I’ve been a Sears customer for many many years. I even liked them, especially for tools. Now let me tell you how this all changed a hundred and eighty degrees.
Yesterday around noon I was home and discovered that my water heater broke. Water was flowing nicely, there was no question about it – it’s the water heater. It was manufactured less than 8 years ago with a 9 years warranty for the product. A no-brainer, it’s under warranty.
On the water heater there are nice big stickers, one stating the 9 years limited warranty (no labor after the first year, only parts) and one showing a toll free phone number to call. So I called.
After a “short” ten minutes with hold music, I got a heavy accented rep, and explained the situation. He said, oh, this is not the water heater department, let me transfer you. I was immediately transferred to the hearing aid customer service, listening to music on hold again. Can they hear it if they call for service? Anyway, after a few minutes on hold I tried pressing “0” to get an operator to transfer me to the correct department, and got disconnected promptly.
So I called again. I’ll cut it short here in sake of you the reader, and get to the point where, after another half an hour, I actually spoke to someone in the water heater department. I explained the situation. The response: “No problem, we need to schedule a technician that will come and check that the heater is really broken, and the earliest is tomorrow between 1-5″. I said “what? I need this replaced today!” Again, I’ll skip the long talk and say they wouldn’t budge. I said, OK let’s schedule this first, before you’ll tell me it will take even longer.
Then I asked what will be the cost for Sears to replace it after the inspection. The answer? First, the rep said, you will be charged $79 for the inspection, and the replacement labor will cost you additional $299.99.
Stop, I said. You mean that in order for Sears to honor the warranty, I have to pay $79? The rep said “no, it’s the trip charge”. I replied that I don’t want to pay it, I have my plumber that approve that it’s the water heater, he can bring it to the store for them to inspect when he will come to pick up the replacement. “No sir, we have to send a technician first to verify it is broken.” And I have to pay for that? I asked to speak to a supervisor. “We don’t have one available, I can ask one to call you back when he’s available”. When will that be? I asked. “Tomorrow” was the answer. “And you’ll pay for me to go shower in a hotel?” I responded.
I kept trying. I got two reps to hang up on me when I insisted to talk to a supervisor or a manager about it. I also spoke to one rep that assure me I will not be charged for the “inspection” but after I asked for his name and rep ID, and that he’ll put a note under my account that I will not be charged, he suddenly “checked” and said I will be charged $79. Ah, yes….
Eventually, around 7pm, after trying everything from calling to online chatting on the Sears service website which is completely pointless (all they do is give you phone number to call, they don’t answer any question), I called it a day. So a technician is scheduled to come the next day between 1-5 “and he will call before to give you a better time frame to when he’ll come” they said.
So this morning I called again and asked to talk to a supervisor or manager. “not available to take you call”. Are they ever? Eventually through online chat (remember, they give you phone numbers to call, it’s like a 411 for sears, maybe they should call it Sears 411) I got a number for “retail customer care” 800-549-4505 option #5. I called.
After a short wait (really, this time it was short) I got a very nice lady (Miranda) that said she understand but needs to put me in touch with someone from that department – I begged her to not just transfer me, so she promised she’s going to conference them in and stay on the line. And She did! Amazing!
So, Miranda, John and I were cheerfully chatting about my situation. I explained – I have a product under warranty that is broken. I need it replaced. I don’t want to be charged $79 for Sears to honor the warranty. The warranty does no say that I need to pay $79 for it to be honored. John tried to argue a bit, but hey, that’s his job. After a few more minutes of me repeating my argument they both found safe haven in the dreadful answer we all know “sir, it’s the policy and we can’t change it”. Hmm…I guess that is the law of the land! So I requested an official complaint to be filed. I stayed on the line with Miranda while she wrote the complaint and we parted as friends.
At 1pm I was still waiting for a call from the tech to tell me when he’s coming over (“between 1-5”), so I called. Surprisingly I was on hold for only a few seconds. Wow! For the 13th time I repeated my phone number, and then my name and address for them to make sure it’s me and that they know where I live. I asked about the technician “we don’t have this information, but I’ll send him a message to call you before he’s heading over”.
At 4:07Pm the guy shows up without calling first. He was nice, Orson. I took him down to the basement. He said “what’s up” I said “it’s leaking” he bent a bit, pulled the cover off, said “yep, you see the rim is wet? It’s the water heater leaking.” Wow! He should change his name to Sherlock! He was actually nice, and knew exactly what I was referring to with the service and the $79 charge, and then he nicely asked me for a check or credit card.
So $79? It’s actually $84.53 with the tax. “Verify Tank Leak” $79. “Tax on Labor” $5.53. This is for Sears to honor the warranty. Nothing else was done.
You think this is over, right? Too much to read already? And I skipped a lot… well, it’s not over yet.
The tech says that no I have to call Sears to get an authorization number and store availability. He was on the phone with them to tell them that he verified it, but I have to call too. I asked him to wait and I called.
Hold music…a rep answered…”I’m not from that department, I’m transferring you” Hold music…eventually Keisha answered. She needs to process it, please call again in 10 minutes. “WHAT?” It takes more than 10 minutes for you to answer when I call. “We can call you back in 10 minutes”. OK, please give me your rep ID # “ I can’t do that sir, that’s personal information” Hmmm…isn’t that the reason you have a rep ID #, so I don’t get your full name? Well, Keisha gave me a case reference number and said they’ll call me back in 10 minutes. “it’s 4:32pm no Keisha, I’m waiting for a call by 4:42. Before hanging up I asked her “how much will it be for the labor if I want Sears to do it today” just to verify it’s $299.99 as they told me. Well, the answer was $344 and they can’t do it today, too late. Unbelievable.
At 4:50 I called them again. Hold music…hold music…hold music…a rep answered. My phone number. Name. Address. “I was promised a call back with the authorization number”. Sir, we don’t call back. Great, can you give me the authorization number? Sir, you only called half an hour ago, it takes at least two hours to process. WHAT? Let me talk to a supervisor or a manager. “None are here”. Are you there alone? In the dark? It’s cold? I insisted to talk to a manager. After a few minutes of me explaining the facts of life to her, and she insisting it takes two hours and there’s no manager on site or anywhere in the known universe, she said “let me put you on hold for a minute and check”. Two minutes later she came back with an authorization number for the store and the store to pick it up from. Hmmm….two hours…no manager…I guess that is kinda proven false.
So…I got my plumber to pick it up from the store. Amazingly it was smooth. It’s already installed, for $250 including everything. I will still fight Sears about the $84.53 inspection charge. Good luck to me.
I know where I will not buy a water heater at anymore. I’m not sure about anything else either. Shame.