A Service Nightmare: Sears, Roebuck and Co.
In August of 2002, my wife and I purchased a Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator/freezer for just over a thousand dollars. We were a little disappointed when in less than two years the electronic control board failed and had to be replaced. Of course it wasn't covered by the warranty, but I managed to save on the service call by ordering and installing the part myself.
Less than seven months later, we were experiencing more than a little disappointment, as Sears made us painfully aware of just what they mean when they say, We service what we sell!
Tuesday evening, December 7, 2004, I arrived home to an unfamiliar hummmclick noise. I traced it to the refrigerator, and found it thawing out. I eventually found the source of the noise to be the compressor, and after removing the relay clamp and reseating the relay without solving the problem, I made the assumption that the compressor was bad, and would need to be replaced.
Since I felt certain this was more than I could handle, we called Sears 1-800-4-MY-HOME to arrange a service call. We specifically requested that the technician bring a compressor, so we wouldn't have to wait an additional week for a part. This request was dutifully noted on the service log. We were told that it would be the following week before a technician could be scheduled, since our area was serviced only on Mondays. We weren't happy with the prospect of being without our refrigerator for a week, but we didn't have a lot of options.
The technician arrives as scheduled on Monday, December 13th at 12:37pm. Within a few minutes he has found the clamp I left off in anticipation of the compressor being changed, and immediately informs my wife that he has found the problem. She tells him that he needs to call me, since she knows I probably left the clamp off intentionally. The technician calls me, and I confirm that I had left the clamp off when I reseated the relay in hopes of fixing the problem. He tells me that he can't find anything wrong with the refrigerator, he's plugged it in and it is cooling, and he's done all he can do.
No sense in replacing parts that aren't bad, he says. That's hard to argue with, but what caused the Hmmmclick and thawing, I ask. Probably a brown-out or drop in voltage. Sounds reasonable to me, since it hadn't been too long since Hurricane Ivan had us completely without power for a week. At 1:03pm, the technician departs, but not before collecting a fee of $102.00 for his trouble. Not bad for 26 minutes.
On Tuesday, the 14th at 11:00am, shortly after the refrigerator had been restocked, the Hmmmclick is back with a vengeance. The cooling stops, and the thawing begins. We call 1-800-4-MY-HOME to plead our case and try to get a technician as soon as possible, but we're told that it will be Monday, the 20th, before a technician will be available in our area.
We believe the right thing to do, under the circumstances, would be for Sears to arrange for a technician to return at the earliest possible time, but the customer service representative is neither sympathetic nor cooperative. My wife asked to speak to a manager, and was told that someone would call back within the hour. No one called.
The next morning we received a message on our answering machine that bluntly informed us that we (service center) cannot force someone into your area for routine service calls, your appointment will be Monday, the 20th. We no longer considered this a routine service call, in light of the fact that not only did I not have the use of my refrigerator, but I was now out $102.00 as well.
On Monday the 20th a service technician arrives, as scheduled, and lo and behold, he finds the compressor to be bad! Of course he didn't happen to have one with him. It would have to be ordered, and an appointment made for next Monday, the 27th, to have it installed. We were going to be out of town that day, so I asked my parents if they would come to our house while the repairs were made.
That Sunday, the 26th, we called 1-800-4-MY-HOME, and were told the technician would arrive at our house at 9:36am. We relayed this information to my folks, and they said they'd be there well ahead of the technician. Everything was finally coming together.
We arrived home on Tuesday evening, the 28th, expecting to find the refrigerator running. Instead, I find a note from my mother. Sorry, no refrigerator it says, the part did not arrive. I didn't understand, so I immediately called her. She explained that Monday morning they were waiting on the technician, as planned, when the phone rang. It was the technician, and he wanted to know if the part had been delivered. She told him she was certain that I was under the impression that he would be bringing the part with him. And she was absolutely right.
No one had said anything about having the part delivered to my home. She spent the rest of that day, and most of the next, trying to locate the part. She was told by the local retailer, and by customer service representatives that the part would surely be delivered by Tuesday evening. It was not.
That evening I called 1-800-4-MY-HOME. The customer service representative that answered stated his name along with a greeting that included something about thanking me for choosing Sears and living the good life. I told him I wasn't living the good life, I had been without my refrigerator for nearly a month, and I was getting very irritated with Sears.
We had learned by this time that the people who take calls on the 1-800-4-MY-HOME number are simply there to provide a shoulder to cry on, or as a target for a good cussin' out. They don't seem to have the authority to actually make the kinds of decisions that positively affect customer relations. I sure didn't feel like crying, and wouldn't even consider tearing into this poor fellow, but I did want some answers.
After much searching, he was able to locate a tracking number for the part, and offered it to me along with a phone number to the carrier who had the part. I refused these numbers, and instead told him that I felt like Sears needed to be making these calls, and should then let me know when the part would be delivered. He documented my comments, but could not guarantee that someone would actually call me with the information. The next morning, I had a message from someone representing Sears, stating that the part would be delivered by 4:00pm, and that when I received it, I should call for a service appointment. The part was delivered at 2:45pm.
When we called to make an appointment, we were told it would be Monday, January 3rd, before a technician would be available in our area. We again called both Sears and the local retailer to try and get someone sooner, but once again received a stern message the following morning that our service appointment would be for January 3rd. Sunday night we called to see when we could expect the technician, and were informed that we were number 4 on the list, and we could expect the technician to arrive anytime between 8am and 5pm.
A whole month without my refrigerator, and I'm number 4 on the list. Unbelievable! No telling how long the first 3 customers on the list had been waiting for service, probably months, or maybe even years, who knows.
Monday, January 3rd, the technician arrives, and the compressor is replaced without incident.
Sears had two opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to customer service, but deliberately neglected both. The first opportunity was in week two following the botched service call. Sears should have done whatever was necessary to get a technician back to us immediately, or at least some time before the next Monday.
The second opportunity came after the part was not delivered in time for the routine service call, after we had been without our refrigerator for three weeks. By not making any effort to remedy a situation they created, Sears, Roebuck and Co. demonstrated a callous disregard for us as customers. We purchased this refrigerator from Sears for the same reason most people do; we grew up trusting the name and the brand. All that has now changed.
I'm pretty sure that the corporate bigwigs in Chicago who call the shots at Sears, Roebuck and Co. won't care much about the opinion of some old fat boy living in south Alabama. But there are many consumers, just like us, who might be shopping for appliances, and these folks need to know what they could be in for. Caveat emptor.
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