation of a new, non-defective cooktop.”
But Whirlpool did not confirm that it would install a new stove. In fact, it didn’t respond to Reiter’s email at all.
And that’s when he called our A-Team.
Why is Whirlpool refusing to honor its warranty replacement promise?
I’ve seen this before. Companies have internal policies that are never articulated in a warranty.
These policies address the gray areas between a warranty issuer and a customer. For example, if a company authorizes a product return, who pays for the return?
In this recent story on a Samsung stove, the customer had to foot the bill. The warranty is silent on the issue of covering the cost of a return.
Policies can also save a company money. For example, if a manufacturer can find fault with an installer, it can refuse to replace a product — or can at least hold up the process until the warranty expires.
And that’s the thing. Once the appliance isn’t under warranty anymore, the company can walk away. It did for this Samsung customer, at least until our advocacy team got involved.
There’s a gap between a manufacturer’s warranty, which is publicly disclosed, and its policies, which are secret. Time and again, my team and I have seen customers get stuck in that gray area between the contract and the policy.
Secret policies? Silent treatment? It’s time to call the pros
Reiter was done with the nonsense, and so was I. I mean, Whirlpool had sent him three stoves that didn’t work, and now it was refusing to fix the appliance until Best Buy undid its installation? And it was all up to Reiter to make that happen?
Here are the problems:
- A warranty can’t address every problem with an appliance. However, policies can and should be clearly spelled out in writing. Whirlpool needed to point its customer to a policy that addressed the installation issue.
- Since Whirlpool has a relationship with Best Buy, it should act as the liaison with Best Buy. If there’s a problem with Best Buy’s workmanship, let Whirlpool work it out with its retail partner. Putting this on a customer is bad customer service.
- More importantly, what was Whirlpool thinking? It had a case where one of its appliances failed three times and the customer reached out to an executive — and it did nothing. If I were Whirlpool, I would have done everything possible to quietly make the customer whole. Instead, it’s getting this story.
How to avoid a problem with your appliance
If you don’t want to end up with a Whirlpool stove problem like Reiter, here are a few things you can do.
Read the reviews
A closer look at some of the product review for Retier’s KitchenAid downdraft cooktop shows that many customers were unhappy with the stove. They call it a “disaster” and a “failure from the beginning.” A quick look at these ratings might have convinced him to go with a different brand or model.
Review your warranty
Some warranties aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Certainly, Reiter’s left something to be desired.If you run into trouble, you can always consult my free guide to getting a repair, replacement or refund for your appliance.
Buy a quality appliance from a trusted retailer
Do I really need to say this? Buying a poorly rated appliance from a retailer that does shoddy installation work is a recipe for disaster. Purchase from a trusted appliance store.
Maybe the fourth time is the charm?
I contacted Whirlpool on Reiter’s behalf. He was entitled to a working stove, and the company should not be allowed to just ignore him. A few days later, I heard back from him.
“Chris, they have agreed to deliver and install a new cooktop,” he told me. “You are my Magic Man. I don’t think Whirlpool would have responded without your intervention. Thank you.”
About the art
We were inspired by Peter Wtewael, whose painting of kitchens defined an era of Dutch genre paintings. We took a few liberties, of course — with apologies to the master.