Pandemic causing appliance shortages, service backlogs

Investigators

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – Toilet paper, lumber, and coins are among the shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Appliances is the latest group of items affected.

A Clayton man said his refrigerator stopped working on Aug. 11. A service technician was called, but couldn’t come until Aug. 21 because of a backlog of calls. When he came, he discovered the fridge needed a part which would have to be ordered.

The part arrived Sept. 11. but the owner couldn’t schedule an earlier appointment until Sept. 25 at the earliest, which was more than a month after the fridge first broke.

“We’re seeing longer waits for factory-ordered parts and some are taking months to get in,” said Clint Mitchell, a senior service tech at Cary Discount and Capital Appliance Repair.

“Before the pandemic, people were cooking 3-4 meals a week. Now they’re cooking three meals a day, so there’s a lot more stress on appliances because people are home more.”

When appliances break down, service techs are so busy, people have to wait days to get into the line for a service call. This repair backlog and appliance shortage is happening nationwide. It first affected freezers and has spread to other appliances.

On average, dealers said the wait if:

  • 3-6 months for a freezer
  • 4 months for washing machines
  • 3 months for dishwashers

Garner Appliances co-owner Randy Pleasant said his showroom was missing many products on the display floor because of the shortages. He said they don’t normally sell floor models, but he’s not using them to fulfill emergency orders because factories aren’t shipping products.

“We’re trying to tell customers at point of sale to be patient because this is what we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re looking at some waiting: 5-6 months for a fridge or dishwasher.”

Air conditioners are also breaking down more frequently due to more constant use. If they need replacement parts instead of an on-site repair, there’s a wait. Mitchell said parts from China are taking a lot longer to arrive than usual.

Dealers and service techs all said there’s no clear end in sight.

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