“Burned” by my Hamilton Beach toaster oven. Why can’t I get a refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

Ronald Crossley’s Hamilton Beach toaster oven doesn’t work. And apparently, neither does the Hamilton Beach customer service department. How does he get this appliance fixed?

Question

I returned a Hamilton Beach toaster oven earlier this year because of functional and design problems that made it useless. Specifically, the upper element remains “on” in any mode and burns food. 

Before the return window passed, I emailed Hamilton Beach asking for at least a confirmation of their having received the toaster oven. I got a reply requesting a few business days — and then, nothing. 

I asked Hamilton Beach for a refund. Despite several attempts to contact the company by phone and email over a month, it did not respond. 

I’ve never encountered such poor customer service, and hope you can provide some advice or help me recoup the $130 I spent on the toaster oven. Obviously, they know paying for a lawyer would be dumb, but are there any legal avenues? Do these corporations have the right to rob people? — Ronald Crossley, Coplay, Pa.

Answer

Your Hamilton Beach toaster oven shouldn’t have burned your food, regardless of the warranty. The average lifespan of a toaster oven is five years. You had yours for just over a year.

And that’s the problem: The toaster oven is out of warranty, and you’re asking the company for a refund outside the return window. Based on the paper trail you’ve sent, it looks like the company doesn’t quite know what to do with your case.

Your problem falls under a gray area. You contacted Hamilton Beach about the problem with your toaster oven before the warranty ran out, but you didn’t return it until after the warranty expired. If there’s a takeaway for the rest of us, it’s that you should always return an item before the warranty expires to avoid any confusion.

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How to negotiate product return for your broken kitchen appliance

Kitchen appliances are investments that should last for years, not months. However, sometimes defects happen, and you’re left with a broken appliance that needs replacing. When this happens, navigating the return process can be daunting. But with the right tools and knowledge, you can successfully negotiate a product return and get a replacement or refund. (Related: How to fix your own consumer problem.)

Check the warranty

Before attempting to negotiate a return, check the manufacturer’s warranty. Know what’s covered and the duration of the warranty. Some manufacturers may offer extended warranties or protection plans for a fee. You may want to consider that as a hedge.

Know your rights

Familiarize yourself with state and federal laws regarding product returns and warranties. The Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule requires sellers to provide a clear refund policy for sales made door-to-door or online. Additionally, many states have their own consumer protection laws that may offer additional protections.

Collect evidence

Document the problem with photos or videos. Keep receipts, emails, texts, and any correspondence related to the appliance. This paperwork will help prove your case when negotiating with the seller or manufacturer.

Contact the seller

Reach out to the retailer where you purchased the appliance. Explain the problem, provide evidence, and request a return or replacement. Remember, always be polite but persistent. If the seller hesitates, mention the warranty and your desire to resolve the issue amicably.

Escalate to the manufacturer

If the seller is unwilling to help you, contact the manufacturer directly. Provide the same documentation and explanation, emphasizing your commitment to resolving the issue fairly. Manufacturers may have different policies, so be prepared to negotiate.

Call for help

If negotiations fail, consider contacting my advocacy team for help. Mediation can facilitate communication between you and the seller/manufacturer, helping to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Or we could just get you your money back.

Negotiating a product return for a broken kitchen appliance doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Remember, you have rights as a consumer, and manufacturers and sellers usually want to maintain positive relationships with you. By following these steps you may be able to get your appliance fixed. 

Here’s how your Hamilton Beach case was resolved

The warranty confusion probably melted Hamilton Beach’s collective brains. Your correspondence suggested that it knew something was wrong with the toaster, but hey, rules are rules. As I note in my guide to getting a repair, replacement or refund for your broken appliance (available for free on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org), your toaster oven came with an implied warranty that it would work — and that it would not burn your food — beyond the express warranty that apparently caused Hamilton Beach to freeze up. In other words, I think you had a strong case.

I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Hamilton Beach customer service executives on my site. A brief, polite email to one of them, following the steps of the Elliott Method for resolving your case, might have helped. But the more I looked at your case, the more I realized this needed a professional to nudge the company along. Something got stuck somewhere. (Related: Got a customer complaint? Here’s how to contact the CEO directly.)

You contacted my advocacy team, and we gave Hamilton Beach a nudge. It didn’t respond, so my team gave Hamilton Beach another nudge. That seemed to work. A representative emailed us and said, “I escalated this request to our consumer affairs team and they have ordered him a new oven.”

You decided to sell the new oven and try a different brand of toaster oven. After what you’ve been through, that’s understandable.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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