Penny Wars

It was my dear friend Bob Samuals who introduced me to Penny Wars. Sam, (as he was known) was one of the bartenders at the Bayview Hotel when I started working there and became a mentor and wonderful friend. Sam was an acerbic, very funny man who I dearly admired and he explained how some of us fight these “penny wars”. I don’t know if Sam coined this phrase and I have yet to see it used in the same fashion again, but it seemed to fit my persona so well that I have used it ever since. “Penny War’s”, according to Sam are those minor issues we all deal with on a daily basis but most of you don’t think they are worth the effort to fight over. A person cuts in line at a theater. Someone parks in two spaces in a crowded parking lot. Parking in a handicap zone to “just run in to get a cup of coffee”.

This is, in my opinion, one of the sufferings in todays society. Basic courtesy’s being lost and the general populous afraid to confront those that ignore simple rules of etiquette. I am known to many as the person who will say something, to challenge the interloper, to get out of my car and ask someone why they are honking at a red light….my family is sure this will eventually be my demise. So in deference to my loved one’s concerns I have found other penny wars to battle. There is a whole world of online incompetence that is “bit by bit” becoming one of those thousand cuts that will eventually bleed us to death. Not many would concur, but I believe it is a battle worth fighting and find value and so much amusement in my version of “tilting at windmills…” or my “penny wars”.

Silly to most. Foolish perhaps, but never without sincere belief or trust of merit, that I wholeheartedly enter these worthless skirmishes.

So with that preamble I would like to share my latest penny war with the manufacturer of my stove/oven.

Last weekend my wife spent her day off cleaning our home and activated the “self-cleaning” function on our Frigidaire oven. When I got home in the afternoon I could hear the fan whirling away. Funny that the next morning the fan could still be heard whirling away. The door to our oven still securely locked. I asked my my wife if she knew what was the “deal”? She said she was “flummoxed” by it still being locked…(o.k., she never used the word flummoxed but I have always loved that word) So we came to realize our stove was locked tight and wasn’t planning on giving up without a struggle. We got out the manuals. No help. We looked up the problem on line. No help. I tried calling the 800 number and they had me put in my zip code so I could be referred to a “local” vendor 45 minutes away.

I think it was about this point I put on my armor for my next “Penny War”

After a day of trying to navigate Frigidare’s website and failing to contact any human I was so frustrated that this was my exercise in relief, (written to their online form)

Customer Information
Subject =
Message = your website is useless to customers needing help. your 800 number
directs clients to local vendors, not helpful at all. your service q & a’s are
useless at best and there is no form to actually add a question. my gas range,
(which by the way, the manual does not even list a model number) has been locked
in cleaning mode for two days and I can find no reference as how to cancel the
program. I am very frustrated with your product, your lack of service and your

and believe it or not my vent received a reply……

Thank you for contacting Electrolux Major Appliances.

To unlock the oven door:

· Press and hold the oven light switch located on the doorframe. While holding
this in, set the oven for self cleaning, following the instructions below:

· Press the clean pad. When “ CLN TIME” appears in the display, press the up
or down arrow pad to set it for two, three or four hours. Once the time is set
the self cleaning mode will begin.

· After the cleaningcycle begins and the timer starts counting down, press the
“CANCEL/CLEAR” pad. When the cycle stops, you will hear a click. This means
the door has become unlocked and the door can be opened. At this time release
the oven light switch and close the door.

If the problem persists, please contact a local authorized servicer in your
area. Thank you again for contacting Frigidaire customer service.


….now trust me…if there were a button to be pressed, held, accessed in any fashion what so ever,  I had already tried it. But what I really found amusing is their recommendation to “press and hold” an oven light button within the door frame that I had stated is locked. Once again, their default position being to contact a local vendor to assist…and so I did. I called the local vendor, Jim came out and proceeded to do his best to “jimmy” the door open, very much the same as trying to unlock a car door, but after that failed he deferred to his 800 number for the vendor. Next I checked, Jim had the unit away from the wall the whole back of the unit dismantled. After Jim had finally unlocked the door explained the issue and provide an estimate for repairs I thanked him for his service, declined to have the repairs done and after he left submitted my next salvo at Frigidaire’s customer service section on their website….

Sent: 01/23/13 20:08:38
Subject: Re: Customer Service Issues

Dear Electrolux,

Well I finally got my stove door open after two days of it being locked in
self-cleaning mode but it certainly wasn’t easy. I hired a local appliance shop
seeing as your warranty doesn’t cover much more than scratches to the cooking
surface. (seriously) The gentleman tried in vain to find a way to unlock the
door using his usual methods, slipping a stiff piece of wire to jimmy the latch,
(very similar to unlocking a car) but no such luck. He relented and called the
service center and spoke with Pierre who explained he would have to go through
the back of the unit. We slid the unit out from the wall, he proceeded to
dismantle the back of my stove and eventually concluded the linkage on the motor
that rotates the locking mechanism during the self-cleaning process was shot.
Well I thought, o.k., this sounds like a reasonable repair…until he explained
that the only way to access the area where the repair needed to be made would
take two people at a cost of over 500.00 in labor. The total estimate was close
to 700.00.
He also mentioned he noticed how one of my burners’s electric ignition seemed
not to be working. I said he was correct. He said that also was an easy
fix….other than the same issue applied, to get to the item to repair it
requires two men multiple hours of labor…….
Needless to say, we will no longer be using your self cleaning option and will
keep a box of matches available to light the burners.
I would seriously love to get a response from any person in management who has
the integrity to defend this ridiculous design but I am sure that is to much to
hope for.

Michael Burris
Aptos, CA.


I did enjoy this rant and certainly did not expect a reply but much to my surprise I got one. Even better the reply only reinforced my belief in the lunacy of the online service world. Here is the response,

Thanks for contacting Frigidaire.

We do regret that you are unhappy with the design of your product. We use some of the finest materials available and sophisticated assembly processes to assure manufacturing accuracy. Quality tests are continually conducted to provide the consumer with the best appliance possible in the industry. Each consumer may choose from a wide variety of appliances, each built to provide a quality product and various features to best suit their needs.

We do recommend having a different provider out to assist with diagnosing this issue as the amount that you have been quoted seems to be very extensive. To locate a provider in your area, please visit our website at We do recommend that they contact our tech line for assistance with getting these concerns resolved for you.

If you would please contact us back with your model number, serial number purchase date and full address so that we may create a file in our system and document the information you have provided.

Thanks for contacting Frigidaire.

Ms. Jones
Frigidaire Correspondence Specialist


At this point my penny war was won. I received a response from someone who’s job description is “Correspondence Specialist” and obviously completely missed the point of my frustration with their company. Ms. Jones offers defense of their “design” flaws by touting the materials used and manufacturing procedures. You can use the finest materials in the world assembled by the greatest craftsmen and still produce a useless product if the original design is flawed. She then indicates perhaps I had chosen the wrong product to suit my needs. Yes I should have chosen the one that wasn’t designed by knucklehead that didn’t think anyone would ever need to access anything under the range top. Also of great assistance from my “correspondence specialist” who had obviously neglected to actually read my “correspondence” was her recommendation I contact a local vendor, (which I had done) and they contact Frigidaire’s support staff, (as stated previously, we had called Pierre). And to conclude my amusement was her request I submit my contact information so they could create a file on me.

I think I will pass but thank you Ms. Jones, you have been most amusing.


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