It’s finally done: the oven saga is finished.
Some of you may recall a few months ago I posted an update about nothing much in particular that turned into a rant about my oven. To sum up, I had purchased several new appliances in 2021 from Lowe’s in addition to the Protection Plan that they offered to cover defects and repairs that might crop up once the manufacturer’s warranty lapsed. Approximately fourteen months after installation, the enamel interior of the LG range began to crack and flake off. Having a rich family history of cancer, I was going to take no risk ingesting mysterious blue flakes that were clearly the result of a defect. The oven was just over a year old so was out of manufacturer’s warranty, so LG dumped me like Leonardo DiCaprio when his girlfriends turn 25.
I wasn’t surprised, but I had the Protection Plan to fall back on. This is exactly the kind of thing that extended warranties are for, right? After several frustrating attempts to actually report the issue (claims must be submitted online, and you have to choose from a couple of predetermined categories, some of which are issues that the Plan says they just absolutely don’t cover; for example “damage” is taken by the system to mean “I damaged it” rather than “it’s inexplicably falling apart”), I found the right sequence of complaints to trigger a service technician to come look at the oven.
Unfortunately, the technician who came apparently didn’t know what he was doing because he looked at the flakes and the rust blooming where the metal was now exposed and said, “It’s cosmetic. I can’t do anything about it, but it won’t hurt anything.” I agreed that there was probably nothing he could do about it, but it was not cosmetic. In addition to the risk of blue enamel (made of who knows what) getting into food when the convection fan blew, the steam clean function (which the appliance petulantly demanded via its smartphone app weekly) would no longer work properly. The necessary water and steam would undoubtedly work its way through the cracks and exacerbate the flaking and expose more metal which would rust more and the whole inside would no longer be nonstick, smooth, and, as it was literally marketed, “Easy Clean.”
This was in the first week of November 2022. After the rube reported back to the Protection Plan his
idiotic determination, the Plan said my claim was denied and that would be that. But oh, ho, ho! I have been filled with slowly simmering rage since at least 2020, and I suspect even since 2016, and I had just been given a righteous cause to direct that fury with purpose. What’s more, with only a foundering blog to claim as my “occupation,” I also had an abundance of time in which to focus, direct, and polish my anger. I was ready for a fight.
At the suggestion of Kalen’s very wise aunt and uncle, I lodged complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. The process itself was fairly simple; much more difficult was figuring out who exactly my complaint was against. On the one hand, the defective oven was by LG. A quick search of the internet revealed that I was not the only person who had experienced blue oven flakage, but it wasn’t always in LG ovens. Still, LG had made a defective product, which was a problem, but it was out of the manufacturer’s warranty when I discovered the issue. Lowe’s had sold me both the defective range and the Protection Plan with grand claims that if anything were to go wrong, they would make it right.
The Protection Plan itself, which had denied my claim, was actually administered by Assurant. And all of these corporate entities, LG, Lowe’s, Lowe’s Protection Plans, and Assurant, all have numerous locations around the country (and in LG’s case, the world, since it’s a Korean company) that they call their corporate offices. I gave each complaint my best guess, listing the closest and most likely contact information I could find on their various opaque websites.
The BBB complaint seemed to be the one that got the ball rolling, and I received an email from Lowe’s Executive Customer Relations within just a couple days. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning of a much longer process. Through all of November and December, I went without an oven while my contact at Lowe’s said that, since Assurant was standing resolutely on their decision not to cover this issue, they would seek a return authorization, allowing me to return the range, but they needed to get approval from LG to make that happen.
Sometime in the recent past (you know how slippery time is; most of this recounting is relying on detailed notes I kept of the whole process – a leftover habit from my days as a legal assistant), I said something offhand about whales and my parents laughed with each other before explaining that I reminded them of a show they had been watching on Netflix called The Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a Korean series about a young attorney with autism and a fascination with cetaceans. Kalen and I watched it and enjoyed it, but what stuck with me most was an idiom that I had never encountered in English so I assume it must have been translated literally from Korean. Attorney Woo was bringing an unlikely case against a large entity (I don’t remember the details), and her mentor told her pursuing it would be “like throwing eggs at a boulder.” It felt very apt to my situation, and not just because LG is Korean (that’s neither here nor there; well, I guess as an international company, it’s both here and there, but it’s not important, is what I mean). I was one person, up against several large, faceless entities that didn’t want to budge.
My dad gently told me that, while he admired my efforts and agreed with my claims entirely, it was prudent to bear in mind that I might walk away from this with nothing more than a lesson learned. I was holding out for a refund, but it might never come. My parents generously offered to help cover the cost of a new range in the mean time as a birthday gift because there was no telling how long I’d be throwing eggs.
In January, after weekly updates of “Sorry, still no luck,” my case was given to a different representative at Lowe’s. This was also about the time that I got fed up with trying to modify dinner recipes every night to avoid introducing carcinogen spice (the lost Spice Girl) to the meal and we purchased a toaster oven. The new representative managed to get enough of a response from LG to get another service technician sent out to inspect the range. This technician was from a different local repair company and was given the specific task of trying to determine whether the oven could be repaired with a replacement part. He pored over LG parts lists and eventually determined that, no, there is no replacement part that could fix this issue because the interior cavity of the oven was one piece and was, basically, the core being of the oven.
“Great!” I thought. That seemed pretty irrefutable. Surely if it couldn’t be repaired, that meant the oven was undeniably defective and we could get a return authorization. LG didn’t see it that way though, and a few days later, the service company called back and said, apologetically, “They [LG] are sending a paint pen to paint over where the enamel has flaked off.”
Thankfully the service tech quickly added a commiserating, “I know.” He told me that in his professional opinion, no, a paint pen wouldn’t do anything.
The full scope of my fears regarding the paint flecks obviously wasn’t registering with the LG executives because the pen they sent looked like this:
That’s right. I’m concerned about ingesting mystery flakes and they send me a pen with big ol’ “WARNING: CANCER” on it. This was especially ironic because when I first called LG to ask if there was anything that could be done, the phone representative sadly told me no, there was no special warranty on the interior or anything. And then he went off script and concernedly told me that I probably shouldn’t even try to paint it because that didn’t seem like it would be good for one’s health. And the poor technician who came to apply the pen was just at a loss. He told me he hadn’t ever seen anything like this, that when he saw the paint pen he figured it was something on the outside of the oven, and in cleaning the surface to apply the paint, it just kept flaking out further and further. He smiled apologetically and said he had done his best but he’d leave the pen with me, since it would probably keep flaking and they’d just send him out again.
LG, meanwhile, had determined that while there wasn’t a replacement part for the oven, that somehow didn’t equate to the oven being non repairable, and they insisted they needed to send yet another service technician out to look at the oven, and that this technician would need to call in to LG while physically in the presence of the oven and looking directly at its problems. The local service contractor they chose happened to be the company that was initially dispatched by the Protection Plan. When I explained to the contractor that they had been here before for the same ongoing issue, and then that another contractor had been in, and now their tech would be the fourth individual sent to look at the oven they said, “Nope, we’re not doing that,” and told LG to find someone else. If that all sounds ridiculous and makes absolutely no sense to you, you’ve understood it just fine.
I waited for LG to find yet another service technician and thought sadly about all the baking I hadn’t been able to do since November. I hadn’t made any Thanksgiving pies; I baked no Christmas cookies. My sourdough starter sat starving and neglected in the fridge, and I wondered what I would do about cake as my birthday quickly approached, and then Kalen’s a month after that. (It has occurred to me that making my own birthday cake could be viewed as sad, but since my favorite bakery closed, I’ve discovered that making my own birthday cake is marvelous. I enjoy baking anyway, and with this, I can pick exactly what flavors and decorations I want, perfectly customize the amount of frosting, and I don’t have to hold back from tasting along the way. The saying really should not be “have your cake and eat it too,” but rather make your cake and eat it too.)
Just before we left for California, I got the call from the local appliance store letting me know that my new range was in and I excitedly scheduled the delivery for when we were back and wondered what on earth I was going to do with the old range while I continued the struggle with LG and Lowe’s, because I knew I would install the new oven and get going on some cake tout de suite.
And then, while we were in California, on my birthday, in fact, the lady from Lowe’s called and said that because LG had been so impossible to get any kind of response from, she had been given clearance by her supervisor to issue the return authorization, and I could come in and pick out a comparable oven to replace this one. I politely told her that I’d rather have a refund, store credit was fine, and she said that could be arranged. I hung up the phone and danced excitedly around the hotel room like I’d just won the lottery before collapsing on the bed. I’d thrown eggs at a boulder and won. With just determination and patience. And I’d maintained polite civility in every single phone call!
So now, I have my new oven, store credit to Lowe’s that will certainly be used on various home projects, and the old oven has been
cast back into the fires from whence it came returned to Lowe’s for them to deal with.
Before I launch into my excitement over the new oven I want to highlight a couple of points: the people from Lowe’s Executive Customer Relations were very pleasant and I’m very grateful for their help, although I wish the process had not been so laborious. I think the bigger lessons are awarded to the Protection Plan and LG. The Protection Plan was bullshit. Don’t let salespeople bully you into these kinds of things, but if you do determine that you can get some value out of a plan like this and later find it’s not what you thought, don’t take it out on the individual retail worker that sold it to you. They don’t know anything about the plan. They’re told by corporate to push these things and that’s that. They especially don’t know about the lawsuit exposing how a three-year protection plan was entirely worthless when sold with an item with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty (because the protection plan begins at purchase, but won’t cover anything until the manufacturer’s warranty has lapsed. That’s some next level dirty business). We have gotten other benefit from our protection plan because it reimburses a portion of what we spend on water filters for the fridge, but when it came to actual problems, it was worthless.
But the most eye-opening part of this whole process was how difficult LG was to work with even for Lowe’s, and it surprises me that other corporations continue to do business with LG when their communication is as unreliable as their product. Lowe’s caved and gave me the refund because they had exhausted all efforts to get a response from LG over the course of three and a half months. My contact at Lowe’s didn’t use the term “throwing eggs at a boulder;” she said, “beating a dead horse,” but it comes to the same thing (and honestly sounded more natural with her Carolina accent).
Learn from my mistakes: don’t buy an oven with a blue interior, don’t buy LG, and don’t ever expect anything from Lowe’s Protection Plans (or the same kind of plan offered by other retailers and administered by Assurant).
It was hard-won, and I still have to fashion some sort of filler for the right side, but look at this fancy new oven (and that sleek tile backsplash!)
I celebrated my victory and inaugurated my new oven with cake just a couple days after my birthday. I mentioned that my favorite bakery has gone out of business, but the owner of AmyCakes turned around and began sharing her recipes and methods online at AmyCakes Bakes and, since I enjoy baking, it’s almost as good as just ordering a cake from her expert bakery (seriously, her cakes are top notch and every recipe I’ve tried is mouthwatering). I recreated my old favorite with her vanilla almond cake and a raspberry compote filling. In addition to the recipe being a winner, I was thrilled with how evenly the new oven baked the cake. I used Amy’s method of baking a large rectangular cake (which said it could have fit in a quarter sheet pan but I really didn’t want to risk it cooking over on the oven’s very first use) and cutting out smaller rounds to assemble smaller cakes and use the leftover bits for cake balls. I also took a chance on trying to fill the cake balls with leftover raspberry compote and was surprised at how well that actually worked. Normally, the cake balls would have then been dipped in chocolate or white chocolate, but I didn’t really want to do that, so I know they look kind of nipply with their little spots, but I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate and regular chocolate just didn’t seem to go with this to me, and it was my birthday, so I did what I wanted.
I’ve also baked several loaves of sourdough bread and they’ve baked up so crispy and deeply golden (except for the one that I forgot to cover partway through because I went upstairs to write this very blog; oops; it’s still tasty, just a little extra toasty).
I’ve only noticed two quirks with the oven so far, and I wouldn’t even call them complaints (which is why I called them quirks). The first is that, after locking the touch control panel for cleaning, if the panel isn’t totally dry before I unlock it, the evaporation plays with the buttons, which is disconcerting. I say it “does” that, but I witnessed it once, and while it didn’t turn anything on, it dinged a couple times and I decided there’s no problem with leaving the controls locked overnight anyway. Pippin isn’t a counter surfer, but this way I don’t have to worry about him getting curious and nosing them anyway, or a mouse breaking in and walking across them and burning the house down (🏆 New anxiety unlocked!).
The other quirk is really more of an issue within my own head. Because all the controls are on a touch screen, there’s auditory feedback for everything, and the GE engineers have done a very nice job of making all the dings and chimes very pleasant. There is one tune, though, that never fails to put me in mind of Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes, so I’ve been bopping around the kitchen with that weird little ditty stuck in my head for the last couple weeks. It could be worse. It’s the kind of song that goes well with cake, and it’s way better than when the ice cream truck leaves me singing Camp Town Races.
I’ve been on the lookout for any excuse to bake, so I’m sure I’ll have some more cooking-related content here pretty soon. You’ll have to help me eat it, okay?