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GE goes to end of earth to promote new French-door fridge

Consumer Reports News: June 18, 2012 04:38 PM

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Consumer Reports puts refrigerators through some pretty tough tests, including packing them with frozen spinach and cranking the temperature in our test chambers up to 110°F. But we've never strapped one to the bed of a pickup truck and driven it 2,000 miles to a remote desert location. That's the "ultimate test" conceived for "Freshpedition," an online campaign developed by GE Appliances to promote the launch of its new GE Profile French-door refrigerator, $3,000.

The cast of characters in this reality TV-inspired online video series includes Ben Sargent, a free-spirited celebrity chef and host of "Hook, Line & Dinner" on the Cooking Channel; Justin Berger, the straight-laced GE engineer who looks and sounds a bit like Jim from NBC's The Office; and Ron Thompson, a wildlife biologist who must forgo fresh food for months at a time while he's off in remote places studying mountain lions and other wildlife.

As Ben and Justin make the odyssey from GE's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky to Ron's research camp somewhere in the Texas desert, they procure ingredients for what promises to be a delicious freshly prepared meal for Ron. There's bibb lettuce in Kentucky, peach ice cream and goat cheese in Alabama, crawfish and alligator meat in Louisiana, and so on. Episode one, titled "Lettuce Begin," is already up on the website, with four more to follow on June 25.

Where will it all end? With that question in mind, GE is also running a "Where's Ron" sweepstakes in which viewers must guess the scientist's location based on clues provided on the manufacturer's Facebook and Twitter pages. That takes care of any suspense over whether Ben and Justin will reach their destination, fresh food in hand, though GE might not have greenlighted the project if there was any chance of it ending on the side of a highway with a refrigerator's worth of wilted salad greens and rotting gator meat.

Of course, the real question in all this is whether the new GE Profile French-door refrigerator will live up to its promise of being a cut above the competition. The 29 claimed-cubic-foot model does make several impressive claims, like a hands-free through-the-door water dispenser that senses when your glass or pitcher is filled and stops, a built-in filtration system that supposedly removes pharmaceuticals sometimes found in drinking water, and a hot water dispenser.

But for a refrigerator to earn a spot on Consumer Reports' recommended list, it has to nail the fundamentals, namely maintaining consistent temperatures, providing ample storage, and consuming a moderate amount of energy. We'll be testing the GE Profile French-door refrigerator as soon as it's available. In the meantime, you can check out our Ratings of nearly 250 other refrigerators.

Daniel DiClerico

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