Friday, April 6, 2007

The Refrigerator from Hell

Verily I say unto you, you are peering into the mouth of Hell. Yes, I know it looks more like the interior of a typical consumer refrigerator, but heed my warning -- this is no ordinary home appliance. Read on, my friends.

On a crisp evening in December of 1993, we ventured to Circuit City on Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina, to purchase a side-by-side Whirlpool refrigerator for our newly built home, which was scheduled for completion within the week. We had our two small children in tow, and by the time we had selected the Model ED25DQXAW00 refrigerator, they were both tired and cranky. And frankly, so were we. The store did nothing to help, since they botched the VISA sales transaction in such a way that for all I know, I may still be paying for the thing. That should have been our first hint that something was wrong.

The unit performed well for the first several years. We moved from Charlotte to Atlanta in the summer of 1995, and from all indications, it was happy to move along with the rest of the family. We would host parties, and it cheerfully lit up the kitchen with its 250 internal bulbs, perfectly formed ice was ejected from the icemaker to liven up our margarita mixes, and it dispensed ice-cold water from its front door with grace and obedience. Little did we know what sinister inclinations its CFC-containing brain harbored.

But soon things took a turn. Somewhere around 1997, well after its warranty had expired, the shelves on the door of the refrigerator side started falling off at random when the door itself was opened. This was particularly troublesome when a party was being hosted, and a shelf full of jams and jellies would crash to the floor, missing our guests' feet by only fractions of an inch. They would laugh, but deep down, you could see the fear in their faces.

Shortly thereafter, we noticed that a couple of pins which supported the main inside shelves on both the refrigerator and freezer sides broke off, leaving the shelves sitting lopsided, causing the food items to either fall down or out the door. We contacted a local service company to see if the pins could be replaced, and indeed they could. We had several of them replaced and obtained from Whirpool a small stock of more replacement pins to use in future repairs.

Then one day, we noticed that the icemaker apparatus appeared to be struggling. Another service call revealed that the pipe which drops water into the ice cube trays had become frozen shut. The fix? Remove the pipe, hold it in your hand to warm it up, then stick it back into the freezer. Simple enough.

Soon, the shelves were breaking their support pins with increasing frequency, making it necessary to reposition the shelves on the remaining pins, which were becoming few and far between, given that we had of course lost those Whirlpool replacement pins. Did you buy a big bottle of wine? Well, there may not be enough room on the door. Want to put that milk somewhere else, please? Oh, by the way, that jar of strawberry jam looks way too heavy for the door -- maybe we'll have to throw it away.

A couple of years ago, the motor gave out, but when we had it replaced, the service person, in a very serious tone, stated that "these units are certainly more reliable than the new ones." I could only laugh hysterically to myself.

And finally, in the last several years, the icemaker has totally given up the ghost and surrendered to "old age," which in Whirlpool terminology must be somewhere around five years. Now, the thingie which twirls the ice cube maker tray around perpetually ticks and cranks, since the control lever which turns it on and off simply broke loose a few months ago.

Of course, the curious thing about all of this is that through their trials and tribulations, the refrigerator and freezer have both continued to keep the food items at their proper temperatures. It is almost as if the device is taunting us, saying "Well, you could replace me, but it's probably more than you want to spend." Whatever.

I grew up in the days when Whirpool appliances were respected for their reliability. But it appears that those days are gone. Now I can only hope that the people in Benton Harbor, Michigan, population 11,182 as of the 2000 census and home to Whirlpool, have thought of something else to do other than making refrigerators, because if this is their lot in life, their future as a community is indeed in question. I read that Whirlpool had recently acquired Maytag Corporation, making it the world's largest manufacturer of home appliances. Too bad they don't work. I guess the old Maytag Man will no longer be sitting around doing nothing. As a cartoon character once quipped, "Up, boy! Rise and shine! Half a day's gone...there's work to be done!"