Grumble 40 (June 2003)

Hot and Cold (Hotpoint After Sales Service =Long dElay)

 As we'd recently overhauled our kitchen we decided to get rid of a giant hand-me-down fridge-freezer and also replace our second fridge with a larger one. As we also have a chest freezer that decision posed no logistical problems and freed up a lot of space, as well as reducing our electric bill as a bonus.
We started our choice for a new fridge by visiting the various electrical outlets and wading through aisles of close-packed wall-to-wall fridges. Then, after ten days of pouring over specifications and gradually working our way up the price ladder to get one that was as large as we could fit into the space available, our daughter demanded it had to be silver rather than boring old white or whatever.
As we now have a nice shiny blue-tiled floor this colour seemed to be acceptable, and to save any hassle later, we then switched our attention to Internet Shopping.

We had by now decided on a specific model and so Internet Shopping was much easier and it didn't take us long to find the lowest price available. This was not altogether a simple matter, as one has to consider the cost of carriage, as well as any cash-back offers or special discounts.
One firm had an unbelievably low price but when we tested this by "adding to our basket", and proceeding to the "checkout" we discovered that carriage was ludicrously high; the net result being a price that was exactly the same as our local Comet store.

We also looked at discounts by ordering through "Greasy Palm" and a special Curry's offer but these were not good enough to match our final quote from a store in Essex.
An order was placed and surprisingly it was a Hotpoint lorry that delivered the fridge only a day later.

The chap heaved his trolley through our back door and then got jammed in the kitchen door. My wife from inside, behind the massive packing case, called out that she would need to unscrew the door handle and at this point the delivery driver gave up, detached his trolley and beat a hasty retreat.

Fifteen minutes later we were unpacking the fridge, and after a few hours while it "rested", presumably so that the freon or whatever friendly equivalent stuff they use nowadays, had time to re-establish itself in the pipes, we shoved it into place so we could switch it on and fill it up.
An echo of modern safety regulations required us to fix a metal bracket to the wall at the rear. Maybe this is to stop the thing overbalancing if the door is filled with lead ingots then opened wide?

The special bracket was duly screwed to the wall and then the feet levelled off using a spirit level. This used to be so that the fridge would be "most efficient" but Hotpoint say in their instructions is to ensure "the door sits square and opens properly".

There was a problem though. The combination of our nice new blue tiled floor and Hotpoint's fridge feet was frictionless. We pulled the door handle and all that happened was the giant fridge scooted across the floor- without the door opening.
After rummaging around I found some neoprene rubber sheeting and after making up some pads, and inserting these under the feet, friction was established and the door could be opened.
This action resulted in a whole pile of shelves avalanching out in a heap.
These were quickly replaced and all was well.
"Wait a minute", my wife suddenly proclaimed, "where's the "split-shelves?". "What's a split shelf", I enquired?

It turns out that a couple of the shelves have hinged bits that let you stand large bottles and stuff on the shelf below.
We looked in the booklet and rang the service number but this was engaged so we didn't bother at this point and proceeded to transfer the contents from our old fridge.

Next day we rang the service number several times but always got the engaged signal.
I decided to find Hotpoint on the Internet and after a few minutes we had sent an e-mail explaining the problem.
Quickly we received an acknowledgement, but despite the reassuring message that we would shortly have our problem resolved, nothing transpired after waiting over a week.

We tried the service number again but got the same engaged tone so I sent a second e-mail. To this we got a prompt auto-acknowledgement but again no proper reply from a human.

Armed with a list of phone numbers from the Internet I determined to get through no matter how long I waited. Strangely, although the Internet site promises to provide all the answers, in fact for most enquirers, it merely supplies a list of phone numbers.

Eventually I got a ringing tone, and I was at least in a queue of calls. Half an hour later I was talking to a young lady. I said I'd been waiting two weeks to talk to her and she said, "I know, isn't it a nightmare". She was slightly baffled by my missing split shelves but took my details and explained she would have to look into the matter and promised to call me back in no more than half an hour.

The next day, after not having had a call from Hotpoint, I decided to ring again. Unfortunately all I got was the engaged signal and a BT operator trying to sell a ring-back call.

I persevered and the next day I rang all the numbers in the Hotpoint listing. Eventually I got through to the Spares Department. Maybe this is because they have more operators manning those phones, hoping to sell stuff rather than talk to exasperated customers?

The young Spares lady was quite helpful but needed to know the serial number of our fridge. She explained where this was to be found and gave me a "direct" number when I explained about not wishing to wait two weeks to get through again.
She said the serial number was to check that the design hadn't been changed to substitute ordinary types for the split-shelves. I said I hoped this wasn't the case as the split-shelf feature was one of the deciding factors of our final choice of the "RLA80S"!

Armed with the serial number I rang back but found the direct number was almost as popular as the ordinary number! Determined not to be out-done I kept trying it till eventually it rang without the engaged tone, and, after a further long wait in a queue, I got through.

I asked to speak to the first young Spares lady but, "this was not possible", I was told. Changing tack I just said that the fridge had been delivered with two shelves missing. I supplied all the details including the serial number and she said that they would send me the two split shelves at no charge from the factory.
That was nearly a week ago.

I wonder if Hotpoint realise that, although their product is quite satisfactory (time will tell of course), their after-sales service is quite abysmal, and as far as I'm concerned, totally unsatisfactory?

Do they care?
I quote however from their web-site".

"Hotpoint's After Sales Care is second to none. We are Europe's largest provider of service care to the domestic appliance industry and take pride in the quality and effectiveness that we deliver to you".

Is this a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act or is it true I wonder? If it is true I shudder to think what the service of the others is like.

Now.. how do I claim for the cost of all those phone calls... "not free but at the National Rate". I think I'll resort to pigeon post.

Post script....

Surprise surprise a deliveryman just knocked on the door with two parcels from Peterborough.

I opened the first and found two pieces of glass, nicely finished off with smooth edges. I wonder what they are?

I opened the second and found two plastic edged glass plates that seemed to clip together... a split shelf for the RLA80 no less.

Unfortunately there was no proper covering letter in either box, just a computer-speak printout saying that, "the parts had to be fitted by a suitably qualified person with the machine disconnected from the mains supply". Odd.

Maybe someone could enlighten me on what the two pieces of glass listed as "catalogue No. 2600871" are? I assume "2603410" is a split shelf?


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