Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Customer Service Woes: Sears

Every now and then, I like to use my blog as a bit of a soap box to stand on and shout about the wrongs of the world.  One such thing that's wrong is the Sears company.  The short end of the story:

  • My wife and I bought a dishwasher from Sears (Sears installed).
  • The dishwasher leaked upon running.
  • Approximately $4,300 dollars damage to our wooden floors (plus leaking into the ceiling of the room below the kitchen in the basement).
  • We filed claim with Sears.
  • Sears pawns us off to their insurance people, who pawn us off to Whirlpool (the dishwasher brand), who in turn pawn us back off on Sears.  
  • Repeat the above step for about 4 months.

...and there's still no resolution.  Now, my short summary can't compare to my wife's letter of complaint (which she graciously allowed me to use on the blog).  If you'd like to read about our entire plights, here you go:



To the informed consumer:
My husband and I are currently entangled in an utter debacle with the well-known and supposedly reputable company, Sears. The underlying problem: we needed a new dishwasher. Simple solution, yes? I’m presenting our yet-to-be-concluded experience with the hope that other consumers aren’t subjected to the appalling, dishonest, and unacceptable service we’ve received.
On February 16, 2012, I purchased a Kenmore Elite dishwasher from Mansfield’s new hometown Sears store. The two employees (yes, it took two employees plus several phone calls to a more experienced coworker) handling the transaction clearly had little knowledge of the computer system as I waited for over an hour for the processing of my receipt along with scheduling delivery and installation. Unaware of the looming storm that would soon unfold, I did not take their incompetence as a “bad sign,” turn on my heels, and head for higher ground. Hindsight is 20/20. 
On February 21, 2012, the dishwasher was delivered, and it was installed the following day. It is of note that the dishwasher is located within our kitchen island, which is surrounded by hardwood floors. We ran the dishwasher roughly three times during the first two weeks. After two weeks, I noticed the hardwood floor surrounding the island on three sides had begun to buckle. Visually, spaces had developed between the boards, while tactilely, the boards felt uneven and bowed. In addition, the drop-ceiling in our laundry room directly below the kitchen island developed water stains. When I touched the ceiling tiles, they felt wet; I had run the dishwasher the prior evening.  
We reported the incident to Sears, and the technician who had installed the dishwasher returned to investigate the issue. He determined that the damage was not due to an installation error but rather a manufacturer defect in the appliance. He discovered that where the heating element exited the base of the dishwasher was improperly properly sealed. Each time the dishwasher ran, water leaked through the base of the dishwasher under the surrounding hardwood floors and onto the ceiling below. He had the dishwasher pulled out while running so that I could see for myself where the water was escaping at the base of the appliance.
While the installation technician was still at our home, I called Sears corporate allowing the technician to personally speak to the Sears representative to explain the issue. The representative said she would issue a warranty exchange for a new dishwasher that day, March 8th. We were told that we would be receiving a call from Sears concerning the delivery and installation for the replacement dishwasher. The defective dishwasher was taken to the Mansfield Sears store for holding. 
Six days passed and we had heard nothing from Sears. On March 14, my husband called the local Sears to enquire whether our replacement dishwasher had been ordered. The employee was surprised to learn that issue had not been resolved. The only advice he offered was to call Sears’ Customer Relations Department. Later that day, I called Sears corporate, and the representative I spoke with apologized on behalf of Sears for not contacting us. He stated that their system showed a new replacement dishwasher located in a nearby warehouse which could be delivered and installed in the coming week. 
That evening, I received a call from the original installation technician; he stated that he would be
arriving the following day, March 15th to install our replacement dishwasher. When the installation tech brought in our replacement dishwasher, the dishwasher was not in a box
and had sales tickets and advertisements both outside and inside. Confused, I asked the tech if the dishwasher was a floor model. He said, yes, that the replacement dishwasher was a floor model from he local Sears in Mansfield. The installation tech ran the dishwasher to make sure it worked but didn't even bother to remove the various tags and stickers before doing so which left a big soggy mess for me to clean up.  After the installation tech left, I called the local Sears store with the complaint that I had paid for a new dishwasher, I was told on the phone by Sears corporate that the replacement dishwasher was ordered and shipped new from a warehouse, and that I was not asked or told that I would be receiving a floor model. The employee stated the dishwasher I received was the exact model I had looked at in their store on February 16th. He assured me that the dishwasher had never been used and “was basically new.” I argued that I had paid full price for a “new” dishwasher. 
Because floor models are sold at a discounted price, I felt I should be compensated for the difference.  He stated he did not have the authority to make that decision and again suggested that I call Sears’ Customer Relations Department. I later called the original installation technician to investigate further. According to the tech, he had questioned the local store regarding the issuing of a floor model. The Sears employee told the tech that the dishwasher “had been taken out of the box only yesterday.” I informed the tech that the same Sears employee had told me the dishwasher was the floor model I looked at in-store on February 16th.  
That day, we called customer relations. The Sear’s representative was initially surprised and confused that our replacement dishwasher had been installed that day. Their system showed that a new dishwasher order had been placed and was scheduled to be delivered on March 20 th. After being on hold for over one hour, the representative returned and stated that in order to accommodate us, the floor model dishwasher was installed as a “stop-gap” until the new warehouse dishwasher arrived on the 20th, FOUR DAYS later. Logically, this explanation was poor. The representative stood by her claim, emphasizing that it wasn’t a “mix-up” but rather an extra measure to ensure our satisfaction. She stated that Sears would be contacting us by Tuesday March 20th to schedule the delivery and installation (for the third time) of the new dishwasher. 
No one contacted us from Sears by March 20th. Surprised? We called customer relations, again. The representative informed us that their system showed no new dishwasher ordered or scheduled to be ordered. While I was frustrated and angry that Sears hadn’t asked or informed us that we were getting a floor model before delivering it for installation, I was ready to wash my hands of Sears and Roebuck. We were willing to keep the floor model dishwasher, despite being lied to by both local and corporate Sears’ employees, but felt that we should be compensated for the price difference. The representative stated that the price of the “new” dishwasher at the local hometown Sears store was already discounted from the full-store price and that no further discount would be granted. 
In addition to dealing with Sears’ abomination of a customer service department, we’ve simultaneously had to open a claim with their insurance claim management service, Sedgwick. Sedgwick initially instructed us to acquire two to three estimates for the damage repairs to our kitchen island, hardwood floors, and laundry room ceiling. Our first quote came back at $4,300 worth of damages. Sedgwick then informed us that any claim estimated over $2,000 had to deal directly with the manufacturer, in our case, Whirlpool. 
Whirlpool is requesting a multitude of information from us, which includes “A Service Work Order from an Authorized Service Company’s technician that gives the name and the Whirlpool Factory Specified (FSP) part number of the alleged defective part.” Who should I call? I mistakenly thought Sears. I called Sears corporate to attempt to schedule a service work order. It would seem that this service order request would be fairly straight forward, but the inefficiency, absurdity, and idiocy of this company continues to mystify me. The first Sears representative stated that they could not schedule a work order; I was instructed to call the local Sears store for scheduling. The local Sears store told me that because they don’t have a manager or an owner, they do not schedule service work orders. Unable to help me, he gave me the phone number for Sears’ Customer Relations Department, which I now have committed to memory. Sensing a pattern? 
I called Sears corporate to explain that the local store had forwarded me back to them to schedule the work order. After being on hold for 30 minutes, the Sears representative said that I needed to talk to Sedgwick and transferred my call before I could object. 
Sedgwick was closed for the day. 
We are still currently in the midst of getting the damages resolved, though we don’t expect resolution any time in the near future. Meanwhile, we’re trying to collect the necessary information for our claim with Whirlpool that no one, most significantly Sears, can manage to help acquire. It is now June 27, 2012, and we are no further along in the claim process than we were in March. Both our Whirlpool and Sedgwick representatives have tried repeatedly to schedule the service technician appointment with our local Sears store since March. Despite having a new store owner and manager, our local store remains as incompetent and uncooperative as ever. According to Whirlpool, the local store manager has not
returned any of her messages regarding our claim or the service tech appointment. After learning
that zero progress had been made throughout the last several weeks, I tried to reach our local store owner myself. Since the owner was mysteriously unavailable, I spoke to the manager, who quite rudely, informed me that the service technician appointment is not their responsibility; they refused to help, and instructed me to call Sears corporate. Immediately following this call, I dialed the Sears customer relations department to further discuss this seemingly unsolvable issue; the representative assured that it is the local store’s responsibility to schedule the service technician appointment. The representative called the local store while I was on the line to set up the appointment. After nearly an hour of being on hold, the technician returned stating that the corporate computer system was (conveniently) down so no scheduling could be done today. Sears, I think it’s time to upgrade your computer system because your representatives tell me this every time I call. I asked the representative if I could have her direct extension for convenience to attempt scheduling in the near future; she claimed she did not have an
extension. She very sweetly said when the system was back up, she would personally handle scheduling the appointment and would call to confirm with me. I am certain I won’t be receiving a confirmation call. 
Sears, it is positively shameful to make the innocent consumer (victim) with $4,300 worth of damage, resulting from a product your company sold, perform your proverbial bitch work in trying to reach resolution. Especially since said innocent consumer foolishly purchased your Master’s Protection Extended Warranty for $190.79, thinking that you would stand behind your product – the absurdity! 
So I urge you, informed consumer, next time you’re in the market for a new appliance, consider an independent dealer. We certainly will be. 
Sincerely,
Mr. and Mrs. Nachos Grande  (names withheld to protect the innocent) 

While I don't expect great things to happen now that I've aired the letter to the blog reading public, it still felt rather cathartic.  Since we can't get any sort of resolution, our next step is probably to either send the letter to Sears corporate OR publish it in our local newspaper.

I also apologize that my wife doesn't write all my blog posts seeing how she's much more eloquent than I could ever be (even when she's fuming)!

10 comments:

Carl Crawford Cards said...

Terrible! I just read the abbreviated version above and will get to the rest but here's my two cents. I'm not expert, but this comes from having a had a roofer destroy my house and most everything in it for six-figure damage.

Contact your insurance company. They should pay. They will then go after Sears/Whirlpool for the difference. Check your policy to see what your coverage is and recognize this may make your payments go up as a consequence. In short, the game they are playing is designed to wear you down and NOT claim responsibility. If you sic other corporate dogs on them the dynamic changes quite a bit.

Richard Nebe Jr. said...

Well, I think your wife's abundant use of the word relations is spot on!! As the parties involved have definitely screwed you so far in this. I suggest checking with your local Better Business Bureau. And maybe even the local news station. I know here in Hampton Roads, Wavy TV 10 has a segment they call 10 on Your Side which they use to air situations like this. I've not personally had an unresolved problem like this but have seen on their show where they have gotten results for the people involved. Good luck my friends.
Dawgbones

Jason said...

I've been reading the blog 'The Consumerist' (http://consumerist.com/) for a couple years now, and sadly your experience with Sears is all too common these days. I wouldn't buy anything bigger than a hand tool there anymore, as they seem to become more incompetent by the day. She should send her letter to Consumerist, it's much more well-written than most.

Matt said...

Ditto what Jason suggested. Just the exposure that a story on Consumerist would bring you might have Sears at your doorstep begging for mercy.

I'd also echo what Dawgbones said. We had a dishwasher leak due to the heating coil burning away part of the tub so that water leaked into our kitchen island. We ended up with structural damage and a black mold infestation. In the end, our home warranty paid for the washer and installation while our homeowner's insurance paid for fixing the rest of the damage and cleaning up the mold. To the homeowner's insurance people, all that mattered was that we had a water leak and it wasn't due to our own incompetence, so they paid for it.

BW Smith said...

It's no surprise that Sears is going down the tubes faster than dirty bathwater. Kudos to your wife for verbally bitch slapping them and exposing their joke of a customer service department. I hope you guys get the issue resolved soon.

moremonkeys138 said...

I'd say send the letter to the Consumerist, Sears corporate AND the local paper. A company willing to drag you guys around the legal muck they have been for the past couple of months deserves all the negative publicity. Terribly unprofessional and I guess a wake up to never buy from Sears. Thanks for the eye opener and I hope something positive comes of it soon.

Adam Bialow said...

Might be time to have a suit filed in small claims court--depending upon the local monetary limits of the court that will get the local sears store to involve corporate since they will have to hire a lawyer or send a representative depending upon the laws of your jurisdiction.

SearsCare said...

Good Afternoon,

My name is Brian H. and I’m with the Sears Cares team. I’ve just read your post regarding your dishwasher leaking and I can completely understand you and your wife would be upset. Mr. Grande, if you see this post, we would certainly like the opportunity to speak with you and assist in resolving this issue as soon as possible and to your complete satisfaction. Please email SMAdvisor@searshc.com with your contact information and a dedicated case manager will call you to assist. Please be sure to include the phone number you purchased the dishwasher under as well as this screen name (NachosGrande) so we can reference your issue. Again, we apologize for any trouble we have caused and we hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you,

Brian H.
Social Media Moderator
Sears Social Media Support

Laura K. said...

Is there any update to your situation with Sears? I ask because we were the victims of a negligent installation of a dishwasher by Sears a couple weeks ago. It flooded our downstairs, destroying our wood floors. They are buckling and the finish is peeling. We have 31 1-inch holes drilled into our oak cabinets to dry them out as well as 1-inch holes drilled into our drywall by the water damage company we hired. We have to live in this disaster with our 1 year old son who keeps finding more pieces of peeling wood floor every day stuck to his hands and feet.

FanOfReds said...

Laura, it's funny you should ask... We recently received notification from Whirlpool that the dishwasher was not at fault (i.e. Sears did a bad job of installation). Of course, that's directly at odds with what Sears claims... We haven't heard a peep from the Sears representative despite us leaving her messages (and her being notified by Whirlpool as well). Tomorrow I hope to talk to the person that Brian H (from above) got me in contact with. That gentleman actually pulled enough strings to at least get our claim consultant to call us back (this was in July or so).

I don't know what Sears will say now - but I can't imagine they will do anything in any sort of speedy way. My advice to you would be to get a lawyer on it... Sears didn't respond to our requests AT ALL until I posted this blog article on the Consumerist Website (and on Sears' facebook page).

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