February 23, 2024

Shortcuts: Where to Turn When the Appliance Warranty Expires

I’M going to tell you the tale of my refrigerator breakdown and recovery. Now, I’m not devoting a column to this because I believe you are all so fascinated by the life of my appliances. But rather, I learned some valuable lessons on the way, and I thought my mistakes and discoveries might help others.

It all started when I opened our refrigerator on Monday as I usually do on a school morning — half asleep — and took out the milk. It dawned on me that the milk felt warmer than usual, but I didn’t really think much about it.

After getting my sons off to school and puttering around, I went back to the refrigerator again, and when I reached in this time, a light bulb went off (in the refrigerator, yes, but also in my head). The refrigerator was functioning but nowhere near as cold as it should be.

I opened the freezer (we have an LG with French doors on the top and a freezer on the bottom). The freezer was appropriately cold. I checked the control panel. The numbers that typically show the temperature for the refrigerator didn’t light up.

I pushed the buttons. The control panel beeped, but nothing happened. This didn’t look good.

So I checked the warranty. The manufacturer’s warranty of a year had, of course, lapsed six months earlier. And even more dismally, for some reason, we had not bought the refrigerator with our credit card, but with a debit card. This was unusual for us, and a mistake.

That is because major credit cards will often double the life of a manufacturer’s warranty. But debit cards usually do not.

“Always make major purchases with a credit card,” Mark Kotkin, director of survey research at Consumer Reports, told me later.

Then I searched the Internet looking for similar problems to see if there was a simple fix. I couldn’t find one.

I called the number for LG service, which, since I was out of warranty, referred me to Sears, where we bought the refrigerator. The repairman couldn’t get to us until Wednesday. And if he didn’t have the part we needed, we might have to wait a week or more until it was fixed.

But I was offered an extended warranty, at the price of $270, that would cover all repairs up to $500 and be good for a year.

I questioned the customer service representative closely. Were parts excluded? No. Labor? No. It would definitely cover the repair I was calling about? Yes.

I am not usually an advocate of extended warranties. Mr. Kotkin said that they were almost never worth the money. And since Sears wouldn’t allow me to talk directly to a technician to explain the problem, I was still looking at a long wait for a repair.

So I started calling around to find an appliance repair shop that fixes my brand. I found one nearby, which could send someone out in a few hours for $65, which is pretty reasonable in the New York area. The repairman showed up, spent less than 10 minutes looking at it and told me it was an expensive computer problem that could cost half the price of the refrigerator.

This freaked me out. I told him I would think about it, paid him his fee and panicked.

So I decided to turn to someone who had given me good advice in the past — Vernon Schmidt, who has been a repairman for almost 35 years and is the author of a self-published book, “Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand.”

Unfortunately, he is based in Indiana, so he couldn’t pop over. But I asked him if he had any suggestions.

“Did the repair guy call LG?” he asked me. No.

Was he an authorized servicer for LG? he also asked me.

Well, he told me he could repair the LG refrigerators, I replied.

Not the same. Mr. Schmidt, who is authorized to service LG and many other brands told me that an authorized servicer has to go to annual training workshops to learn to repair that particular brand.

In addition, as an authorized servicer, he can avail himself of a dedicated technical helpline on the spot to resolve issues.

“It’s not like the old days,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Everyone needs technical help nowadays,” because appliances change so often and are so sophisticated.

And that technician on the other end of the phone is required to keep a record of the problem, he said. So if it crops again, the history can be traced.

E-mail: shortcuts@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6523ff1b15bb6a6f46930a1355bdd231

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