I did something really, really stupid. Now what?
January 3, 2014 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I have a receipt (stating the model number) for a malfunctioning freezer which WOULD still be under warranty, had I not unknowingly removed the serial number upon it's arrival. That's just how brilliant I am. Is there any way to get Whirlpool to honor the warranty anyway? Or at least a way to get a repairman to fix it on my dime? So far no one will touch it and I don't know what to do.

I have a Whirlpool freezer which I purchased new from Home Depot 7-months ago. The thermometer recently stopped working, and all of my food thawed. I called Whirlpool since it should still be under warranty, and they of course asked for the serial number, which they said would be on a sticker inside of the freezer. I couldn't find it anywhere, but upon closer inspection I noticed the little adhesive outline where it USED to be. I have a vague memory of removing a bunch of big ugly yellow tape and orange warning stickers about voltage and all that when the freezer was first delivered. I never in a million years would have expected something as important as a serial number on an $800 appliance to be on a removable sticker (I for some reason assumed serial numbers were always engraved on appliances), and I must have simply peeled it off along with the other stickers that day, not realizing what it was. I do have an emailed receipt from Home Depot with the model number and my home address, proving that I purchased it less than a year ago. However, both Whirlpool and Home Depot said that without the serial number, there is nothing they can do, regardless of whether I have a receipt. (After literally begging one Whirlpool customer service rep for help, she eventually said she could send me a new serial number sticker in the mail. It never came, and when I called back to ask about it, the Whirlpool people insisted that they never do that, can't do that, and don't know why she would have told me that. So frustrating.)

Here's the worst part: After about 12 phone calls to both Whirlpool and Home Depot, I gave up on the warranty and decided to eat the cost of the repair, but the whirlpool-approved appliance repairman who came out to my house informed me that he and other technicians are "forbidden" from working on any appliance that doesn't have a serial number... Something about "safety issues." I apparently can't even get it repaired if I pay for it! So now I have an almost brand-new freezer in my garage that I can't use, and don't know how to fix. Are there ANY options available to me here, or did I just throw away $800?
posted by lmpatte2 to Technology (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try returning it directly to Home Depot - bring the unit and the receipt - likely the'll give you an exchange. Your new unit will have a serial number if anything else should go wrong. Home Depot has an incredibly relaxed return policy, it's a pain for you to move the unit, but it should work.

Call your credit card company for help?

Write the correct serial number off the receipt onto the appliance in the correct spot and start the the process over from scratch, hoping no one notices since you've provided the correct info over the phone?

Get help to lift up the unit, check and see if the number isn 't in an additional spot??

I'd go with either returning it, or providing the serial number off the unit like it was still on the sticker and no big deal, but that's me.
posted by jbenben at 2:55 PM on January 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Some credit cards will extend the warrenty on items purchased with that card, so perhaps try that route.

Another option is to try and contact the company through social media. I've heard that companies are sometimes more flexible if you've got an established twitter account and tweet them, because they're afraid of things going viral.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 3:00 PM on January 3, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry for the confusion... I have the model number, not the serial number. According to Whirlpool, the one and only place the serial number has ever been was on that sticker I removed. It seems crazy to me that they would only put it ONE place, and that it would be removable, but that seems to be the way it is. I have mostly been pressuring Whirlpool to do something about this, but I guess I could try a little harder to see if Home Depot will accept a return.

I had not considered contacting my credit card company though, and I may also open a Twitter account just for this purpose! Thanks for the ideas.
posted by lmpatte2 at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2014

Second jbenben, there is most likely another serial sticker somewhere inside the machine. Look deeper.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or maybe not. Sorry.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:03 PM on January 3, 2014

I would work my way up the chain of command at Whirlpool until you get someone willing to make an exception to the rules the customer service reps have to follow. It's not like you're asking for a new appliance - you just want to fix what you've got! And I can't imagine this is the first time this has happened.
posted by cecic at 3:06 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, work your way up the chain of command until you find someone with the authority to make sensible decisions. I had a similar problem with a kid who removed the serial number from a software package because it was ugly and then couldn't re-install the software later because she needed that number during installation. I emailed the company and found someone nice enough to take a chance and send me a new number. Someone at Whirlpool could just issue you a new number if they felt like it, but it would have to be someone who writes the rules, not someone who just follows them.
posted by pracowity at 3:21 PM on January 3, 2014

Uh, don't tweet at Home Depot. That's not what I meant you should do.

Borrow a truck and bring your receipt and the unit back to the store. Return the defective unit. Say nothing about the sticker and see what happens.

And yes. Call your credit card company if Home Depot will not accept a return or exchange.

While I have zero idea about a warranty through any credit card company, I would DEFINITELY have the $800 charge disputed if I was unable to return or repair the item under warranty. This is EXACTLY why I use a credit card for major purchases.

Another idea?

Go to another Home Depot (or wherever there is the same make/model on display) steal the sticker, put it on your unit. Then start the return all over again like it was no big thing?

(That last one won't work if the manufacture date or the stolen sticker is sooner than 7 months ago, but it might enable you to rerun the defective unit??)
posted by jbenben at 3:24 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

While Twitter won't help you contact folks up the chain of command at Whirlpool, escalating with letters to corporate headquarters and phone calls might.
posted by jbenben at 3:26 PM on January 3, 2014

Home Depot is incredibly good about returns. We shop there a lot, and I buy more there than I otherwise would, knowing that if it's the wrong thing but I lose the receipt and forget to bring it back for a few months, I'll still basically get my money back. For instance, we bought a weedwacker (sp?) that broke after the third use. But, for some reason I can't remember, the third use was maybe four to six months after our purchase. We'd been running gas through it and getting it covered in grassy weeds and everything, and once we'd drained the gas out of it, they returned it for a full-value exchange, no questions asked, and we used the store credit to buy a better weedwacker. (We might've been able to get a refund but didn't try.) I never even considered going through the manufacturer's warranty. I also saw someone return a hot water heater in its box just the other day.

Two other options:
- Find less rule-bound people with fridge repair expertise? Maybe Whirlpool requires their officially-sanctioned repair people to follow the Serial No. rule, but someone straight out of the phone book would consider the model no. enough to avert injury? (Total speculation.)
- Trade in the fridge to a store that sells new and used appliances for a new model? Might they have staff who know how to fix minor issues like that, allowing them to give you a decent discount on something new? This is obviously more of a financial hit than a full refund, but better than losing the $800 altogether (if it's even possible).
posted by slidell at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your average retail drone is not even going to look for the serial number. Return it. Say nothing about the sticker.
posted by brownrd at 4:12 PM on January 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

In the olden days, you could look in the Penny Saver or ask your next door neighbor for a recommendation to someone in your area who can make this repair. Maybe Angie's List? Doesn't have to be a Whirlpool person, just a freezer-repair person!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:21 PM on January 3, 2014

This seems like the perfect situation for something called the Executive Email carpet Bomb.

The basics: Write up a coherent, business-like complaint letter, outlining your problem, and asking for specific action (e.g. warranty repair, refund, replacement sticker, etc.) and email it to as many executives at Whirlpool as you can find. Make it clear that you've already tried to resolve this through normal channels, but those have failed you. It it's long, make sure that the first paragraph or two have a decent summary of the situation and your request.

Optionally, copy The Consumerist (tips@consumerist.com) and any local TV stations or newspapers that might be interested, especially if they have a consumer issues reporter. With a bit of luck, either someone at Whirlpool will help you, or someone will be interested in reporting on your situation, which in turn will make Whirlpool considerably more interested in helping you out.
posted by yuwtze at 4:37 PM on January 3, 2014

I'll mention that when appliances are sold at "scratch and dent" sales, without warranty, the serial number stickers are removed. They probably also do that to units that are recalled, as a step prior to actually destroying them. Some less ethical scrappers will just wheel them out the back and re-sell them.

So the answer about not working on stickerless units isn't "it's going to burst into flame !" but rather "a stickerless unit is one we have washed our hands of, and that's final".

Making a stink via twitter or Consumerist is, in my opinion, unprofessional. Show up at Home Depot with the thing in a truck, and charm them into replacing it. This will work especially well if you want to ask for the value to be applied to a more expensive model.
posted by Kakkerlak at 5:04 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would work the Home Depot angle first. I have seen people return 2x4s and other lumber that has been cut and they take it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:23 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something that you might not have considered: replacing the thermometer yourself. Appliances, like cars, are designed to be serviced and the appliance repairpeople I've met are not exactly rocket scientists. A quick googling turns up this video; you would probably get even more specific replacement instructions by googling your specific part numbers.

We recently went through an appliance replacement experience with Home Depot and learned that Home Depot's appliance replacement policy is more restrictive than non-appliance products. From their website:

Major Appliances: Any Major Appliance product damage must be reported within 48 hours of delivery by calling 1-800-455-3869.

After 48 hours, any product issues must be handled through your local The Home Depot store’s Special Services Desk. Be sure to bring a copy of your sales receipt with you.

We did report the broken appliance within 24 hours of delivery and it took 3 weeks, 3 warranty repair trips, and 2 missed delivery windows (one due to 1 inch of snow presenting a "safety hazard") before we had a working replacement. YMMV.
posted by zompus at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2014

Are you sure that you peeled off the sticker? Did you say you did? Perhaps there was never one on there. Depends what you have already told them. But I would not assume you peeled it off. Maybe they never even put it on there. I've got a computer right in front of me that they forgot to put the serial number on and I just kept insisting to the company that it had been missed till they serviced it. (They really did forget it.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:58 PM on January 3, 2014

Sometimes serial numbers are also printed on paperwork that comes with an appliance. Have you looked through that to check?
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:55 PM on January 3, 2014

Response by poster: I am pretty sure I did peel off the sticker, and even if I didn't, I don't think there is any way I could get someone at Whirlpool to consider the possibility that they didn't put one on there. I've never had a worse customer service experience in my life. I kept saying, "I'd like to speak with your supervisor if you're not able to help me," and it was like they got less and less empathetic and helpful the further up the ladder I went. I will definitely NEVER buy another one of their products again.

I did look through the manual and all other paperwork I that came with the freezer. There is just a sentence at the end of the manual instructing me to write the serial number there for future reference.
posted by lmpatte2 at 8:49 AM on January 4, 2014

Go to another Home Depot (or wherever there is the same make/model on display) steal the sticker, put it on your unit. Then start the return all over again like it was no big thing?

really? so whoever buys that unit as floor stock gets screwed?
posted by russm at 5:02 PM on January 4, 2014

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