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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

When That Expensive Appliance Purchase Goes Bad

Home appliances offer great convenience … until they don’t. So what should you do when that sleek new appliance has a defect?

Doing homework pays off

You can head off most post-purchase dissatisfaction with some online research before you buy. First, look for articles on “best” or “most reliable” brands. You may find reporting on widespread consumer satisfaction levels and what common problems or defects each brand has. Then research local retailers where the recommended brands are sold for customer satisfaction ratings.

Once you’ve chosen the brand you think best, go to YouTube and search the brand name along with the words “appliance” and “tutorial.” Either the manufacturer or consumers will almost certainly have posted a video on using the product correctly. This is important because sometimes product problems stem from improper use.

Read and register your appliance

Once your sleek and shiny new appliance is delivered, the first thing to do is read the owner’s manual. This is a step that many owners skip, but the owner’s manual describes how to maintain the machine and operating instructions. Next, use the postcard provided or go online to register your name for the purchase.

First steps when things go wrong

Even the best-made appliances can have problems, so if you have an appliance defect, here’s what to do.

With major household appliances, the delivery service will determine that the device is operating and have you inspect the machine for signs of damage. The delivery person will have you sign that you received the appliance and showed no damage upon delivery.

If your new appliance soon stops working, take notes of what is wrong with it, who you contact, what you request, and the store’s response. Document everything.

The salesperson you worked with should be your first contact. Call and explain your issue. They will likely connect you with the service department to schedule a repair. When the technician visits, he will attempt to diagnose and repair your machine. If he is unable and must be returned, contact the store again and talk to a manager about a solution. A responsible store will have the machine repaired or replaced at no charge to you.

You understandably will be unhappy with the situation but remain calm and polite in dealing with store personnel about an appliance defect. You can be firm in seeking resolution, but getting upset, making unreasonable demands, and being verbally abusive is unreasonable and invites resistance, not cooperation.

Seeking consumer protection for your appliance

If you believe you are not getting a fair resolution, contact the Better Business Bureau with a complaint. The BBB will contact the store to get their version of events and will evaluate what each side should reasonably do to resolve the problem. Another option is to write a review of the store on Yelp. But, again, be reasonable and do not vent emotionally and unfairly.

The law on your side

In most cases, you’ll get a satisfactory resolution by following these steps. But what if the appliance continues to have problems despite the store’s attempt at repairs? In that case, ask the store to take the appliance back for a full refund. Do this only when you’ve exhausted attempts to get the appliance repaired or replaced.

If the store resists, contact the manufacturer’s customer service department. You should document the steps you have taken with the store and the outcomes along the way. The retail store is an authorized seller and has a vested interest in keeping good relations with customers on behalf of the manufacturer.

If the manufacturer is not helpful, you may have the law on your side. So-called “lemon laws” are regulations at the state and federal level designed to protect consumers from defective products such as home appliances and automobiles. Each state has its own version of these laws and a state consumer protection agency that enforces them. Research your state’s consumer protection law and enforcing agency.

At the federal level, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act enforces product warranties in all states. The Federal Trade Commission enforces this law.

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