August 29, 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

Refrigerator Safety Act

The horrifying death of a child trapped in an abandoned refrigerator was the motivation behind a story by the Channel 5 news in Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

The station reported finding numerous refrigerators abandoned in people’s yards. This is certainly a danger and without question should be addressed as a public safety hazard, but the investigation states that “it’s against federal law to have such an appliance just sitting around.”

I was curious about this federal law called The Refrigerator Safety Act and looked into it myself. What I found is this:

{SEC. 1.} [15 U.S.C. 1211]
It shall be unlawful for any person to introduce or deliver
for introduction into interstate commerce any household
refrigerator manufactured on or after the date this section takes
effect unless it is equipped with a device, enabling the door
there of to be opened from the inside,
which conforms with
standards prescribed pursuant to section 3.

The law was to become effective after the various standards were defined, all of which followed the Refrigerator Safety Act’s publication date of August 2, 1956. This also appears to be misunderstood in the news story.

The local station also reported that “The law says that if you’re going to keep a refrigerator around, the doors and locks must be removed.”

I could find nothing that requires the owner to alter their appliance. The manufacturer is required to make it possible to open it from inside, preventing entrapment. I don’t think a panicked, trapped child (or adult) will be able to find the release mechanism and get out. The concept is good, but in practice, I don’t think it will work. Removing the doors is a great idea, it just doesn’t appear to be legally required.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I have taped, tied and locked my empty freezer before turning it to the wall and locking it in the garage away from all children and animals. I take the safety of others very seriously, I just couldn’t find the federal law that could fine me if I didn’t take government mandated precautions. I don’t have a solution or an answer to what should or shouldn’t be governed; I’ll try to do what I believe to be right to protect others, but I like to be clear about laws.

Take a look at the law here, and see if my reading comprehension needs improving. In the meantime, please, don’t leave any appliance large enough to contain a living breathing, creature out where it will be a hazard- federal law or not.

The Battle Continues – LG vs Whirlpool

If you have been following the ongoing series of court debates between LG and Whirlpool, you’ll be aware of the back and forth battles regarding steam dryers and refrigerator patents.

The United States District Court in Chicago this week entered a final judgment in favor of Whirlpool in a case filed by LG Electronics involving Whirlpool’s steam dryer advertising. The court had previously ruled that “Whirlpool has established that its dryers do, in fact, use steam,” and that “LG did not introduce expert testimony or credible evidence of even a single Whirlpool customer, retailer, or trade representative who expressed confusion.”

“We’re very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Marc Bitzer, president, Whirlpool North America Region. This victory means consumers will continue to have a choice in purchasing their steam laundry appliances.”

While this seems to settle the steam dryer case, the refrigerator patent battles continue. LG originally sued to have Whirlpool fridge patents invalidated; Whirlpool countersued. In March 2010, a jury trial found mostly in favor of Whirlpool and awarded Whirlpool $1,786,925. On July 1, 2011, the court granted a new trial and set a trial date of Sept. 28, 2011.

Whirlpool is seeking a judgment that better validates its patent claims; LG seeks to have the claims of patent violation invalidated and eliminate its liability. Stay tuned…

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.