Sears: A Corporate & Consumer Failure

By Jon F. Merz

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Yesterday, my wife and I ventured to the Dedham, MA Sears store to purchase a new washer and dryer. Our current models both decided to need replacing at virtually the same time and since they’re about ten years old, we decided it was a good excuse to upgrade. We also bought a new stove. At the store, we worked with a great associate named Don, who was capable and friendly and made the shopping experience quick and seamless. When we explained to Don that we didn’t have a working washer & dryer at the moment and would therefore appreciate the fastest possible delivery of the replacements, he told us he would look up the delivery times and let us know. He came back and told us we would have our entire order today – October 31st. Needless to say, we were pleased, paid for the order and left the store assured that we would have a new setup today.

Yesterday at around 4pm, I got a call from an automated service telling me there was a delay in the delivery, but instead of telling me any more information, I was directed to call a number. This number turned out to be in the Philippines, judging by the accent of the woman I spoke to who informed me that delivery was now slated for November 4th. I told her that we would not have purchased the new appliances had we known delivery would take an extra five days. She then tried to call the warehouse, but got no answer. Then I got disconnected, which meant I had to repeat the entire process again. This time, the CSR suggested I call the Dedham store and ask if they had any stock they could ship to us instead.

Fine. I called the Dedham store and wound up speaking to an automated operator who apparently does not understand clear, concise English because I was shouting into the phone to things like “large appliances” and the always challenging “yes.” After trying to navigate that for a while, I finally reached someone human who told me to call back the Dedham store and press zero when the robot came on. I did. And promptly wound up at customer service at a national call center rather than the store itself. I once again explained the situation – stressing the importance of us getting our new washer & dryer. I was fine waiting for the new stove to be delivered. Ours works fine for the moment. But the new washer & dryer are sort of important when you have kids.

This time, the CSR told me that since we’d ordered in the store, she couldn’t actually see our order. That made no sense whatsoever. How can that be? Do Sears computers not synch to the same network? Don’t they “talk” to each other? She finally managed to locate my order and according to her, it was still scheduled for an October 31st delivery and that I should ignore the automated call that started this entire thing. She stressed that I would receive a call last evening giving me a delivery window for today and to call a certain number if I did not receive that call.

In the meantime, I took to Twitter and bitched directly at the Sears twitter account. I got an immediate response, but upon giving them my contact info, was told they’d get back to me in 24 hours. FAIL. If you don’t have someone manning your social media who can produce results for consumers, what the hell is the point? Lip service is a shoddy replacement for actual results.

And guess what – no call last night either.

So I called back, and for the third time found myself speaking to the Philippines. And once again, I was told that the delivery had been changed to November 4th. The CSR tried calling the warehouse and again, no one picked up the phone. I asked when the warehouse opened in the morning and she told me their hours are 9-5.

A few thing for the Sears Corporation to ponder:

1. Why, despite the fact that this was post-Sandy, did your computer systems not have updated delivery times? Or do you encourage store clerks to routinely lie about delivery times?
2. I’m in Massachusetts and we were not unduly affected by Sandy. I have to imagine that any appliance delivery is coming from a warehouse in Massachusetts – especially since I was told I’d have it the day after I bought it. In fact, a quick Internet search shows several that are fairly close to where I live. So given that Sandy didn’t swallow half our state, why is there a delivery delay? If I was in New Jersey, then this would certainly make sense. But I don’t think I would have gone shopping for appliances yesterday if I was!
3. Why was the CSR unable to locate my store order? That one still defies reason. If your computer systems aren’t synched, what century are you operating in? It shouldn’t matter where a consumer purchases your products, you should have a complete picture all the time. You might want to fix that.
4. Your warehouse apparently doesn’t believe in answering the phone. You might want to fix that.
5. The person manning your Twitter account has no apparent power to get results for aggrieved consumers. You might want to fix that.

We dropped about $2500 in your Dedham, MA store yesterday. That’s not an insignificant amount of money. And one would think that a large store like Sears would appreciate that large a purchase and make every attempt to make good on their promises. After all, it’s a pretty basic relationship: I give you money and you give me products. That’s how it works. It’s not: I give you money and then have to call the Philippines, get disconnected, deal with robot operators, try to understand your labyrinthine rationale behind your computer networks, get told conflicting things, and then take to the Internet to write a thousand-word blog post in the attempt to get said products delivered to my home.

Here’s the thing: it’s October 31st and I want my appliances. I want them today, when I was told they would be here. Your clerk made that promise; if your warehouse knew delivery times were going to be affected or delayed, they should have updated the system with those delays. Because frankly, telling me AFTER the purchase was made is bullshit.

My suggestion: get a call into your warehouse and get my delivery made today – as well as the deliveries for anyone else who was promised the same thing yesterday.

Good luck getting them to answer the phone.

BTW, I have around 50,000 followers on Twitter, over 2500 fans on Facebook, 4,000+ friends on my facebook profile, and a few thousand on my newsletter list.

And ALL of them are going to see this post.

(For my readers, if you’d like to help Sears understand the error of their ways, you can Tweet the following: “Sears: A Corporate & Consumer Failure http://bit.ly/VDe51r @searscares @sears Please RT!” and then encourage anyone else to do the same. Thank you!)

UPDATE: 31 OCTOBER 2012 14:34

So earlier today I received a voicemail from someone named Edwin in Texas at Sears, referring to the Tweet I’ve been blasting everywhere. After apologizing, he invited me to call him back at 888-572-8119 and if he was unavailable to leave a voicemail at extension 19. He also gave me the case number that has been assigned to me.

Soooo….I called. Turns out it’s not a direct line and you’re invited to enter an extension number in, so I put in “19.” There’s a series of beeps that sounds like you’re being transferred somewhere and then nothing but dead air. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I tried pressing buttons; I tried waiting for someone to pick up. But there’s nothing.

Disgusted, I hung up and called the actual number that Edwin had called me on earlier: 512-248-7700. When the line picks up, they ask you to say the name of the person you’re trying to reach. I said “Edwin.” That then transferred me to someone named “Ed,” who on his voicemail says, “If you’re looking for Edwin, I’m afraid you’ve dialed the wrong number.” But then he doesn’t tell you the right number. I called back and repeated Edwin’s name again only to hear there’s no one named Edwin at that location.

Then just now, as I’m typing this update, someone from Sears calls to tell me they need to delay delivery and can fit me in Saturday. When I ask where the shipment is coming from, they tell me Westwood, MA. I asked them why the warehouse hadn’t told the store there would be problems with delivery and they said that the system was updated last night. I told them that made no sense, since they should have immediately informed the stores yesterday morning that there might be delays.

So here we are: Sears may well be trying to make this matter right, but I have no way of knowing since their systems seem to be completely un-synched and no one is talking to anyone else. Westwood is a few miles from my home – I see no reason why they can’t get my delivery here on the day the store promised. If they can’t figure out their systems, that’s not my fault; it’s their problem.

Thoroughly and completely disgusted with such inept service.

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