You would think that buying a new fridge freezer for a chef with nearly 40 years international experience would be easier than for most, but that is not the case. First and foremost the big problem of buying an expensive, large item like a fridge is compared to 10 years ago there are very few high street stores to go and see them in person (in order to see the quality of finish and how well designed the unit is or isn’t). Added to that there are so many different makes and models that if you find one you like on a well-known website like Currys, it is almost impossible to find that same model in your local Currys store for further inspection.
The Internet Effect
The internet has caused many shops to close or reduce their floorspace and the downturn in the UK economy in 2008-2009 only speeded up that change. Floor space in the only remaining UK national chain Currys has also shrunk because they brought their PC World stores (previously separate) back inside Currys, so the fridges, washing machines, ovens, sound systems and Big screen TV’s have to compete with cameras, computers, printers and other peripherals. A further irony is that manufacturers are tempting British consumers with larger models which of course puts, even more, pressure on the limited display space.
The Fridge/freezer Lottery
So I had to resort to looking at photos and videos of the models I was interested in on the manufacturers and the retailer’s websites that sold them. Of course, I also read lots and lots of reviews on the Which site, but even they find it difficult to review the large number of models that are released. Of course, if a particular model gets a very favourable review that will also guarantee a steep rise in the price as well.
Which Magazine and website
The reviews and information on the Which website are useful, but not as useful as it could be given the fact it is so much harder to view a fridge/freezer in person unless you live in London. Even Which struggle to review all of the makes and models available these days and the information in their reviews give the reader an overview but are poor when it comes to: how well lit is the fridge, how easy it is to move and reconfigure the shelves, or how flexible are the door compartments, or indeed any in-depth details about reversing the doors and how feasible a task this is for the average person.
A very important issue is the build quality but again in too many of the reviews it is talked about in general terms, and often it is left to Which readers to add their own good/bad experiences comments.
It is also fairly clear that whilst the reviewers are earnest in their opinions and strive to give honest reviews, I would be stunned if any of them were former chefs or even home economists which would help add a different perspective to the reviews. I want reviewers at least, to know the difference between a compressor and a condenser and what these components do.
My own Experience
I wanted to share my own very recent experience of buying a new fridge freezer. I first bought an LG fridge/freezer model LG GBB60PZJZS but sent it back because of corrosion on the copper tube going into the compressor. I don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on a fridge/freezer and have it arrive with any fault, however minor, a brand new fridge is supposed to be just that, brand new (see photo).
I do own other LG devices, a flat screen TV and a PC monitor (which I am very happy with) but this was my first LG kitchen appliance. LG has grown into a respected quality electronics brand and more recently it has branched out into fridges and washing machines.
In the last couple of years, the Which website have given 9 LG models very good reviews so I was expecting a quality fridge/freezer, but what I got was disappointing design, poorly lit, unnecessary corrosion and nonexistent customer service.
Whilst many current fridge/freezers have moved towards LED lighting to save electricity and help give them a better energy rating, however, the ones I have seen in person are less well lit (getting the light to every part of the fridge) than my 10-year-old Samsung. Another thing I liked about my old Samsung was the split salad crisper drawers rather than one large one the width of the fridge. With a split drawer, it was easy to keep heavy items (vegetables) in one and lighter more fragile (salad) items in the other.
Outwardly, LG’s GBB60PZJZS with its stainless steel doors is a head-turner (fig1), but the contents are a different matter. The lighting is the in the ceiling of the fridge is poorly position and is too small. What is even more annoying about this issue is the video clip LG’s made for its own website (take a look for yourself). It is lit is such a way to give a very different impression that the interior of the fridge is bathed in light.
The poor interior design of the fridge makes it extremely difficult to reconfigure the shelves or wine rack, I could not remove the centre shelf at all (fig 2). The door compartments also could have been more flexible rather all of the running the whole width of the door (fig 3).
I am constantly amazed how poorly designed Fridge/freezers are and how lamentable it is that no chef is ever involved in the design.
Manufacturers and Retailers
In general, fridges are getting bigger but houses are not, so placement, measurements, door reversals are all more important than ever so manufacturers and retailers need to up their game. I contacted LG to complain about the corrosion on my brand new fridge and after chasing them for days their response was the corrosion would not hurt the functioning of the fridge.
In the process of buying the LG fridge/freezer, I discovered that prices are volatile, and can go up or down based on demand with as much as a £100 difference. Amongst the sellers of LG’s GBB60PZJZS, I found that Currys have incorrect measurements on their website. As a courtesy, I reached out to Currys via their facebook page and pointed this out. They thanked me and said they would notify their website but as of today (some 5 weeks later) the website still insists the depth of the LG GBB60PZJZS is 68.6 cm as opposed to LG’s own specs which say 66.5 cm, does that give you the confidence to buy a fridge unseen?
I also found it frustrating that there are lesser known manufacturers out there such as Haier offering seemingly inexpensive models with good specifications, but if I can’t see it in person how can I tell if this model is worth taking a chance on?
Thankfully, the silver lining in this story was the company I bought the LG fridge from called Sonic Direct. I found them to be knowledgeable, professional with great customer service. When I discovered the corrosion problem on my LG fridge/freezer they worked hard to offer me solutions to the problem. Not only that, they communicated well about the intended delivery date and delivered both of my fridges within the time window they had set, so no unnecessary days wasted waiting for the fridge to arrive.
In the end, I decided to pay a little extra and get a Samsung RB37J5230SA which is a much better design and build quality, plus it comes with a 5-year guarantee. I also reversed the doors myself which is a little more challenging than some because this model has a LED display built into the door. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Samsung (like many manufacturers) choose to print an instruction manual that covers several different models to cut costs but with patience and a downloaded printout I got it done.
I also installed a foam rubber strip to make it impossible to bang the door into the edge of the kitchen wall, because new shiny fridges are like dent magnets.
I hope my article has offered you some food for thought when you’re next thinking about buying a fridge. Please share your thoughts and you own experiences with my readers.
I’d also be interested to hear fridge buying experiences from other countries, so please share.
*This post was originally published on my Chef Kevin Ashton in May 2017