You can’t have a great brand when your customer service sucks

August 26, 2010

*Updates at the bottom of post*

Let me give you the story… its a little long, but worth it.

3 weeks ago, my dear husband did some research and chose a new room air conditioner for us to purchase. We chose a Kenmore model and ordered it through the Sears website.

The next day we get a call from someone in a Sears store in Pennsylvania saying that they thought they had the model, but didn’t. They had claimed they did and we were charged at their store for the unit so they would have to refund our money. We would have to place a new order and PAY AGAIN for the air conditioner if we wanted it shipped.

WHAT? We ordered online, not from your store. Can’t you just put it back in to your Sears system and send it from another store? Apparently not.

Apparently, how it works when you order from Sears.com is that a store will claim the order and charge you and ship the item. Except when they don’t actually have the item. Then you are screwed.

So fine.. we re-placed the order with them on the phone, were charged again and a few days later we received an air conditioner. That was crushed inside the box. And not the right model.


So we called Sears. They said they would send a call tag. And told us we would have to PAY AGAIN to receive the air conditioner. Pay? a THIRD TIME? You have to be kidding me? So we asked where our first refund was from the store that claimed they had the a/c but didn’t. Sears customer service wanted to know when we returned that a/c to the store. HUH? First of all, we ordered the a/c online and never received it and second of all, the store is in Pennsylvania and we live in Massachusetts!

Then we were put on hold for 15 minutes. And got silently hung up on.

My sweet, polite, calm husband was livid at this point.

We called back.

And were told they would have to research this because they couldn’t access our account. Someone else had it open.

So now we are out a lot of cash (put it on the debit card) and all we had was a broken air conditioner. And me being me, I tweeted about it to see if I could get the attention of someone who could help in their customer service department.

It worked and I got a call from someone in the Sears Cares office who swore he would take care of the problem and HE was going to be my savior. He talked a good game in that first phone call and said it would take 5 business days for the refund of the first charge. Fine, we’d wait, that seemed reasonable (even though I still think their whole system of eCommerce is archaic for putting through the charge in the first place). He sent a call tag and then once they received the broken unit, they would immediately start the process for refunding that money.

Oh and we’ll give you 25% off the air conditioner if you still want to buy it. I told him if we can pick it up at our local store with that discount, we’d be interested. He never got back to me about that.

A few days later I called him to ask why we haven’t received our first refund. This time he was rather rude and said that he had told me the process had been started and it could take 14 days. Which is NOT what I was told in that first phone call. First in a series of lies.

Then I asked about the 25% discount and if the unit was in a store for me to pick up. I was put on hold and several minutes later he came back and said my local store didn’t have it and it was last year’s model anyway so it was unlikely any store was going to have it. I said, well you are selling it on your website, why would you sell something you don’t have.. and he said.. “because there could be a store that has one laying around in a back room.” He was not nearly as nice in this call and was rather snotty when he revealed we ordered last year’s model. Like they make that clear on the website and we should be aware of this year’s air conditioning fashion.

That certainly explains the crushed a/c we received though.

Meanwhile.. The chatter in the social media world shows Kenmore and Sears courting bloggers and throwing large parties for them in Chicago and supplying some people with free washers and dryers and other pricey appliances*. Talking about how their brand really cares about people and bloggers and the world and small puppies and bunnies.

And here is me. Small personal blog (I wont involve my work in a personal matter), Decent twitter following, medium (but influential) Facebook audience and I can’t get a straight answer OR my money back. For something we were willing to pay for and still dont have, not even being offered a discounted anything any more.

If you are going to center your marketing around how well you treat people and listen to your customers? You might want to actually take the time to find out that your customer service is doing none of that.. even to the people you yourselves are courting. You have to actually care, and listen and make sure the people buying your brand are as happy as can be, are given straight answers and treated as the most important people on Earth.

And I can’t believe I’m saying this.. but you know who does it right? Comcast. and Zappos. Learn from them. Update antiquated eCommerce systems and policies and actually FIX problems when they arise.

And here we are .. a few weeks later. Heard from our Sears Cares rep yesterday who said the money would be in our account today (it isn’t) and the email we received from a different department said 72 hours after the refund was initiated (?? that would have been weeks ago according to what we were told). Just another lie in the mix. The broken a/c has long been picked up but noone can give us information about THAT refund. They’ll need to “research” it.

And we are still waiting for our money.. and anticipating the heat wave this weekend without a new air conditioner.

* I am pro-blogger outreach and by no means think any of these bloggers are at fault in any way for receiving goods or services (or parties) offered to them by a brand. I believe bloggers can be a valuable asset to a brand but the brand has to back their words with their actions, which in this case, they are not.

UPDATE: 8/27/10: Still no refunds. We have not been called back about the status of the 2nd refund, I cant imagine it takes 2 days to “research” if they received the broken unit back.

UPDATE 8/27/10 3:30pm: Was told for a second time that the refund on the 1st charge will take 5 days.. which is not the 24 hours we were told 2 days ago or the 72 hours we were told on an email 2 days ago. It is also the same thing we were told 2 weeks ago and didn’t receive the money then either. Also, now we are being told they dont know where the AC unit is that was picked up by UPS. Of course I have the pick up slip, but its home and I’m at work. So there hasn’t even been anything done on the 2nd refund at all.. noone has even touched it or looked at it this issue in the least.

8/27/10 6:00pm: I now have proof of delivery from UPS that the AC unit was delivered to the Sears dock in Manteno IL a week ago

Conclusion to this story



  1. First off, the ad on your blog was for Sears (R) AC Specialists. Pretty nervy.

    Have you tried (a) Consumerist.com or (b) filing a complaint with the credit card company who holds your debit card?

    OH, honey, I wish you guys good luck. I get so upset when eCommerce fails us because it scares newbies away from an otherwise decent Internet. And to fail it with someone I like – VERY bad!

  2. […] A rockin' mama and her boys enjoying the finer things in life… and each other « You can’t have a great brand when your customer service sucks Sears returns cash.. but their systems are still seriously flawed August 31, 2010 […]

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