Buying a new fridge – you will not win

Two months ago, my wife Ann and I decided to retire our 20-year old KitchenAid (KA) refrigerator. After two new refrigerators, we wish we had it back.

New fridge one from Whirlpool

The old unit, save some broken plastic shelves propped up by wood blocks, was still functioning fine. It looked tired and some of the kids (now grown) hand prints stood out against white plastic veneer door.

But that ship has sailed and it’s two fridges later. Lowe’s where we bought new fridges has almost certainly destroyed KA. One delivery man said they go to charity if they still work. A floor salesman said they automatically get destroyed, but he could not explain why. Seems a shame that a good fridge gets destroyed.

New fridge one was a white Whirlpool Gold model GSS30C7EEYWOO…why we choose white in the age of stainless steel appliances is a question only Ann can answer. But it was huge…so huge in fact, it was literally crammed into the spam where KA sat sentinel for two decades. The left side was scratched as the unit was pushed into the space.

Our kids have left home so we did not need such a large fridge, but its dimensions matched our space. We later learned the space should be two inches larger on both sides so the fridge is ventilated. We went on a leap of faith that it would fit when I knew the space has to be at least a little larger in height and width.

In any event, two defects prompted us to ask Lowe’s to take it back which they happily did. A vegetable drawer came incorrectly assembled and did not open or close smoothly. The Lowe’s appliance salesman said he just swap it for the same drawer in the same model on the floor. I trekked over and found that the tabs that hold the front of the replacement drawer to the rest of the unit were broken. The salesman really wanted to help, but just did have the product knowledge he needed.

I trekked home with my original drawer, took it apart and fixed it. To my dismay, I found out later, the salesman glued the broken drawer together and slid it back into the floor unit. Pity the poor consumer who gets that fridge because without those tabs, the drawer will not stay together. What’s more, I would not want glue near my veggies.

All set we thought. Then the door ajar light and alarm would not go off even though the doors seem securely shut. We put up with this for the better part of a week before a Lowe’s repairman showed up and replaced a switch. Five minutes after he left, the door ajar light lit up again and the alarm starting beeping. The repairman called back and said to unplug it for a minute and plug it in again. You know, the same reset trick that works with modems.

Samsung fridge – a tight squeeze

We called the repairman back and asked if he could do it and he said that was not his job, but he agreed to order a new electrical control panel.

By now, we’d had enough of this fridge. Ann went back to Lowe’s and picked out a very nice Samsung stainless steel Model RF268AB with freezer below and french doors on top. Ann had seen the light on white and agreed to stainless, which adds $200 in cost. This one was  a mere 25.7 cubic feet and had better fit and finish than the Whirlpool. It had real buttons instead of a flush plastic panel where you not tell if the button you pushed did anything.

Cramming the unit with no clearances on either side caused doors to misalign.

Lowe’s delivered the new fridge the next day and literally forced it into the space, denting one side where it rubbed against a granite counter top. This fridge was just as wide as the Whirlpool if not a touch wider, but not as deep.

What we should have done was leave the new fridge out while I cut a piece of molding under the cabinet. This two man crew delivers 6-10 new fridges a day so they were probably in a hurry to leave and cutting the molding would take up to two hours to do it right.  Anyway, I pulled the new fridge today and took an inch of the molding today from top to bottom.

In the process, I found that fridge was not completely resting on the floor, which misaligned the two French doors and forced us to remove a plastic cover on the top so the fridge would fit under two cabinets. The fridge was squeezed in so tight, it titled against the counter top.

Once I cut the molding, I had the better part of an inch of clearance on either side now and the plastic cover could fit under the cabinets. And the doors are now more or less aligned. We like the quality and look of the Samsung unit. The white Whirlpool behemoth looked ghastly and super-sized in that space. I called it our “meat locker.”

Our house was built 20 years ago for a smaller fridge. Today’s fridges are have designer looks and are super-sized as is the habit in America. They are also unnecessarily complex with more than can break such as ice dispensers and panels with pretty blue lights. And the ice makers take substantial space that could be used to, guess what, store and refrigerate more food. Fridge designers are counting on us guys to go for the gadgets.

Should this one we have now hold up, it’ll be a long time before we buy another.

Lowe’s was good about taking the fridge back, but not so great with details. They mailed us a debit card when they promised a check. There was the broken drawer debacle and the appliance delivery and floor people simply do not know have an adequate knowledge of the the products they sell and service. Everyone tried hard and was cordial. Also, keep in mind you do not know how a new fridge will look or sound until you get it into your kitchen.

Now I know why they call Lowe’s and Home Depot big box stores. They are about moving boxes, coming or going. Everything else is a detail.

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