Branding KitchenAid: It’s No Fridge

The old KitchenAid refrigerator went on the fritz while I was in Reno in the beginning of July.  Dr. SJ didn’t want to tell me at first, knowing that I would rail about the shelf life of appliances, and called a repairman to fix it in the hope that I would never know. 

For a $69 fee to show up, he told her it was broken and to get a new fridge.  It was 13 years old, well past the useful life of a refrigerator these days.  The words “consumer” and “durable,” he suggested, should no longer be used in the same sentence.

When I returned, we went fridge shopping.  Due to a particularly stupid move on my part when I had my kitchen restored years ago, the space in my cabinets within which the fridge was to fit was 42 inches, making it something of an oddball.  The options were limited, and as it turned out, guess what brand made a refrigerator to fit?  Of course, KitchenAid.

It wasn’t an inexpensive refrigerator.  I asked the woman from Plesser’s Appliances why this built-in refrigerator should cost four times what a normal refrigerator costs.  Did it refrigerate my food better?  Hah, she laughed. I laughed. I knew I was screwed.  I just didn’t know why yet.

When the new KitchenAid refrigerator arrived, it was a monumental pain to get into the house.  But the nice fellows who installed it worked very hard, and managed to do the job.  I gave them a $50 tip, as they seemed like such nice young men.  They thanked me and left, with the admonition that it would take about 24 hours to settle down to the job of refrigerating.

A couple hours later, I noticed the top of the fridge, where the compressor sat, was burning hot, far too hot to touch.  This didn’t seem right, but I was told it would take 24 hours for the fridge to get to normal, so I resolved to wait.  The next day, a few things became very clear.  The top was still burning hot, as was the mullion between the freezer and refrigerator compartments, the refrigerator was cool at 44 degrees, but not a proper 37, and the freezer was varying between excessive freezing and not cold enough. 

I called Plesser’s, the store from which I purchased the fridge, but nobody answered the phone and I wanted an answer rather than to leave a message.  So I called KitchenAid customer support, thinking that someone there could tell me whether this was a problem (as in causing my house to burn down) or just some sort of strange acclimation period.  The girl at the KitchenAid support line had no clue, but immediately arranged for a technician to come.  This was on a Friday, and the tech would come the following Monday between 8 am and 5 pm.  I asked her if my house would burn down in the interim, and she told me she didn’t think so. 

The tech came and told me, “uh oh, this isn’t supposed to happen.”  He explained that the fridge needed a control board, but that KitchenAid would only authorize a “thermistor” because they don’t provide expensive parts until after a cheaper part is tried and fails.  So I got hold of a woman at Plesser’s (after circumventing the “leave a message” at its customer support extension) and made clear that I when I paid for a brand-new refrigerator, I agreed to pay the price, but not make myself available for however many days the KitchenAid gods demanded. 

The woman got back to me after speaking with her “factory rep,” telling me they would overnight the needed control panel.  The next day, the thermistor arrived instead, assuring that it would take at least three days of my life, minimum, for the fix, assuming that the control board would in fact fix my defective refrigerator.  

Mind you, I made clear to the Plesser’s gal that I did not purchase a defective refrigerator, and did not accept the defective refrigerator delivered as satisfying their end of the deal.  She couldn’t grasp the concept.  “The refridgerator is under the manufacturer’s warranty,” she explained officially.  There was no room in her understanding for the idea that they first had to deliver a brand new, non-defective refridgerator.

Long story short, neither the thermistor nor control boardt fixed the problems.  I spoke with the tech, a very nice guy, but he was fresh out of fixes.  It’s not that he wasn’t happy to help, no matter how many days of my life were needed for a highly paid tech to stare at the refrigerator and turn my brand new machine into a refurbished model, but that he had no clue what part to replace next.  I told Charlie the tech guy that I liked him very much, but really couldn’t dedicate the rest of my life to hanging out with him in my kitchen. 

As an aside, the techs no longer provide customers with a receipt for repair, doing everything on a laptop computer.  I called Metro Factory service to get copies of the  tech’s repair tickets, but they were never sent.  As if they had an idea that this was going to be a problem, and they weren’t going to bite the KitchenAid hand that feeds them.  After all, the only people who benefit from failure are the repair people, and why do anything to upset either their benefactors or their great gig?

The lines were drawn when I received a call from the KitchenAid factory rep, Kaneta, who informed me that she had solved the problem:  the refrigerator was fine; there was nothing to fix.  The problem, she explained, wasn’t with the refrigerator at all, but that the ambient temperature of my house didn’t suit the needs of the refrigerator.  If I wanted the refrigerator to work properly, all I needed to do was change my home.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Then came the email from Plesser’s:

Our rep at Kitchenaid has informed me that she spoke with you in regards to the issues you are having with your Kitchenaid refrigerator.  Based on the information you gave her along with the service reports supplied by Metro Factory service, she determined that there is nothing wrong with the refrigerator at this time.  She noted that it is normal for the compressor and other components to get hot to the touch when running.  She also stated that the freezer temperature is affected by the temperature of the home.  With this, she concluded that Kitchenaid cannot exchange your unit.  I am very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The irony is that Plesser’s did nothing more than sell what KitchenAid built, though the price for making a profit is the responsibility of curing a defective appliance.  But Plesser’s wasn’t going to take a hit, and if KitchenAid said the unit worked fine, then there was nothing more than could do.  So what if the temp in the fridge compartment was at 44 degrees, when the New York State Health Department says 40 is highest it should be for safe food.  Can we blame the fridge for not being a, well, fridge?

Plesser’s didn’t seem to get the idea that here I was, with a defective but very expensive refrigerator sitting in my kitchen that failed to do the basic and clear job one demands of a refrigerator.  I sought only one thing, that the defective refrigerator delivered be replaced by one that wasn’t defective.  And if they refused to do so, did they suspect I would shrug and spend the next decade staring at a defective refrigerator?

And you wonder why silly cases end up in court?  But then, I’m a lawyer and the option of suing is no big deal.  For those who aren’t lawyers, have paid a ridiculous amount for a refrigerator, been constrained to suffer days of their lives lost and speaking to a grocery clerk like Kaneta and ending up being told to live with a defective fridge, the idea of having to sue isn’t a great resolution.

There are commercials on television for KitchenAid products that show their wonders and the company’s warm and fuzzy love of the nice folks who buy their products.  Maybe if they spent less on branding and used the money to deliver a product that worked?

12 thoughts on “Branding KitchenAid: It’s No Fridge

  1. gary

    An easy fix would have been to purchase the item with a card (especially an AMEX; no i don’t work for them, but i’ve used their protection) and ask them to charge back the merchant after offering the merchant to come get their stuff that fails to work in only your home.

    I’m sure they will either show up for a pickup shortly thereafter or forfeit the price of the product.

  2. SHG

    Because of space constraints, I left out the credit card dispute part of the story, but I’m glad you brought this up.  Payment was made by credit card, and the charge has been disputed.  Whether the dispute will be sustained has yet to be seen.  Just because one disputes a charge doesn’t mean the elves in the credit card dispute resolution room stand up for their customers. Remember, the CC gets around 4% of that charge, and to sustain a dispute means they eat a loss.

    Even so, it’s not a panacea.  It can take months for the dispute to be determined, during which time I have a defective fridge sitting in my kitchen and coolish food and warm milk to enjoy.  If the dispute isn’t sustained, it’s off to court.  If it is, then I’m still out the days lost to awaiting the arrival of the tech (which is neither pleasant nor inexpensive) as well as the benefit of the bargain for the original purchase.

    While disputing a charge can be easier than suing, it leaves plenty to be desired and is often a less than satisfactory resolution.

  3. gary

    I would also file complaints with the local county consumer agency and the BBB. Merchants hate having unresolved complaints on their record.

  4. SHG

    Very true.  For potential buyers who do some background research, unresolved complaints tend to be a bit off-putting.

  5. David

    Have you tried posting on consumerist? They often have executive level support email or phone contact. Sometimes stepping it up a notch and adding to the exposure has worked well.

  6. Bob Mc

    If you have exactly 42 inches of space and the fridge is exactly 42 inches wide, that could be your problem right there.

    Refrigerators expel heat through their sides and need at least 1 inch of clearance on either side and the top to do so efficiently. So a 42 inch fridge would need a 44 inch space to operate without overheating.

    Your salesperson and your tech should have pointed this out to you. Or, maybe you just got a bum unit.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with it.

  7. SHG

    Nah, this is a built-in model (hence the ridiculously high price) where the air goes in and out at the top of the unit rather than the sides. It’s meant to fit precisely into the cabinetry, to the extent it’s meant to do much of anything.

  8. Marty D.

    Find out who CEO is and send him a nice, warm, fuzzy note of thanks for all the enjoyment you ahev had with this new appliance that wasn’t manufactured by Kitchenaid, no matter what the name plate states. Then add that you would like to invite Kaneta over for dinner with food from your new fridge.

  9. Barbara

    Terrible Terrible experience with KitchenAid. Bought a very expensive refrigerator less than two years ago. Icemaker never worked. Now, the evaporator (?) died and nothing works. KitchenAid said that some parts were still on warranty, but not this one. About $800 to fix and they can’t do it for two weeks. Never never will I purchase KitchenAid again.

Comments are closed.