What's Wrong with Whirlpool?
This is the second Whirlpool hot water heater I've had in the last three years. There was a problem with the first one I bought in November, 2002, leaking. It was replaced with one manufactured in June, 2003, and installed in November, 2003 - that's the one I have now. Tomorrow, I'll get a third one (not my choice, but better than nothing). How long will it last? I'll let everyone know.
I did discover that "Whirlpool" hot water heaters aren't manufactured by "Whirlpool", but by US/Craftmaster Water Heater Company, 1100 E. Fairfield Avenue, Johnson City, Tennessee. The one we purchased was a 40-gallon, fast-recovery model, model number FG1H4040T3NOV. We purchased it through Lowe's, who also installed it. My complaint isn't with Lowe's however - in fact, Lowe's has gone out of their way to help. Whirlpool, on the other hand, has done nothing.
I discovered the water heater was out Thursday morning, Feb 10th, at about 10:30, Mountain Standard Time. This wasn't the first time the pilot light had gone out - we've been having problems for about three months now. Before, the pilot light would relight, and we'd get hot water. This time it didn't, even though I tried, off and on for about four hours. I tried calling the toll-free number on the hot water heater about 2:30 Thursday afternoon. That brought up the first problem. Whirlpool has an automated customer-service menu, and it's a pain in the neck, to be polite. When I finally got through, about 3PM, the telephone rang and rang - over 40 times - without anyone answering. I found out this afternoon (Feb 15) that their customer service is only open 9:00 AM to 4:00PM, Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. That means that if I didn't call before 2:00PM, they were already closed.
I did try calling again Friday morning, around 9:30AM. The line was busy. I tried again three or four times during the day, up until about 5PM, Mountain time. Either the line was busy, or there was the automated menu that connected to a telephone that rang and rang without being answered.
I prefer doing business over the Internet than over the telephone. I have a hyperaccusis problem, which means sound causes me pain. Listening to a telephone ring 40+ times is very painful! Just to be on the safe side, I also found the Whirlpool Customer Service website, and sent them an email with all the pertinent information (model number, serial number, where I purchased the hot water heater and when, the problem I was having, etc. - everything necessary to open a work order and get someone to answer the service request). I got an autoresponder message back at 3:20PM, Mountain time, the same day - February 10th, from "Appliance Parts Pros" - NOT Whirlpool. Apparently they "outsource" their customer service. The message said that someone would respond within "one business day". That should have been Friday. Today is Tuesday, and I still haven't gotten an answer from Whirlpool/Appliance Parts Pros.
I also contacted Lowe's Thursday afternoon, because that's where I bought the hot water heater, and I was hoping they could do something for me. They gave me a different toll-free number, and suggested I call it. At least that time I got a person, who tried to connect me to Customer Service. Of course, they were already gone for the day, and all I got was a recording (after about 20 rings) that "there was no answer - try placing your call again".
I'm a retired Air Force NCO, and I have full privileges at military bases. My wife and I went out to Peterson AFB Sunday afternoon and took showers in the base gym, so we were able to at least get clean. I'm also a disabled veteran with a serious pain problem. I sometimes have days where I just don't function. Monday was one of those days. I did try to get more information about the hot water heater problem I had, and tried to contact a couple of plumbers to repair - at my expense - this problem. I got nowhere. Most plumbers don't maintain spare parts, and from what they told me, Whirlpool isn't terribly swift about shipping them. I can't verify that information - I've never requested parts from them, but there were three or four different plumbers that said the same thing, so I assume they know what THEY'RE talking about. I also learned that the problem could be any one of three or four different things, and the people I talked to couldn't tell until after they checked the hot water heater out for themselves. I also got estimates from $45 to $185 for repairs. This is a bad month for us - my wife's unemployment ran out the end of last month, and she just started a new job yesterday. It'll be the end of the month before she gets a paycheck. My retirement and disability cover the scheduled bills, but we've had to depend on her paycheck for food, gas, and any extras. The only way to pay for the repairs was to go further in debt, which we really are reluctant to do.
I gave Whirlpool until this morning to contact me (two full business days). They didn't. I contacted someone at Whirlpool at the executive level (a Mr. Thomas C. Filstrup, head of Investor Relations - the only email address I could find I thought might possibly get some results), who said he would contact Customer Service on my behalf. Nothing came of it. A friend of mine suggested I contact Lowe's corporate offices, to see if they could put pressure on Whirlpool to respond. Instead, Lowe's took it upon themselves to do what Whirlpool wouldn't. They've offered to replace the hot water heater (unfortunately, with one of the same model, since they don't carry any other brand). I'll still have to pay for installation, but that's better than having to pay the full bill.
The difference between Lowe's customer service and Whirlpool's blatant "we couldn't care less" attitude is astounding. Lowe's has gone out of their way, possibly at their own expense, to help out. Whirlpool has ignored, ignored, ignored. Lowe's customer service replied to my email message within 20 minutes with a message from a human being, requesting additional information. Whirlpool sent an autoresponder message, and ignored the problem. The local Lowe's manager got an immediate message from Corporate offices with instructions to "do whatever is necessary to satisfy this customer", while Whirlpool's response has been an empty silence.
I will never willingly buy another Whirlpool product. If there was a way I could afford to replace this hot water heater with another brand, I'd do it. While I'll never buy Whirlpool, Lowe's customer service has proven that they're truly committed to SERVICE, and they will continue to get my business in the future.
The Blog community has forced Dan Rather to retire, helped defeat a charlatan for President, outed Eason Jordan, and brought Ward Churchill and others to light. I think it's time we held others equally accountable, beginning with the folks at Whirlpool who don't understand the concept of "customer service" and the necessity of honoring warranty commitments. If you have a blog, please link to this story. Consumers need to be forewarned that some companies make promises they obviously have no intention of keeping.
I'd like to hear from anyone else who's had a problem with Whirlpool products, especially their 40-gallon fast-recovery hot water heaters. Either enter a comment or email me with your information.
UPDATE: Feb 15, 2005: 7:02PM, MST. Lowe's is installing a brand-new hot water heater tomorrow. If it hadn't been for a freezing drizzle/snowstorm since about 10PM last night making the roads resemble ice rinks, I'd have had hot water this evening. I still haven't heard from Whirlpool Customer Service, or anyone connected with them.
UPDATE: Feb 17, 2005: 3.35PM, MST. I had a hot bath this morning about 11:30, the first time I've been able to bathe in my own home in a week. Many thanks to the good people at Lowe's for being so considerate, and so generous! Thanks, too, to Tom Morgan of A Reliable Home Improvements of Colorado Springs, for the installation and service.
I still haven't heard a WORD from anyone at Whirlpool, or anyone associated with them.