Expensive Whirlpool fridge never worked properly

Mindy Pollishuke paid $2,700 for a KitchenAid refrigerator in 2013. It was a KFIS29PBMS French door model with 28.6 cubic feet of space.

Alas, her fancy fridge needed repairs twice a year. The ice buildup was so extensive that it would overheat and stop working.

“We had to empty the whole fridge out multiple times and find neighbours to store our food temporarily,” she said. “The extra bar fridge and small freezer we bought a few years ago were not big enough to hold it.”

In January 2019, after the fridge died three times in one week, she wrote to me in despair. I contacted Whirlpool (the manufacturer), which offered a cash settlement to let her buy a new model.

While happy to get rid of her lemon, Pollishuke didn’t like the buyback offer of only $1,362.78. It didn’t reflect the cost of repairs and the replacement cost of a new fridge.

Last month, I went back to Whirlpool to plead for a bigger buyback. I couldn’t imagine living with the disruption of emptying my fridge every six months and finding shelter for its contents elsewhere.

Whirlpool’s customer service department had a warm heart after all. It offered a full refund of $3,049.87 (including tax) for her six-year-old refrigerator that didn’t cool properly.

“I can’t thank you enough for all your assistance through this very frustrating ordeal,” Pollishuke said.

She’s not alone. If you check reviews for this model at Amazon.com, you find that 91 per cent of purchasers give it a rating of one star out of five.

Here are some of the headlines:

“Horrible. Do not buy this product.”
“Manufacturer knows there is a problem and will not replace, even if field warranty service cannot fix it.”
“LEMON — Beautiful design, terrible company warranty policy.”

My advice: Don’t buy an appliance unless you check reviews online and at Consumer Reports. Don’t buy a new model with no track record.

Finally, do buy from a retailer that will help you fight for a settlement on a defective product. Life is too short to wait for a manufacturer to fix the unfixable.

Update on Apple Watch case

Matt Caron found a crack in his Apple Watch’s glass face just three days after his one-year warranty expired. Both Apple and the store (Best Buy) said he didn’t qualify for extended warranty repairs.

“Good news and bad news,” Caron said on Sept. 20. “I’ve been advised that the hardware engineering team agreed with the technician that my watch doesn’t qualify for this support program.”

Apple Canada suggested he go back to Best Buy to ask for free repairs. But since Best Buy denied his claim before, he didn’t have the energy to reach out again.

“Apple then said it would make an exception and fix my screen at no cost to me (normally $300),” Caron continued.

“I was disappointed with the decision. Not that I didn’t want my watch fixed, but I felt Apple didn’t believe my story and failed to address my concerns. Why did this happen and what prevents it from happening again?

“I know I should be happy that the screen will be repaired at no cost, but that is almost secondary to how I was treated and how others are treated with the same watch problem.”

It’s a familiar story. Product makers find a problem with a product, but don’t make it public. They wait for a class action to be filed or a flood of complaints to hit the media.

If the defect is safety-related, companies may issue a recall. But if there’s no immediate danger, they may try to make secret deals with complainants in hopes of avoiding publicity.

So, in the interests of transparency, I’m publicizing this case and asking readers to share it.

Remember the iPhone 6 battery replacement program in 2017? Apple was embarrassed by media reports that it was slowing down the phones to make them last longer and offered a low-cost replacement program as a result of public pressure.

That’s what can happen when frustrated buyers learn about a widespread problem with a product and push for reform.

Problems with shattered glass on the Apple Watch

Here’s part of a Toronto Star column I wrote last year about a quality issue with a high-end manufacturer:

Apple denies watch defect that sees screen break,
but makes time to fix it

By Ellen Roseman
Personal Finance Columnist
Mon., Dec. 24, 2018

Holly Harris bought an Apple Watch this past August, a Series 3 product currently selling at $369 to $499.

Just 20 days later, she had a frightening problem.

While watching TV, she reached across her watch to press a button to check data. The screen was raised and she tried to put it back in.

“As I did, the glass started to break into smithereens. I cut my hand,” she says.

Harris, a former elementary school principal who lives in Mississauga, went back to the Apple Store, hoping to get a new watch.

Instead, the store manager said she must have banged the screen, causing it to break. She would have to pay $299 to get it repaired.

Here’s the happy ending:

I forwarded her complaint to Tara Hendela, an Apple Canada spokesperson, on Nov. 7.

“I can’t believe how fast Apple responded,” Harris said the next day, adding that she was instructed to take pictures of her watch and send them to the head office in Cupertino, Calif.

On Dec. 3, she got the answer she had been waiting to hear.

“Great news. My contact just phoned and said Apple would repair (or replace if necessary) my watch at no cost to me. She said it was a one-time exception,” Harris said.

When I asked readers about their Apple Watch experiences, I found that Holly Harris was not alone in dealing with a watch face that came off, often violently.

Some people received free repairs under warranty. Others did not. Apple Canada did not respond to my requests for comments.

Matt Caron recently told me about his problematic purchase.

“The same thing happened to me. I was walking, heard a pop, looked at my watch and saw it was cracked around the perimeter of the screen,” he said.

He bought his Apple Watch, Series 3, on July 16, 2018, at Best Buy, along with a three-year Geek Squad warranty for $90. The sales representative said it was like Apple Care, but better.

The crack occurred one year and three days later (July 19, 2019). Both Best Buy and Apple blamed him for causing damage to the watch and said he didn’t qualify for an Apple screen replacement program.

Here’s his update, as of Sept. 16:

“I received a full refund for the warranty after saying that when I tried to use the warranty I paid for, Best Buy denied my claim. They still were not willing to repair the watch.

“I was informed today by Apple that my watch had come back from the depot, but was not repaired. I will pick it up tomorrow from the Apple Store in the Eaton Centre.

“I appreciate your support. Even if nothing happens, writing about my experience has been very helpful as I go through this process.”

If anything changes after Apple and Best Buy review this complaint, I will let you know.

You can find more information on this story and a link to Apple’s screen replacement program at my public Facebook page, where I  posted comments from users last December.

I’m back!

I haven’t written anything here for a couple of years. I thought my blogging days were behind me.

But now that I’m no longer writing for the Toronto Star, I want to continue trying to resolve your consumer disputes and addressing your questions and concerns.

Here are complaints I like to handle:

  • Problems with large well-known Canadian companies.

These include telecom and technology providers, financial institutions, airlines, travel agencies, appliance manufacturers and retail chains.

  • Problems that affect a large group of people, not one person.

I’m looking for systemic issues with large companies. That’s where a consumer advocacy journalist can get traction.

Here are complaints I don’t like to handle:

  • Landlord-tenant issues.
  • Workplace issues.
  • Health care issues.
  • Complaints about the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Home builder and home renovation problems.
  • Car dealer sales and car repairs.

You can write to me through my website and I’ll do my best to write back, even if I can’t help you.

I plan to update this blog at least once a week and share the posts on my social media channels.

So, let’s get started!