Three weeks ago, our refrigerator died – and we are STILL working to get resolution.  I never imagined we’d be this far in and still feel like we are at square one.  Someday we are going to look back at all of this and laugh … someday, but definitely not today.

We definitely expected more when we purchased a Kenmore Elite refrigerator.  It seems ridiculous to us that we have had multiple issues in less than 4 years since we purchased the refrigerator with what seems to be a poor product with little reliability, combined with poor customer support from Sears.  Based on what we’re learning through this experience, it is fairly obvious that the practices and response we are seeing from Sears are intentional and a decision they have made about how they want to manage their customer relationships.  It is disappointing … and frustrating … to say the least.

 

It’s a long history, but (for anyone who is interested), here’s what’s been happening:

 

Our (now-dead) refrigerator is less than 4 years old.  It is a Kenmore Elite Counter Depth French Door Refrigerator.  (Model 795.72049.110).  It’s a slightly older version of this one which is Kenmore branded but manufactured by LG.

The refrigerator we used to love. (Pardon the bad pic!)

The refrigerator we used to love.

We really liked the refrigerator – it had a nice set of features that worked really well for us.  The first refrigerator we had, though, lasted only a few months before having enough issues that Sears replaced it with a new one.  And now we’re having troubles again – not sure if this model is something of a lemon or if we’ve just gotten “lucky”.

Anyway, all was good until Labor Day when we woke up to milk that was somewhere in the middle of culturing itself into yogurt and a refrigerator that was no where near cold enough.

And so began our still-in-progress refrigerator repair adventure, during which we are learning way more about Sears & Kenmore than we ever wanted to know:

Monday, Sept 7 (Labor Day) – The refrigerator failed.

Tuesday, Sept 8 – Thinking the fridge should still be under warranty, I called Sears Home Services for a repair appointment.  Their next available date was Friday, September 11th (which I’ve since learned that getting them here within a week was faster than the norm).

Friday, Sept 11 – A&E Factory Services technician (dispatched by Sears) came to repair the refrigerator.  He checked the compressor, said it was running fine and vacuumed the dust from the coils saying they were probably just too dirty for the refrigerator to function properly.  Charged us for preventative maintenance ($84.99) and said to call back if that didn’t fix the problem.  Also said the fridge was out-of-warranty, stating that it only came with a 1 year warranty.  This did not seem like it would fix the issue but I trusted him.

Refrigerator temperature started increasing within a couple hours of the technician leaving, so I scheduled another service call through the Sears Home Services website.  Their first available appointment was Monday, September 21.

Monday, Sept 14 – I called Sears Home Services to see if they could do anything to get us an earlier appointment time considering that they’d already been out once and failed to fix the problem.  They added us to their “emergency list” (meaning we could get an earlier time if there was a cancellation before the 21st), but could do nothing more.

Tuesday, Sept 15 – Having been told by Sears that our refrigerator was no longer under warranty and not wanting to wait another week, I called the only other repair shop we could find in our area that is certified to service LG appliances.  They were able to come the same day for a “priority” service charge that was only $5 more than Sears’ standard service charge.  Their technician inspected the refrigerator and found evidence of a “sealed system leak”.  Total cost for the repair (including a new compressor, 2 new evaporator fans, and ~3 hours of work) was estimated at $729.  He was also certain that the sealed system should still be covered under warranty and advised us double-check that.

I verified in the owners manual that the sealed system was indeed still covered under a 5 year warranty.

After several calls with both Sears/Kenmore and the other appliance repair company we had called, I then came to the following understanding:

  1. Kenmore & Kenmore Elite appliances are purchased from the original manufacturer (in our case, LG) without the manufacturer’s warranty.  Kenmore then provides their own warranty.
  2. One condition of the Kenmore warranty is that all work relating to a warranty claim be completed by a “Sears Technician”.
  3. A “Sears Technician” is anyone who is sent on a service call that was scheduled through Sears Home Services (either through their website or by calling their 1-800 number).
  4. In our area, most Sears service calls are completed by A&E Factory Service (which is an appliance repair company owned by Sears).  Any overflow work is sent to the same appliance repair company I had called (i.e., they are a Sears sub-contractor for appliance repair).
  5. The technician that had been to our house that morning to diagnose the sealed system leak was not authorized to perform the warranty work for our refrigerator because I had called them directly to schedule our appointment.  Had he been dispatched to our house as the result of an appointment scheduled through Sears Home Services, he would have been able to complete the work under warranty.

Also, somewhere in the midst of talking to about 5-6 different people at Sears/Kenmore to request that they allow our warranty work to be completed by their “overflow provider”, the appointment I was holding with Sears Home Services for September 21st was cancelled.  By the time I realized that the only way to use our warranty was through a Sears Home Service appointment, the next available time I was given for a Sears technician to come out and re-diagnose the issue was September 30th.

So, at the end of the day, our choices were:

  1.  Pay $729 out of pocket to have the other appliance repair company fix the refrigerator.  Their estimate was that they would receive the parts and be able to install them during the following week (Sept. 21-25).
  2. Take the September 30th appointment with Sears Home Services and accept that we would likely not have a functioning refrigerator for 6 or so weeks (including the time to order parts and the lead time for a follow-up appointment to install them) in order for the repair to be completed under warranty.

We chose to pay for the repair out of pocket.

Monday, September 28 – The technician came back to install the parts and fix the refrigerator.  He spent about 3 hours; the fridge was cooling when he left.  But, Shortly after that it quit working again.

Tuesday, September 29 – By morning, the refrigerator and freezer compartments were both just a few degrees cooler than room temperature.  I called the technician back to take another look.

After adding a dye to the coolant and inspecting all of the new connections, coils, etc. with an ultra-violet light, it was determined that the sealed system leak was likely located in the cabinet of the refrigerator in an area that was not serviceable.  In this case, our Kenmore warranty would cover replacement of the refrigerator.  The service technician tried calling Kenmore, but was told no warranty claim could be placed because he did not have a Sears service order number (which is assigned when an appointment is scheduled through Sears Home Services).

I then called Sears Home Services to schedule a service call, requesting that it be scheduled with the “overflow provider” for our area (i.e., the same company that had already been working on our refrigerator).  The person I talked to said that would not be a problem, put me on hold for about 10 minutes, and gave me an appointment time for the following day.  This seemed perfect because it would allow us to use the Kenmore warranty without having to start over diagnosing the problem with someone from A&E Factory Service.

Wednesday, September 30 – The appointment that was supposed to have been scheduled with the overflow provider had actually been scheduled with A&E Factory Service.  When the technician called to tell me he was coming, I explained the situation and that I was expecting someone different.  He verified that he would, in this case, have to start over in diagnosing the issue with the refrigerator – working with LG technical support, running multiple tests, and maybe replacing some parts before the refrigerator would be deemed un-repairable and replaced.  Instead, he suggested that I call a Sears customer support 800 number that he gave me, which would let me talk to a US based call-center that would likely be able to help me get my service order re-routed to the appliance repair company we’ve already been working with so that the claim could be filed right away rather than going through all of the trouble-shooting steps again.

I called the 800 number and spoke to a couple of people who spent some time trying to figure out how to direct a service order to the overflow provider so that they could complete the warranty claim based on the work already completed, but they were unable to do so.  In the end, I was told I just needed to go through the steps with a Sears technician again.  They did add some notes to my service order to let the technician know he should call another 800 number to explain the situation and maybe bypass a few steps usually required to classify an appliance as “unrepairable”, but no guarantees.  They then called my service technician and left him a message to come out to our house today and make that phone call to get the process started for us.  I did not hear from the technician again and he didn’t show.

 

So, as of right now, we are 3+ weeks in and $814 out of pocket ($85 for the initial visit from Sears Home Services and $729 for the repairs made by the other company) … and we’re at a point where we basically need to start over with a Sears technician if we want to take advantage of the Kenmore warranty on our refrigerator.  That equals probably another month or two without a working refrigerator.  We are beyond frustrated.

I get that we didn’t follow the “standard” process for warranty work with Sears Home Services – because we weren’t willing to accept their wait time for each appointment.  We were even willing to pay for the $729 repair out of pocket in order to get the refrigerator up and running sooner.

Now that we’re finding out that the refrigerator can’t be repaired, though, it totally frustrates me that we can’t make use of any of the work that’s been done already in filing the warranty claim, resulting in us needing to start over.  I mean, seriously – the hang up here is a technicality around who called Sears’ “overflow provider” to come work on the refrigerator … which seems like it should be such a small thing, but will add at least a month to the timeline.

What we’re finding, though, is that Sears has structured their whole repair business without the best interests of their customer in mind.  They aren’t willing to do anything to shorten the lead time needed for scheduling a service call (even though I’m able to call their “overflow provider” directly and get someone here MUCH sooner … so it isn’t a supply and demand problem) and they aren’t willing to work with me now to allow their “overflow provider” to file a warranty claim on my behalf.

Like we said, we expected more.

I think, out of all cleaning tasks, cleaning the shower is just about my least favorite.  It is such a thankless job.  For years, my solution was just to not really clean the shower much, but, since we remodeled the master bathroom and have a pretty tile shower in there now, I figure it’s a better plan to actually try to keep up with the cleaning.

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In general, following along with CleanMama’s routine for bathrooms like I shared last week has really helped to keep me thinking about at least spraying/wiping down the shower once a week, which goes a long way toward helping it stay cleaner.  (I LOVE the Method tub & tile spray for that – no rinsing necessary!)  But, one area that still seems to require special attention even with the weekly shower cleaning, is the bead of caulk between the tiled shower walls and the fiberglass tub.

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To be fair, our caulk actually isn’t in great shape and should probably be peeled out and re-done … I just haven’t gotten there.  In the meantime, I’m just worrying about trying to keep it clean.  Probably every month or so I start to notice that it doesn’t look quite as white as the tub/tile and, if I don’t do anything then, it starts to form gray/black spots (like the ones above) that are just icky.

Now, remember how I mentioned I used to not like cleaning the shower so much that I just didn’t clean it.  Well, as you can imagine, that means it needs a really heavy duty cleaning when it does come time to tackle the shower.  For the caulk, I’ve previously used the approach described on this page to clean it up relatively quickly (although I promise our shower never looked as bad as the one in the pictures – yuck).  Basically, you make a paste of baking soda and bleach, spread it over the caulk, cover it with plastic wrap (so it doesn’t dry out) and walk away.  This method does work, although it can sometimes take multiple applications (even with the baking soda, the bleach solution runs down the tub/shower walls) and the whole thing is just kind messy.  It’s fine for periodic shower cleaning, but definitely not something I’d look forward to doing on a regular basis.

So, when I saw a Clorox bleach pen in the laundry section at Target, I thought it was worth a try.  I picked one up and threw it in my bathroom cleaning caddy.  Now, when I see the caulk looking a little less than fresh, it’s a quick fix to clean it up again.

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Using the bleach pen for the shower is super simple – I just trace the caulk line with it and walk away.  I usually let it sit for at least an hour, but sometimes for the rest of the day.  Basically, I just make sure to wipe it off before the next shower/bath.

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And, once I wipe it off, the caulk is sparkly white – never fails.

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Bleach pens usually run between $2 and $3, depending on where you get them, so it is pricier than mixing up your own solution with baking soda, but the convenience is totally worth it as far as I’m concerned.  The bleach stays put (doesn’t run down the shower like the bleach solution can) and the pen is super mess-free, which is perfect considering that there’s usually a toddler right behind me inspecting my work (containers of bleach & baking soda paste are just a disaster waiting to happen).

I’ve also used it to spot clean the grout in the shower before (looking at the pictures above, it might be time to do that again!) and it does a beautiful job at that as well.  Super simple!

Anyway, this has to be just about my favorite cleaning trick, so I thought I’d share – in the hopes that I’m not the only one out there with less-than-fresh caulk (or grout!) in their shower.  (Please say I’m not.)

You guys – this is so exciting!  We put in a new, super useful laundry sink in the basement last weekend!  I know, I know – you might not hear “laundry sink” and think “exciting”, but let me tell you, this is revolutionary.

We have been talking about how nice it would be to have a laundry tub in the basement for pretty much as long as we’ve lived here.  The only sink in the basement was an old pedestal sink with the most worthless faucet.  We basically never used it.  The handles for the faucet were a little touchy – it was hard to get the water shut off completely.  And the “spout” part was barely long enough to get the water into the basin of the sink.  Seriously – it was a challenge to wash your hands with that sink, let alone wash out a paint brush.  And filling a bucket was impossible.

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The old (useless) pedestal sink. Clearly, we didn’t even run enough water in it to be able to keep it clean.

So, instead of using that sink, we’d resorted to using the basement shower for anything that needed water.  But, have you ever tried to fill a bucket or wash out a mop in a shower?  Yeah – you basically wind up taking a shower in the process.  So, a laundry sink was really needed.  And, after the plumber was here last Friday, leaving us with a functional, non-leaking toilet in the basement, we decided we might as well make the rest of that bathroom useful by replacing the sink, too.  Yay!

We’ve been thinking about this project for a while and had scoped out the selection of laundry tubs at all of the local home improvement places in the past.  Surprisingly, though, although there are lots of different models, there’s really not that much of a selection – they’re all basically the same.  Which is a little frustrating.  It would have been super nice to find one with a shelf or something below the sink for storage.  Anyway, of all of the available options, we decided to go with this one from Menards.

We debated between a standard single laundry tub or the double, but ultimately picked the double since we have the space and figured it might actually work out to be a lot more useful in the long run.  For the faucet, we figured out pretty quickly that selection there is similarly limited.  There are the super basic laundry sink faucets … or you could spend quite a bit more and put in a kitchen faucet.  Especially with the double sink, I really wanted a sprayer, but really didn’t want to spend $150 for a full kitchen faucet.  So, we bought this one – the only laundry sink faucet that includes a pull-out sprayer.

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(image source – no idea why this photo is so grainy!)

Functionally, it does everything I want (the sprayer is awesome), but it is SO CHEAP.  I have no idea how long it will last.  When (not if – when) it breaks, we’ll probably bite the bullet and pay for a kitchen faucet instead.

So, Chad got started on Saturday by shutting off the water to the house and removing the old pedestal sink.  We aren’t sure how old the sink was, but it was completely plumbed with rigid galvanized (no flexible supply hoses) and there were no shut off valves for the hot or cold water.

Note the rigid galvanized supply lines and no shut-off for the old pedestal sink.

The old pedestal sink was plumbed with rigid galvanized supply lines and no shut-offs.

This had us a little worried since we weren’t sure how easy the fittings on the galvanized would come apart, but, thankfully, it turned out to be a non-issue.  It took Chad probably all of 30 minutes to disconnect the sink, install new shut off valves, and turn the water back on.  Hooray!

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New shut off valves!

At this point, I caught myself thinking the project was going super smoothly and we should be able to have the new sink installed within a couple of hours (after all, the “hard part” with the galvanized plumbing was over).  And, of course, that totally jinxed the rest of the job.

The sink went together great, the supply lines were connected to the faucet with no problems, but then there was the drain.  Because the new laundry tub was so much deeper than the old pedestal sink, the bottom of the tub was actually lower than the place where the drain connected to the stack.  Had we hooked the drain up like that, the sink wouldn’t have drained right – and, even better, waste water from the stack could have backed up into the sink.  Yuck.  Definitely not an option.

We obviously could have called a plumber and seen what they could do to re-work the stack so that the laundry sink drain would connect lower, but that sounded expensive. And risky, considering the age of our plumbing system.  So, instead, we opted to raise the sink up.  We briefly debated switching the installation to wall-mounted, but since the supply lines for the sink run straight down the wall right behind it, that would have required a lot of plumbing re-work.  So, instead, we decided to just lengthen the legs for the wash tub by attaching a piece of solid aluminum angle, raising it up about 5″.  That gave the laundry tub enough height so that it was taller than the point where the drain connected into the stack.

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Look!  It’s a laundry sink on stilts!

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We worried that the added height would seem weird at first, but I’m convinced now that it’s actually made the sink more accessible.  With the leg extensions, it sits about an inch or so higher than a kitchen counter and it’s a lot easier to reach the bottom of the sink, etc. than it was before.

Anyway, with the height issue squared away, we then started making up the drain connection.  The drain actually pieced together easier than most of the ones we’ve worked on … and again, I started thinking this turned out to be a lot easier than it could have been.  But then we tested the drain … and it leaked.  Not just a little periodic drip, but a nice trickle coming from the place where our new PVC drain pipe connected with a brass fitting that joined the drain to the stack.

Chad tried tightening the plastic nut and tried using a variety of poly and rubber washers, but it still leaked like crazy.  Then, on a whim, he decided to remove the brass fitting and discovered that the two ends of the fitting are actually different.

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See the lip on the brass fitting? This was preventing the washer from sealing the connection, making it so that this portion of the drain leaked like crazy.

The end that he had been trying to connect up with the PVC drain pipe had a lip after the threads (see the picture above), which made it impossible for any of the washers to actually help seal the connection.  The other side did not.  So, he flipped it around, added a rubber washer, and, just like that, the leak was fixed.

No more leaks with the brass fitting turned around!

No more leaks with the brass fitting turned around!

It’s funny because I remember when we walked through the house before we made an offer, there was a pretty good size trash can positioned behind the old pedestal sink.  I’m almost certain now that the previous owner probably battled a leak in the same place all because that brass fitting was in backwards.  And we probably just never noticed it before because we never really used that old pedestal sink for anything.

You can kind of see the trash can positioned behind the sink - we took this picture before we bought the house.

From 2007 (before we bought the house) – you can kind of see the trash can positioned behind the sink.

So, anyway, that’s the story of the installation of our new laundry tub in the basement.  And I can’t tell you how beyond excited I am.  I actually mopped the basement floor yesterday mostly because I was so happy to not have to shower with the bucket anymore!  Seriously, though, the new laundry sink will make it so much easier to keep the basement clean – and I’m super excited to be able to use it for all of those painting projects I really need to get started on.  No excuses now!

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