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February 15, 2010

Sears Makes Good Despite the Fine Print

Filed under: Business,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

Consumer sites, including this one, tend to point out a lot more negative than the positive issues about companies and their practices. This, however, is a story of extraordinary customer service that deserves to be publicly acknowledged.

MrConsumer (aka Edgar, the editor of Mouse Print*) recently needed to replace his 23-year old gas range, fondly nicknamed the “Price is Right stove” because of its one-piece design consisting of a range, oven, and microwave popularized decades ago by that game show. After perusing the ads, he narrowed down the choices to a Sears Kenmore slide-in gas range advertised for about $1000 the last week in December in  the Sears circular.

After calling four stores, MrConsumer finally found a local Sears that stocked the particular stove so he could look at it. It was very important that the range be stainless steel and have a professional look. As it turned out, the store did not have the advertised stove on display, but rather a similar but higher model. To confirm that the advertised stove was identical in appearance to the one in the store, the salesman took MrConsumer to a computer terminal to look at it online. The picture showed that it had stainless steel knobs, a computer control panel with a 0-9 digital keypad, and matte finish grates just like the similar model in the store.  Assured of these specifications, the order was placed for this range:

At this point you might be able to guess what happened next when the stove was delivered on January 25.  The grates were shiny black, making them look cheesy and not very professional.  The electronic controls only had an up/down arrow to change the temperature in five degree increments.  So, if you wanted to go from 300 to 400 degrees, you would have to press the up arrow 20 times.  MrConsumer was very not happy, but since the electrician and plumber were already scheduled, the stove was installed the next day.

Complaining to Sears’ 800 number resulted in a very quick callback from the store manager.  While willing to compensate MrConsumer for having received a lesser digital control panel, she was not so willing to try to obtain the matte finish grates shown both in the store and online.  In part, she pointed to the fine print on the website:

*MOUSE PRINT:

In MrConsumer’s defense, this description was not shown to him in the store, and is not even visible on the same page where the stove is described online. (One has to click a link  “more specifications” to find this. You will also notice it says the knobs are black, when in fact they are stainless.)  Further, this description is contrary to the more prominent magnified picture at the top of the page that clearly showed matte grates, and the accompanying description that said ” professional-look heavy duty cast-iron grates are completely dishwasher-safe.”

Not willing to take “no” for an answer from the local store, MrConsumer sent a factual and polite email to two highly placed executives responsible for major appliances at Sears headquarters. [See the first comment below for the trick to finding such executives.]  He asked for a price adjustment because of the lesser digital display, and requested that Sears provide the matte finish grates as was represented.  

One of the executives actually responded the day after mailing, on a Sunday no less, saying that this was not the type of experience (being shown one thing, and receiving another) that their customers should have to go through.  Within a few days, a person from “executive resolutions” called, acknowledging the wrong stove was pictured on the website.  Remarkably, they offered to replace the stove with the one pictured (a more expensive model by about $250) at no cost, and to even cover the costs of having their plumber do the installation.

Wow. Is that not remarkable customer service, above and beyond expectations?  It almost feels like the clock was turned back several decades when stores really did care about satisfying their customers.  Hats off to Sears for showing that a big company can acknowledge a mistake and bend over backwards to remedy the situation.

(Despite the seeming fairy tale ending to this story, there will be a part two, as MrConsumer’s kitchen is now home to two Sears ranges.  Ironically, in part, it is because more fine print tripped up the company’s best of  intentions.)




  ADV


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10 Comments

  1. and where I might ask you found the executive’s email addreses? Certainly, not something anybody without connections can easily find. If the 800 number gets you nowhere, 99.9% of the time you’re screwed!

    Edgar replies: Peter… I don’t have connections at Sears. I will let you and our 20,000 weekly readers in on the secret. I went to the Sears corporate website and reviewed their recent press releases related to major appliances. Within those releases, I looked for the name of the top executives who were quoted. Then all one has to do is look at the contact email address for their press person to learn the format for Sears corporate email addresses. Voila… instant great contact people and their email addresses. You can do this for most any company.

    Comment by Peter — February 15, 2010 @ 7:08 am
  2. I too have had more than one problem at Sears fixed in such a manner as to exceed my expectations. One was a low end snow thrower that had a weak handle. The second time it failed I got them to refund the full purchase price. One time I was sold an extended service contract for a refrigerator that was supposed to include replacement of the water filter if it needed replacing when they came out for the yearly service call. It turned out that this was not the case. The service contract explicitly said that filter replacement was not included. After 1 call to the appliance department, I recieved new filters for the life of the service contract!

    Comment by Jack — February 15, 2010 @ 9:18 am
  3. Thank you Edgar, that was a pretty sneaky way to get the info you needed, I’ll have to remember that trick next time.

    Comment by Peter — February 15, 2010 @ 9:57 am
  4. Very nice,, it’s invigorating to read something good
    Although,,, I find that drawing up ones own contract
    with specs wanted, then having the salesperson sign
    off on it gives the consumer a larger edge in dealing
    with disputes,,,It’s a legal world we live in

    Comment by GANUU — February 15, 2010 @ 2:30 pm
  5. Why would you need a plumber to install a stove? Is this some kind of “new fangled” stove that includes water when you need it?

    Edgar replies: This is a gas stove, and under Massachusetts law you need a licensed plumber to install it.

    Comment by Gert — February 15, 2010 @ 3:30 pm
  6. I too had a positive experience with Sears. Several years ago I bought a new range. The oven door did not close properly. It left a gap at the top. Sears service department made several trips to adjust the door, all to no avail. Finally the technician installed new hinges, which she said had been redesigned. That fixed the closing of the door. Sears made all the trips (the service center is 30 miles away) and made the correction without a complaint. I was quite impressed.

    Comment by John P — February 15, 2010 @ 4:02 pm
  7. Sears is great for replacing stuff. I had a chain saw with a problem and they just handed me another one. Said they’d fix the old one and discount it. When they say lifetime replacement on tools they mean it. I’ve never really had a problem with Kenmore appliances and now they carry just about all brands. They’ll match prices.

    Comment by Rick — February 15, 2010 @ 7:53 pm
  8. While I have to say I’m glad with the outcome you received, I wouldn’t say this is remarkable customer service if you had to email an executive to accomplish what you did. Remarkable customer service would have been Sears customer service representatives doing this from the start knowing that they have much to gain from a satisfied customer who has the potential to bring future business to their store.

    Comment by Bags — February 16, 2010 @ 3:08 am
  9. The display on a Sears Kenmore Microwave Oven from the Cambridge Massachusetts store didn’t display during heating. The door on the another Kenmore Microwave Oven jiggled. Sears offered another Kenmore Microwave Oven, a different model, that had a dent. Sears sent another Kenmore Microwave Oven then picked it up. It had a loose part inside the base and when turned on it didn’t heat. Sears handled each exchange as routine. To be continued!…

    Comment by thezak — February 18, 2010 @ 7:51 am
  10. I work for Sears (at a delivery warehouse) and although we’re not supposed to be involved in the customer service aspect of the
    business we do get many service related calls routed to us. I’ll tell you this, we work our behinds off attempting to fix customer
    issues. Trust me, you people that shop at Sears are VERY important to us. Our customer service business (like many companies)
    is now located in the Philipines and let me tell you, we get very frustrated dealing with issues that our so called “CS Pros”
    are supposed to fix and they have no clue. You may not get satisfaction from our customer service team, if not elevate it.
    I’m not saying contact corporate like Edgar did but be persistent. It’s constantly re-iterated to us how important our customers
    are.
    Quite honestly nothing makes me happier at work than when I’ve assisted a customer whose issues are solved….
    Thnaks Edgar for a positive story.

    Comment by Bob — February 21, 2010 @ 9:34 am

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