Hey Whirlpool, why are my refrigerator shelves cracking?

When Cynthia Barrett’s refrigerator shelves start to crack, she goes looking for answers from Whirlpool. She doesn’t like what she finds. Can this appliance be fixed?

Question: I have a problem with the quality – or lack thereof – of some of the refrigerators manufactured by Whirlpool Corporation. My complaint is about flawed shelf design in the side-by-side refrigerator that I purchased at Lowes in 2009. All of the shelves in my refrigerator have cracked. If only one shelf was affected I would deduce I had done something to cause the crack, but with all the shelves cracking, and most in several places, it is obviously a design flaw.

I suspect it is due to the glass in the shelves being too thin to support typical items placed on refrigerator shelves. So when the glass gives under the weight of items placed on the shelf it puts pressure on the plastic rim, resulting in cracks. Replacing unsuitable shelves with more unsuitable shelves is a ludicrous option and would only result in Whirlpool profiting from selling poorly designed products. There are only two of us in our home and we have three refrigerators, so the shelves are not overloaded.

I tried to resolve this problem by calling Whirlpool directly, but both a representative and a supervisor told me Whirlpool has no record of quality issues with this appliance, which is surprising as I personally have called on two other occasions.

Since my refrigerator is out of the original warranty and shelves are not covered by the extended warranty, my only option is to purchase more shelves.

Whirlpool doesn’t stand by the quality of the products they design, manufacture and sell. Can you help?

Cynthia Barrett, Ardmore, Okla.

Answer: Whirlpool should stand behind its products, even when they are out of warranty. Especially when they’re out of warranty. The kind of shelf-cracking you describe shouldn’t happen, and a quick Internet search reveals that you’re hardly the only one to experience these defective parts.

Whirlpool had to have known, and its representative was either incredibly ignorant or just ignoring you when you phoned. I’m not sure which is worse.

I love the resolution to this case. You emailed me, but at the same time you searched for any names, phone numbers and email addresses of Whirlpool service managers. After collecting all this information, you decided your best course of action was to send a fax directly to the president of Whirlpool. The executive fax number is (269) 932-5154.

An executive customer service agent replied by email. No worries, I’ve updated my Whirlpool executive contacts page with all of this new information. They’re probably not going to like that, but oh well.

I should take a moment to explain why we’re doing this. If Whirlpool offered an easy way for you to offer feedback online, and to appeal your case to someone who can make a difference, then none of this would be necessary. But it looks like the only way for you to get help is to go to extraordinary lengths.

Whirlpool remained defiant until the end. The response you received pretty much says it all.

“After reviewing your email, I looked into our customer service database and did not see where this product has been flagged for having a quality issue,” a company representative said to you. “Nonetheless, I did review the complaints you had included in the email and I do see where others have had this issue. In reviewing our parts list, the part numbers for all of your shelves have been updated since the initial production. This indicates that a change has been made in the manufacturing of these units. Given this information, I will be sending out a set of shelves for your refrigerator at no charge.”

Did Whirlpool respond appropriately to this complaint?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Raven_Altosk

    When you make garbage in sweatshops in China, you get garbage from sweatshops in China.

  • William_Leeper

    Whirlpool tends to have a few quality issues, but normally those were noticed in the manufacturing process and corrected prior to distribution. Of course now whirlpool is moving much of their production overseas, and we have a million sq. ft. Plant sitting idle here in our city. I suspect quality will go to pot now.

  • William_Leeper

    Technically Whirlpool is moving most production to Mexico, but before that, all components and everything else was produced in the same cities that their production plants were in. Right down to the magnetic door strips.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott


  • $16635417

    Two people in a home with three refrigerators?

  • mbods

    I voted “no” because Whirlpool only did the right thing after, as you say, Ms. Barrett went to extraordinary lengths. Consumers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get help with a product. Good businesses should WELCOME the opportunity to help their customers and perhaps improve their product at the same time.

  • Goldie

    Was thinking the same thing. That statement alone made me wonder what they are doing with the fridges.

  • EdB

    “After reviewing your email, I looked into our customer service database and did not see where this product has been flagged for having a quality issue,”

    Corporate speak for, “We have managed to ignore all complaints so far. Any problems we have dealt with has not been recorded in our database.”

    All they were saying is they have not flagged it. They didn’t say there were no problems logged for the product, only it hasn’t been flagged.

  • emanon256

    I want to say yes, and I did, but seriously, why would someone have to go to such great lengths and why are they hiding the fact that its such a problem they came out with a new part to replace it. If I were Whirlpool, I would have contacted all registered owners and send replacements to anyone who had problems. Companies just don’t care anymore. However, I don’t believe Whirlpool had any obligation to do anything since the warranty expired, so I am glad they did.

    I think I dodged a bullet on this one. I have a Whirlpool side-by-side that I got a Lowe’s in 2008. I routinely place a hot 6qt pot full of soup on the cold glass shelf, overload the shelves with everything, and have yet too see an issue. I am never getting a side by side again, there seems to be so little room that I have to overload it.

    I am also very curious why two people need 3 refrigerators. Homebrewing maybe? Just curious. If I had 3, I would be making a lot more beer than I do now.

  • emanon256

    Were they actually produced raw material to component, or just assembled? I hate how a lot of companies say they are made in the US, when they are just assembled in the US using cheep Chinese components.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Even if they’re not homebrewing, it’s not that unusual. Obviously one in the kitchen, maybe one in the basement either in a wet bar or maybe they have a kitchenette down there, then a beer box in the garage.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Kitchen, basement with a wet bar or kitchenette, beer box in garage. Not particularly unusual.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    We had a refrigerator and two freezers when I was growing up. Then again, I’m from a family of five.

  • William_Leeper

    Here, Whirlpool sourced everything locally. One company made the styrofoam insulation, another did all of the injection molded plastics, one company did the magnetic door gaskets, another made the motors and compressors. It was a complete operation, and when whirlpool left, so did all the component companies. We lost about 4500 jobs from Whirlpool, but another 2000 went when all the component companies left.

    Everything they made was from raw material. The only exceptions were sheet metal, and glass. Those came from other suppliers, but they got the metal as roll stock, and had their own metal presses here.

  • catwonc

    That’s our house – main refrigerator in kitchen, another large one in the garage for pet food storage and a smalller one also in the garage for beer :)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    We had two freezers growing up for a family of three. We froze a lot of food.

    I was watching House Hunters International the other day and they were in Seoul. Two of the three places they looked at had two full-sized refrigerators side-by-side in the kitchen with one being exclusively for kimchi.

  • emanon256

    Oh wow. I wish we had more companies that did what Whirlpool used to do.

  • emanon256

    That is really cool! I have seen some amazing things about Kimchi on TV lately, including a restaurant that has 100 year old Kimchi. My wife balks if I have even one jar in our fridge.

  • emanon256

    Very different than my upbringing. We had one fridge for 9 people for most of my younger years, the only freezer we had was part of the fridge. My family, my cousins and their parents, and our grandparents all lived together and always cooked at home. Then 6 of us lived on our own for a while also with one fridge and only the build in freezer on top of the fridge. Not that there is anything wrong with multiple fridges, just not something I have experienced.

  • emanon256

    If I ever get a bigger house, the first thing I am getting is a beer fridge :)

  • $16635417

    5 people and 2 pets in our house. One fridge. I must be missing out on something.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I had a tough time answering the poll question…I wanted to vote no since the customer had to go to extraordinary lengths to get an appropriate response, and even when she finally did get one, it included a rather slimy denial of responsibility. But in the end the customer got her shelves replaced, so the right thing did happen — for her, anyway. I voted yes, but I could have gone either way on this one.

  • DavidYoung2

    To be labeled “Made in the USA” all or virtually all the major components, by value, must be made in the USA. And significant value must be added to be labeled “Made in the USA.”

    Assembled in the USA means that significant value and transformation must happen in the USA (not just a ‘screwdriver’ assembly of pre-assembled motherboards into computers.)

    Here’s the link to the FTC if anybody cares. http://business.ftc.gov/advertising-and-marketing/made-usa

  • Joe_D_Messina

    We had one frig growing up, but two big freezers. We lived on a farm and always had a ton of frozen meat, frozen vegetables from the garden, etc.

  • $16635417

    I would have chosen “in part” or “not quite” had those been options. It’s not quite “yes” and in’t not quite “no”.


    We had one fridge and a really large freezer for a family of 6. Worked out well.


    I am on the fence about this one. Every company appears to have frontline customer service staff that has no authority to do anything except say no. And a phone call in this day and age is not the way to go. Email is better, with delivery and read receipts if possible. Moving up the ladder to someone with a bit more authority, even though they still denied the problem, did the trick. I never accept what the first person says if it is a no and I think the answer should be yes. I look for someone with authority to actually discuss and solve the problem. I start with customer service reps and then move up if I get the expected no. In many businesses the front line staff have little to no authority to deal with many quality issues. It should not be this way, but it seems to be the norm. It may have taken a bit, but she moved up and got the problem solved.

  • jim6555

    I answered no. It shouldn’t take a fax to the company President to get a problem like this solved. Is there no one at Whirlpool Customer Care who has the authority to do to do the right thing for a customer?

  • Grant Ritchie

    No… but they have dozens of people who can say “NO” with great authority.

  • smattes

    Bosch gave me the same runaround about a dishwasher…repeated Service calls and no resolution. Surly Customer Service reps. added to dismay. and,insult to injury, Consumer Reports still sings the praises off these unreliable, beautifully designed, expensive pieces of kitchen decor. A quick internet service revealed my experience was not unusual. When shopping for my next dishwasher (cannot wait to chuck this 3 year old space waster), I will NOT use Consumer Report, but look to this site and others for real experiences.
    At least Whirlpool eventually replaced the defective parts!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    What difference does it make how many refrigerators they have in their home? We have three refrigerators and it’s just my husband and I. One fridge is for our everyday use. One is for eggs (we have 30 chickens) and one is for goat’s milk (we have three milking goats).

    But people really are allowed to have as many refrigerators as they want and it shouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not they receive new shelves when the others break due to poor workmanship or low quality.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m from a family of seven. I grew up with two refrigerators (one of them was just for the milk we drank – my parents were both raised on a dairy farm and carried heavy milk-drinking to my siblings and I) and then we had the stand-alone upright freezer. I’m not kidding – in my parent’s house, we drank 10 to 15 gallons of milk a week between the seven of us.

  • DChamp56

    Where’s the apology?

  • Carchar

    Whirlpool did not respond appropriately to this complaint because it should have responded as it finally did when the complaint was first made.

  • Chester P. Chucklebutt

    The final response was appropriate, but as you said Chris, it shouldn’t have had to go this far.

  • Diane

    I just had an issue with my Whirlpool refrigerator when I took out the self to wash it blew-up in my face. When I called to just report it more then anything else I was called a liar and told this could not happen. I have pictured and everything! Lucky I had glasses on and long sleeves. I will never purchase Whirlpool again and recommend no one does. They do not stand behind their products.