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I want to make sure I'm thinking about this correctly before I accuse directly.

TL;DR
The big box store is treating my item as covered under their store warranty, with their rules, and not as a manufacturer's warranty, with their expanded coverage.
They replaced the item this time, but I'm concerned they won't next time, under their rules. I want to deal with this now, rather than wait until it fails again.
Does the store have the right to say their rules prevail?

I want to say up front, Rheem has been wonderful to work with. Very helpful. THey've probably won a customer for life.
The store, not so much.

Details
Purchased a Rheem water heater with a 12 year warranty.
It fails in year 4.
Manufacturer says it is under warranty and they will replace it.
Just take it back to the store. I don't need a receipt. The store will call with the serial number and we'll approve replacement.
In theory.
In practice, the store refused to call the manufacturer, and insisted on a receipt.
As a convenience to the customer, the store has kiosks so the customer can reprint old receipts. I was able to print one, but that only works if your wallet hasn't been lost or stolen and you replaced your cards. For those people, their warranty is suddenly void.
The other issue is that the manufacturer says that if you pay anything, even a penny, for the replacement, then the warranty period of 12 years starts over. The store claims that, no matter how much you pay, the warranty is never extended. The only way to get a fresh 12 years is to purchase the full item.
Clearly this isn't a concern immediately, but the device is more likely to fail after 8 years from now than it is before. So the manufacturer says they will cover it, but the store says they won't.
Lastly, I called the manufacturer back to ensure I understood correctly. Before I was even half way through my question, they asked, "Is this store xxx?" "Yes." "They always screw this up. They never call us like they are supposed to."

Steps so far: Called the number on the company website to talk with corporate. It was a fax machine. And there a numerous comments, going back years, complaining about the only number being a fax machine.
Talked with the local store manager. He didn't see any reason they would take a return without a receipt, no matter what the manufacturer said. Didn't seem to comprehend the difference between a store warranty and a manufacturer warranty.

The store sold the item and sells me the replacement. Do they get to determine the conditions? Or does the manufacturer's terms control? What are my options if the store refuses to replace it next time? It's too big to mail back.

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They are separate warranties. The store doesn’t have to do anything about the manufacturer’s warranty and vice versa. It is of course good service if the store takes care of things for you, but that isn’t legally required.

I expect that you don’t need a receipt but proof of purchase. A bank statement or credit card statement should do. My bank (in the U.K.) can provide statements 10 years back online.

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  • This makes sense, but leaves me unsure how best to proceed. I'll mark this as the answer if we don't get any clearer direction.
    – BWhite
    Oct 6 '20 at 19:52

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