Question: "Sears, where else?" Answer: "Anyplace else but Sears."
NEW YORK -- Beware:
Anybody who is considering purchasing something from Sears
- you know, the company who says "Sears, where else?"
- the company who claims "customer satisfaction guaranteed or you money back."
I offer you the following story, while quite long, and perhaps a little boring, I feel compelled to let you know about my experience with Sears, because I already told Sears that if people knew this was what they were getting going into a deal with Sears, nobody would want this, so I feel compelled to let people know what they are getting from Sears. I will just offer you my story/experience, and let you judge for yourself. Even though parts of this story will seem a bit bizarre and even unbelievable, I assure you I have not fabricated or even exaggerated any of the story, all of this story is completely true. I would appreciate it if after reading this story you feel that others should be aware of this kind of business practice by Sears, that you forward this story to all the people you would like to make aware (or beware) as well.
In July 2001 my husband and I bought our house. The house had a very old 4 zone wood-oil combination furnace/boiler for our hot water baseboard heating system, and in the first winter we were paying for fuel delivery every 2 or 3 weeks. We decided to look into getting a more efficient furnace, so we contacted several places, among which were Economy Heating, Agway Energy Products, and Sears. We got the lowest price from Economy Heating, but the salesman (David Wilson) from Sears insisted that Sears matches any price from competitors, and that Sears offers a service contract for 4 years at the low price of $179.00 (which included emergency service), and that if anything went wrong with our heat we could call Sears' 24 hour customer service number, and if we could also call him on his cell phone day or night (he provided us with the number) and he would make sure the problem was addressed immediately even if he had to come himself. The salesman also insisted that Sears had the best reputation for customer satisfaction, and that they have been around for a very long time, so that we could be confident that we were buying from a company with a solid reputation for business and customer satisfaction. He even assured us that we would no longer need our service contract with Agway Energy products, because Sears offered a better service contract for a longer period of time, and for less cost. We decided, based on this information, to purchase our furnace from Sears ("where else"? - this is Sears own advertisement statement/question). Sears matched the price from Economy Heating, which was $883.60 less than the price I was quoted from Sears. We also ordered an extension to one of the baseboard units, because it was not long enough to supply proper heat to one of the bedrooms (this is what the Sears salesperson David Wilson told us). We signed the purchase agreement in April 2002, and Sears set up installation with their subcontractor (MBV Heating from Elmira) for May 30, 2002. The subcontractor never showed up. I called Sears, and they contacted the subcontractor (MBV Heating), and I was given another installation date of June 6, 2002. On June 6th (the same day they were supposed to be at our house to install the furnace) MBV Heating called and canceled the appointment, stating that they had jobs that were a higher priority than ours that they needed to take care of first. MBV Heating said they would call me back to set up another appointment time, and they never called. I called MBV Heating myself, but there was no answer. I called Sears again, and they said they would contact MBV Heating, and have them call me. MBV Heating still never called me. Sears called me a few days later as a follow up, and I informed them that MBV Heating had still not called, and I still had no appointment for installation of our furnace. Sears contacted MBV Heating, and found out that they had set up another appointment time for June 25, 2002, but failed to let me know about the appointment. MBV Heating did finally show up on June 25, 2002, but did not have the correct parts for the baseboard extension that we ordered. They said they would order the parts, and call me when they came in. I did not get another appointment from MBV Heating to install the baseboard extension until August 2002 (the parts had been in for weeks, and they never called me to set up the appointment). When they installed the baseboard extension they also had to bleed the water lines because they got air in the line when they installed the furnace. They installed the baseboard extension, but failed to install one of the connectors for the baseboard cover. I called MBV Heating the same day they were here in August, and they said they would mail me the part. I called Sears again on September 3, 2002, and told them I still had not received the cover connector from MBV Heating. They said they would contact MBV Heating and have them call me. MBV Heating never called me. On September 10, 2002 I called Sears again, and told them I was still waiting for the cover connector, and I still had not heard from MBV Heating. Sears contacted MBV Heating, and called me back and told me that MBV Heating stated that they would mail the part that day. I finally received the cover connector at the end of September (5 months after we purchased the furnace and baseboard extension from Sears).
In November 2002 I had a baby 3 months premature who only weighed 2 pounds 9 ounces at birth, and had to stay in the hospital for 3 months after his birth. He was scheduled to come home on January 28, 2003. At the end of January 2003 just prior to his scheduled discharge date our heat in the zone for the bedrooms stopped working, and I called Sears. They said that the furnace was under warranty within the first year with the installer, but that the installer MBV Heating had gone out of business. They said they would find out who was taking over for MBV heating, and call me back. I called again and informed them that I had a premature baby coming home from the hospital on January 28, 2003, and that I could not be without heat for his bedroom. They were not accommodating. I called our salesperson David Wilson (the one that said we could call night or day, and he would get the problem resolved immediately), but there was no answer. I left a message on his voice mail, but there was no response. I called Sears again, and still did not get anybody to help. I called David Wilson's voice mail again and left a message that if somebody did not come to resolve the problem with our heat that day that I wanted them to come and uninstall the furnace and I wanted my money back, since I would not be satisfied ("customer satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" - this is Sears own advertisement statement). They did send somebody that day, and the technician told me that the pipes were frozen and there was nothing they could do (apparently Sears does not install antifreeze in the lines when they install a furnace with hot water heat - something that is apparently unique to Sears, because everybody else I called does install antifreeze). The technician told me that I had to have the heat on all the time in order to prevent this (I did not understand the efficiency in that, but followed his instructions, and when the pipes thawed out kept the window open in the room with the thermostat so that the heat would remain on all the time). The pipes eventually thawed out (thank goodness the pipes did not burst, as they are all enclosed in a finished ceiling), and I did not have a problem for the rest of the winter, as I had kept the window open for the entire winter. This year on Wednesday January 14, 2004 the heat for the bedroom zone stopped working again. The pipes in the bedroom zone were frozen again, despite the fact that I had the window open to keep the heat on. I believe this was because the temperature was below zero, and with the wind chill factor in some areas the temperature was estimated at 50 degrees below zero. My children did not even have school because school officials were told that it was not safe for people to be outside for more than 15 minutes or their skin would begin freezing. I called Sears, and they said they would send a technician. The technician called me on Friday January 16th, and told me there was nothing he could do, and did not come. I called Sears and asked them about antifreeze for the hot water heat pipes, and Sears told me that they do not do anything with antifreeze, and I would have to call a plumber. I called Agway Energy Products (our fuel oil supplier) and they said they could put antifreeze in the system, and I called Economy Heating, and they said they too could put antifreeze in the system, but both said that the system had to be thawed out before anything could be done in that regard. I got out the 2 electric heaters I had for 2 of the bedrooms (the 2 yr old's bedroom, and the 1 yr old's bedroom) and had the 2 older boys sleep in the den where there was heat still. I proceeded to tie tarps around the outside of the house on the high end, and packed snow up against the foundation of the house on the low end to keep the wind away from the house. I put 2 kerosene heaters in the garage (an unheated garage attached to the underneath of the house), and I also put a kerosene heater next to the house directly across from where it appeared the pipe met the outside wall of the house to begin feeding through the outside wall, and by the end of that day Monday January 19, 2004 the pipes thawed out again (and thank goodness still did not burst). Before I could get somebody to our house to put the antifreeze in the system, on Tuesday morning January 20, 2004 all of the heat in the entire house stopped working. I called Sears again. I told them I had no heat in the entire house, and it was 7 degrees outside. They said they would send a technician on Friday January 23, 2004 to inspect the problem. I said "What do you mean on Friday? That's 4 days away. I have 4 children, 2 of them babies, 1 of which was born 3 months premature. I can't wait until Friday to have heat, it's 7 degrees outside!" Sears said they would try to contact their routing department and see if they could get somebody out to my house sooner. I said "What do you mean sooner, aren't you coming today?" Sears said "No, it won't be today, possibly tomorrow." I asked them what I was supposed to do in the meantime, and they said if it was within my means they would suggest I get a hotel until then. I asked Sears if they were going to pay for a hotel for my family of 6, and they said "No, your warranty does not cover that." I told Sears that all of this just didn't sound right to me. Sears said "That is all we can do. Somebody will be in contact with you. Thank you for choosing Sears, we appreciate your business." I said "Yes, I can tell." I asked to speak to a supervisor, and they transferred me to Marge who told me she was a supervisor. I told her the story, and that I just got the pipes thawed out on Monday, and if I left them without hot water for over 24 hours that they would freeze again, and perhaps burst all over my house, and then I would have extensive water damage. Marge from Sears said if that happens then I should contact my home owner's insurance. I asked Marge at Sears if I could have somebody else come and repair the problem because my fuel supplier has emergency service and could have somebody here within the hour, and Marge at Sears said if I had anybody else work on the furnace then that would void my warranty with Sears. I also said to Sears "As you say these words out loud, does this even sound reasonable to you?" I told them that I was going to contact the Attorney General's office, stating that we were supposed to have a service contract with Sears, to which Sears responded that the contract states that they will come and fix the problem, it just doesn't say when they will come, so they are still abiding by their contract (despite the emergency service I had when we purchased the service contract, and later found out that Sears has changed their policy as of last winter, and redefined emergency service to mean next day' instead of same day' - this policy was redefined after we purchased the contract). I told Sears that if people knew ahead of time that this is the service they would get from Sears going into the deal, that nobody would want this. I told Sears that I have purchased many products from Sears (stove, refrigerator, garage door opener, furnace - just to name a few), and that I always thought that Sears stood behind their products and service, and that they had a good reputation for customer satisfaction (as our salesperson even insisted), but that in light of this experience I would not buy another product from Sears. Marge from Sears said "I'm sorry you feel that way, that is all we can do." I called my salesperson David Wilson (you remember, the guy who said we could call day or night and he would make sure the problem gets resolved even if he has to come himself - the one who never called me back last year - the one who assured us that we didn't need our service contract with Agway Energy Products anymore because Sears was offering us a 4 yr service contract at a better price - the one who gave us his cell phone number so he could be reached anytime night or day) - the person who answered the cell phone number he gave us said "David Wilson has not had this number for over 6 months." I called Sears again and asked for David Wilson's voice mail, and left a message asking him to call me. He did not call me back. I called Sears again and asked them for David Wilson's cell phone number, and Sears said "We are not allowed to give that information out." I called Sears again and said "Doesn't Sears have a satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back' policy?" Sears said "Yes." I said "I want my money back, I'm not satisfied." Sears asked if I was referring to the service contract, and I said I was referring to everything. Sears said "I doubt you will get your money back for the furnace, you purchased the furnace in April of 2001. I said "We did not purchase the furnace in April of 2001." Sears said "That is the date on this contract." I said "We did not purchase this furnace in April 2001 because we did not even purchase this house until July of 2001, and we certainly did not purchase a furnace for a house we didn't even own." Sears said my service contract was scheduled to expire in 2005, and I said that we had a 4 year contract, and Sears asked where I was getting this information, and I told them it was on the contract. Sears tried to look this information up, but said that for the price we paid it looked like we only had a 3 year contract. I said the reason the price was so low was because Sears had to match the price of another company that had given us a quote $883.60 cheaper than Sears. Sears asked me to fax them a copy of the purchase agreement in order to prove that we bought our furnace in 2002 and not 2001, and that we also purchased a 4 year service contract, and Sears said they would call me when they received the fax, and had the problem resolved. I sent the fax within 10 minutes, and nobody ever called me back. Anyway, I went down to the furnace the same day (Tuesday January 20, 2004) and tried to press the reset button, and nothing happened. I tried to look around for any other potential solutions, and found a box on the wall, which when I opened it saw a fuse inside that appeared to have been blown. I took all 4 children to the hardware store, and purchased new fuses, and put a new one in the box, and the heat began working - all except in the zone for the basement. I tested the thermostat, and there was power, and the furnace did kick on when I turned this thermostat up. I felt the pipes, and they were cold from the water circulator on, and I knew they were not frozen because it is the only zone in the system that is entirely within inside walls in the middle of the house. I thought perhaps the circulating pump was bad. The Sears technician called the next day for directions to our house. I gave him directions, and told him that in my opinion I felt we needed a new circulating pump. He said he would look at it when he got here. He arrived at about 9:30am, and said we had air in the lines that was blocking the water from circulating through the pipes, and that is why it was not working. I asked him how he knew the circulating pump was working, and he said "It's working, I can hear it working." I explained the whole story about my experience with Sears until that point, to which he responded "I don't know, you'll have to call Sears, they have all new management over there." He spent almost 2 hours draining water out of the system to try to get the air out, and it still was not working. After over 2 hours he took the cover off the circulating pump and said I don't think this thing is working, you need a new circulating pump. He then said Sears doesn't cover this under your warranty because it is not part of the furnace, and Sears does not do plumbing work, you'll have to call a plumber. He said he had paper work to do out in his van, and he would be right back. 20 minutes later he came back and said I can't give you a paper showing I was here because my printer isn't working. I asked him if he was going to mail me one, and he said "well, you're in the computer." I said I wanted something in writing. He said "I don't know if they will mail you something, but you're in the computer." I called Agway, and ordered a service contract with them (since they actually provide service), and ordered antifreeze for the lines, and told them I needed a new circulating pump. They said they could repair the circulating pump the same day, but I got $140.00 discount to have all the work done at the same time, and since the antifreeze could not be done until Monday January 26, 2004 I decided to wait until then to have everything done at once, and save the $140.00. Later that day the heat in the whole house stopped working again, and I went to the furnace again. I felt the pipes, and they were ice cold. I called Sears again, and they said they would send somebody the next day. They said sorry you are having trouble with your heat, but that is all we can do. I said I had heat in all but one zone until the technician was here, now I do not have any, and do not have hot water either. I told them I did not want the same technician, because it took him over 2 hours to find out something that I already told him before he even came into the house. I told Sears once again that if I let my pipes stay cold all night that they would freeze, and possibly burst all over the house. Again they referred me to my home owner's insurance. I called my home owner's insurance agent, and told them that Sears wants them to pay for water damage as a result of my pipes bursting due to being frozen because the system was without hot water until Sears could get somebody to my house to fix it, and my insurance agent told me that home owner's insurance would not pay for damage as a result of a problem that I knew existed, and did not do everything within my power to resolve (meaning that I would have to get whomever I could that would come and take care of the problem with the heat the soonest - this certainly wasn't Sears). However, in order to stay within the guidelines of my home owner's insurance policy, this would void my warranty with Sears. I called Sears again and asked them what I would have to do to find out about getting my money back, because I was not satisfied. Sears gave me another number to call. I called that number, and that person gave me another number to call. I called that number, and I was told I would have to talk to the technician who came the next day, and ask him about how to get my money back. I turned all the heat up to 90 degrees, and turned the hot water faucets on, and the heat began to work again. I later found out that the technician had drained so much water out of the system that the water pressure safety valve had shut the system down. When the pressure built back up, the system had come on again, but there was obviously now a lot of air in the line, because whenever new water enters the system, air comes in with it since there is oxygen in the water, and also the pipes were gurgling very loudly, and I could hear the water running through all the pipes. On Thursday January 22, 2004 at 8:42am I received a call from another Service technician. He told me that since I was having antifreeze added to the system in a few days anyway that I might as well wait until then to get the air out of the system, since they have to flush the lines anyway to put the antifreeze in. The technician did not come. I did not find out about how to get my money back, but the technician did tell me that if this happened again that I should have whomever I could get to come immediately to fix the problem, and send Sears the bill, and if they did not pay I could get a lawyer, and a judge would probably make them pay, but that that was just his opinion, and he could not guarantee it. He also told me that Sears discontinued emergency service last winter (obviously after we purchased our furnace and service contract), and that he knew there was going to be problems when they did that. I asked him how they can cancel something in the middle of our contract like that, and he said he didn't know. Finally on Thursday January 22, 2004 at 9:46am I received a call from the previously elusive salesperson David Wilson. He said he was calling in response to my voice mail, and sorry it took him so long to get back to me, but that he had been out of town for a few days, and that he wasn't even in the Southern Tier area anymore, that he was now in the Niagara Falls area. I explained the whole story to him, and he said he couldn't believe that is the service I got from Sears, and that it sounded bizarre, and didn't make sense to him. He said it sounded like I was getting the run around. He took the names of the people I talked to, and said he would be giving management a call, and that somebody would be in touch with me (we'll see). I told him that if people knew this is the service they would get from Sears going into a deal, that nobody would want this, and he agreed, and said somebody would be in contact with me.
Anyway, that is my story.
Now when Sears asks me "Sears, where else?" - trust me, my answer is "Anyplace else but Sears."