Image courtesy of automaticwasher.org
Is it really that hard to get good customer service anymore? Is the fine art of quality customer service a thing of the past? Looking through some past rants we’ve had here on Gear Diary, it’s evident that some companies just don’t care about anything dealing with “after the sale.” Even dealing with major brand names on larger ticket items clearly doesn’t mean you’ll have quality support after the sale is complete. Having worked retail for about 7 years, I understand how important good customer service is, even if it means going out on a limb for just one customer. Whirlpool recently left me high and dry and with a whole bunch of dirty laundry. In the end, I ended up with some great customer service, but not from who I expected. Here’s what happened.
Back in November 2010, I finished up an addition on my small house in the Philly burbs. I really needed some extra space, and I was eager to get my washing machine and dryer up to the first floor and out of the basement. As usual, I spent way too much time researching which washer and dryer to get, and I ended up picking up a well-featured set at Lowe’s. At the time, Lowe’s was offering a hefty discount on all energy-saving models and as well as a 10% in-store discount, so I was able to pick up a Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer at what I felt was a great price. These were considered to be mid to higher end models (as per my clerk), and they rated very well among customers and Consumer Reports.
I was excited to get the new set of front loaders, because I was still using an older set that was left by the previous owners of the house. I’m a fairly new homeowner, and this was the first new washer and dryer I had ever bought, so you can imagine the excitement. I did not purchase the extended warranty, due to the fact that I had a home warranty from my mortgage and American Express is pretty good about doubling a warranty on purchases. I figured since I grew up in a house with 4 boys, and my mother did about 1000 loads of laundry a week and still has the same washer 15 years later, that I would be set for at least 10 years or so before I’d be ready for a new set.
Unfortunately, about 9 months after purchase I noticed the washer was getting pretty loud on the spin cycle; one night I honestly though I had a F22 Raptor jet engine spooling up in my laundry room. I called customer service, and they had someone out there within a few days to take a look. The tech told me that main bearings were shot, and that he would have to order replacement parts. He also said that this is pretty common on front-loaders, and I should be thankful that my laundry room was not turned into a swimming pool. [Ed note – I had a I front loading Maytag Neptune, and that is exactly what happened to my laundry room! ~ Judie]
About 3 weeks later, after some damaged parts and a few trips out, the tech had my washer fixed good as new. The total bill printed out for my records was $1400 they had billed to Whirlpool. Regardless of whether or not Whirlpool would actually pay that amount, it was higher than the price of the washer itself. Fast forward 7 months later to a few weeks ago, when I thought a loaded pistol had somehow found its way into my washer! Out of nowhere, a very loud bang followed by a klunking sound that I can best describe as what a cinder block in my washer on high spin cycle might sound like. After I unlocked the door and felt the drum, I knew it was toast. 5 minutes later I went online to Whirlpool and had filled out a customer service request form. That was at 10:00 pm on Thursday night. Friday morning around 8:00 am I got a call from Whirlpool.
The rep told me that he was sorry for what happened to my machine, and he attempted to get me to test a few things out. I told him that the basket no longer spun properly, and that it was banging all over the place. He told me that I was outside of my one year warranty, and that he would have to get back to me after speaking with a manager. I knew I was out of warranty, but I also wondered how Whirlpool deny me help on this? They really wouldn’t cover my machine a year and half out, especially after the repair that had already been made?
The rep called me back within a few minutes and told me that there was nothing he could do. A year is a year, and I no longer had a warranty to cover it, even after the first repair 9 months in for a similar problem when the whole assembly was rebuilt. After some minor haggling, he offered me an “extended” warranty that would cost me a one time fee of $316. He said he was sorry that there was nothing else he could do. I asked him to make record of my thoughts on my service ticket or account. I decided to call Lowe’s and talk to someone there about the situation and see if they could help.
Image courtesy of Lowes
I spoke to the manager in the appliance department, and I asked him for the name of the local Whirlpool rep to see if I could persuade him to help me out. He told me he needed a few hours to get in touch with some people, and that he would call me back later that afternoon. Later that afternoon I did receive a call back, and to my surprise he told me that Lowe’s would fully refund me the original purchase price of my washer if I came in and bought another one of my choice. After work I stopped in a Lowe’s, and the clerk was aware of my discussion with the manager . He even gave me an additional 10% off on top of my military discount, so I could buy a new Samsung Top loader.
The new washer ended up being a bit more than the old one, but it was well worth it in the end. The next morning my new washer was delivered, and the old one was taken away. It was not even 24 hours after I first spoke to the manager at Lowes that I had a brand new washing machine in my house and working. I would eventually find out that Lowe’s had eaten the cost of the old washer, and that customer service is indeed their number one priority. Lowe’s had me up and running again within a day, paid the cost of my old washer, and did it all with a smile.
So in the end, I was subject to both disappointing and then ultimately exceptional customer service. I realize that my old machine was out of warranty, but I simply can not accept that a $800 washing machine would not be backed by a company that has been in the business for such a long time. There are plenty of stories and websites devoted to how poorly consumers are treated, but rarely do I see any that tell the good stories that happen also.
I appreciate all the people at Lowe’s store #1669 in Montgomeryville, PA that took their time and effort to help me with this issue. There was a lot of effort made behind the scenes by Lowe’s on my latest purchase that I consider above and beyond what a “normal” sales representative would do. I can assure you that based on my experience, I will not be buying another Whirlpool (or any other brand that they make) appliance anytime in the near future. I’m just glad to know that good customer service does still exist; sometimes it just comes from a different place than expected.