My Supply Chain Story

Raise your hand if you ordered an appliance in recent months and had to wait or continue to wait for its arrival.

Welcome to my club.

Back in September, something happened which led to my wife and I ordering a new refrigerator.

No, the condenser did not stop working.

After 27 years, our first and only refrigerator has lasted as long as our marriage.  Before we had children, before we had dogs, before we had the house we have lived in for 22 years, there was this basic but humble white refrigerator in what used to be the standard configuration:  top freezer section, bottom fridge section.  It was made by GE back when GE products were quality appliances (not true anymore—we are on our third over-the- range microwave in 20 years).

The event that happened that led to a new refrigerator purchase was spilled yogurt.

One morning as I reached beyond my son’s gigantic tub of yogurt to reach for the half and half for my coffee, my hand came back with the carton of cream—and the yogurt container came out with it, lid flying off, gooey white slop slapping its way into every nook and cranny in the kitchen.

As I was on my knees wiping away the mess, I noticed that the insulation on the bottom of my refrigerator had disintegrated, worn away, withered like an old man.

“Well, it’s time for a new refrigerator” sprung out of my mouth to my wife.

And now the fun begins.

We live in a 1953 house whose charm we have embraced since we bought it.  When we renovated our kitchen over 20 years ago, despite the granite countertops, islands and stainless steel trends that were gaining steam at the time (and now has turned every kitchen into a carbon copy of everyone else’s), we stood fast and put in new tiles, installed beaded white cabinets and kept our white appliances.

Since we did not enlarge the kitchen footprint, a visitor would think the kitchen is small.   But for us, like Goldilocks, it is just right.

However, do you know how difficult it is to find a white refrigerator these days?  It’s like locating a car with a stick shift.

Plus, the built-in space for the fridge is not quite as tall as 70 inches, meaning, 90 percent of the refrigerators even in white would not fit.

That’s where Guillermo comes in.

He is the manager or our local Pacific Sales store.  In late September we came to him with our dimensions and requirements and he was able to locate one, only one, refrigerator that checked all the boxes.

It was a Fisher & Paykel, a New Zealand company I never heard off even though they have been business since 1934.  The only drawback was its staggering price that was more than all of our currently appliances combined.

“Oh well,” I rationalized, “this will be the last refrigerator we will ever get.”

The order was placed and, lucky us, the computer showed one in stock and would be delivered within 3 weeks.

Two days before the October delivery date I received a call from the delivery company notifying me that the warehouse did not have the product.

One thing I learned about Guillermo is that no matter how many phone messages I leave, nothing gets his attention more than me appearing directly in front of him; even with a mask on, he knows me.

It turned out that the computer showing the in-stock fridge was an error.

The new delivery date was December 3.

As I changed the monthly calendar attached to our freezer door, my wife and I’s excitement increased, anticipating our new refrigerator.  Since it would have French doors, no longer would the passageway between the dining room and kitchen be blocked whenever someone opened the fridge.  My wife even designed how our food items would be organized in the new space.  At least we would have it arrive before Christmas.

Like déjà vu, my phone rang on Dec. 1.  No fridge.  New delivery date:  Feb. 4, 2022.

During this journey, I have read enough stories about the worldwide supply chain crisis to make me a guest on “60 Minutes.”  I have called Fisher & Paykel directly a few times, each time a customer service representative contradicting what another told me.  One woman informed me that the product I ordered was now “obsolete.”  The man who answered the phone in Costa Mesa, the U.S. headquarters for the company, said that it wasn’t so.

Guillermo has assured me that a fridge with my purchase order is attached to a freighter making its way towards the Port of Long Beach.  Too bad I don’t have a honing device so I can track it’s journey across the Pacific on my laptop.

I know we are lucky that we still have a working refrigerator.  Other people have had to settle buying something that they didn’t want in order to have a fridge.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Old Betsy (the pet name for our still working GE fridge) doesn’t give out in the meantime.  Hopefully she is not the jealous type.