Meat, milk and butter? Not in the house. Ice cream in this hot weather? Not a chance.
“I am using the basement for some vegetables and bread, and sometimes I put a sandwich I buy in the refrigerator at work,” says Zhylina, who lives in Edison. “I occasionally eat out, but it’s rather expensive and I cannot afford it.”
She can’t afford to buy a new refrigerator, either. All she wants is to make her 6½-year-old fridge work again, and her attempts to contact the manufacturer — LG Electronics — yielded only service calls with wrong or broken replacement parts.
Until Bamboozled got involved.
Zhylina purchased the refrigerator in March 2004 for $1,078.50. It seemed to work fine and she had no complaints. But when she opened the fridge doors May 6 of this year, the inside was warm instead of cool.
She didn’t have the refrigerator model number on hand, but she reported the problem and later called back with the model number and other requested information.
The company sent an authorized service rep. The visit cost her $50. The rep told Zhylina the refrigerator had no fan, which he called a factory flaw. The fan is supposed to cool the compressor, and without the cooling of a fan, the compressor eventually overheated and failed.
The compressor was covered under warranty for seven years, so she wouldn’t have to pay for parts, only labor.
Over the next several weeks, the service rep replaced the compressor three times, and each time the part didn’t fire up. Either wrong parts were delivered or the parts were faulty.
As she waited for the new compressors to be delivered, Zhylina spoke to several LG executive service representatives, but she said no one seemed to share her concerns.
“The fridge is a basic necessity, not a luxury,” she said. “I cannot buy a new fridge since I am on a budget. I strongly believe that it is a professional duty of LG as a business to exchange the fridge because of the flaw.”
We contacted LG to see if it could help this customer.
BACK AND FORTH
We explained the refrigerator problems to LG, and it investigated, saying it would take care of Zhylina.
The service rep tried yet another compressor, but the fit was wrong. Another part was ordered and Zhylina waited, now 47 days without a working refrigerator.
Refrigerators are supposed to be a durable good — meant to last for the long term.
We wondered exactly how long, so we checked in with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Depending on the type of refrigerator, such as if it’s side-by-side, top-mount or bottom-mount, these appliances last on average between 14 and 19 years, according to the National Family Opinion survey on the average useful life of major home appliances. (The most recent survey was taken in 1996, and the organization is updating the survey this year.) Bottom-mounts like Zhylina’s last an average of 17 years.
We contacted LG again to ask how long it expects its fridges to last.
LG wasn’t definitive about the anticipated life span, but it said if Zhylina was interested, it would buy back the refrigerator for $200 and she could use the funds to purchase a new one.
Even with the $200, buying a new refrigerator would be a hardship expense. Plus, the original refrigerator had a missing fan, according to what Zhylina was told by the service rep. If the fridge was produced without a fan — a manufacturing error — shouldn’t the company do more for this customer?
Company spokesman John Taylor consulted the firm’s engineers.
“There is no way the refrigerator could have operated for seven years without a fan,” he said.
We wanted to be sure, so we contacted three independent refrigeration engineers. They all said yes, it could work. The compressor, condenser and other parts would operate, but the fridge wouldn’t be very efficient and it might have trouble holding cold temperatures.
If the refrigerator never had a fan from the get-go, it’s possible the customer would never notice the difference, given that the appliance’s operation was flawed from the beginning.
We shared the independent engineer opinions with the company, and it said it would talk again to its engineers.
Later that day, LG called with some news: A new refrigerator for Zhylina should be delivered before the week is out.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long to get resolved, but we’re pleased we reached a resolution and we hope she’ll have many years of good service from her new refrigerator,” said Taylor.
Zhylina is even receiving an upgraded fridge because LG no longer makes the model she had, and the company wanted to make sure the new one would fit properly in Zhylina’s kitchen.
The company hasn’t yet confirmed whether the original refrigerator was manufactured without a fan, but it plans to look at the old unit when it’s swapped for the new one.
Zhylina is eagerly awaiting her new fridge.
“I’m so happy to get it,” Zhylina said. “I wasn’t making up stories. I was just telling the truth.”
Thanks, LG, for doing the right thing for this customer. We’ll let you know when the delivery comes in.