If you think something should be under warranty it probably is!!

Whenever there is good news to be spread I am the first to want to share it with others. Product manufacturers who back their products should be recognized. I know this is the era of customer satisfaction (well, in most cases it is) and most customer service operations inside the reputable companies are empowered to bend over backwards to satisfy customers, but when I have a personal experience with such an outfit I think others should hear about it. So, here is the list of companies I have dealt with, along with my pleasant experiences of having my customer satisfaction scratched. One note of caution. If you don't feel like calling 800 numbers and/or writing letters to company officers you will probably not get the satisfaction I have gotten out of warranty policies. Write, call, complain but be polite and state the facts as you see them. You will get results!

Ford Hood Rust Through

Ford Truck Paint Problems

Dripping Faucet

Another Dripping Faucet

Range Burner Igniter

Gas Grille Rust Out

Probably the biggest, i.e.. most expensive, warranty was my Ford Truck. I bought it used with 75K miles and in very good condition. I was waxing my new pride and joy when I discovered some paint deterioration along the front of the hood. I decided to make sure that the deterioration would go no further so I bought a pint of paint from the Ford dealership and went to work to do what I thought would be a small, but professional, looking job. As I sanded down the imperfections I could soon see that it was more than stone chips along the bottom edge. There was rust - rust which came from the inside! The more I sanded the more rust I found. Now if you have ever tried to sand away the rust spots on sheet metal you know that the rusty areas look black and the clean metal shines like a mirror. The islands of black were massive and I couldn't sand them away. I probed at one particularly nasty looking one and the pick went clean through the hood!

I decided that I needed a new (used) hood. I was not going to be able to save this one. The rust came from inside a triple weld and the undercoating inside the hood just hid the extensive damage of the second and third levels of sheet metal.

A quick call to a local recycle yard and I found that I could get as many hoods I needed for that year and model, but ALL of them had the same problem as mine. Hmmmm, seems like Ford had a problem with that hood design. I called the dealer and inquired. He told me that Ford had a rust through warranty - bring it in and I'll have a look.

Two weeks later I was sporting a brand new hood - right from the factory. Painted and installed at no expense to me. I am indeed a happy Ford customer!!

That is not the end of the story. I had noticed some paint defects on the rest of the truck as I was waxing it. It took another three months and I could see that the paint was peeling, sort of like sunburn peels, not down to the metal, but down to the primer. I called my friend at Ford again.

To make a long story short, Ford authorized me 2200 dollars for a complete repaint! Excluding the new hood, of course. I took it to a local body shop where they sanded the whole truck down to bare metal and repainted the whole thing! I threw in a few extra bucks and they painted the bed of the truck, no big deal.

It seems that Ford didn't have to pay the whole shot for the repaint. The company which made the primer paid big bucks to a lot of other Ford owners due to the fact that the primer was faulty and oxidized beneath the paint surface causing a lack of bonding between the paint and the primer. It didn't matter to me who paid - all I know is I didn't! Because of that customer satisfaction I felt I am sure my next purchase will be a Ford product.

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OK, ready for another one? This time it was a dripping faucet. In this case my wife played a big role in helping me achieve customer satisfaction. I had bought a single handle faucet for the new stainless steel kitchen sink. It worked fine for about four and a half years. Then it started to drip. I took it apart and found that there were no washers inside - just a ceramic element. The make was Price Fistzer (sp?). I asked Arleen if she still had the sales slip. Within ten minutes I was off to the supplier, sales slip tucked in my wallet. The guy at the counter looked at the old one and said they didn't make that one anymore I would have to buy the new and improved, guaranteed for life, ceramic cartridge. Cost 45 bucks! Hell, I don't think I paid that much for the whole faucet! I asked if the old one had a warranty and he said it had a five year - BUT I would have to find the sales slip to prove the date of purchase. I looked disappointed and started to walk away, then turned back and said, "Wait a minute! I just might have it in my wallet!" I fumbled with credit cards and receipts for gas and lots of other junk knowing full well where the sales slip was. The counter man waited for a minute and then said that he had other customers to wait on - he started to turn away. "WAIT! HERE it is!" His jaw dropped to the floor. After he recovered he wrote up a sales slip and handed me the part - "no charge sir", he mumbled.

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OK, here's another faucet one. We moved to another house and I replaced all the old faucets with Moen brand faucets. After a few years the kitchen sink faucet started to drip. Off to Chase Pitkin to see if they had a replacement element or a repair kit. I found the correct replacement element and started to walk to the cashier ready to pay the 20 bucks they were asking when something caught my eye. There was a box with my kitchen faucet on the cover. Across the top of the box were the words "Lifetime Warranty". I opened the box and looked at the parts listing. Sure enough I was about to purchase the very same replacement cartridge! I went to a phone and called the magic number 1-800-555-1212. (directory assistance information) I called the 800 number for Moen right there in the store. I told him that I had a Moen faucet Model number blah blah and asked if there were a lifetime warranty on the part. "Yep! Could I have your name and address please?" "Thank you, the part will be mailed to you Fed EX today - you should have it tomorrow." If I had driven slowly the part might have arrived at my doorstep before I got home! No such luck - but it was there at noon the next day and the faucet is still drip free to this day!

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Now this next one is where the manufacturer had to be persuaded a tad to see things from a customer's perspective. It involves the gas range we bought to replace the energy hog electric range which came with the house. The local gas and electric company paid us a huge bonus to do it so why not? The range we bought is made by Whirlpool. It has a nice user interface with simple programming controls for time bake and temperature settings. It is also free of any pilot lights. Instead, it has a spark generator (coil) which sparks when you turn the control on for a burner. The spark lights the gas and you are on your way to cooking.. I'm sure you all have seen this. One thing I did notice is that the little spark plug makes a spark on all of the burners when any one of them is turned on. I did notice that two of the burners didn't always light as readily as the other two, even from day one when it was new. Also, when the igniters are sparking there is a rather loud and distinctive clicking noise - it comes from the spark jumping the gap at the igniter. After a while one just turns the control knob to the point where the clicking is heard, assumes that the burner has ignited and sets the control to medium or whereever one want to cook. If there is a large skillet on the burner the flame can't be seen.

Well, one day Arleen was preparing one of her spectacular dinners (I weigh well over 200 pounds as a result of her culinary skills!) and she did the normal thing and walked to the refrige. What she didn't know is that the front burner hadn't ignited - there was a large skillet on the burner - and gas was building up in the area. Finally the gas made its way to an already lighted rear burner and WHOOOOM, the front burner ignited along with a pot holder next to the range! Being a quick witted, calm person Arleen handled the situation well and continued to cook dinner. I, being a not so calm person told her to get out of the way and set me see why the burner didn't ignite when she thought it should have.

It turns out that two of the burners were not sparking at all. The intermittent failure mode was now a constant failure. No matter how long one waited, the gas never ignited on these two burners. Click, click, click, - nothing.

After dinner I pulled the range away from the wall. It had been there for two years. That is something you don't want to do after a big meal. There were old crumbs, spilled gravy all the stuff that you can't clean up due to the tight clearances - ugh! I removed the rear cover and there was the spark coil, a small box with lots of wires attached. I found the four wires that went to the igniters and switched them around. Two of them were dead. No spark.

Next morning I called the store where we bought the range, a local establishment. Always buy locally cuz they will treat you right when there is trouble. NOT! I was told by the parts manager that there was a one year warranty on the range and that it had been purchased nearly two years ago. He told me there was an 800 number to call for escalation of customer problems. He wanted 135 dollars for the part and told me that he would have to order it cuz they don't have many (any!) calls for that particular part. (more ammo for my plea). I called the 800 number and was told by a very courteous but persistent woman that Whirlpool had a policy of not extending the warranty but that I could write a letter to the boss and explain why I felt that the part should be warranted . She gave me the name and address of the person and I did write a letter. Basically, I requested that they sell me the part at their cost which I figured to be around ten or fifteen bucks. I explained to him how strongly I felt that the part should be covered under warranty but that I would concede and pay them their manufacturing cost - sort of a win-win situation.

A week went by, then two. No response. Meanwhile we were getting used to lighting the burners with a hand held grille lighter. Not bad but rather inconvenient. There were no more explosions.

Sometime in the third week a package arrived by UPS. It was the spark coil! I opened the invoice attached to the box - NO CHARGE! No letter of explanation, no message from the pope, but more importantly, no charge! Ten minutes later I had the unit installed, turned on the burner and heard what the unit should have sounded like from the get-go. CLICK, CLICK - a loud snapping spark appeared at each burner and they all lit on the first CLICK. No more tick tick and false ignitions. It was like brand new and I had saved another hundred and thirty five dollars! I guess it pays to write that letter!

One more warranty story and then I'll quit writing for a while. The Forth of July weekend is approaching and like all good Americans I am getting ready for a cookout. Nothing big, just a few friends over for some good food and socializing. Time to clean up the grille. This is a Thermos brand grille that we bought just two years ago to replace a twenty year old Charbroil which had seen better days. So when we bought this one we went all out. Thirty six inch cooking surface, dual burners, upper cooking rack, side cooker for the corn-on-the-cob, and a fold down side table for the rib sauce and whatever else one needs to do a cookout. This particular grille doesn't use the lava briquets that the Charbroil grille did. Instead, it has a pair of steel plates that are heated from below and re-radiate the heat to the food, a good idea since those briquets always tend to collect enough grease from the previous sausage that ya don't get halfway through cooking the steaks when you need an inch-and-a-half fire hose to knock down the flames.

First thing to do is to brush down the cooking surface, a nicely enameled grate that has held up well for two years. Hmm, while you're at it, better take out those heater plates and clean them off - looks like a lot of crud on top of them. That's where the problems started. The plates fell apart as I removed them. Nothing but Swiss cheese! They actually crumbled into just so much powder. Well, I guess I had better clean all that rust off the burner. Uh-oh, looks like the burners are rusted out as well! For two years, being covered with a vinyl cover any time it was not in use, this thing was falling apart!

I have a buddy who does stainless steel sheet metal work and I called him and asked if he could fabricate two steel plates for me. I gave him the dimensions and he gladly volunteered to have them by the weekend. He is also one of the invited guests! But what about the burner?? I had replaced the one in the Charbroil unit after ten or so years and kind of expected to do so. They cost around fifty bucks for this humungo model. Hmmmm, I wonder . . . . 1-800-555-1212 . . . . . . "Hello, Thermos? I have a complaint . . . . . . . . . and that's my story. What can you do for me?"

"Let me have your name and address and I will have one sent out to you today. The new one will be stainless steel and should last you a lot longer than the old one did. I'm sorry for your inconvenience, sir."

Wow and wowee! That's what I call customer satisfaction. He didn't give me that bull crap about having to FAX a copy of the receipt (although I bet Arleen could put her hands on it in a minute) or any other line of garbage. Just plain old customer care. Of course if I ever need to buy another grille you can be sure it will be the Thermos brand!!

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