Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Appliance Problems - Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about all the problems I had getting a new washer and dryer installed. Last week, my refrigerator died and if anything, replacing it has been even more stressful than the washer/dryer fiasco.

First, the fact that it happened at all - although it stands to reason since the washer, dryer and refrigerator were all bought at the same time, they would all give out at more or less the same time. My budget isn't flexible enough to encompass the purchase of three big ticket items in the space of a month. Still, it had to be done - a refrigerator isn't really optional - so off to Sears I went.

The salesman, who was young, was disbelieving of the fact that I'd had my old washer, dryer and refrigerator for two decades.

"Well, don't expect that again!"

He was so sure the appliances Sears now produces are not designed to last, he tried to convince me to purchase a maintenance policy. For an additional fee, I could guarantee that for five years, Sears would replace any parts that went bad in my new frig.

"So, you're telling me that Sears expects me to pay many hundreds of dollars for something they made but because it is so likely that it won't hold up for even five years, they then want me to pay them extra if I expect them to repair it?"

"That's the deal."

"Whatever happened to honor, reputation, integrity of a proud American company? I think when I spend this much money on their product, I should expect it to last five years without going bad and if it does, they should be so ashamed to have sold me a defective refrigerator, they should rush to fix it for free."

"Well, that's because you're old and senile about the way business works in the 21st century."

No, no, he didn't really say that! He just looked at me as if he was thinking it.

I bought the refrigerator on a Sunday and they were to deliver it on Monday. On Sunday night, we transferred everything from the freezer in the frig to the big freezer. Before I went to work on Monday morning, I moved the kitchen table and rolled up the rug and took a lot of the food out. When Mom got up, she removed the rest of the contents and washed the inside of the refrigerator.

The kitchen is Mom's bailiwick and she was thrilled at the thought of a new kitchen thing. She filled a big sack of stuff for Louise, like jelly and ketchup and pickles, on the grounds that she didn't want nasty old half-used jars of strawberry jam in her brand spanking new refrigerator, even though they were still perfectly good.

The delivery men were supposed to be here at noon so Mom lured Raleigh (who can sometimes be testy with strangers) into the bedroom with a dog biscuit. They called at 1:00 to say they were running a little late so she let him out of the bedroom. Figuring "a little" was about an hour, at around 2:00, she put him back in the bedroom, once again, tempting him with a biscuit. After he ate his treat, he howled to let her know he was sick of being imprisoned and Caesar howled in sympathy right along with him. When the installers hadn't arrived by 3:00, she let him out, as her ears were ringing from all the howling. At 4:00 she called Sears to see if the installers were still coming. They had just left Huntington. By now Raleigh wasn't about to go back in the bedroom no matter what she offered him. I got home from work and had to physically drag him in by his collar, although I did give him a biscuit once he was there to placate him. As soon as he ate it, he started howling and Caesar joined in.

The Sears guys first tried to bring the refrigerator in through the back door, although Mom who for years was a Quality Assurance rep for the Department of Defense and knows a little something about measurements, warned them it would not go that way. In the way of the male species, they could not, of course, take the word of a little old white-headed lady without seeing for themselves first. Eventually, they said, "it won't go through the back door." I moved my truck so they could come in through the yard, across the porch and in through the front door.

When things like moving refrigerators through the house is occurring, Mom's strategy is to watch with an eagle eye in case she needs to give advice, make a comment, move something out of the way or simply to worry about the giant refrigerator-on-a-dolly that seems to be heading toward the cupboard filled with antique teapots.

My way of handling the situation is to ignore them. I keep my eyes steadfastly on the computer; I close my ears so as not to hear any thumps or bumps. They are, presumably, professional movers. Let them do their job. Just tell me when it's over. My attitude irritates Mom who thinks I should be wringing my hands right along with her.

Finally, it was over. The old refrigerator was out; the new refrigerator was in. The delivery guys were gone. No wait, they weren't gone. They were still parked out in the yard. I played a game on the computer, watching out the window. "They're still out there," I reported to Mom. Finally, they came to the door. It seemed their battery was dead and they wanted to know if Mom's car or my truck had the battery on the left side.

"Huh?" I said - like I've ever paid the slightest bit of attention to the location of my battery. I told them they could go look and gave them the keys to the truck. Turned out the battery was where it was supposed to be so they asked if they could bring it up to the yard and use it to jump-start their own vehicle.

I reminded them that lending them my truck to jump their own was sort of like a service call and if Sears had to do the same for me, they probably charge me a service fee. But then I said yes on the grounds that they would probably have to move in with me if I didn't and Raleigh would never get out of the bedroom again and we'd all go slowly crazy from the howling.

Mom read the instructions for the new refrigerator, something I would never do. I mean, you plug it in, what else do you need to know? Well, she discovered that the manufacturer recommends that you not put anything in your new refrigerator for 24 hours! We put our butter, mayonnaise, cheese and eggs in sacks on the air conditioner vents hoping to be able to salvage some of it. Eight hours after the refrigerator had been plugged in, Mom stuck her hand in (although she been warned by the New Owner's Guide not to keep opening the door!)

"It doesn't seem any cooler at all. Shouldn't it seem a little cooler by now?"

"It probably takes a while for all those pipes and things on the inside to cool down," I said, pretending knowledge about the innards of refrigerators that I don't really have.

When I got up the next morning, the frig had been running non-stop for over 12 hours. It didn't seem even a little bit chilly, not even the freezer.

Shortly after I got home from work, we hit the 24-hour mark. The refrigerator was room temperature.

We called Sears and told them the refrigerator wasn't working. They promised to deliver another one the next day, not the same model I'd originally picked out, of course, because they couldn't get another one like that on short notice.

"I don't care what brand it is, just bring me a refrigerator that works!"

I told him, he warned me that my new refrigerator wouldn't last for 20 years but I'd thought it might at least get cold for 20 minutes or even, if I was lucky, for 20 days.

We threw out everything that had been in the old refrigerator. Even the air conditioner couldn't save our milk and orange juice and sour cream. So we have a shiny new frig and all shiny new food.

Mom, the optimist, said, "well, look on the bright side, Honey. In the last year, you've replaced the stove, the washer, the dryer and the refrigerator, there's nothing left to go bad."

I agreed with her to make her feel good but in my mind's eye, I picture the old water heater squatting down in the basement that has been there ever since I bought the house. I wonder what the life expectancy of a hot water heater is?