UPDATED IV: Because I filed a BBB complaint, I've been shuffled to a BBB case manager and out of the hands of the previous Sears customer care person with whom I was working. This happened just before he was able to credit back my account with the promised discount. So now I'm back in limbo in getting the promised discount.
UPDATE III: I now have a treadmill in working order in my house! Getting it was quite a lot of pain for something that should have been pretty straightforward. Once I got the attention of people further up the customer service chain, I got some good attention, apologies, and fixes. I even was provided a discount for my pain.
I'm glad to report that Sears is a store that can get things sorted out once the right people get involved. My problem appears to have been some bad luck, customer unfriendly systems, and being unable to find someone who could/would help me out. I don't know to what degree this is a Sears-specific problem. Certainly consumers have problems with a lot of other businesses. But if businesses want to succeed, I have to believe that they need to have streamlined systems and can-do approaches to customer service problems. A customer shouldn't have to be told to "hope for the best."
UPDATE II: I've gotten a lot of attention from Sears the last couple of days. They've been working hard to fix things. Right now it looks like I'm to get a special weekend delivery of the treadmill on Sunday. I've gotten an apology and an alleged discount with it. I'll give the final report after everything has been fixed.
UPDATE: I got a morning delivery. They bring it in, unpack it, and discovered the treadmill is broken. It can't be fixed with just a couple of spare parts. They force me to "refuse" the delivery in order to take it out of my house and pack it all up.
They can't simply arrange for a new item of that model to be delivered. I have to go back to the store. I call the store. They tell me to come in. I demand to handle it over the phone. I get shuffled to 4 people and told I'll be called back right away. No call back yet.
I filed a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau. Let's see what happens next! Will I or will I not ever have a treadmill in my house?
I sound like an old fogy, but... whatever happened to customer service? I know it's not the same as spending two weeks in jail for expired tabs, or dealing with gender-identity (or lack there of) discrimination, or having someone close to you make crappy decisions that involve children... But I'm still pissed.
Sears has been struggling for a number of years. Its current conglomeration of Sears stores, K-Marts, and a bunch of proprietary brands has found itself steadily losing ground to Walmart and others. In the last reporting period, Sears revenues were down over 10% from the previous year's quarter. Walmart suffered a mere 1.4% loss.
Why? Well I learned a few reasons why Sears is no longer the retailer.
The elusive treadmill
The wifey and I wanted a treadmill. Everyone told us to try Craigslist. But we wanted to get something we knew would work and last a long time. Plus, Sears transports it and puts it together for you for a minimal charge. We didn't want to deal with the trouble of finding, evaluating, paying, transporting, and setting up a Craigslist treadmill. If we only knew...
Lesson 1: In store #1
We went to the lovely Sears at the Mall of America. After some mulling and help from a friendly Sears clerk, we settled on a treadmill that had a big discount on it. We waited as the clerk called the distribution center. Then he called all the other area Sears stores. They were completely sold out. After spending an hour with a loopy toddler in the Sears fitness section, we came up empty handed and went home.
Lesson 2: Online
Indeed, when we got home, the model we wanted was no longer on the Sears website. We settled on another one we liked. Why not just do an online order? For some reason, home delivery and set-up costs $200 online and only $65 if you arrange from the store. OK. We chalk it up to getting bad information in the store.
When I get to payment method, I'm informed that I can get approved for a Sears card immediately and have 0% financing for 6 months. Sure! sounds like a good way to finance this big purchase. As promised, I was approved pretty quickly, but it would not allow me to use it for the purchase. On the phone with Sears, I learn I can't make any purchases online until I get the physical card in two weeks and that they are unable to give me my new card number over the phone for security reasons. "Why does your website imply I can use the card immediately then?" She had no good answer. "But," she tells me, "if you make a purchase in-store the clerk can call up and get the purchase approved on your credit account without requiring a card." OK, fine.
Lesson 3: In store #2
I go to a different Sears store that is convenient to picking my daughter from school. There, I confirm that I can indeed put a purchase on my new Sears card with a Social Security number and photo ID. (He tells me financing is for 12 months, not 6.)
The hang-up this time is that he can't order a home delivery for me. Apparently my ZIP code in the middle of Minneapolis, in the middle of the Twin Cities Metro region, and within 20 minutes of three Sears stores is not eligible for delivery. The clerk spends 15 minutes on the phone and works it out. I arrange to have it delivered the following Tuesday morning. I'm told they will call me the night before to confirm the exact timing. Great! The treadmill is on its way. (The cost for delivery is only $65--not the $200 the website was to bill me. Bonus!)
Incidentally, while I'm there, I see the original treadmill we wanted listed as available at that location.
Lesson 4: Delivery scheduling
The night before the delivery a recorded message tells me the delivery will be between 2:45 and 4:45 PM the next day. Not in the morning. I call up the central customer service line and explain how I'm very flexible before 2:00 PM and had arranged for this to be in the morning. I'm told I have no control over time. I explain that I'm flexible on what day and over much of the times, but am not flexible around the hour period that I pick my daughter up from school. She explains they have to have flexibility to best fit in where all their appointments are. I tell her I understand that, but there is no way I can be there during that specific time and that I am flexible on what day. She says I can just cancel after each time I get the call if it doesn't work and "hope for the best." I decide not to reschedule it, but to call the local Sears store.
Lesson 5: Calling the store
I call the store and get a nice guy in the fitness department. He apologizes right off and confirms that I was given incorrect information at his store. There is no way to indicate a preference for morning or afternoon with deliveries and tells me they do it that way to conserve gas. (The you-don't-want-us-to-poison-the-planet-for-your-convenience argument!) He also tells me to cancel each time I get the day-before call if it conflicts until I get a time that works. "All you can do is hope for the best." Great!
Lesson 6: Calling customer service again
A last-ditch effort, I call customer service to see if I get a more helpful person. She confirms that the last person went ahead and canceled my next day delivery even though I had decided to wait on that. In retrospect, this is too bad because my daughter ends up being home sick the next day and I'm stuck at home anyways. She contradicts other previous information and tells me she can put a note on the file that indicates a preference for the AM but made no guarantees. I thank her for her help after calmly bitching for a couple minutes about Sears' apparent low regard for its customers.
I still don't have the Sears credit card (it's been just 10 days) and still don't have the treadmill. I'm just hoping for the best so I can be forever done with my relationship with Sears, Roebuck and Co.