Summary

The in-home appliance repair advertised by Sears Home Services appears to be a violation of the Federal Trade Commission regulations regarding honesty in advertising for the reasons explained below. This is likely the reason Sears has received over 13,000 customer complaints over 3 years with 98% negative customer reviews with the Better Business Bureau.

My Experience

Shortly after purchasing a Maytag Washer / Dryer from Sears, I created a two-part video reviewing the units (Part 1 – 30 Jul 2011, Part 2 – 27 Aug 2012). Those two videos have received over 100,000 views on YouTube.

In May 2018 we had a problem with the dryer indicator lights and end-of-cycle buzzer not working. So, I contacted Sears to arrange a repair through Sears Home Services. The website tagline is “Services You Can Trust.”

I was told there were two repair options:

  1. Appliance Warranty Plan. Sears offers a comprehensive home appliance warranty that would cover the dryer and all our other major appliances (up to 10). The cost is $49.99 per month. So, about $600 per year, paid in advance. The benefits are explained on the Sears website.
  2. Pay Per Incident. The pay-per-incident service is $89.00 for the diagnostic, then the cost of parts and labor.

Since our other appliances are fairly new and unlikely to have issues, we opted for the pay-per-incident repair. It seemed like the repair cost would be lower with that option.

When the repair technician arrived, after a quick diagnostic he determined that something in the main circuitboard had failed, so the entire front control panel of the dryer would need to be replaced. Upon checking, it seemed like the part was not easily available to him. So, he said he couldn’t fix the unit.

I asked the technician what would have happened if we had purchased the $49.99 monthly plan. He said they would have made a more intensive search for the part, then repaired it, or they would have replaced the dryer unit with an equivalent model. I asked if I could choose that option instead. He said it was too late.

At no time during my online chat with the sales person was this explained. The guarantee we were given is that our dryer would be repaired for the base $89 diagnostic plus parts and labor.

We never would have imagined that parts wouldn’t be available for a very costly 7-year-old ‘commercial grade’ high-end appliance. That’s a convenient situation when someone can go around from house to house collecting $89 in about 30 minutes and telling people the parts aren’t available.

I was dissatisfied with the situation and contacted Sears immediately. i was told it could be taken care of, but the charge would need to be processed first, which usually happens at the end of the service day. So, I contacted Sears again on 17 May 2018 after the charge had gone through, and was told:

“I will go ahead and file a billing dispute with our customer solution team for refund… I have document your concern for refund and request a follow-up from our Customer Solutions team. … Our Customer Solutions team will contact you via email within 24 -48 hours on this situation, answering the concerns that you have provided me today.”

When I finally heard from the Customer Solutions team, I spoke with the call center supervisor and was again told that there would be no way a refund could be issued. The person said if I wasn’t satisfied, I could contact the Sears corporate office.

Not wanting to get into a lengthy exchange with the Sears corporate offices, and seeing that they didn’t appear to have a willingness to ensure customer satisfaction, I had my credit card company handle the situation through their dispute services.

Shortsighted Company Practices

As you might imagine, I’m unlikely to recommend Sears to anybody. Sears may have earned $89 by cheating me out of my money, but in the long run they will lose much more than $89. Companies with misleading advertising and unethical business practices generally don’t last long. The large Sears store that was in our area closed a few years ago.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Sears currently has over 13,000 customer complaints and 98% negative customer reviews. These are ‘closed’ cases (a requirement to maintain accreditation). Despite their 98% negative reviews, somehow Sears is able maintain their B+ rating.

Even on their own website, out of 50,850 reviews, there are 13% negative 1-star reviews (about 6,600 people). The combined 1-star and 2-star reviews are 17%. So, about 8,600 customers, were very dissatisfied with the service provided. When you sort the reviews by “Most Helpful” to see the reviews customers have identified as the most accurate portrayal, mostly 1-star reviews are listed with numerous horror stories. Here are a few:

“After 5 repair visits, my fridge is still not working properly.” ~ Customer in Louisiana, 22 June 2018

“We have had a problem with our dryer tomorrow will be the 4th attempt to fix it.” ~ Customer in Illinois, 22 June 2018

“I have had two service calls and my freezer is still not working properly.” ~ Customer in Florida, 20 June 2018

“Sears cannot get the washer fixed for 3 months already. And their service phone people only know how to follow a scrips with out being able to answer questions or really understand the customers.” ~ Customer in California, 23 June 2018

There are literally thousands of complaints like these, on the Sears website. The Better Business Bureau has even more, and presumably there are frustrated people who didn’t even bother writing a review or filing a complaint.

When poor customer service becomes systemic and institutionalized, people get taken advantage of.

Sears bankruptcy and their retirees’ pension plan

This 26 June 2018 video from CBC News Canada explains the crash of Sears:

Sears retirees may soon lose a big part of their pensions. That’s because company executives invested only minimal amounts in their employees’ pension funds over much of the last decade. But those executives followed the rules, and even acted with government support, at the same time that they distributed billions of dollars to their company’s shareholders. The story of the Sears bankruptcy sheds light on the murky world of corporations and their pension funds revealing how pools of money that are thought to be fully protected, can quickly evaporate with workers potentially losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Enquête is Radio-Canada’s flagship weekly current affairs program. The show uncovers corruption, crime, and abuse of power in Quebec and Canada.

Resources

Here are some resources for further study.

“Service You Can Trust”