Appliance Breaks During Coronavirus Pandemic

Although home centers will remain open during this pandemic, there are special considerations when purchasing a device now. Remember that you should avoid going into stores and shopping online instead, as it can be difficult to maintain social distance in a store. We asked a member of CR’s Secret Shopper team, who buys equipment we test, for tips on shopping during the coronavirus pandemic. We can’t reveal his identity, but here is his current insight:

“For the fastest delivery, check with local independent dealers what they have available in stores and warehouses,” he says. “Remember, home delivery and installation may not be an option.”

If you’re looking to shop at a well-known store, Home Depot and Lowe’s have on-site inventory and offer curb pickup or delivery. You can shop online from a number of retailers, but be sure to check availability and delivery time before placing an order.

Other tips
Measure your space. This is always important, but especially now that you don’t want to return a device. Provide ventilation (refrigerator) or hoses (washing machine). Measure the doors to your house and any others that the device must pass through to get to its location. The dimensions of the models can be found in our reviews for washing machines, dryers, stoves and refrigerators.

Scan our reviews. Before shopping, find out about the performance and features of the different models by consulting CR reviews. Narrow your list down to at least a handful of models as some may not be immediately available. Top freezer fridges, for example, are usually easier to come by than other types and are relatively inexpensive. A fridge freezer may not be your first choice, but it may have to do for now and you can always move it to your basement or sell it later. And take a close look at models known as CR Best Buys. They offer impressive performance at an affordable price when you are looking for a replacement without spending a lot of money.

Check the dealer’s opening hours. They can close earlier than usual during the pandemic for daily cleaning and replenishment. For example, Home Depot stores close at 6:00 p.m. and Lowe’s closes at 7:00 p.m. Sears and Best Buys stores are temporarily closed, but you can shop on their websites.

Ask about delivery, installation and removal. As our Secret Shopper noted, retailers may have and will continue to change their policies, especially if someone in your household tests positive for the coronavirus. This is what we learned from the four largest electronics retailers in the USA:

• Home Depot: Home appliance delivery can take anywhere from four to eight days, whether you’re shopping online or in-store, says Christina Cornell, a spokeswoman.

• Lowe’s: “There is no difference in the timeliness of delivery, whether customers are shopping in-store or online,” said Amy Allison, a spokeswoman. “However, our store staff may be able to help customers get to items faster or take them away immediately if a customer chooses to shop in-store.”

• Sears: Online shoppers can have their device delivered to their home if allowed by the local government, says Costello.

• Best Buy: Online orders can be picked up to the curb outside of stores, or you can have all deliveries delivered to your doorstep.

Consider a warehouse club. For example, the Costco website sells large appliances, although delivery and installation may vary by region (appliances are not sold in stores). As a bonus, the company is extending the normal one-year manufacturer’s warranty to two years.

Check the manufacturers’ websites. If you are having trouble finding a device, keep in mind that some manufacturers sell devices on their websites. Samsung’s “Buy Now” will let you know your options, and eligible models on the LG website have an “Add to Cart” button. “From now on we are working as usual – we are selling online, delivering and installing in accordance with all local regulations,” says Taryn Brucia, Director of Public Relations at LG.

You can also purchase appliances from the Maytag, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool websites. Those websites will tell you if home delivery and installation are still available in your zip code, says a spokesman for Whirlpool, which makes all three brands. When you place an order, you will be asked three screening questions to help ensure the health and safety of the delivery team.

One final tip: once your new device is in your home, disinfect it with soap and water and wash your hands.

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