Who knew that the absence of a kitchen would derail me so? I could’ve told you it would drive me crazy, that it would be difficult, anxiety-inducing, frustrating time. Living through construction, people tell me, that’s the worst. Yes, living through construction is difficult. Never mind the cost of take-out; the thick layer of construction dust that sneaks into every crevice of your apartment; the feeling like your home isn’t quite a home but instead – an architectural experiment; the unpacked boxes in your second bedroom; and that feeling like it’s never, ever, going to be over.
But living through construction is not as bad as people made it out to be. I steeled myself for a time without a kitchen; I even laughed when we had to make coffee in the bathroom. It was like camping, I said to Andrew, just inside. If we could live through construction, then our marriage could weather it all.
But what I couldn’t anticipate, in my wildest dreams (nightmares?), is how it bereft a lack of kitchen would make me. It wasn’t the mess and the dust that bothered me the most but this feeling of not being quite myself. Rootless. Unable to focus. Unable to find my footing.
Lately, I’ve been wandering around our apartment in my bathrobe with a cup of tea and bland toast because that’s about the only thing our kitchen is capable of at the moment. The toast, incidentally, is enjoying its hipster moment in the spotlight, but if I don’t see another piece of toast for months to come, I don’t think I’ll miss it. I’ve eaten too much of it these months.
Our contractor says he’ll finish our kitchen today. Check in with me around 7pm and see if I’m pouring myself a celebratory bourbon or curling up in the corner with the entire bottle to take the pain away.
Our kitchen is within breaths of being done. So close I can smell it. A few minor fixes. Light fixture installation. A sink replacement** with a hopefully (gulp) not cracked sink that has become my holy grail.
Except now it’s not so much my holy grail any more.
The oven, the stove, the range — whatever you want to call it — has become that thing, that elusive thing you chase and never catch.
My Moby Dick.
It all started about two weeks ago. I’ve lost count exactly when, but our kitchen was in functioning order for roughly two weeks. We cooked simple dinners: pasta with Marcella’s butter sauce, a roasted chicken on a bed of root vegetables, some lentil soups, Melissa Clark’s roasted shrimp and broccoli; skirt steak with a kale salad; my new favorite salad I’ve yet to tell you about. Easy things. Unfussy things. As I unpacked my kitchen, and learned my way around the new galley layout, I took it easy. It’s stressful enough to find a new rhythm in a new space – I wanted for the meals, at least, to be the kind where the rhythm had been practiced many times over and there was a predictable cadence to my process.
But then one day we started to smell gas. At first we thought it was just in our imagination. We thought maybe because our stove was so new, it was the new stove smell. But then we started to smell gas upon entering the apartment with the stove turned off. And then our super, who came in to fix something, said he smelled gas. He checked the connections in the back and there was no gas leak.
Gotta be internal, he said.
We shrugged. It didn’t seem dangerous.
The next night, Andrew came home and said, I can smell gas as soon as I enter the apartment and it’s strong.
What could we do? What should we do?
We called his dad who told us to immediately leave the apartment and call the gas provider. Except we didn’t know who that would be. Our gas payments are part of maintenance and we don’t get a separate bill.
We called ConEd. They referred us to National Grid. National Grid instructed us to immediately leave the apartment and wait in the lobby until they get there.
Do not turn anything on or off; do not use your phone until we come, they said.
They showed up.
National Grid determined the leak was coming from the oven. But we needed Samsung repair technician to come.
When we called Samsung to tell them that their product was leaking gas, you’d think there would be some commotion at the other end of the phone. You know, gas being dangerous to your health and all. But no.
The earliest they could get someone to us was a Tuesday evening. It was Thursday night when we were speaking to them. Five days, at least, without a stove. A lot of food going to waste.
Can’t you come sooner, we asked, we could really use the stove.
I need it for work, I implored.
The answer was – no.
We pleaded, we raised concerns, we threatened social media campaigns, but Samsung was immobile. Tuesday it was.
The technician arrived and immediately complained about the galley kitchen. The oven was in there too tight. How was he supposed to get in there. With his associate and me pulling the stove out (yes, I helped), huffing and puffing, he climbed in the back. Tested the connections. Didn’t find a leak. He smelled gas and said it’s 100% that the leak was there, but he couldn’t locate it.
What does this mean for me, I said.
I don’t know, he said, I’ll file a report and maybe they’ll send a more senior technician.
And then what?
Then they will determine how difficult the repair is. The report he’ll file takes 48-hours to propagate and then another appointment, possibly. And then another report.
I could see this stretching into infinity.
Could you be a little more specific, I asked?
I’ve done my job, I did what I had to do, the technician got angry, picked up his equipment and walked out on me, my mouth agape. It took a few minutes for me to collect my thoughts and my jaw off the floor.
I spent the rest of the week talking to Samsung, though talking was only part of what I did. There was a lot of begging. There was a lot of being polite, and reasonable, and rational. There was a lot of being hung up on, calling back, starting my story all over, and having absolutely no one who took responsibility for any issues the stove was having. No one, it turned out, also gave two shits about the fact that it wasn’t just some repair issue, but that it was a gas leak. No one cared if we had children to feed or if I might have been pregnant (I can’t imagine inhaling that gas being good for anyone’s fetus). I took to social media and tried to engage with Samsung via Facebook and Twitter. They were unresponsive, unhelpful, and at times, clueless.
No one could give me anything specific to work with. They didn’t know what the issue was; the knew it was a leak; and they didn’t have a plan of action.
Because we didn’t have a warranty with Home Depot, where we purchase the stove, but with Samsung, it was up to Samsung to help us fix the issue.
Except Samsung wasn’t doing much of anything.
Finally, Home Depot took pity on us and started calling Samsung on our behalf. Their calls went about as well as ours did.
In the words of one of their sales associates, My blood pressure shot up through the roof.
Another salesperson said, They kept hanging up on me and pretending it was a connection issue. When I finally got mad and started screaming at them, they hung up on me mid-rant.
We know how you feel, they said, they are awful.
Finally, Samsung told Home Depot they were coming to fix my stove today, this afternoon. They were going to bring the missing part*** and everything would work.
What missing part, I asked?
The safety valve.
But the safety valve is fine, I remembered. The technician said so.
I realized, suddenly, that Samsung was just buying some time. They were sending another technician who would be unable to fix the issue thus stretching this nonworking stove issue into infinity.
And the second I realized that, something snapped in me.
I don’t care, I said to Home Depot on the phone, I just want a new working stove. I want a new one, I don’t want it to be Samsung, and I just don’t care anymore. What is it going to cost me?
Home Depot stepped in. We’ll refund you the money you spent on Samsung, they said. Why don’t you pick out something new?
And so, I hopped in a cab and raced over to Home Depot in Brooklyn. I did a lot of research beforehand and found a stove that, I think, will be great. We’re getting it on Wednesday, but we’re leaving for DC on Thursday night so the stove will get tested starting next week. The old one will get carted away and disposed of. I’m sure Samsung makes great products and we got unlucky and got a lemon, but what I can’t get over was how little help and how awful their customer service has been.
In a tersely worded Facebook message to them, I said, thank you for taking “customer” and “service” out of “customer service”. I wasn’t trying to be clever – that simply was the case.
If there is a lesson to be learned from all of what has transpired, it’s this: get the warranty from the store where you bought the appliance. Spend the extra money but it’s much better to deal with the store than with the manufacturer. I’m sure other brands are just as unresponsive and perhaps it’s unfair for me to put Samsung in the penalty box, but the experience of the last two weeks has totally soured me on the brand. Every time I’ll see Samsung’s name or logo, I’ll think of this experience, and I’d rather surround myself by things that make me have positive memories and experiences.
Like the nice man from Home Depot who really did his best to help us out. He’ll have my ongoing business, my thanks to him and his manager, and, once I have a brand new stove all working, homemade cookies as a thank you.
When I was an undergrad studying business, someone told us that negative brand image is far more hurtful than positive. If you have a great experience with something, you tell one person on average, but if you have a negative one – you’ll tell, on average, 11. I’m sure that with social media these numbers are now much higher, but I think the adage still holds in that it’s better, and easier, for a multi-billion dollar company, such as Samsung, to do something that is “right” and proper, than to screw their customers (who might become loyal Samsung clients) on things like product safety. It’s puzzling to me that Samsung hasn’t learned that lesson. A case study to be sure.
In the meantime, I’m going to envision a time when I can finally cook in my kitchen.
In my mind, it’s a beautiful scene.
**Ikea is still out of this sink everywhere it seems. I happened to call at the right time and speak to a lovely person in Elizabeth, NJ where a return came in with that sink. They didn’t eve list it in their inventory online. Luck!
***Despite me telling Samsung to go fly a kite and that we were O-V-E-R, it seems their internal communications are even worse than I had previously thought. This morning they’ve sent me a reminder of repair service coming out and despite me calling/telling them no need, that this oven is going straight to the dumpster, they seem to think, we’re still getting back together. Eh, no!
shoestring reno – appliances: part deux originally published on sassyradish.com
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