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December 10, 2007

Sears: “Ready in 5″ Guarantee Revisited

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:31 am

Last week, Mouse Print* examined the speedy delivery guarantees of three major retailers for shoppers who order online but want to pick up the merchandise in-store.

The policy from Sears was simple and straightforward:  scan your confirmation at the store kiosk, and if your goods are not handed to you in five minutes, you get a $5 coupon toward a future purchase:

Sears in 5

And there was no fine print. Or so it seemed.

On Friday around 6 pm, “Mr. Consumer” ordered an item online at Sears.com for in-store pick up. By 8 pm, no confirmation email had yet been received. By the next morning, the confirmation had arrived, and I took it to Sears in Cambridge, MA at 7:15 am. Promptly upon scanning the receipt’s barcode at the pick up kiosk, a Sears employee appeared and scrutinzed the confirmation. He seemed puzzled, but retreated to the backroom to fetch my goods.

Up on a video screen above the kiosk a list of customers appears along with the amount of time they have been waiting for their goods to be hand-delivered. My name was there with the minutes and seconds ticking off — 2 minutes and 12 seconds, 3 minutes and 30 seconds, 4 minutes and 51 seconds. At this point it felt like it was going to be my lucky day and it was. The clock stopped at 5:29, indicating the order was complete. A few seconds later, I was handed my package, but no $5 coupon. I asked for it, and mere seconds later was handed one.

Success.

Similar luck was not had by some others, unfortunately. A few hours before I ordered my item, I placed an order for a friend in Lincoln, NE who agreed to pick up the item at his local store. On Saturday morning he trotted over to his Sears and encountered 20 people ahead of him in the pick up area. Once he scanned his confirmation, the time ticked off and kept ticking for nearly 35 minutes.

Being the smart consumer that he is, he asked for a $5 coupon. Sears personnel explained that that store didn’t give out compensation for slow deliveries and they showed him some paperwork to back up their position.

I contacted the national customer relations department of Sears on his behalf to find out how it was possible that his store was exempt from the 5 minute/$5 guarantee. The customer service representative explained that the “Ready in 5″ guarantee was a “pilot program” and that not all stores participated. I pointed out that there was no disclosure on their website that this was a limited offer, and even mentioned that while on hold waiting to talk to her, the non-music on hold was interrupted by Sears promoting the 5 minute guarantee, again with no restrictions stated. She refused to provide a $5 coupon to compensate my friend for the long wait.

The worst MOUSE PRINT* is the fine print that is missing — leading the consumer to believe one thing, when something else is really the case.

• • •

19 Comments

  1. The only reason to shop at Sears is for Lands End merchandise. This chain has been sinking for years. Management should visit J C Penney to learn how to operate a successful business.

    Comment by Michael Yan — December 10, 2007 @ 10:34 am
  2. Sears has been striving for the past few years to be the leader in poor customer
    service. This sounds more like they are stepping in the right direction to attain that
    goal. Signs that a chain is failing. The LEAST the CS rep could’ve done was send the
    friend a courtesy coupon, but when you’re failing, they don’t do those things. It’s
    getting about time for Sears to go

    Comment by Dave — December 10, 2007 @ 11:00 am
  3. I ordered an item online in Asheville, NC. After receiving email notification I went to the store and ‘clocked’ in at the computer. 17 minutes later a clerk came out and said they couldn’t find the item and/or it was out of stock. I showed them the email and he shrugged his shoulders. I then asked for the 5 dollar coupon for my next purchase and was told that since I didn’t purchase anything now, I wasn’t eligible. At that point I asked for a manager and vented my feelings. The manager offered me a higher priced item that was in stock for the same price. I took that and also a $5 coupon for waiting about an hour.

    Comment by Jerry L — December 10, 2007 @ 11:01 am
  4. What is even worse about Sears’ online policies it they charge your card as soon as it is ordered, not when shipped. Doesn’t tell you something is back ordered until after it is a week overdue. (Keep in mind you’ve already been charged!) And finally requests you come to the store to cancel the sale.

    Comment by Roger — December 10, 2007 @ 11:54 am
  5. That sounds like outright fraud to me.

    Comment by John A Elson — December 10, 2007 @ 12:41 pm
  6. The Sears policy on this is that the store must be a company-owned Full-Line store in order for this deal to be in effect. If it is not company-owned, then it is soley up to that stores Manager or owner to offer this compensation.

    Of course, everything to do with Sears is ‘outright fraud’ even though customers get away with more than any other retailer would even look at. I’m sorry your 15 year old drill stopped working… you what? You want another? What does this look like to you?

    No other retailer will give you the ‘lee-way’ Sears does. And I beg for someone to prove to me otherwise. Retail isn’t a people business anymore.

    JCPenney isn’t doing anything different either, they are the same old company, they just decided to cut their profit margins down to barely nothing. So, they have increased business, but don’t have the money to show for it, sad, huh? Increased business dosen’t neccesarily translate into increased cash flow.

    Comment by SearsAssoc — December 11, 2007 @ 1:17 am
  7. wow SearsAssoc, if that is the company’s policy then why is Sears incapable of making that clear to their customers? We shouldn’t have to consult a crystal ball for every deal before shopping at Sears to find out “if” a specific store will honor a deal. If an advertisement says “save big bucks” on this product at company X, then I expect to go to the nearest X store and get the deal advertised, simple as that!

    Comment by Peter — December 11, 2007 @ 8:06 am
  8. At least there are details to back up the complaints this time, unlike last week where none were cited.
    I agree that Sears has gone way downhill since we frequented them years ago, other than Craftsman tools I cannot think of a single reason to walk into that store anymore. I only hope thye continue to offer the forever guarantee on those or I will have to start looking at my options (Kobalt?).

    Comment by Tomsym — December 11, 2007 @ 10:16 am
  9. SearAssoc,

    The facts don’t support your assertions concerning JCPenney (JCP) vs Sears(SHLD). I checked Yahoo financial section and see
    that SHLD Profit Margin is 2.34%, while JCP is more than twice that at 5.75.

    Comment by Todd — December 11, 2007 @ 3:44 pm
  10. Sears does own Lands End which produces excellent clothes. One thing I did just find out is that if you order a Lands End product from the store that they don’t carry, they will ship it to your home for free. Nice. But, I have no idea what the fine print on that one is!

    Comment by Tom — December 14, 2007 @ 10:55 pm
  11. I haven’t shopped Sears since I’ve cut up their credit card, and that was over 11 years ago. They are terrible ! Maybe they will go out of business someday and give us all a relief.

    Comment by Don — December 15, 2007 @ 6:26 pm
  12. Same thing happens at many places of business. How many times have you seen a commercial for McDonalds or Burger King for a great deal just to go to a store and the cashier tells you that they’re not honoring that sale. No matter how many different stores you try, it’s the same thing. And then you go home and have the tv on and there’s the commercial again. It’s very irritating. Very much so, but this type of thing seems to happen quite frequently. Not just Sears.

    Comment by Alicia Penrod — December 16, 2007 @ 8:42 pm
  13. Whenever I bought something at sears I noticed that they also showed their percentage of
    speedy service in bringing out the merchandise within 5 min. Then I noticed on several
    occassions the folks in the back had turned off the clock before the 5 min limit, showing the
    transaction completed when in fact they have yet to bring out the item. I asked them why
    is that and they said this improves their percentages and they then don’t have to give out
    the coupons. I brought this up to the manager who followed up on this practice. I still
    saw this happening at later times with customers constantly waiting. They just then say
    the clock is not working properly. They will do anything to keep their percentages up.

    Comment by A. C. — December 17, 2007 @ 11:45 am
  14. “The Sears policy on this is that the store must be a company-owned Full-Line store in order for this deal to be in effect. If it is not company-owned, then it is soley up to that stores Manager or owner to offer this compensation.”

    The sears policy is irrelevent, no such disclaimer is contained in the ad, that’s why it is outright
    fraud, something is advertised which is not delivered.

    Comment by John A Elson — December 17, 2007 @ 12:43 pm
  15. “Same thing happens at many places of business. How many times have you seen a commercial for McDonalds or Burger King for a great deal just to go to a store and the cashier tells you that they’re not honoring that sale.”

    I’ve seen many such ads and they always say “at participating stores…” [or something to that effect]
    , it’s irritating, but they have that disclaimer as a defnese. In this case, no such disclaimer was in the
    ad.

    Comment by John A Elson — December 26, 2007 @ 12:17 pm
  16. A friend of mine owns a Radio Shack dealer store, and he runs into this all the time. His store looks like a company store, which they strongly encourage, except for a few specialty items he stocks that he knows will sell.

    The problem (worst at Christmas) comes when people buy something at another (usually a mall store) then bring it back to his store for a refund. This puts him between a rock and a hard place, especially if it’s an expensive low margin item or something he does not regularly stock.

    If he gives the money back, the BEST he can hope for is to resell it at the same price, so it only costs him the time he spent and the carrying cost to hold the item until it’s sold.

    However, Murphy’s law usually kicks in, and, as soon as he takes back an expensive item (dvd recorder, etc) you can bet it will go on sale for at least 25 percent off. So now he can either hold that item back until it goes off sale, or he can sell it and lose 25 percent.

    Of course he has several large signs explaining this, but we all know how that works out….

    Comment by Jim D. — January 15, 2008 @ 12:28 pm
  17. I worked at Sears for a time and since then refuse to shop there.
    They are dishonest. I worked there during the stepper exersice craze. They came out with a manual stepper for
    129 dollars and sold, I am sure, thousands of them as this was shortly before Christmas. My friend who worked in sporting goods departmant came to me and said he had already been told that the steppers would not be available till May and to
    sell as many as he could. Then call the cusotmers tomorrow and inform them.
    As far as I’m concerned only fools shop at
    Sears.

    Comment by jack howell — January 15, 2008 @ 5:47 pm
  18. I encountered a worse experience. When I arrived at the Sears Brooklyn NY Beverly St. Location, I was told the kiosk to sign-in does not work. It then took 25 minutes for the Clerk to return with half the order. He then went to the same Broken Kiosk and used it to sign me in. After 43 seconds he marked the order complete. That’s how they beet the 5 minute counter.

    As this was happening another customer walked-in. I told him to insist on using the Kiosk to sign-in. The Sears clerk the unpluggeed the machine to prove he’s right.

    Comment by Joel Groosberg — May 23, 2008 @ 1:43 pm
  19. I haven’t shopped at Sears for years now – closed my account and never looked back. My father bought all his appliances and tools there for years; I started out doing the same, until they ran me off with poor selections, inexplicably bad customer service, and lack of advertised products. There are many, many other stores to choose from – I’ll spend my hard earned money in a store that understands customer service and satisfaction.

    Comment by Diane — August 9, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

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