When he bought his Kenmore combination washer and dryer from Sears in Oak Brook on July 13, 2011, Tony La Piana decided not to pay for an extended warranty.
The salesman assured him Kenmore products are built to last, so La Piana paid $977.49 for the combo and felt confident the manufacturer's coverage would suffice.
All went swimmingly until mid-March, when La Piana was washing a load of laundry in his Lombard condo and heard a loud clanking sound coming from under the machine.
"The noise was loud enough that I could hear it while I sat in my kitchen," he said. "I did not react immediately and thought it was just some clothing perhaps stuck in the cycle."
In the week that followed, he used the washing machine twice more and both times he heard the clanking sound.
La Piana contacted a repairman who discovered the machine's transmission was leaking oil. The repairman gave him the model and serial number and suggested he call Sears.
A Sears representative told him the washer was no longer under warranty. Worse yet the part he needed to fix the machine was on back order, and there was no telling when it would be available, La Piana said.
On March 27, he spoke to a representative from the Sears store in Oak Brook, who said there was nothing he could do for La Piana because the machine was out of warranty. La Piana was directed to Sears' customer solutions line, which he called.
A Sears technician visited his condo March 29 and confirmed the transmission was shot, La Piana said. When he called again several days later to find out when the part would arrive, he was told perhaps in July.
Tired of lugging his clothes to a laundromat while his less-than-2-year-old washer sat dormant in his condo, La Piana emailed What's Your Problem?
He said it should not have broken so quickly.
"It's not like I used it five times a week or I've got a family of five, it's just me," he said. "I use one load a week, maybe two."
La Piana said waiting until July for his washing machine to be fixed wasn't a reasonable option.
"This is unacceptable," he said. "I don't want my money back, but fix the product somehow."
The Problem Solver called Sears spokesman Larry Costello, who on Friday emailed to say the situation has been resolved.
"We apologize for the inconvenience caused to Mr. La Piana and are expediting the replacement of his washer," Costello wrote. "We expect the new unit will be delivered within 7-10 days. Someone from our Sears customer care team will be contacting him today to notify him and schedule the delivery."
A short time later, a Sears representative called La Piana and told him the new washer would arrive in five or six business days.
"She gave me her direct line," he said. "They said they'll take care of everything. I think it's awesome."
La Piana said he couldn't afford to spend another $1,000 on a washer and dryer.
"This is truly a victory for the little people," he said. "It might be a small issue to a lot of people, but it was huge for me because I couldn't afford to go out and buy another unit."