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Tips for navigating the home appliance shortage

Not interested in waiting six months for a refrigerator or washer/dryer? Consider stainless steel... and other compromises.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — When she first walked into a Warners' Stellian store this spring, Katie Coster was in search of the perfect gas range.

"I should have listened to the salesman at that time," Coster said. "He said, 'If you want something, order it now, because there's not much stock in exactly what you want. If you wait for any time, you'll have to go to plan B and plan C.'"

Six months later? 

"I'm on plan E," Coster said, with a laugh.

Though a shortage of large home appliances is a big national headline right now, locally, you won't see many empty showrooms. Angela Warner, Appliance Specialist and Spokesperson at Warners' Stellian, says the problem isn't exactly about empty warehouses either.

"Our warehouses are full, we have a lot of product," Warner said. "I would say the biggest difference is being able to sell somebody whatever they want."

Warner says, like the auto industry, some manufacturers are waiting on microchips before shipping some of their products. She says others have hit snags with specialty parts, such as insulating foam for refrigerators, and that's just where the explanations begin.

"Some say that they're waiting for truckers to drive them to us, or that there are products waiting in boats at ports that can't get unloaded," Warner said. "They were also affected by labor shortages within their own factories making products." 

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If that doesn't sound like an easy fix, you're right.

"We kind of thought it would be over soon, but it's looking like it's going to be lasting through 2022," Warner said.

In the meantime, consumers can't count on their own quick fix either.

"There are people who would like to fix their appliance, but they cannot because they can't get the parts to fix them, and so they are forced to purchase a new one," Warner said. "And with everyone being home, we saw a huge increase in the amount of service needed. So that industry was overwhelmed also."

To combat all the uncertainty, Warner says it's best to come prepared if you're visiting a store.

"Come in with your measurements and with your calendar," she said. "And with the understanding that, if you want this, it's here now. If you come back in two days, it might not be, so be ready to take it."

And you might also want to be ready to consider buying something in stainless steel.

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"Stainless is more popular and they'll make more of it," Warner said.

"I wanted white," Coster said. "That was my first choice, but they didn't have it. In fact, this store that I'm in removed the white (range) because the manufacturer just said, quit selling that one, we don't have it."

And that's when Katie decided that the perfect range is the one that's actually available.

"In the world today, I don't think we can get exactly what we want anymore," she said.

"I kind of have to take what's in stock, which is fine. And you know what? If we don't like it, in five years we can get another one, right?"