Judi Meirowitz Tischler came downstairs one morning in August to discover a puddle of water under the refrigerator.
She opened it and realized it had shut down during the night.
“It wasn’t cooling,” she said. “All the frozen foods had defrosted.”
Tischler had purchased the Samsung refrigerator three years earlier, while renovating the kitchen in her Newton home. She knew it was still under warranty and expected to get quick action from Samsung, the huge South Korean-based multinational conglomerate known for consumer electronics and appliances.
But it didn’t work out that way. For weeks, she received confusing and contradictory communications from Samsung’s customer service representatives, and then the company abruptly and inexplicably stopped communicating with her, without agreeing to repair or replace her refrigerator, Tischler said.
“I got the feeling they were thinking, ‘Hey, lady, it’s your problem,’ ” she said. “But I’m thinking, ‘Hey, Samsung, you owe me.’ ”
Tischler had done everything right. She found her owner’s manual and followed the instructions for filing a claim under the 10-year warranty. Within a day or two, a technician selected by Samsung but paid by Tischler ($80) showed up and said the “cooling system” (suction tube, evaporator, condenser, and compressor) had to be replaced.
The warranty gave Tischler the option to either repair or replace the refrigerator. At first, she opted for repair, afraid that moving a large refrigerator might damage the floor or walls.
But Samsung said it couldn’t find anyone in her area to repair it, which Tischler found strange because she lives in the heart of a metropolitan area of about 4.5 million people.
So Tischler called Yale Appliance and Lighting in Framingham, where she bought the refrigerator — white, 36-inch wide, side-by-side freezer and fridge — and it sent a technician. He convinced Tischler it was best to replace it, since a new one would be less risky than a repaired one in the long term.
By then, Tischler and her husband were getting tired of using an ice chest and a “dorm refrigerator” in the garage to keep staples like milk and yogurt. So they ordered — and paid for — a $2,000 replacement, expecting Samsung to reimburse them.
Tischler said she and Samsung exchanged dozens of calls and e-mails, some with attachments of photos showing the model and serial numbers. But nothing came of it.
“Each time I spoke to someone I had to repeat all my information,” Tischler, 70, a retired social worker, said when we met. “They wanted pictures. But whatever I sent seemed to disappear into a black hole.”
Sometimes, when she tried to reply to an e-mail, it bounced back. She showed me transcripts of unintelligible voice messages left by Samsung and the e-mail she sent asking them to contact her by e-mail only.
About a month into the ordeal, Samsung told Tischler it needed the model and serial number of the broken refrigerator, which by then had been hauled away. Tischler was fortunate that Yale had that information, which she passed along to Samsung.
But then Samsung asked for something she could not do: cut off the refrigerator’s power cord so it could not longer be plugged into a wall socket, and then take a picture of the cut cord and send it to the company. I guess Samsung thinks it prevents unauthorized use of a refrigerator that it has gone to some expense to replace under warranty.
But, by then, the refrigerator was long gone.
“This detail had never been mentioned to me in over a month of conversations with at least five different people,” Tischler said.
Tischler said she was prepared to give up out “utter frustration.” Then, it dawned on her to contact me.
I got a taste of the same frustration Tischler felt when I called and e-mailed Samsung. On the phone, I tried to explain that I write a consumer advocacy column and that I was calling on behalf of Tischler. But some of what they told me was obviously wrong (“the refrigerator was repaired”).
I also wrote a detailed note to Samsung asking for comment or, at a minimum, acknowledgment of my e-mail. The next day, I asked again by e-mail.
Later that day, Tischler received a call from Samsung, the first communication in weeks. Samsung promised her a refund of $1,799.99, the cost of the original fridge. Tischler asked lots of questions about what went wrong, but the woman who called had no answers.
An hour later, I got this: “We regret the experience that Ms. Tischler had with her refrigerator’s cooling system and the miscommunication that delayed her refund. We have followed up with her to resolve the matter to her satisfaction.”
* * *
Sandy Martin, who was featured in a recent column, received a check for $315 on Nov. 11 from Frontpoint Security, a Virginia-based home security company that continued to charge her $45 a month for monitoring even after she had canceled her contract.
And Martin’s refund came with something I have never seen since beginning this column in 2017: a handwritten note of apology signed by the company’s CEO.
Martin had complained to me that Frontpoint had failed to promptly cancel her contract, as she had requested (and as was allowed under the contract). Instead, the company continued to charge her credit card, which went unnoticed for months by Martin and her partner, Carol Naranjo. (Reminder, people: Review your credit card statements.)
“I would like to personally offer my sincere apology for what has happened,” wrote Syed Zaidi, the CEO. “Please know we are taking immediate and concrete steps to ensure this does not happen again.”