October 25, 2014

Check Your Cart at Sears.com

Is Sears.com tacking on added purchases without your consent? Automatically adding on a service package is up-selling and Sears.com may have been doing just that.

Edgar Dworsky, a nationally-respected consumer advocate and founder of the website ConsumerWorld.org, says he went on the site on Black Friday weekend looking for a refrigerator. He found a model he liked, put it in his cart and noticed that a five-year service contract for $469 had been added without his consent.

Dworsky points out that the charge for the service plan is easily removed from the cart if the customer spots it. If not, they could overpay from $110 to $550.

“How many shoppers have in their mind, ‘Oh, I’d better check the cart just to make sure they haven’t slipped something in there that I didn’t order?’”

Dworsky shopped for various appliances on Sears.com and he says the same thing happened every time: an expensive five-year extended warranty turned up in the shopping cart.

After Mr. Dworsky contacted Larry Costello, Sears’ public relations director, who says the company has received “very little negative customer feedback” about its up-sell policy,the company says it will change the way its website operates. Sears will now make their extended warranties an optional add-on, just as other major appliance sellers do.

Kenmore Debuts Two New Kitchen Appliances

Kenmore has announced two new additions to its kitchen appliance offerings, the Kenmore Elite Double Oven Free Standing Range and the Kenmore Elite Trio 31-cubic foot Refrigerator with Grab-N-Go™ Door.

The Kenmore Elite Double Oven has two, 3.5-cubic foot ovens that perform equally and independently. Main dishes, such as full-sized turkeys or hams, can cook at the same time in separate ovens and at different temperatures for greater cooking convenience and versatility.

Each oven features true convection to provide maximum air movement and to deliver more even cooking throughout the oven. Additionally, Electric Turbo Boil technology rapidly brings pots to boil quicker than any other leading freestanding range brand (Compared against leading freestanding range competitors.)

The new double oven is available in white and black at $1,899 for model 97512/9 and $1,999 for model 97513.

The Kenmore Elite Trio Refrigerator with Grab-N-Go Door keeps users’ most-often-used items within reach. With the most storage space of any Kenmore refrigerator available (Based on capacity measured through AHAM Standards; storage space measured through Kenmore Brand Standards and among leading brands with capacities measured using AHAM standards.), this 31 cubic foot model has a separate compartment accessed with a simple push of a button. Removing the need to open both refrigerator doors and letting cold air escape, the Grab-N-Go Door is accessible via the exterior door and is best used for items such as snacks, drinks, leftovers.

The model’s integrated water dispenser virtually disappears into the door and is large enough to fill tall items like pitchers, coffee pots and water bottles. As an enhanced version of the recently released Kenmore Elite Trio Signature Refrigerator, this model is currently scheduled for national availability at Sears in January 2012.

Energy Star’s New Most Efficient Designation

It seems that every appliance in the stores these days has qualified for the Energy Star label. A look around the local appliance store is dotted with the ubiquitous bright yellow tags.

Energy Star, in an effort to improve the system – everything can’t be the BEST – has added a “Most Efficient” designation to their listings.

“This new designation will help Americans save money and cut pollution by quickly pointing them to the best Energy Star products have to offer. Highlighting Energy Star’s Most Efficient products is a great way to encourage the strides in innovation that bring even more energy and money saving choices to our stores,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We know American consumers are eager to make purchases that save them money on their utility bills and reduce the pollution in the air we breathe, and these labels will help them identify the best ways to find those purchases.”

Products that receive the Most Efficient designation demonstrate exceptional and cutting-edge efficiency performance. The Most Efficient recognition will represent approximately the top five percent of models on the market in the following categories: clothes washers, heating and cooling equipment, televisions, and refrigerator-freezers. The following Energy Star partners’ products are among the first to be recognized as Most Efficient: Electrolux Major Appliances, Sears’ Kenmore, LG, Samsung, Best Buy’s Insignia Brand, Panasonic, Nordyne, and Rheem. Later this year, EPA will initiate a process to consider additional product categories for potential inclusion in 2012.

Consumers will be able to identify Most Efficient products on the Energy Star website and in stores by looking for the Most Efficient designation. In addition to meeting established performance requirements, products must also be Energy Star qualified and certified by an EPA-recognized certification body. Manufacturers are encouraged to submit products that meet the requirements to EPA for recognition.

More information on Energy Star’s Most Efficient products: http://www.energystar.gov/mostefficient

Haier Buying Sanyo Appliance Division

Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. plans to sell much of its major appliance business to China’s Haier Group, in an uncommon instance of a Japanese electronics conglomerate allowing a rising Chinese rival take over a chunk of a major business segment.

The sale of the Sanyo operations—mostly washing-machine and refrigerator businesses—is part of Panasonic’s efforts to eliminate overlapping areas since its 2009 purchase of Sanyo. For Haier, the acquisition of Sanyo’s businesses will help it move a step closer to becoming a globally recognized quality appliance brand like Whirlpool or Electrolux.

Haier Group will have the rights to use the Sanyo brand name on washing machines, refrigerators, air-conditioners, TVs, and other consumer appliances in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia under the SANYO brand for a limited, but unspecified, period of time.

The acquisition of the Sanyo businesses is “an important part of Haier’s overall growth strategy,” said Haier Vice President Du Jingguo in a statement released Thursday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Haier has said previously it was looking at overseas acquisitions to grow. President Yang Mianmian told Dow Jones Newswires in March it would look at opportunities that arise.

The Chinese firm previously held talks with General Electric Co. in 2008 to buy the U.S. firm’s appliance unit. Before the talks with GE, Haier made an unsuccessful bid for Maytag Corp. in 2004 but lost out to Whirlpool Corp.

Haier holds more than 6% of the world’s white-goods market.

Save Money on New Appliances and Help the World Too

We can all use a little help these days. If your budget cuts have you rethinking how to replace an aging appliance, GE offers a solution that lets you buy a new appliance while helping others. At the online GE outlet store, with any purchase of one of their discontinued, closeout or overstock appliances (which includes standard GE warranty and free delivery) they will donate 2% of the price to the United Way.

They have just about every appliance you could need – from refrigerators, and washers to trash compactors and range hoods. The supply and variety varies, with more choices in the larger kitchen appliances than others. The savings also vary. At last look, you could save $200 -$500 on a refrigerator, but just around $20 on a ventilation hood.

It would also be a good resource if you are trying to match older GE Appliances already in your kitchen.

Keep Your Stainless Appliances Bright and Shiny

Stainless steel is an alloy of iron (90%) and chromium (10%), a little of the chromium combines with oxygen from the atmosphere to form a hard oxide coating on the surface. This process continues in a passive form throughout the steel’s life and is what makes it “stainless;” should the finish be removed through corrosion or wear, the metal will no longer be “stainless.” It will rust just like any other steel. Dirt, or other material, hinders this continual oxidation process and traps corrosive agents, ultimately destroying the metal’s corrosion protection.

Stainless steel actually thrives with frequent cleaning, and, unlike some other materials, it is impossible to “wear out” stainless steel by excessive cleaning. Use mild detergents and warm water to clean even tougher grime. You can also use mild non-scratching abrasive powders such as typical household cleaners. These can be used with warm water, bristle brushes, sponges, or clean cloths.Be sure to rinse well and dry thoroughly to prevent spotting from minerals in the water.

More tips:

    Brighten a steel sink by polishing with a cloth dipped in vinegar or ammonia, or sprinkle a little baking soda on a sponge, rub the sink gently, and rinse.

    Fingerprints can be removed with glass cleaner or household ammonia. Some newer types of finishes resist fingerprints.

    Cleaners made for stainless steel minimize scratching, remove stains, and polish surfaces.

According to the Stainless Steel Information Center, organic solvents can also be used to remove fresh fingerprints and oils and greases that have not had time to oxidize or decompose, the preferred solvent being one that does not contain chlorine. Acetone, methyl alcohol, and mineral spirits are acceptable.

Here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning a fairly dirty stainless steel appliance:

Step 1 – Begin by rubbing the entire stainless steel appliance with a clean, damp cotton cloth that has been soaked and rung out with warm soapy water.

Step 2 – Use another cotton cloth that has been soaked in vinegar and rung out so it is only damp.

Step 3 – Apply a small dollop of commercial stainless steel cleaner to a cotton cloth and then rub the stainless steel appliance with it going with the lines or ‘grain’ of the steel inlay.

Step 4 – If there are hardened food stains, baked on food or grease, remove these with a nylon scouring pad and a caustic soda (baking soda) solution.

Step 5 – Use another soft cotton cloth dipped in warm, clear water to rinse the solution off the appliance.

Thermador’s New Steam Range

Thermador’s Pro Grand Steam 48-inch range offers seven distinct cooking options — steaming, convection baking, burner cooking, simmering, grilling, griddle cooking and warming — with a combination Steam & Convection Oven, a large-capacity convection oven, a six-burner gas cooktop featuring the exclusive Star® Burners, and a fully integrated warming drawer in the all-in-one package. Additionally, it houses Thermador’s cooking exclusives, such as the ExtraLow® simmering technology, and a power Star Burner with 22,000 BTU.

“Judging from the recent success of the built-in Steam & Convection Oven, we believe the market is ready for another game-changing concept with the new Pro Grand Steam Range. Our new professional range empowers home cooks to achieve their best and experience the absolute finest in cooking, whether it’s healthy steam cooking, baking in the large-capacity convection oven, precise simmering on the Star Burners, or just keeping the family meal warm.” said Zach Elkin, director of the Thermador brand.

The new 48-inch Pro Grand Steam Range features:

The Thermador Pro Grand Steam Range offers seven distinct cooking options with four integrated appliances: a full-function combination Steam & Convection Oven; a large-capacity Convection Oven; a six-burner Gas Cooktop and electric grill/griddle option with ProCoat™titanium surface; and a Warming Drawer.
The fully integrated 1.4-cubic-foot Steam & Convection Oven cavity is large enough for a 14-pound turkey, serving 15 people. (A 14-pound turkey takes only 90 minutes to cook in Combination mode, resulting in a moist inside and a perfect crust outside.) The steam oven offers 30 easy cook food programs, and its simple water tank design allows for convenient, spill-proof refilling, and eliminates the need for plumbing modifications during installation.
The Steam & Convection Oven enables cooking without using butter or fat, improves overall food quality and appearance, and preserves healthy vitamins and nutrients typically lost during traditional cooking methods.
Patented six Star Burners with QuickClean™base, which allow for more ports and flame distribution, greater heat coverage and a smaller cold spot than conventional round burners.
Power Star Burner offering 22,000 (Natural Gas) BTU, while the remaining burners produce 18,000 BTU.
Four Star Burners featuring ExtraLow®simmering technology that cycles the burners off and on to as low as 100 degrees (375 BTU).
Large-capacity 5.1-cubic-foot Convection Oven offers maximum cooking space and nine advanced conventional cooking modes.
Spacious 1.4-cubic-foot warming drawer holds up to 10 dinner plates.

Design features include:

Highest-grade stainless steel construction and handcrafted in the United States with signature bull-nose design.
Professional®Series handles and trimkits offer design consistency with any Thermador kitchen.
New hydraulic SoftClose™hinges prevent the slamming of oven doors, and SoftClose glide doors for the warming drawer.
Full Access® telescopic racks with integrated easy-grip handle.
Electronic oven display interfaces to cook timer, meat probe and preheat status.
Commercial-style stainless steel knobs.
Commercial-style temperature gauges and illuminated electronic displays.

The range will be available in August 2011 at high-end appliance retailers, for an MSRP of $13,995.

Aging in Place – Appliance Placement

If you are a retiree building a new home, you can plan your kitchen and laundry areas to accommodate your aging body. For those of us who plan to stay right where we are, some simple adjustments and purchases can make daily tasks easier.

So, let’s start with the easy ones, like the Washer & Dryer. Front loading models are very popular today, but bending over and getting inside for the very last sock can be a problem for those with mobility issues. Most brands, including Bosch, Whirlpool and Frigidaire make pedestals for all their newer models, and can retrofit them to older models.They range from 11″ to 17″, depending on the brand. The other solution is to pull the machines out, and have your contractor frame in a raised platform at just the right height for you, cover it with linoleum, and your washer and dryer will be much more accessible.

Another place to ‘right height’ appliances is in the kitchen. Here are more tips from HB Building and Design: One popular solution is a lowered cooktop with the controls on the front. If you have room to make this modification, and lower this part of the countertop with the adjacent required landing space, it really makes things easier for shorter people, or someone sitting in a wheelchair or using a walker.

The second kitchen appliance that should be considered is the refrigerator. A side-by-side refrigerator freezer is a much better choice, giving access to both the freezer and the refrigerator from a sitting position. In a more extensive remodel, a wall oven can be installed at a lower height as can the microwave oven.

A final consideration are countertops which should be smooth to allow you to slide rather than lift heavy pots and pans. Cabinets can also be prepared for someone with a progressive illness by specifying removable base cabinets for future wheelchair access.