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.
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.
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.