What would you do? It was Saturday morning and we’d just discovered that the inside of our refrigerator was warm. All that food inside was going to have to be thrown away if we didn’t do something… and fast! We did a quick search trying to find someone who could come quickly to deal with our problem. We chose A & A Appliance Service; big mistake!
So, here’s what we eventually learned, and it only cost $1,150 for the lesson:
• If your refrigerator fails near the end of its expected life (approximately 10 years these days, they say), bite the bullet and buy a new one
• If you’re considering calling A & A Appliance Service in Victoria BC, caveat emptor! (That’s Latin for “think again”.)
• If you do call in a repair person, check their credentials carefully and check any reviews you can find on the internet
• Consider the advantages of using a factory authorized service for your repair needs. You may have to pay a little more but, unlike us, it could save you a lot in the long run
We were stung by this “service” from A & A Appliance Service. It cost us $1,150 we could have used towards the cost of our new fridge, which cost several times that amount. We thought about trying to recover the cost through the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal process, but that would incur additional even more costs and, even if we to get a favourable judgement, we’d probably still have to incur even more costs in any attempt to collect the judgement, if that were even possible.
So, if this story prevents even one or more people from making the same mistakes we made, then we’ve done our part for our fellow man(/woman).
If you’re interested in the gory details, let me tell you the long story about what happened to us.
We called appliance repair services in Victoria, BC, until we found one that could come out on an emergency basis and try and fix it. We located A & A Appliance Service and they agreed to send someone out. (We have since encountered A & A Major Appliance Services as well as A & A Major Appliance Service Inc in web searches. All the same company, it appears but not a good sign of a well-run business when they can’t even keep their corporate identify straight.)
Charlie arrived. Just so you know, Charlie seems to be just a simplified, Canadianized equivalent for this man of Asian ethnicity for whom English was definitely a second language. He pulled out the fridge without using anything to protect the hardwood floor in our kitchen. First red flag! He then proceeded to install a “tap” on the refrigerant line to allow him to measure the refrigerant pressure. He said it was low, so he used some sort of leak stop sealant and added additional refrigerant and we were good to go. Admittedly, he stated that this fix would not last forever. After all, the fridge was about 10 years old (it came with the house when we moved in 3 years ago and the house was 10 years old). So, $265.65 later, we had a cold refrigerator again. This was March 10, 2018.
Fast forward to October 29, 2018 when, late in the evening, we noticed a strange smell in the fridge. To me it smelled like stale ice. We quickly recognized that this was due to a warm fridge where all the ice in the trays had thawed. We emptied the fridge out to the “beer fridge” in the basement and, again, called A & A Appliance Service. Charlie and his son came the next morning. We had a couple of floor glides which we tried to get Charlie to use, but he didn’t seem to be able to manage them, so… more damage to the hardwood floor! (Who puts hardwood in a kitchen, anyway?)
First, he tried replacing the start capacitor, to see if that would get the compressor running. When that failed, he told us that we’d have to replace the compressor or buy a new fridge. He quoted $650 for the replacement and we decided to go ahead, even if it only gave us a few more years before the inevitable need to replace a modern day fridge which are only expected to last 10 years of so anyway. Charlie ordered the compressor and scheduled to come back two days later to install it.
Charlie and son arrived at the appointed time and set about replacing the compressor. He assured us that this was a bigger, better and more powerful compressor than the original one in the fridge. By about 4:00 PM they were done, we paid $716.45 and they were off.
About 7:30 that evening, Charlie called us and said we had to turn off the fridge. We asked why and he said he didn’t have the words to explain it. We asked if leaving it running would cause a problem and he insisted that we had to turn it off and he would come over the next day to correct the problem. As we had just finished reloading the fridge (it had been running for 3+ hours and was down to temperature, we asked him to come over right then to do whatever he had to do. No. No. Not possible, he said. After all, it was after 7 in the evening, I guess.
The next day, at about 11:00 AM, Charlie and his son showed up. I asked them again what the problem was. Charlie’s son said that they had put to wrong refrigerant in. What? We asked what that meant to have had the fridge running for 3-4 hours with the wrong refrigerant. Charlie assured us that it was not a problem. That should have been another red flag. They brought in what appeared to be some sort of device for refrigerant recovery and proceeded, we presume, to remove the wrong refrigerant and replace it with the correct one. No charge for this visit. I should certainly hope not!
Strangely, we soon noticed a subtle, high-pitched and very annoying sound in the kitchen. It took us a while, but we eventually concluded it was coming from the refrigerator. We called A & A Appliance Service again about a week later to complain about the noise coming from the fridge. Charlie and his son came back the next day but heard nothing. Apparently, the compressor wasn’t running at the time they were here. So again, they left with Charlie warning us that, if we called him back again and he couldn’t here the sound he would have to charge us for the call.
The sound persisted, so we called again. This time we turned the fridge off in anticipation of the visit so that the compressor would definitely run while they were here. In they came and, although we could tell that the compressor was running and we could definitely hear the sound, Charlie insisted that he couldn’t hear anything. Fortunately, his son told us he could hear it and said that Charlie probably couldn’t. I wonder?
When we asked if the compressor could have been damaged due to operation with the wrong refrigerant, Charlie got quite excited, agitated even. He said that they just hadn’t put in enough refrigerant, not that they’d used the wrong one. Now he was being untruthful! Another red flag! (Despite what his son had clearly stated to us. His son, by the way, speaks English fluently and is not at all difficult to understand). When we pressed Charlie, he actually started shouting at us, told us he could remove the compressor and give us back the cost of the compressor ($345) but not any of his labour. He was intending to do it right then, which would leave us with no fridge again. Another red flag, I think!
Based on our protests, he said we had to decide by the next morning when he would call us. We never heard from him again.
So, what did we do? Well, we tried locating another repair person who could verify that we had a problem and confirm whether or not the use of the wrong refrigerant could have caused it. We found someone. He came out the next day. He could hear the whine in the compressor as soon as he walked in the front door. When we explained the situation, he was appalled. We learned a number of things about refrigerator repairs.
First of all, that original repair back in March was probably done improperly. A drop in refrigerant pressure means that there was a leak in the system. It is not correct to simply add a leak-stop agent and restore the lost refrigerant. It may even have been illegal. R-134a is the correct refrigerant; who knows what they used when they put in the wrong one!
He also stated that operating the compressor with the wrong refrigerant could definitely do damage to the compressor and that the noise we were hearing was clearly coming from the compressor which had likely been damaged. Then came the shocker! He also told us that once a problematic repair has been done, no other repair technician is likely to be willing to correct the problem. This is because, if they attempt a repair, it then becomes their problem. It’s bad enough dealing with the occasional problem they inadvertently cause themselves, without having to assume responsibility for whatever the previous technician might have done or not done.
This man was so honorable that he would not accept payment for his visit since he hadn’t actually done anything, despite the fact that he was at our house for more than ½ an hour. We tried to insist that we would pay him for his time since he came to the house. But he would have none of it.
We decided to go one step further and contacted the manufacturer of the refrigerator (Whirlpool) for an authorized service technician to see if we could get some more specific details about what damage had been done. We were able to get an appointment through Whirlpool for about a week later.
This man basically confirmed what we already knew. The whining sound was coming from the compressor which indicated that it was damaged and there was not way to tell how long it would continue to operate before failing. Leaving it that way wasn’t an option because the sound was driving us crazy. One interesting thing he did tell us though. He said that sometimes a job just goes sour. If this happened to him, he would just give a complete refund, including charges for his time. Since this man was send by Whirlpool, he had to charge us for the call. Another $167.99. (By the way, he said he couldn’t give us a written evaluation but that he would note his findings in the report that would go to Whirlpool. We could contact them after a week or so to get a copy of the report. When we did that, Whirlpool refused to send us a written copy of the report!)
So, it was off to buy a replacement fridge as the Christmas holiday season was fast approaching and, according to Murphy (you know, Murphy’s Law), when would the fridge choose as the most likely time to fail?
So, that the story. I hope we never have to go through this again. I sincerely hope you don’t have to either!