Colleyville, Texas August 24, 2015 …………. A Guest Column by Dave Lieber, (As appeared August 23, 2015 Dallas Morning News)
A Whirlpool washing machine purchased in 2012 at a Lowe’s store in Hurst exploded in July inside a Colleyville home. No one was injured.
The Watchdog: Explosive three-act play ends appliance drama
The Exploding Washer in Colleyville
A drama in three acts
By The Watchdog
Act 1 — Kaboom!
A Friday in late July. All is quiet in the Thrasher home in Colleyville. The only noise is the spinning sound of a Whirlpool washing machine in Dianne Thrasher’s laundry room. Two minutes to go on the final cycle.
The machine begins making a loud noise. “It sounds like a jet is about to take off,” Thrasher says. “Then it goes BOOM!! Like a bomb.”
The door blows off into the bathroom across the hallway. Concrete, metal, ball bearings, oil and plastic parts fly everywhere in a nanosecond.
The expensive 3-year-old Whirlpool washer from Lowe’s looks as if the laundry gods grew angry and turned the machine inside out.
Moments before, Thrasher had walked out of the room. She isn’t hurt. But Thrasher and her family are upset and confused. They call Lowe’s and Whirlpool.
At first, things don’t go well.
Act 2 — So What?
Whirlpool sends out a tech. He examines the exploding washer and declares the unit “not repairable,” according to Whirlpool records. He tells Thrasher that because her unit is out of warranty, she should buy a new one.
Yes, under usual circumstances, that may be true. But here?
Thrasher calls Lowe’s. Somebody there says they will help, but she never hears back.
She contacts The Watchdog.
On Facebook, her daughter Chelsea sends The Watchdog a photo of the turned-inside-out washer.
“This could have seriously hurt my mother had she been in there at that moment. Is there anything you can suggest for me?”
The Watchdog opens a file. Whirlpool Model No. WFW94HEXW2, Serial No. C14951788. I give it a nickname. The Neutron Bomb Washer. The Watchdog rolls up his sleeves.
Act 3 — Results
Hello, Lowe’s. Let me tell you about the Neutron Bomb Washer of Colleyville, Texas.
Karen Cobb, a Lowe’s official, listens and moves it to the front burner.
“We’re happy to resolve this for the Thrashers,” she announces a few days later. “Today Lowe’s delivered a new washer. We’re not aware of any similar situations. The failure that the unit experienced would need to be addressed by the manufacturer.”
The Watchdog reaches out to Whirlpool.
Not long after, Thrasher says, “I heard from the Whirlpool executive office. The lady calls me and says, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m horrified by this.’ I explain to her the people we talked to and the man who said to go buy a new washer.
“She says, ‘I want to do something for you.’ She says, ‘I want you to have a new dryer that matches the new washer.’ So I say, ‘No. I have a dryer.’
“She says, ‘No, you never should have been treated like this.’”
A new dryer was delivered last week.
Under law, manufacturers are required to report any safety defects of their products to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
That doesn’t happen here. “We do not see any indication or pattern,” Whirlpool spokeswoman Kristine M. Vernier says, “that would trigger an obligation to report this unusual product breakdown.
“In individual reports such as this, we always try to get the product sent to our labs for inspection by qualified engineers. Unfortunately, when we contacted the retailer to have Mrs. Thrasher’s washer sent to our labs for evaluation we learned that they had already scrapped the product for recycling.”
The Watchdog issues a citation of failure to both Whirlpool and Lowe’s for not taking this matter seriously at first. Nobody wanted to examine the Neutron Bomb Washer of Colleyville and figure out the why?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to know about appliances that explode. In this case, the only way they’ll know is by seeing this little drama. Otherwise this would have been swept away.
End of three acts. A happy ending for one family. But one more failure of corporate America to place customers’ safety as a top priority.
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
Check out The Watchdog at 11:20 a.m. Mondays on NBC5, talking about matters important to you.
IN THE KNOW: Hazard alert
Report hazardous products to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Consumer hotline: 1-800-638-2772
Visit the website for consumer reports on products: cpsc.gov.