Skeptic Turtle's Blog-O-Rama

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NOVEMBER 3, 2009 11:42AM

UPDATED! Sears gets around to fixing things

Rate: 13 Flag


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.

What next?

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.


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And don't get me started on Target...
We bought a recumbent exercise bike from Sears a few years back. Didn't have any of the extra hassles that you did (ours was in store and we could bring it home/set it up ourselves). But we were advised to buy the extended warranty because it came with a free maintenance call. We figured that was probably worthwhile, as we're not exercise machine specialists, and getting a "tune-up" isn't bad practice.

Fast-foward...we call for our maintenance checkup and they send out a very nice man. He takes one look at the bike and says "there's nothing to maintain - everything is internal or electronic." He was nice enough to putter around and make sure the seat was on tight and that it was securely plugged into the wall, but that was all he could do. There were no belts, bearings, or moving parts to maintain. The warranty would cover the replacement of the electronic motherboard, but he said that the warranty basically meant that they would try to replace the machine if it imploded, but there was no other value in it. Great.

So when Sears called up a few days later to see if we wanted to extend our can guess where I told them to stick their warranty!
Reader, crazy! Yes, I had the service plan sold to me several times. With a treadmill, it might make more sense, but the cost was a bit high and could better go with a replacement in a few years time. (God bless the don't-fix-buy-new economy!)
I ordered a couch from them and got such an insane runaround in delivery cancelled it. Weeks later it wasnt delivered, they didnt know where it was, if it was being delivered. They are poorly run. Walmart suceeds on one thing. Efficient management. Offer everything, if it seels keep it, if it doesn't drop it. It's bad that a lot of business suffer because of this, but why blame someone for offering a ton of things cheaper than their competitor?

It was like the govenment complaining about Microsoft giving away a web browser. So the govenment was HELPING US by trying to make us BUY ONE from Netscape? How? I bet all the gov really wanted was directions for spying on us through holes in the OS.
Ah, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing at the crumbling, crazy-quilt retail empire. I am really bummed by both Sears and Macy's being on the brink of their demises. They both represent middle class retail (Sears being the low end of the mid, and Macy's occupying the high). If they should fall, we will only be left with low-end stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Ikea and then insanely expensive stores that cater to Goldman-Sachs traders. Our retail landscape is becoming indicative of the decline of the middle class and the growing gap between the wealthy and poor. This is not to say that Sears isn't putting the noose around its own neck here though. Sorry for the Kafkaesque nightmare of ordering exercise equipment from "Where America Shops."
Thanks for your comments. I like the IDEA of Sears: an American icon that sells just about everything a modern, middle class family could need. It seems like they've had a difficult time adopting to the 21st century. The companies that offer seamless, well-delivered service are going to be the ones that thrive.

The prices at Sears are pretty competitive from what I've seen. But when I go into a Sears they are empty, depressing places.
I had very much the same experience last year trying to buy a new TV. I ended up getting it somewhere else for much less cost. They had a little tab under the TV on the shelf saying that the protection plan was only $53, which they wouldn't honor... oh... I don't even want to get into it.

(thumbified because it's every Turtle for themselves out there, man.)
It was exhausting reading about this experience. Didn't these numerous exercises teach you why you do NOT want that treadmill? This is the part of the male brain I will never understand. O'Really good post!
After I read Barbara Ehrenreich's book I swore I would never shop at WalMart again. Now WalMart has good service in my town and cheaper prices. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
O'Really--I'm no apologist for the male brain, but in this instance, it's the missus who really wants the treadmill.

Bernadine--I'm with you. I still don't go to Walmart. I'd like to say it's due to principles, but mostly it's because everyone seems so depressed when I go into one. I live in the land of Target in Minnesota and spend my retail time there. But yesterday I found myself bitching at them for their service.

I'm really a much more easy-going person than I sound like here! Honest!
My first real job was at Sears when I turned 16 31 years ago today and I kept it all through high school and college until my first career job landed. I eventually worked in every department (except big-ticket commission items). Sears really meant something to American people back then and for decades before that. Sears was always my Go-To store for big ticket items, tools, and household items. It is sad that like all things, Sears too changed. We have been guilty recently of using Sears to evaluate big ticket items in person and then coming home to purchase elsewhere on-line. It really makes me feel guilty, but as your story proves, Sears hasn't exactly been loyal to the American consumer in their quality of service either. Sigh.
... just to defend Sears a bit here - my local Sears store has done a good job for me in the past couple of years (since it was applicable for me) in products and deliveries. They're understaffed, but the (very young) people working the counters are doing a good job as well.

AND I don't want my choices to be either Nordstroms or Walmart. I won't shop at Walmart unless I have to, so that leaves Nordstroms.

It sounds to me as if you have the perfect treadmill. Just keep on going to Sears, and the excuses will never end.
I should point out that the individuals I have dealt with at Sears have been overwhelmingly professional and friendly. It's not about the people, it's about the whole customer-unfriendly system they've got going on.
In good news, they called and are supposed to deliver tomorrow morning. It'll turn out that Monday will have been the only day this week I've been able to work a full day.

But I'll have a treadmill soon if all goes smoothly. Ha!
The delivery was this morning!

The treadmill came out of the box broken!

They want me to jump through a bunch more hoops!

Will update soon.
Dear Skeptic turtle

We are sorry to hear about the problems you have experienced with your treadmill purchase. It is our goal at Sears to provide our customers with the highest quality service and to exceed your expectations. At this time we have failed to do this for you and we would appreciate the opportunity to right this situation. My name is David and I work for the Sears Cares executive team and we want you to know we are here for assistance. At your convenience please contact my office via email at so we can work together on resolving this issue. Please provide a contact and the phone number the treadmill was purchased under (if different than the contact) and we will call you at your convenience. In addition please include your screen name(Skeptic turtle) in your email so we can reference to your posting.

Thank you,

David V.
Senior Case Manager
Sears Cares
It wasn't my intention with the post, but blogging is one way to get customer service attention.

I'm going to close comments for a bit and will give a final update when everything's resolved.