Hey Whirlpool, why are my refrigerator shelves cracking?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Cynthia Barrett’s refrigerator shelves start to crack, she goes looking for answers from Whirlpool. She doesn’t like what she finds. Is this appliance fixable?

Question

I have a problem with the quality – or lack thereof – of some of the refrigerators manufactured by Whirlpool Corporation. My complaint is about a flawed shelf design in the side-by-side refrigerator that I purchased at Lowes. All of the shelves in my refrigerator have cracked. If only one shelf was affected, I would deduce I had done something to cause the crack, but with all the shelves cracking, and most in several places, it is obviously a design flaw.

I suspect it is due to the glass in the shelves being too thin to support typical items placed on refrigerator shelves. So when the glass gives under the weight of items placed on the shelf, it puts pressure on the plastic rim, resulting in cracks. Replacing unsuitable shelves with more unsuitable shelves is a ludicrous option and would only result in Whirlpool profiting from selling poorly designed products. There are only two of us in our home. We have three refrigerators, so the shelves are not overloaded.

I tried to resolve this problem by calling Whirlpool directly, but both a representative and a supervisor told me Whirlpool has no record of quality issues with this appliance, which is surprising as I personally have called on two other occasions.

Since my refrigerator is out of the original warranty and the shelves are not covered by the extended warranty, my only option is to purchase more shelves.

Whirlpool doesn’t stand by the quality of the products they design, manufacture and sell. Can you help? — Cynthia Barrett, Ardmore, Okla.

Answer

Whirlpool should stand behind its products, even when they are out of warranty. Especially when they’re out of warranty. The kind of cracking Whirlpool shelves you describe shouldn’t happen, and a quick Internet search reveals that you’re hardly the only one to experience these defective parts.

Whirlpool had to have known, and its representative was either incredibly ignorant or just ignoring you when you phoned. I’m not sure which is worse.

I love the resolution to this case. You emailed me, but at the same time, you searched for any names, phone numbers and email addresses of Whirlpool service managers. After collecting all this information, you decided your best course of action was to send a fax directly to the president of Whirlpool. (Related: My refrigerator is cursed – can you lift the spell?)

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An executive customer service agent replied by email. No worries, I’ve updated my Whirlpool executive contacts page with all of this new information. They’re probably not going to like that, but oh well.

I should take a moment to explain why we’re doing this. If Whirlpool offered an easy way for you to offer feedback online, and to appeal your case to someone who can make a difference, then none of this would be necessary. But it looks like the only way for you to get help is to go to extraordinary lengths.

The Whirlpool pattern of behavior

Whirlpool remained defiant until the end. It’s a pattern of behavior that I’ve seen in later cases. The response you received pretty much says it all.

“After reviewing your email, I looked into our customer service database and did not see where this product has been flagged for having a quality issue,” a company representative said to you. “Nonetheless, I did review the complaints you had included in the email and I do see where others have had this issue. In reviewing our parts list, the part numbers for all of your shelves have been updated since the initial production. This indicates that a change has been made in the manufacturing of these units. Given this information, I will be sending out a set of shelves for your refrigerator at no charge.”

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Did Whirlpool respond appropriately to this complaint?

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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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