Monday, June 16, 2014

Screw Jobs

I've been paying insurance premiums for much of my life. I have never filed a claim with the exception of when some guy backed into my car and I filed a claim against his insurance to pay for the repairs. I've never had any damage to things like my house or cars where I've been able to file a claim. Lucky, yes, up until recently. And like the saying goes, you never know how much you have in insurance until you go to file a claim.

Recently we had a heck of a thunderstorm move through the area complete with lots of rain and lightening but fortunately none of the hail or 100 mph winds they were predicting to go along with it. We rode through the worst part of the storm and went to bed. All night the lightening flickered and crashed but nothing really close. Then in the early parts of the morning, our power went out, started up again twice and disappeared for good for about an hour as we were just getting ready for the day. Everything seemed fine until I went to get something from the refrigerator and noticed that the interior light didn't come on.

I discovered the breaker had tripped and reset it only to have it trip again. I tried a couple more times with the same results. I got an extension cord and plugged the refrigerator into a different circuit thinking perhaps the breaker was bad and though I didn't trip the breaker in that circuit, the refrigerator was still dead. Nothing was happening. Something was most likely wrong with the refrigerator.

I'm not good when it comes to diagnosing modern electronics and because it was tripping a breaker, I figured I had most likely lost the compressor due to a surge. However because none of the electronics or lights came on, I figured it could be a lot more. I looked up six different appliance repair companies in the area, four in town and two in neighboring towns. Of the six, one flat out refused to work on my refrigerator because though it is Kenmore, it was actually made by LG and he said parts for them are impossible to get. Of the five left, three could get to me but it would be a week or two. One said he was booked up for the day but would call me back the next morning to see if he could schedule me in. The last said it would be a couple days. So I told option four to call me back the following morning and we could go from there.

Knowing that it would be 24 hours later before I would get a call back and then more time until he actually arrived, I suspected that I would loose everything in the refrigerator if I didn't act so I put everything in the deep freeze that would fit and would freeze. That evening when I still hadn't found someone to commit to actually coming to repair the thing, I went out and bought the biggest mini-fridge we could find in town, only one of three that were to be found. We transferred what we could in that and left out some stuff like veggies that would last a few days until we could eat them. The next morning came and went and no call from option four. I called at noon to remind them and was promised by the receptionist that they would call me right back. Three hours later and still no call, I called option five and he said he would be out there in a few minutes. (Now a week later, option four still has yet to call me back so obviously he didn't want to work on my refrigerator and just could tell me that honestly up front.)

Option five showed up and turned out to be an 73 year old retired man who was just back in the came to pay back some medical bills from a bad fall he took last year. Long story shorter, I ended up having to help him out with logic and even proper tools but at the end of a couple hours, I was pretty certain that the circuit board with all the electronics was fried along with the compressor and fan motor or at least their harness. I had spent my free time over the last 36 hours looking for a compressor online and had only been able to find one used one in unknown working order that I could order from England and take three to four weeks to arrive. That was it! I didn't know about the fan or the electronics but I suspected that I wouldn't be able to find those either. So the repair guy wrote out a ticket totaling out the refrigerator due to lightening surge and charged me $50.

Day three without a refrigerator I called the insurance company to file a claim and they told me to supply them with the information from the repair guy and a copy of the purchase receipt. So I am thinking at this point that since it was replacement insured that they would cut me a check for the difference between what I paid for the thing minus some minimal about of depreciation since it is less than 2 years old and minus the deductible. I searched around for refrigerators but at the end of the day the only one we really liked was the one we had. I didn't really like this option because if it ever broke down again, we would be back to where we currently were. On the other hand, that same refrigerator was on clearance for about $900 less than what we payed for it and with the expected check from the insurance company, it would end up only costing us a couple hundred dollars. I thought it worth the chance since it was not much outlay of cash and we really liked everything about it so we ordered it.

Screw job one was trying to get a repair person to look at it in a timely manner. Screw job two was the appliance company that sold me the new replacement refrigerator. The soonest they could deliver the new refrigerator was three weeks out inconveniently two days after I am going to be overseas on vacation for a couple weeks. So the soonest they could deliver it when we were at home would be over a month out on July 8th. That meant we had over two weeks of living on what we could eat out of a mini fridge and a deep freeze, followed by another four days upon our return to the United States. Sucks, yes, screwed over, yes, but not impossible.

Four days after we had ordered our replacement refrigerator, the insurance company called back to say they also needed the purchase receipt on our new refrigerator. They would only pay the difference between that and our deductible which meant that now I was only going to end up with a couple hundred bucks from them to replace my old refrigerator, a hell of a lot less than what I had hoped. Had I known that, I would have gotten another brand of refrigerator, hopefully one easier to get parts for should it break down, that was still considered similar by the insurance company but cost $900 more and had them reimburse me for it. Screw job three had just been handed to me.

Our insurance agent had assured me that we could also claim the food that we ended up pitching because we had no place to preserve it and couldn't eat it all in time. After I claimed $150 worth of groceries which was probably really conservative, the national claim center (not my local agent) told me that we had to pay extra a rider in our insurance policy that covers that. Screw job four had just been completed.

Now I'm looking at getting the same fridge I currently own being delivered in a little over a month from now and should it ever bite the dust, I'm going to be in the same pickle I am now. So I shelled out half my savings by buying it on clearance for an extended warranty plan to cover all repairs and full replacement for three years should it happen again. I also bought a surge protected outlet to replace the standard outlet so hopefully any future surges can be stopped before the refrigerator stops it. I feel poorer and well screwed over right now. These things always seem to frustrate me because in my mind, dealing with them should be a lot easier than it really is. If I had gotten a repair guy out in a timely manner, diagnosed that it was irrepairable and got another refrigerator in place by the end of five or so days, I would think nothing of it. Instead I have to be constantly reminded of it for over a month.


sage said...

Sorry for your misfortune. I hate dealing with insurance. On the other hand, congratulations for coming up with a blog title that is bound to increase the number of google hits--folks who are going to click with excitement only to read about a dead fridge... That's spreading a little karma around!

Anonymous said...

With insurance you need to read it very carefully. In truth I do think that a standard house and contents could be enforced by regard to law. This actually is something government can do very well indeed. Then say the average cost of a fridge is $1500, if you go and buy the $5000 model, tough. You get the 1500 as long as it's the usual insurable risk. Ditto with car insurance.
You go for really big fridges. We went like that during the recent madness.

Ed said...

Sage - The insurance was the easiest part to deal with. Trying to find someone to come look at the thing was the most frustrating.

I try to come up with titles that take people to a post they don't expect. Keep everyone on their toes.

Vince - Well this fridge is less than average by those statistics. I just want one that has plenty of adjustable shelves and an ice maker in the door. Our refrigerator is small by most people's standards but we've always been able to fit everything we need in it, that is until we were forced to down grade to a mini-fridge!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Good commentary on the way lots of things work today when there's a home appliance problem. We have never take. An extended policy on any appliance and so far no regrets and thankfully none have gone belly up.

Bone said...

Ugh, that is just crappy. It definitely seems like insurance companies are forever covering as very little as they can possibly get by with. As premiums continue to climb, of course.