Customers wait months for appliances, parts in southeast Wisconsin

Long delays for appliance parts are frustrating customers in southeast Wisconsin. Some have been waiting months for necessary appliances to arrive.

Industry insiders tell Contact 6 that delays are expected to continue for some time.

It’s been more than five months since Kathy Storms in West Bend ordered a new refrigerator from Menards. Since then, the leaking from her refrigerator has stained and warped her kitchen floor. On a few occasions, the food inside her refrigerator has gone bad and soda cans have exploded.

"It either freezes everything or it gets too warm," said Storms. "I have to clean this [water] up all the time."

The anticipated two-week delivery for Storm’s refrigerator was extended to four weeks, then six weeks, and so on. In February, the vendor canceled her order, but Storms says, no one told her.

"I said, 'Canceled? I didn't cancel it,'" said Storms.

Kathy Storms

Kathy Storms

Contact 6’s case manager, Annette, emailed Whirlpool on Feb. 25 to ask about a refund for Storms’ refrigerator. On Feb. 27, Whirlpool sent more than $1,000 to Storms’ bank.

Whirlpool tells Contact 6, "As with many companies, we have experienced periods of interruptions in the pandemic due to raw material and component shortages."

Doug Fisher, former director of Marquette University’s Center for Supply Chain Management, says demand for appliances skyrocketed amid a pandemic that also disrupted the industry’s complex, global supply chain.

"Just a perfect storm of issues," said Fisher. "Everything slowed down a little bit. At the same time, demand peaked."

Doug Fisher

Doug Fisher

Kettle Moraine Appliance has a lot more inventory in stock than one year ago, but limited selection. Its stores have more than 1,000 items on backorder.

Jim Otten, president of Kettle Moraine Appliance, says he doesn’t see the situation improving, with computer chips used in most appliances in short supply.

"A lot of the pieces that come from China, i.e., the computer boards and such, that is the biggest dilemma we will see the next six months," said Otten.

Jim Otten

Otten says if Kettle Moraine has an appliance in stock, the store can typically get it to a customer’s home within two weeks. If the store doesn’t have the item, it could take at least 60 to 90 days. Some customers have been waiting for months.

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Also contributing to appliance delays are the February storms in Texas and on the Gulf Coast, where some key manufacturers are still working to restore operations.

Storms is buying another refrigerator now that Contact 6 helped secure her refund. Appliance prices have risen about ten percent since before the pandemic.

UPDATE FROM MENARDS: "Kathy Storms was able to apply the Whirlpool refund to purchase a Criterion brand refrigerator at West Bend Menards on Fri., April 9th.  This refrigerator was set up for delivery to her residence yesterday, Mon., April 12th.   Menards has an ample supply of great quality Criterion refrigerators available for purchase at this time."

Statement from Whirlpool Corporation

"Our 15,000 plant employees in our nine plants across the U.S. have been working tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and our factories are doing everything they can to meet consumer needs. 

"As with many companies, we have experienced periods of interruptions in production related to the pandemic due to raw material and component shortages, but as a whole have remained up and running throughout this challenging time. We continue to monitor the situation and remain in constant contact with both our suppliers and customers as we work through the shortages. 

"We are focused on overcoming these challenges and to provide for our consumers who need our appliances more than ever to clean, cook and provide proper food and medicine storage in their homes."