August 19, 2014

An Unpleasant Experience With Sears

My wife and I went shopping for a fridge.    We found the make/model we wanted and ended up buying one at Sears.   The fridge we got retails for about $2500 but it was on sale and we got a discount with our Sears card so it cost us around $1800 plus an extra $70 or so for delivery & install.   Bestbuy had the model in question for about $2100 at the time.   We've generally been happy shopping for appliances at Sears as they have a good selection and good prices.

The fridge was to be delivered on a Tuesday around 8:30 AM.   That morning about 7 AM or 7:30 AM they called my cell phone and left a couple messages.  One of the messages said they had discovered a dent in the side of the fridge but since they couldn't reach me they would just deliver it anyway but should be able to offer a discount.   I told my wife about this and she wasn't pleased about the dent since if we'd wanted a dented fridge we could have shopped at the Sears Outlet and gotten a steep discount.   My wife felt that we should be able to get 50% discount but I figured that would be on the high side and I told her I expected maybe 10-20% off.   We were both far too optimistic.

The delivery guys showed up around 9AM give or take.   They unboxed the fridge and showed me the dent.   It was a very noticeable dent and not a simple scuff or anything.   It was about the size of a quarter coin and maybe 1/16" deep.    BUT the dent was on the side and should be hidden when installed in our kitchen due to the way our cabinets are setup.   Of course that wouldn't be true for other customers, in my old house that dent would be totally visible since there aren't cabinets on that side.  I asked the delivery guy about the discount mentioned on the phone message and he wasn't aware of that so he called some sort of Sears customer support number and he gave me the phone.

I talked to the service person myself.   The service lady offered me a whopping $30 off OR a 10% coupon of some sort.   I turned that down flat and told her she had to do better than that.   She then replied that she could go all the way up to $50.   No I told her again thats not good enough.   I asked she talk to a supervisor.    She put me on hold and then came back to say the $50 was the best she could do or she could give me 10% off...   I cut her off there and told her I didn't want a coupon.   She said the 10% would be off this purchase which seemed to contradict what she told me before.   In any case the $50 or 10% off coupon was not nearly enough to compensate for taking damaged goods considering we expect a 30% discount in their outlet store.   I told the woman on the phone
"no thanks" and the guys packed up the fridge and drove off.   Neither the woman on the phone nor the delivery guys knew when they could get me another fridge.

I went home and told my wife the story and she was equally irritated and surprised that Sears would only offer $50 discount on a dented major appliance.    It doesn't make much financial sense from two perspectives.   First, Sears will probably spend $50 just to make a second delivery when you account for the hourly wages of two delivery guys plus the gas in their big gas guzzling truck.   Second, bigger reason is that they will give much steeper discounts on such dented fridges in their outlet store.  Now they have to turn around and sell that fridge in the outlet store for a steep discount.  If they'd simply given me that steep discount they could have made the sale right then and saved another trip.

After talking to my wife at home I was still annoyed by the whole thing and surprised that $50 was the best Sears would actually offer.   I decided to call them again and ask about it to see if this is really their policy.  I also needed to try and find out when they could deliver another (non-dented) fridge.

In my second call I first talked to a service person who gave me the same story and offered me the $50 discount.   They didn't know when the 2nd fridge could be delivered.   I asked to talk to a manager and they told me that their manager would just say the same thing.  I insisted.   That person put me on hold then transferred me.  When the call picked up I found I was talking to my local Sears store for some reason.  The first customer rep had just cold transferred me to the local store rather than get her manager on the phone as I'd asked.  I told the story to the person at the store again and they transferred me to another department.   The third person I talked to couldn't help much either but they did transfer me to a supervisor of some sort.   The supervisor was the fourth person I had to talk to and the fourth time I repeated the story.   I explained the situation to the supervisor and she offered me a whopping $100 discount.   No thanks.   At least the supervisor was able to tell me they could deliver the second fridge on Saturday so that was not too far away.

Now while I was waiting on the phone and being transferred between every Sears employee I had gotten on the net and looked up the Sears Outlet.   In the Outlet store I found the SAME model fridge in an 'open box' state with some sort of dent damage for about $1500.  The outlet store website show the exact damage but I at least know that you can get a substantial discount via their outlet on damaged merchandise.    Knowing that they'd have to cut $300 minimum off our already good sales price or $1000 of the full retail due to dents, I figured that them offering me $100 off wasn't very good.  

In the end the second fridge was delivered promptly on Saturday with no damage.  We got what we paid for, and it just took a little longer and subjected us to some inconvenience and several annoying phone discussions with unhelpful Sears employees.

There are a few things  I'm unhappy about with this whole experience.
1. The initial offer of $30 discount on a $2500 appliance was pretty insulting and the fact that they would only go up to $50 was really no help.
2. Sears wasted their own time and effort making two deliveries here and if they had instead given me a good discount on the dented fridge they would have completed the sale and saved a second delivery.
3. Now Sears has an unhappy customer ranting about it on the web and they still have that dented fridge they have to try and sell to someone else at a steep discount.
4. When I called Sears the customer support that I got was pretty poor.   I asked to talk to a manager and the service rep just dumped me on the local Sears store.   I was transferred between 4 people in that second call.
5. I don't recall anyone I talked to on the phone being particularly apologetic nor empathetic, (not counting them reading words on their scripts).

The only positives are that
1. the delivery guys were pretty nice about it and understanding.  
2. I didn't get any hassle or run around about getting a replacement new fridge.

One semi ironic detail:  I am now a VIP customer in their Shop Your Way Rewards program.   Let the exclusive VIP treatment begin!

An extra note :  This situation with the fridge actually happened quite a while ago and I'm only now gotten around to writing about it. 

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  1. Personally, if it was going to be covered up anyways, I would have taken the $50. 50 bucks is 50 bucks.

    Though I do agree, it was odd they couldn't offer any more.

  2. SteveD, Yeah I can certainly understand that reaction. As you say, if it was covered then its not a big deal. As I noted this was a while ago so I don't remember the exact thinking other than being irritated that their offer was so low. I think I was probably arguing more on principal that their discount should be higher, as well as being irritated that they showed up with a dented product and then getting upset about their inflexibility.
    I am also not sure if it was readily obvious right away if the dent would be covered when installed or not. I probably would have had to measure the exact location of the dent to know for sure. So when I was arguing about the discount I might have just had an assumption that it would "probably" be covered. But I can't recall for sure.


  3. Fair enough. Also you had to consider the possibility they were bluffing and if you continued to refuse the delivery, they might have raised the offer. They didn't (and certainly by the third person you talked to, it became clear that's not what they were doing.)

    And they had to consider the possibility you were gaming them; similar to how some thrift stores won't price an item on the floor with no price, to avoid people removing price tags hoping it would get re-priced lower. There are some long-term, big-picture considerations, such as behavior they want to encourage or discourage.

    1. SteveD,

      Yeah they may very well have good reasoning behind their actions.

      I wonder how many people accept the low $30 or $50 discounts? Maybe if the majority of people simply take the small credit then Sears knows its better for them overall to not go higher. Could be.

      Or it may just be an arbitrary policy giving $30 off for any 'minor' blemish on any appliance. So $30 off for a $250 diswasher or a $2500 fridge. They might have to stick to arbitrary numbers since otherwise they'd have individual employees simply making up numbers and too much variability. So they might set a hard rule of $30 discount for any 'minor' blemish. And maybe the small dent was just small enough to be 'minor' versus a 'major' one.


  4. Really sorry to hear this happened to you. If I may offer some information from my own Sears drama, it might explain a few things. 1) I believe except in the largest metro areas, that the Sears stores have moved to an 'affiliate' model where they have to be individually profitable and consider the store before the Sears brand; 2) delivery company is contracted (not Sears), and was most likely at the store from which you purchased when they called; 2) the 'service' number was most likely the store, so when you were connected with the store manager that was most likely the 'service' person's manager; 3) the profit margin at this point is so low ($1,800, less the additional delivery charge) that the $30, $50, $100 discounts were probably offered with the margin (not your satisfaction) in mind 4) Home Depot and Lowe's offer 10% discount for superficial damage.

    I also bought several large items from a Sears, had a problem and got substandard service (and the 'affiliate' explanation/excuse) got the VIP discount, card, and was dissatisfied. "A happy customer tells 3 people, an unhappy one tells 30!" (or in your case, Jim, 30,000)

  5. JayCeezy, Thanks for the input. Your info certainly does make more sense of how Sears acted. I do think that the 10% discount HD & Lowes gives is more in line with what I'd expect.


  6. Yes, Jim, our experiences are not uncommon, unfortunately. My most recent with Sears involved a $1,000 riding mower less than 2 years old and 20 hours on it, that blew a head-gasket for a $400 repair. I also had a recent experience with Milgard windows, bought $16,000 worth just six months ago and understood the warrantee to cover lifetime breaks. The dealer/installer referred me to Milgard, who referred me back to the dealer/installer who apologized (he actually remembered me and the verbal sales point made for the window breaks). He wanted to 'make it right' and would replace the window for cost. No thanks, I'm going to give another business a chance. btw, here is a Reuters article today 8/21/14, noting Sears has had 9 quarters of losses in a row. Whatever, my 'buy American' efforts have been unsatisfactory for a long time.

  7. Hello Jim, saw this article and was reminded of your experience on this post. Hope you, and others, find the story, about Sears closing 235 stores in accelerated manner, of interest.

  8. JayCeezy,

    Yeah I saw that. Its a shame really. I don't 'hate' Sears honestly. I like a lot about the stores to be honest.



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