I purchased a Sears Kenmore Elite Calypso Wash Machine in June 2001. It stopped working in December 2004 and it was out of warranty, so I called Sears for service. I had no problem scheduling the repair or with the two technicians who came to my home. The first technician diagnosed the problem and informed me that a part had failed that Sears calls the Control Panel and that this part would have to be replaced.
Here's the ripoff: The part known as the Control Panel cost me $417.62 plus tax (labor was extra). I will try to attach a photo of this part. It is a piece of sheet metal with two layers of stick-on components: one layer is a stick-on printed circuit board containing 35 LED's and 18 membrane switches; the other layer is a stick-on decorative cover to view the LED's & operate the membrane switches. The Control Panel also contains a digital display of time remaining in the cycle and a flexible connector. There are no active electronic components in this part except maybe the countdown timer.
I worked for many years for a large corporation that manufactures electronic devices, so I am aware of actual costs for parts like this. I am also aware of normal markups for repair parts. The cost to Whirlpool (the actual manufacturer) is in the range of $25 to $50 and a normal 3x to 4x service markup would put the customer price for this part in the range of $75 to $200. I suspect that Whirlpool marks it up with a full markup when it sells it to Sears and then Sears hits it with another full markup before it gets to the customer.
The Sears Customer Relations phone number that I was given was disconnected. I finally made it through the phone maze and received a callback from a woman in the Sears Customer Relations Department. Essentially, her response was "If the Technician was not surprised by the cost of this part, it must be OK because we (Sears) are very diligent about setting our prices." I told her that one of the Sears technicians had advised me to scrap this wash machine and buy one with manual controls because of the ridiculously high prices for repair parts. He was professional and I don't want to get him in trouble because of his statement. This didn't seem to phase her and she refused to do any more investigation about the cost of this part.
If anyone from Sears reads this, be aware that I have roughly 300 people in my e-mail address book and I have informed all of them about the ripoff cost of this part as well as the "tough luck" attitude of the Sears Customer Relations Department. I will soon be buying a refrigerator, dishwasher & lawn mower and I assure you that Sears will not even be considered for my business. Maybe some of the 300 on my list will also be buying appliances from other companies - one can only hope that I steered them away from Sears.