Sears recently reported the 19th straight quarter of declining sales. Maybe these declines explain why the company had taken to engaging in a practice more common at new car dealers: option packing.
As reported in Consumer World this week, Sears.com was found adding expensive five-year service contracts automatically to customers’ shopping carts as soon as the customer added a major appliance to it.
Here is a little closer look at what MrConsumer discovered. [See MrConsumer on KOMO News.]
As an example of what was going on at Sears.com, here is a relatively inexpensive conventional refrigerator:
When you click the “Add to Cart” button, it shows the refrigerator has been added to your cart (click picture to enlarge):
But, until last Friday, you would also see this:
You seem to be given an option to add a service plan to your purchase, but it has been pre-checked with the most expensive one — one for over $200. And, a quick look to the right, shows that Sears has, on its own, already added that five-year service plan and a water hose to your order automatically, raising the total price you pay by nearly 50%.
On a $400 refrigerator purchase it is easy to notice the big bump up in total price and easy to remove the protection plan. But on a more expensive appliance, or on an order with multiple items, customers may easily have overlooked the fact that Sears added on expensive service contracts on its own to your bill.
To their credit, Sears.com abandoned this nasty practice one day after we made a stink about it:
“Since this complaint was brought to our attention, we have had a chance to review our complaint records. In the time period it’s been in effect, we received very little negative customer feedback. Nonetheless, now that it’s been pointed out as an item of concern, we’ve made a decision to provide customers with the default choice of declining the protection agreement. This change will take effect tomorrow.” — Sears PR Director for Hardlines
What do you think? Should a company be allowed to just add extras to one’s shopping cart without being requested to do so even when they are easy to remove? Would you have caught the addition of a service contract to your order? Do you want to be forced to scrutinize every online order you make to ensure the retailer hasn’t pulled a fast one on you? Enter your thoughts in the comments.