We talked to the competent technician on Wednesday morning and he called Whirlpool up again and convinced them that they really should swap out the existing hot water heater. Armed with an RMA number, we set out for Lowe's.Despite having an RMA number, I would have to pay them for the new hot water heater. They would refund the money when the old one was returned.
Where they were pretty much completely clueless. Even after calling over a more experienced person to the service desk, they couldn't manage to figure out from the original receipt that they had installed the water heater -- although it included lines like "Installed Sale". Nor did they understand how the installation of the new heater was supposed to be paid for, despite having sold me the extended "service" plan that had managed to keep us without regular hot water for more than two weeks.
By the time we were done:
They don't actually stock a water heater like the one that I had previously purchased. If I wanted that water heater as a replacement, I would have to wait two weeks for them to special order it.
But they did have a similar one with a lesser warranty. And it was not like I actually had a choice that did not involve two or more weeks with no hot water.
Oh, and I would have to pay for the installation and then send the receipt to the company that managed the service plan to get reimbursed for that.
The net result of all this was shelling out nearly $1000 (reimbursable, assuming that no one messes up) for my covered replacement.
Given the amount of stomach lining this has consumed, this has been a very expensive service plan.
However, they did manage to schedule the install for today. The new water heater has been installed and appears to be working fine. The hulk is supposed to have been returned to Lowe's, so I should get that credit.
And we have hot water.