Barriers to Buying

Mid-1990s, I purchased and installed an over-range microwave oven that I thought would last forever, but it didn’t.  Over the years, the front door cracked in several places and the handle was loose with a rattling noise when opening the door.  In the last year, heating food took longer and certain places in the oven didn’t fully heat the food.

So, I went shopping for a replacement microwave oven that turned out to be more complicated than I ever imagined.  I figured the sizes were the main requirement because ours was so old and specifications might have changed.  However, I quickly learned that the only size requirement was the width and height, which was within capacity of the cavity to install a new cabinet/wall mounted oven.

The next hurdle was availability and ordering the product.  Our local Home Depot had several options from multiple brand names and after discussing the mounting concerns, I decided to have their delivery service remove the old microwave and install the new replacement oven.  We scheduled the installation for a couple days after placing the order.

The delivery was exactly on time and the installers removed the old microwave and installed the new one but because of the lack of clearance next to the wall, the door would not open.  The only way to fix that was to slide the whole unit to the right, away from the wall; however, there were no additional shelf mounting screw holes to slide the unit right.

I asked the installer how this could happen and how would I have known this unit had a hinge operational defect with no options to fix this design flaw.  The installer said this moment is the only way to have known because they don’t describe this requirement before purchasing the unit.  He had no answer why this model didn’t have additional shelf mounting screw holes but said other brands definitely do.  He said this order would be cancelled and my money returned.

So, I went shopping for a different brand that had a hinge with no clearance requirements and additional shelf mounting screw holes.  The same rep helped me at Home Depot and he told me that he had never had this problem before and there are no indications on the models about door-opening clearance.

I found a model that was $120 USD cheaper, ordered it, and scheduled the install for a couple days later, like before.  On the night before the installation date, I received a call from the distributor saying that model was on backorder and would be a week later before they can deliver it.  I cancelled that order.

So, I went shopping for a different outlet and found that Lowe’s had the same brand for the same price and it was in stock.  I immediately went to that store, purchased the unit, and returned to Home Depot to get a refund for my previous order that was backordered.  No problem; they refunded the full amount.

Then I installed the replacement unit that in the end saved us about $250 because there was no delivery charge, no installation charge, and the unit was lower priced than the higher-end brand I originally ordered.  I don’t know how these companies make money on these poorly marketed, low-margin products; regardless, I did recover all my failed purchase attempts.