I bought a new washing machine a year ago, April 12, 2021 to be exact. It was delivered the next day. That’s a picture of it to the left. It wasn’t cheap at $749.00. Counting the new hoses (which the store said I had to have in order to ensure there were no warranty issues), the cost to haul the old one away, and sales tax, it cost me well over $800. That’s a lot of money for most of us, but I could justify this extravagance because it would ensure that I could have clean clothes for several years to come, or so I hoped.
A week short of a year later, that washing machine broke. It was as if it had lost its tiny electronic mind. No matter what setting you selected, indicator lights would come on to show it was making an effort, but all the machine seemed to be able to do was drain and make grindy noises that sounded a bit like a love sick moose. (Really. Look up Moose mating call. That’s what it sounded like.) What that washer most definitely could not do was wash clothes.
So, I tried the trick of unplugging it, hoping that this might clear its confused memory or its cache or whatever it had. I’ve found that often works for electronic things. I gave it a full day with no possible source of power to be on the safe side.
The next morning, I plugged it back in. Lights. Moose noises. No sign of that it might be able to wash the small load of towels I had brought with me out of a misplaced sense of optimism. Annoying, but I figured I was fortunate in that the washer had a one-year guarantee, and since I hadn’t had it quite a full year, I called the Whirlpool customer service number that was on the warranty. (I had a copy in my files because I tend to keep things like that.) My call was immediately answered by a recorded voice that welcomed me to the “Whirlpool Customer Experience.” (I did not make that up.) The upbeat tone suggested that this “experience” might be pleasurable, but I had my doubts.
I was led through a series of menu options, which happily invited me to identify myself and the product I was calling about, verify my account, and various other things, before placing me on hold. The resulting twenty-minute wait was made more tedious by a short, repeating tune (that was more like an annoying ring tone than music) and occasional unhelpful tips about major appliance care.
When I was finally connected to a person, they said all the right things. They were sorry I was having trouble with one of their appliances. Of course they could have someone come out and look at it “as soon as possible.” A service appointment was made. I was given the name of the service company and their phone number and told to expect someone to come by five days later, on the 13th of April between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Wednesday the 13th arrived. By noon, I was wondering when the serviceman (or woman) would arrive. I called the service company. They asked many of the same questions Whirlpool had asked. Who was I and what appliance I was calling about? There was a prolonged pause. I was already getting an uncomfortable feeling about all of this when they guy at the other end of the phone said something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see an order for you in our system. Are you sure Whirlpool called it in?” Well, no, I wasn’t sure. I trusted them to, but then I had also trusted them to sell me an expensive washing machine that would wash clothes adequately for more than a year.
I was understandably peeved when I called Whirlpool ten minutes later. Again, the same recorded voice, the tedious menu options, and a bit longer on hold until I was connected with a real person (who seemed quite nice, actually). She checked, found the record of my initial call right away and seemed confused that somehow the job order had never been forwarded to the service company. She apologized. I didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault, but Whirlpool might have some procedural problems. She made another service appointment for me for six days later, the 19th of April. This time I asked for and received a confirmation email.
Tuesday the 19th dawns and I’m looking forward to having a working washer again. It had been twelve days since it broke, and my laundry basket is getting full. I’m not quite out of clean clothes yet, but I’m down to wearing my least favorite undies. When the service guy calls to tell me that he’ll arrive withing 20 minutes, I’m overjoyed.
Doug the service guy arrives and I show him the washer. He gets right to it. The laundry room is quite small, so I leave. I know I don’t like someone crowding me when I’m working.
Half an hour or so later, I go in to check just to make sure the washer didn’t turn on him. He says that the machine is indeed broken and that the part it needs is an electronic control board, which is “special order,” so it could take a while to obtain. He also said he had a bit of a whoopsie and broke the hose connector to the tub while he was figuring out what was wrong, so it would need a new tub as well. His company would call me when they had the parts. Then he left. My washing machine remained broken, but the service company kindly sent me a list that showed what parts were needed.
I didn’t look forward to more time without a washer, so I called Whirlpool yet again. Identity confirmation, menu options, and half an hour on hold later, I asked a real live person if Whirlpool could simply replace the machine. That person politely said no. That’s not how they do things. By this time, I was getting a pretty good idea of how they did things.
Two days later, being the curious and moderately impatient type, I went to the online Whirlpool parts store to check to see if I could anticipate when the needed parts might be available. The control board was indeed listed as “special order,” and it cost $541.43. The tub was priced at $396.15. Those costs made me wonder again why Whirlpool simply wouldn’t replace the washer. The parts alone together cost $937.58, and then there was the unknown cost of the repair service on top of that. The whole washer only cost me $749. Ah, I thought. This will convince them.
So, I found a form online and emailed the Whirlpool customer disservice office. I did not want to go through the telephone experience again. In “500 words or less,” I explained how not only were one of the two needed parts not readily available, both together would cost Whirlpool more than a new washer. Why just not replace it? It would save them money. Tomorrow, if possible, please.
Surprisingly, they emailed me back the next day, on the 22nd. They reasserted that their warranty is for repair, not replacement. Apparently cost and customer satisfaction play no parts in this at all. Okay, fine. I’ll wait. I went to the department store and bought more underwear.
Unfortunately, I’m really not very good at waiting for others to do their jobs properly, so I went to the online parts store again to see if I could find an update on availability. I did. As of yesterday, the control board is “in stock,” and the price has dropped to $440.12. The tub, on the other hand, is no longer available and there is no replacement for it. I wonder if I should call Whirlpool again to explain that without this part, the machine is no longer repairable. I don’t know. Maybe the service company can find one somewhere. I’ve got enough new underwear for a few more days.