The new fridge arrives. The new fridge arrives.

Your guarantee is not always guaranteed

Obtaining service for appliances can be a challenge

Guarantees in Mexico are not necessarily guarantees. It’s a game of Survivor; outwit and outlast.

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When we built our house a few years ago we installed a stainless steel side-by-side GE Profile ice-making refrigerator. Through a series of power bumps and power brownouts it suffered electronic brain troubles that wiped out the ice-maker.

Not the end of the world, unless you happen to have a spouse that needs ice. Not just likes ice, or enjoys ice, but really needs ice for his sodas or the occasional glass of single-malt whisky.

We contacted the Cancún Sears service department for repairs and eventually the technician arrived with a new motherboard. Plug and play. Simple.

The next time the motherboard frizzed out Lawrie took the offending part into Sears and asked for a replacement piece. They said that unless their technician installed the part, they could not guarantee it.

Buying the part was a cheaper fix than using the Sears technicians, but even with quoting the model number the new part didn’t fit the refrigerator. We took it back to Sears: “Sorry, it’s not returnable.”

Not willing to admit defeat Lawrie figured out how to coax the original motherboard back to life for another year. We finally gave up on refrigerator No. 1 and purchased the exact same GE Profile through the local Chedraui Super Store.

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It fits the space in our kitchen and has the same plumbed-in ice-maker. We are all set for another five years. Sparkling new, no rust or corroded electronics to fight with. We splurged on an expensive surge protector in hopes of keeping this refrigerator alive longer.

Around the middle of November we noticed that frozen things weren’t staying frozen, yet this refrigerator was only seven months old. I confidently took my receipt to the customer service desk at Chedraui.

The manager and the electronics manager explained to us the Chedraui guarantee is only good for two weeks; anything longer than that we must deal with the authorized GE service center in Cancún. The electronics manager called ServiPlus in Cancún to schedule an appointment for us.

We waited through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and after my eighth phone call the technician arrived on Monday. The diagnosis: we need a new compressor. He would be back on Saturday. And yes, the parts and service call will be covered by the guarantee.

We forgot to ask which Saturday. And what month? And, as it turns out, what year?

I continued to telephone ServiPlus in Cancún three times a week. I can be very persistent. Tomorrow, next week, soon were the consistent answers. After 20 stumbling Spanglish telephone conversations I enlisted the help of a Spanish-speaking friend. He made another 20-plus calls to what we had renamed ServiMinus.

He smiled and said, “This is Mexico. You have to keep calling until they give in.”

Eventually a miracle happened. We received a telephone call from ServiPlus in Mexico City. The young woman said we would be receiving a replacement GE Profile refrigerator February 7, 11 weeks after ours had died.

We were ecstatic. A new refrigerator, and we’d have been happy with just a new compressor.

Foolish me. Never, ever, tempt the gods.

No refrigerator on Thursday. By Friday afternoon I had finally reached the end of my patience. I didn’t have the telephone number of the person in Mexico City so I called the Cancún office and vented my frustration. I demanded a return call within 10 minutes giving me the exact date for the delivery of the new refrigerator.

The woman from Mexico City called back within 11 minutes: the GE Profile would be delivered on Monday morning, February 11. It was! Would we purchase another GE Profile, GE Cafe, Mabe or Easy appliance? Probably not because we would end up dealing with the frustrating, stonewalling tactics of ServiPlus.

We have several island friends who have had different frustrating experiences with warranty claims such as returning a new but broken coffee pot to WalMart, the customer finally pointing at the overhead sign: WalMart makes everything right with our customers.

Another friend had a new dryer delivered, non-functioning, from Sam’s Club with lint in the lint-trap and someone else’s socks still inside the drum. This same friend was the recipient of a new washing machine delivered broken. Her handyman husband fixed it rather than face the inevitable delays for the warranty service.

But in the end, what does it really matter? We are lucky enough to be able to afford a new appliance. Others are happy that their children are well, they have food on the table, a roof overhead and the sun is shining.

That’s the very best guarantee.

The writers are Canadians who have been full-time residents of Isla Mujeres for eight years. You can read their blog here.

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  • Jimi_X

    In Mazatlan, all my appliances and delicate electronic devices are protected with voltage regulators. On my electric service, 1 phase is 129vac the other is 134vac,…Optimum should be around 117vac. The regulators provide exactly 117vac to my appliances. If a surge or brown out occurs the unit disconnects the appliance for 5 minutes, then restarts only if the power is stable. I found out about the high outlet voltage by accident. My stereo amp refused to come on. The display said something I had never seen before,…It said, “PROTECTOR”. After eliminating all other factors, I measured the outlet voltage. Yep, depending on time of day the voltage could vary from 134vac to 137vac. After installing the regulators,…No more problems.

    • Richard Fryer

      Actually the ‘standard’ rated voltage here in Mexico is 127 volts… and yes 134V is pushing it. Fortunately most electronics such as laptop power supplies, and wall-warts are rated at 105 to over 250 volts, so there should be no problem there. But the smart money buys a constant-voltage transformer, especially for appliances you bring down designed for 117V NOB service… before buying, especially if your buying your stuff NOB check the input voltage ratings, or you could have problems.

      • Jimi_X

        I have worked in this industry for 38 years. I have never heard that Mexico has a higher than standard service voltage,…Ha! Now I’m not saying they do not, I’m saying I have never heard this. 🙂 There are dual voltage electric units which can be switched depending on the line voltage and there are “smart” power supplies that detect the voltage and auto adjust. In Mexico they seem to want to limit the number of transformers on the pole (possibly due to cost) so they tend to push the voltage higher to increase service area / distance before voltage attenuation reaches too low a level. (The length of the wire span adds resistance to the service dropping the available service voltage at the customer end). The fluctuation of the available voltage, depending on time of day, indicates this. If you are close to a transformer, your voltage is approx. 130 vac plus,…If you are closer to the edge of the service area provided by the local pole transformer, the voltage is approx. 120vac. (My service transformer is directly across the street) Also as demand increases, due to time of day, the voltage changes. ( There will be a minor voltage fluctuation under high electric demand, but not THAT high.) All these factors indicate that CFE is pushing service area limits. I have to ask, Who told you that the “standard” here was 127vac? I have seen appliances with 115 to 120 or 240 to 250 depending on which country they are sold in,…North American or European market or the type of appliance, e.g. Air conditioners, cloths dryers or electric ovens etc..

  • James Smith

    Two pieces of advice given to this neophyte traveler back in my younger days by a grizzled gringo expat in Mexico: “First, don’t ever get sick. Second, the concept of ‘customer service’ is not in the lexicon of Mexican business. So forget about it.” True then and still true today.

  • cruz_ctrl

    a compressor failing after seven months?!? i remember the days when parents would pass on their twenty-year old fridge to their college-bound kid and it would run without fail for another twenty years…

  • Nic

    I’m always mortified to read stories like these complaining about customer service for an ice making fridge in a country where many people haven’t hot water never mind appliances. I’ve lived in Mexico on and off since childhood and yet I am always shocked at the ex at’s who move down and then complain, express shock or worse, write patronizing “aren’t they quaint” articles like these. Presumably if one chooses to Move to a foreign country one expects the culture to be different.

  • MexSteve

    Our Cinsa – less than one year old, on demand hot water heater failed in December 2015. When we went to Amutio to buy a new one they were quick to point out it has a two year guarantee. I remember those famous words. “We can call Cinsa and they will have someone out there next week to fix it. It took about 4 weeks for the first repairman to show up and he said it needed a new computer board and he would have to order and it would be 15 days before they would come out and install it. Late February after many many calls to Cinsa and Amutio someone calls from Cinsa saying they were be there in two weeks and the part is not covered by warranty since I live on the coast and it is $800 pesos and there is a $400 installation fee. THREE weeks later the problem is resolved. This is our only hot water heater and so from Christmas time 2015 until the second week of March is the time it took to get resolved. It would have been better to just have bought a new one.

  • frankania

    Whatever I buy, i try to find the most basic and simple thing available. Computer boards in a fridge are NOT necessary. Just a mechanical thermostat and a compressor. THAT will last decades, and is easy to fix.
    The radio in my 2007 Chevy is so complex, that I cannot tune a classics station I like, nor eject a CD. And I am a life-long electrical engineer!

  • Mary Dyson

    I agree with Nic. . . reading this ‘sad’ story makes me want to cry for the Mexican peoples who can never afford electricity never mind a fridge. This is not the U.S. folks. If you do indeed “need” an ice making machine I suggest you return to where you came from or put a tray of clean water (another scarce commodity) in the freezer. This story just sounds so arrogant.

  • Albert Wynder

    This article is ridiculous and useless. Why take up column inches with such drivel? You buy a refrigerator that stops working after a few months and then you buy a SECOND one exactly like the first???? Are you certifiably insane? I say you got what you deserved. And please, no more articles by bored housewives!!

  • Albert Wynder

    Well said!! If you don’t like life in Mexico or can’t deal with the culture, then stay in Canada or Peoria or wherever else complainers come from.

    • Sharon

      BS – why shouldn’t people expect customer service or repairs to be done in timely fashion? It is precisely the reason that things have not progressed here in Mexico. I am tired of people having a bad attitude and saying, ‘well if you don’t like the way this or that is move back to where you came from’. How about we start holding people to a higher standard, instead of being rude to people who decided to make Mexico their home? Maybe someone needs to look into the poor quality of the motherboards and other electronic components on these appliances.

      We all know that some people don’t have fridges – and you know what? There are poor people everywhere in the world. That does mean that people in Mexico who can buy an appliance, should accept shitty service from anyone, regardless of their country of origin. In Canada, the USA, Australia or any other country in the world – people expect customer service. We understand that is a new concept for some folks in Mexico, but we need to start stepping up if we don’t want Mexico to always be considered a 3rd world country.

      We bought a brand new fridge from Home Depot, 1 week later it stopped working. How can a 1 week old, brand new fridge fail??? That should rarely happen – we were fortunate to still have the old one that had worked fine for 20 years, until it started freezing everything, except ice. So we put all our food in there and called HD. They sent a repairman out about 2 days later with a new computer piece of some sort, and the fridge has been fine ever since. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

      • Dan Tucker

        BS for you, Sharon, but there is also a thing called being ´culturally sensitive´ when you visit or live in a different country. Yes, Mexico is a 3rd world country and probably always will be. YET, I choose to live here and I love it. There are some possibilities for good customer service here, but when it doesn´t happen, try and at least be nice about the problem. Being a whinning foreigner doesn´t help anyone.

        • Sharon

          Who was whining?? not me – I asked for service in a polite manner, with my Spanglish, I expected service and I got service, for which we thanked the service man. I did not say we should be rude or whinny either. I am just saying that in any country we should hold businesses to a standard of service. There is room for improvement everywhere and it has squat to do with culture. Do you think Mexicans like getting poor customer service? I have heard several of my friends complain, so it is not just gringos/Canadians that are sometimes treated poorly.

      • Albert Wynder

        After 18 years in Mexico, I have decided that most Mexicans could not care less about what we think concerning the way things are done here. Their attitude is, “If you don’t like it, go home.” You nor any other foreigner aren’t going to change anything here. You will be much happier if you stop trying to fix Mexico and just adopt the Mexican attitude -“ni modo “

        • Sharon

          There is room for improvement in all countries. We see many news items and read about how Mexico is progressing and yet there are many areas that are still in flux. Our Mexican friends also complain about the poor customer service, so it is not just us imports that have a problem. Mexico is changing, becoming more American all the time, losing their culture to be ‘modern’. I miss the cultural celebrations we used to see. Some Mexicans do care and this atti-rude, ‘if you don’t like it, go home’ is not going to help improve the world. Many businesses in Canada/USA have the same attitude and you know what, they end up closing, due to poor customer service. We have seen restaurants here go out of business for the same reason – poor service and an “I don’t give a poop attitude.” Everyone deserves good customer service, no matter where they live or come from!

      • Jimi_X

        Just some neighborly advice,… Buy voltage regulators for your appliances and all sensitive electronics. The service voltage supplied can be irregular and will damage electrical equipment. Don’t worry about the “If you don’t like it go home” crowd,…They have their wires crossed for the most part. Since when is “CULTURE” defined as letting a company like GE or LG off the hook for the warranty they offer? If you bought a Chevy at the local dealership in Mazatlan and they wouldn’t honor the manufacturers warranty,…How long do you think General Motors would allow them to sell their product? Culture is clothing, architecture, language, food, tradition, music, dance and many other factors. Manufacturers warranties should be honored by the manufacturer. No matter where you sell your product.

  • Arthur Kaptein

    Our freezer stopped working (Mabe), and we got it fixed within 2 days (1000 pesos). With a warranty of 12 months on the replacement parts. After 10 months we had the same problem, without any extra cost the pieces got replaced (within 2 days), without any extra cost. We are now almost 2 years further, and all still works perfectly. So it is not all horror with the warranties 🙂

  • Happygirl

    This is the country where stores have sockets to check your light bulbs…because if you get your light bulb home and it doesn’t light up…tough! There is no warranty on anything…this is Mexico. When I get great service I compliment, I tip and praise the person…smiles all around. Mexico teaches you to relax, to accept what you cannot change.

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