Two weeks ago, no replacement microwave has arrived from Whirlpool. I phoned corporate again this afternoon, and learned they messed up the July 17 reorder so it didn’t go through. I was promised today that this time I would get a replacement microwave oven in up to four weeks.

Zapping Ethics

This is a retail dilemma, drafted as a time­line. In writ­ing out the end, a wicked solu­tion crys­tal­lizes, It would be wrong, but I want to.

The Whirlpool WMC2005YD has the electronics under the microwave, saves space. Smart, right?

The Whirlpool WMC2005YD has the elec­tron­ics under the microwave, saves space. Smart, right?

Dis­claimer. No retail dilemma ever is a real prob­lem, not with poverty, injus­tice and threats to democ­racy always loom­ing large. But this quandary can be solved.

April 2013 — Our coun­ter­top microwave oven trips its cir­cuit breaker a few times. Good brand, had it about five years, the one before that was a good 15, but that’s planned obso­les­cence for you. My Beloved and I decide this one’s mine. Both of us han­dle these issues the same way, obses­sive research, in per­son and online.

May 6 — I find a medium-size zap­per with great online reviews: The mechan­ics are tucked under the oven so it takes min­i­mal counter space. Local stores do not offer it, Lowes.com has the best price online, so I buy it for $129, plus tax but free shipping.

May 10 — The Whirlpool WCM2005YD seems to work well. About all we do is heat water for tea and warm up left­overs. But a few days later when I want to “bake” an Idaho potato, which calls for four min­utes then another two-three min­utes, not just 60 or 90 sec­onds, things get weird. The Whirlpool would cook for about a minute, then beep repeat­edly and the timer would start going up, not down. The cook-time to which it rose never was the same twice — six or 11 min­utes, 45 min­utes another time — but if I had left the kitchen to watch TV,  a fire might have started.

I unplug the machine to reset it, and that seems to fix it.

The well-designed Whirlpool WMC2005YD in a model kitchen, not mine. No splashes or crowding, see?

The well-designed Whirlpool WMC2005YD in a model kitchen, not mine. No splashes or crowd­ing, see? Source kitchen-design-ideas.org

July 4 — For the first time since the ini­tial odd prob­lem, I try to zap a sweet potato. I leave the kitchen and run back when I smell some­thing foul. The yam is black­ened and smok­ing, and the new microwave-safe Rub­ber­maid bowl in which it sat has melted and browned in one spot. I test with water in a glass mea­sur­ing cup; again the timer resets itself upward randomly.

July 5 — The customer-service rep on the 800 num­ber for Lowes.com says it can­not accept a return of a microwave but to phone the man­u­fac­turer. Whirlpool’s phone rep cites its pol­icy that the unit first has to go to the near­est autho­rized ser­vice cen­ter. If it can’t fix it, then a new microwave will be shipped to me. The ser­vice cen­ter is in nearby Spring­dale. I drive it over that afternoon.

July 9 — A-Tech Appli­ance Ser­vices is pro­fes­sional and friendly. Its tech­ni­cian finds a “bad mag­netron,” which can­not be repaired or replaced. I am to call Whirlpool to arrange this, so I do. Whirlpool tells me I will be phoned to con­firm ship­ping arrange­ments within 48 hours and for me to phone the day after if I had not heard.

I tell Whirlpool for the first time (then every time there­after) that I should’ve bought a GE microwave in a local store that I could’ve exchanged in min­utes — min­utes! — if some­thing had been found defec­tive. Then I request overnight ship­ping. They always reply they can­not help fur­ther, as that is another department.

July 12 — This day’s Whirlpool cus­tomer ser­vice rep — they all say they’re in Ben­ton Har­bor, Mich., and they sound it — says while he found my main records he can­not find the ship­ping arrange­ments, so it must be “in process” and for me to phone again on July 15 if I had not heard from them.

July 15 — “Anthony” at Whirlpool says they have “no trace of a ship­ment order” and he resub­mits it. He tells me to phone Whirlpool on July 17 if I have not heard.

July 17 — “Carol” says a ship­ping order indeed was set up July 15 and I will get a replace­ment microwave in “three to four weeks.” Another month?

I tell her that is unac­cept­able, she puts me on hold and says a “rush” has been placed for me, and I would get the WMC2005YD in two weeks, specif­i­cally seven to 10 busi­ness days. She says that is the quick­est that depart­ment oper­ates then apol­o­gizes for any inconvenience.

I heat the water ket­tle on the stove for a mug of tea.

Back on July 9, A-Tech asks if I want the defec­tive and dan­ger­ous microwave back or should they dis­pose of it. Nat­u­rally, I say they should toss it. Today, I phone them and ask if they still had it. They do! I’m pick­ing it up this afternoon.

I then phone the 800 num­ber for Lowes.com to insist on return­ing the defec­tive Whirlpool microwave to a local Lowe’s store. There’s arrange­ments to be for that, “Erin” says, and the local Lowes’ man­ager will phone me in under 24 hours.

Hmm. What will Lowe’s tell Whirlpool cor­po­rate, any­thing? I could get a GE microwave at the Sixth Street Lowe’s after turn­ing in my unit, and in two weeks a new Whirlpool oven will be FedEx’d to me (sup­pos­edly). I could give one to a good local char­ity.

Or is that defraud­ing a giant cor­po­ra­tion over its lip-service cus­tomer service?

And to think, I am a for­mer Whirlpool employee.

In 1979, I was on its Fort Smith, Ark., assem­bly line, bolt­ing con­denser coils into the bot­toms or backs of freez­ers and refrig­er­a­tors as a col­lege sum­mer job. After Whirlpool closed that facil­ity a few months ago, reports began that grounds in the area were con­t­a­m­i­nated with trichloroethylene.

One prob­lem will take longer to solve.

 

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