Why did this Whirlpool microwave go down the drain?

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By Christopher Elliott

David Eck’s Whirlpool microwave breaks down less than two years after he buys it. The company will fix it -— for $300. Is that the right offer?

Question

I purchased all new Whirlpool Gold appliances in March of 2011, including a refrigerator, convection microwave/hood, dishwasher, large smooth cooktop, built-in oven.

I’ve been very happy with everything until my microwave stopped working. It doesn’t heat, so it is very likely a bad magnetron. I called Whirlpool and talked to a representative and escalated the call to a manager. The supervisor admitted the product was defective, but said it would cost $300 to repair the unit and to extend the one-year warranty.

We have been very careful with this microwave. We haven’t slammed the door or abused it in any way. Remodeling our kitchen was quite an expensive thing for us. I researched all the major brands and even talked to a Whirlpool rep at Nebraska Furniture Mart. I believed Whirlpool made a quality product that would last, and I still do. But this particular microwave was defective.

As a small business owner, I know that doing the right thing isn’t always easy or the most profitable, but it’s right, and it’s what keeps customers coming back. It’s also what makes my customers refer others. Whirlpool’s code of ethics says: “Whirlpool’s long-standing reputation for quality, excellence and integrity demands that our employees and our suppliers make the right choice in all cases. As you know, there is no right way to do a wrong thing.”

We spent thousands on top-of-the-line, all-new Whirlpool Gold appliances. I think Whirlpool should do what’s right. The microwave was defective, and it should be repaired at no cost to me. I expect that sometimes appliances will need maintenance over the years and am willing to incur expenses for needed repairs. What I don’t expect is to spend nearly $600 for a microwave that lasts one year and nine months. — David Eck, Lincoln, Neb.

Answer

Technically, Whirlpool was right in its first response. You were past your warranty, and the best it had to do was offer to fix the unit for a fee. But I also agree with you. When you’re buying a premium microwave oven, you expect it to last more than a few months after your warranty expires. What’s more, if a representative admitted to you on the phone that this particular model was defective, then you have a strong case for appealing Whirlpool’s original response.

But how? You tried by phone, and it didn’t work. You tried to find the names of Whirlpool’s executives, but ran into a dead end. Whirlpool lists some of its corporate executives on its website, but there’s no way to contact them through the site. Oddly, my Whirlpool contact works for the KitchenAid brand, which, according to Whirlpool’s site, is a subsidiary of the company. (By the way, the naming convention for emails at KitchenAid is [email protected]). Let’s just say they’re not making it easy to appeal anything. (Here’s our guide to fixing your own consumer problems.)

The ethics statement you cited makes this case even more problematic. It suggests Whirlpool would not let a warranty stand in the way of doing the right thing. If those are not just empty words, then this would have been a good time to either prove it by fixing your oven or clearly explaining to you why it can’t help you. It apparently did neither. (Related: Help! My Whirlpool refrigerator caused $4,200 in damage to my kitchen.)

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I contacted Whirlpool on your behalf. Separately, you also reached out to its executives by email. Whirlpool contacted you and offered to fix the microwave at no cost.

Did Whirlpool violate its own "ethics" statement by initially denying this repair request?

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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.

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