My husband and I spent many hours (mostly on hold) trying to resolve a major problem with a Kenmore refrigerator that is just over a year old. We called the Sears Repair, Parts, Home Service number, the Resolution Hotline, the Kenmore Products & LG Refrigerator Rework number, the Recall number in Austin, Texas, and the local Sears store in Wasilla, AK where we purchased the refrigerator. We were told during each call that the number we reached was not the one to deal with our issue.
We purchased a Kenmore Top Mount Refrigerator (Serial Number VS 142 64500, Model Number 106 [protected]) on November 26, 2011. We began using it in late January 2012. The lower portion of the unit seemed to be a bit on the cold side so we kept adjusting it downward. Food towards the back of the refrigerator occasionally froze (we figured it was blocking vents) but it wasn’t until early January of 2013 that we began to notice problems with freezer—food was partially thawing.
By January 20th, the freezer and refrigerator both stopped working. The soonest a technician could come look at the refrigerator was January 24. My husband was home during the service call and was told when it concluded that repair would cost $958 for a refrigerator we paid between $500 and $600 for. According to the tech, the refrigerator left the factory with a fatal flaw: there was a bad solder joint that allowed the refrigerant to leak out, ruining the compressor and rendering the appliance nonfunctional.
Each person that my husband and I spoke to said the same thing—the refrigerator was beyond the manufacturer’s warranty period (December 6, 2012) and we hadn’t purchased an extended warranty. We were then referred to another department and phone number that “maybe” could help us. Each time I provided the background of the problem and explained that this issue is not a manufacturer’s warranty or extended warranty issue. My expectation was that the Wasilla Sears store where we bought it would take it back, provide us with a replacement, and claim the defective refrigerator back to Whirlpool/Kenmore. The service technician indicated that there was a process to do this.
I went into the Wasilla, AK Sears store and spoke with the appliance department manager and explained the situation yet again but all she could say was that we were basically out of luck because we were just outside of the manufacturer’s warranty period and we hadn’t purchased an extended warranty. She emphasized that Whirlpool is the manufacturer of Kenmore appliances, of which I am well aware, apparently implying that I should take up this problem with Whirlpool.
While Whirlpool is the manufacturer (and I have contacted Whirlpool about this situation, so far with no response), the Kenmore and Sears names are on this refrigerator. Sears sold this appliance and was responsible for the customer service (or lack thereof in this situation) during this whole ordeal.
We were contacted by a Sears Executive Offices case manager whose approach to our problem was to attempt to place responsibility anywhere but with Sears. Like some of the other Sears representatives we spoke with, she kept noting that the manufacturer’s warranty had recently expired and we hadn’t purchased an extended warranty. My response was that this was not a warranty issue (where minor problems are corrected during a specified time period), but a matter of an appliance with a major defect that was fated to stop working in a short time period. In addition, we never purchase extended warranties on the principle that any company pushing them has no faith in the quality of the product. A major appliance like a refrigerator should last 20 or more years.
The rep's next tactic was to state that Sears doesn’t manufacture Kenmore appliances, Whirlpool does, implying that Whirlpool, not Sears, is responsible for this defective appliance. While this refrigerator obviously slipped through Whirlpool’s inspection and quality control procedures at the factory, I’ve worked in retail myself and know how such situations are handled. In the case of an item with a major defect, the customer returns it to the retailer from whom it was purchased. The retailer then returns and claims it back to the manufacturer, receiving credit for it, and provides an equivalent item to the customer or refunds the customer’s money—a win-win situation.
It’s completely absurd to state, as the rep did, that because Sears doesn’t manufacture Kenmore appliances, it can’t be responsible for those that are defective. She said that I should look at it from a retailer’s viewpoint--Sears sells all kinds of things and that if Sears took back all defective items it would go out of business. It seems to me quite the opposite is true. The vast majority of retailers don’t manufacture any of the products they sell, including those they put their brands on, yet they do stand behind those products when they are defective, following the policy noted in the previous paragraph. It’s just good customer service by a retailer that plans to stay in business.
The rep concluded by saying that she would do some further research into our issue, including contacting the manager of the service technicians to determine whether the technician who examined our refrigerator was a senior technician and whether someone else needed to look at it to verify its condition. A few days later she contacted me and said that the manager confirmed that the tech is a senior technician and that the problem was indeed in the closed internal system (a factory defect) and that further examination was not necessary. The rep, whose demeanor had been aggressive throughout, then added insult to injury by offering a 20% discount on the purchase of another refrigerator from Sears.
After writing a second letter to Sears Corporate, I got a phone call today (3/29/13) and again, the best the rep could offer was a 20% discount on another refrigerator with one extra year of warranty! No wonder Sears has been closing hundreds of stores across the country. Sears customer service is terrible--take your money elsewhere. I see Sears going out of business in the near future.