Sears Complaint - Don't buy Sears service contract on home appliances
On October 24, 2011 I purchased, using Sears's 1-800 number posted on its webpage, a water heater and installation. I foolishly purchased, in addition, an extended service contract, for 3 years.
Afterwards, I had several conversations with Sears about getting a copy of this service contract. I was told it would be coming as a matter of course. Later, I was transferred; I had my my line go dead; I was told to rely on what I was told over the phone; I was told that I had to give my credit card number. I was told that "it" "had to be entered." I was then placed on indefinite hold until I hung up. I called yet again later and found someone who had no trouble locating the contract. I told this person that I was fed up and wanted to cancel it. She agreed. On about November 18, I received a check which agreed with the amount I had been quoted over the phone for the contract, although nothing came with the check indicating this was what it was for, or who to contact for information other than ""A/P Audit Department", without address or telephone number.
On December 6, more than a month after my initial inquiries, and almost three weeks after I received my refund, I received a document in the mail labeled "Master Protection Agreement".
The name on the agreement is "Van Van Jan". This name does not have the faintest resemblance to my own or to the name on the credit card I used. It has a possible, very conjectural relationship to the name of a former owner of the house where the heater was installed, who died fifteen years ago.
I know this is the agreement I purchased because the expiration date matches.
The agreement consists of 31 numbered paragraphs over fourteen inches of dense text in type that is two millimeters in height, for letters like "k" or "f", and one millimeter for letters like "a" or "o". Although the language is heavy in nifty legal terms like "hereinafter" it is not at all clear to what extent this contract guarantees anything beyond whatever warranty otherwise comes with the water heater. If I purchase a "Kenmore 9" water heater, my impression from conversation with Sears is that this heater is supposed to last 9 years. If the installation is defective then that should be remediable without recourse to additional service contract purchases. Likewise if there is a defect in the heater, including a cosmetic defect, it should not be required to purchase additional coverage to have it replaced or fixed. What you may get is the opportunity to make your case without as much argument, but that's speculative.
It is unclear to me whether Sears ever intended to provide a copy of the agreement I purchased so that I could see its terms. Sears wouldn't be the only business to sell such a contract in a way that makes it is easy to forget what you are entitled to when the time comes. The larger point is that these contracts are a deal for the company that sells them, and it is very easy to get talked into that extra but unclear bit of security at the time of purchase, when you are already committed to spending a good chunk of money and the idea of avoidable problems is planted in your mind according to the market-tested script of the person you're talking to. Consumer Reports recommends against purchasing such contracts in most cases. Even disregarding the trouble with Sears's bureaucracy, I agree.