Sears — refused refund and poor service
After the nightmarish experience that took place on Sunday August 23, 2009 as a result of incompetent repair work and poor customer service, my faith in the Sears Company has severely been impacted. Before I begin and describe this ordeal in detail, let me make it perfectly clear that resolution was received yesterday through the help and persistence of the sales clerk, Tom, and reluctantly so by the Manager on Duty, Kevin. I would also like to mention that the professionalism shown by another sales clerk Tim was greatly appreciated. Despite the end result, the events leading up to the resolution are events that I would hope beyond hope never have to happen again to another customer.
Our problem began when our television began making noises while it was on. The television is outside any manufacturers’ or extended service coverage so we contemplated replacing the TV. However because the TV was one of the only electronics in our home that survived an electrical storm last summer, we decided to see if it could be repaired. We had taken another one of our TV’s to the Sears Repair Center location in Merrillville Indiana last summer when the electrical storm had caused damage to the color on the screen when it was still under warranty. Because of the successful repair in that circumstance we had decided to take our other TV there to be looked at. We dropped the television off for repair and paid the diagnostic service fees. After they had diagnosed the problem, we received a call stating the television could be repaired for approximately $150. We decided that putting additional money into this TV would be worth it considering it’s durability during the electrical storm last summer. When we received the television back from the repair center, we immediately noticed something wrong. The color along the top of the screen, especially the top right corner, was a shade of bluish green. At our very next opportunity we took the television back the repair center in Merrillville.
When we dropped our television off on this occasion, they placed a recall sticker on the work order and gave us an approximate date of return for the TV of August 7th or 8th with a promise that we’d hear from those working on the television what the status was. We didn’t hear anything back from anyone regarding the television until August 10th. I had gone in for foot surgery on the morning of August 10th and upon arriving home, we received a voicemail stating that the TV was not able to be repaired in its condition and that the television was going to be replaced. When my fiancée called back to find out what was going to happen next, they gave him an authorization number, asked which Sears store we would be making the purchase at, and informed him that we would have a credit of $200 towards the purchase of a new TV.
My fiancée then proceeded to go to the Sears store located in Schererville Indiana, store number 4400 located at 120 US Highway 41. He was helped by the sales associate, Tom, who helped him pick out a 19” LCD Sylvania. We were also interested in the 3 year shop warranty, because despite the fact the repair center returned our television to us in worse condition then it had been in originally, they were willing to stand behind their mistake without question or hesitation and issued us the credit. The receipt ID on the receipt for the television is [protected]. When the purchase was put through, they were unable to ring the warranty on the same receipt because the credit was being used for the purchase. They processed the warranty on receipt ID [protected]. The transaction was complete and at this point, despite the problems, the driving back and forth, and close to 3 weeks in total without a television at this point we were satisfied customers.
Now since the time the television had been set up on the afternoon of August 10th, I’ve been at home still recuperating from my surgery and have had time to watch the new television set. I noticed that a pixel had gone out in the center of the television. This was a problem that I had experienced on my laptop’s LCD screen and I know that it’s not something that should happen with this type of display. Seeing as the television was less then 2 weeks old and pixels were already going bad, I was the one that encouraged my fiancée that the television needed to be exchanged for one that was working properly.
On the afternoon of August 23rd, a mere thirteen days after the box for the Sylvania 19inch LCD television was opened for the first time by the consumer, my fiancée took the television, with every every cable, book, and piece of plastic that was originally packaged in the box back to the store in which it was purchased. This is where I’m a little unclear as to all of the details as I was having lunch with a friend nearby and didn’t arrive there until several minutes after he did. When I had called to inform him I was on my way, he stated that they were trying to tell him the TV was unreturnable. When I arrived, he was on the phone with someone who I later learned was a company or help line known as “One Source.” Someone had written their phone number on the original receipt, [protected]. Whatever conversations had already taken place prior to my arrival at the store, caused Tony to grow very upset. This was completely out of character for him to react in the manner that he was when I arrived. The contact at One Source wouldn’t authorize the return.
Seeing Tony as upset as he was, provoked me at first also when I arrived and I’ll admit that I was not as calm at first in this situation as I should’ve been. Tony begin to use inappropriate language and at this point they called the police to the store. I had sent my son outside to wait because the scene was beginning to get a little out of hand. I wasn’t clear as to why their was even a question as to the product’s eligibility for the return and all I was trying to do at this point was to get some answers. Tony, still upset, wanted to leave and said that we’d see them in court over the issue. I told him to go outside and let me try to figure things out. During this time, the police arrived on the scene and were with Tony, my son, and an associate by the name of Tim. I noticed the manager, Kevin, was stepping back and forth between inside the store and outside during the time the police were present.
While I was inside trying to get some answers, Tom made another effort to contact someone to get an authorization for the return. What I was learning about the denial for the return was that since the item was purchased using a credit issued by the repair center, the new TV had to be deemed unrepairable by the repair center in order for a return or exchange to take place on this TV. My argument to this was that this was a brand new item out of the box that was defective. We were not looking for any money to exchange hands, simply an even exchange to take place since the product under any other circumstances would fall under the return policy guidelines. I don’t know how many times I repeated the following words to the manager, “Our goal is that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. If for any reason you are not satisfied, simply return your purchase in its original packaging, with your receipt within 90 days of your purchase.” Those are the words imprinted with the return policy on the back of your sales receipts. Kevin kept referencing this other policy about items purchased using credits. I asked to see such a policy. I stated that I would leave once I saw a written policy that backed this claim since everything I saw showed this item was eligible for a return.
During these arguments inside, Tim came in from outside to let me know that things were getting heated outside with the police and that Tony was asking to be hauled off to jail all while my son stood watching and very frightened. Tom was still on the phone trying for a resolution, so I stepped outside and Tim saw to it that my son went inside and found a chair to sit and wait on. I was able to calm Tony down without a trip to jail, Tony apologized to the police, the police sympathized with Tony on the outrageousness of the situation and explained that he was only making things worse by letting his temper get in the way of things. I convinced Tony to leave the store at this point, while I finished inside seeing what information I could gather.
While back inside, Tim and another female associate who was at the desk made sure that my son was alright after everything that had taken place. I wish I had gotten her name because she was offering to pull up a chair for me as well and seemed to sympathize with the situation at hand and needs to be commended as well for her customer service in a less then perfect situation. Tom was still on the phone and I heard him telling the person on the other end that he was looking at all of this from the customer’s eyes and wanted to get to a resolution. The person on the other end wouldn’t give the authorization that Kevin was wanting before proceeding with the exchange.
When Tom was off the phone without the authorization, Kevin still was not budging on an exchange and still kept referring back to this mysterious policy. I explained that I myself work as an Operations Manager in retail and know that if said policy were in place, documentation was available and I know how defective product returns work when items get sent back to the manufacturer. I explained to him that the only policy I saw was what I was basing my argument on, and that was the return policy printed on the receipt. I repeated this policy again, said if I could see something in writing with information on this other policy I would gladly leave, and at this point Kevin authorized the exchange of the defective TV with the same make and model as the original purchase. While the exchange was taken place, I heard Kevin mutter something about the price of the TV being on sale now too. I chose to ignore the comment to avoid any further headache with Kevin at that time and as no price match policy is printed on the receipt, I couldn’t be certain he was trying to withhold that information from me. That in itself was not a fight worth fighting with him and we were getting the resolution we had come in to receive. I just felt his tone and mannerisms were completely unprofessional. This final sales receipt ID is [protected].
I would also like to point out that on the bottom of the sales receipt, the following words appear, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. A receipt dated within 90 days is required for a return or exchange…… other rules apply. See back of receipt for details. Returned merchandise must include all component parts. Refund will be issued in the original tender.” This is what gets me about this whole scenario. We followed everything to the letter per the policy and information that was available to us. The item was returned within 14 days of date of purchase which is considerably less then the 90 day requirement. We had every component and packaging material that came with the unit, and we had our receipts. I still for the life of me can’t fathom why this was an issue. Why was it necessary to reference the old television repeatedly as an excuse to deny us our right to a non-defective product? If you’ll allow me to reference my own retail experience again, if a return is brought in where a store credit of any kind has been used, the customer receives the value back in store credit… the original form of tender. When the transaction was processed, Kevin had to override the cost of the new LCD screen to a price of $19.80 which was the subtotal amount that we had to pay out of pocket for the television after the credit was issued. Now referencing your own printed sales receipts again and the excerpt I copied at the beginning of this paragraph, the final statement in that section reads, “Refund will be issued in the original tender.” If an even exchange was not possible due to the credit, then a refund of the original amount of the TV that was paid out of pocket should have been given back to us and a new credit of 200.19 should have been given based on the fact the item was defective right out of the box.
It was a matter of dumb luck that the box with the pixel that was out was the one that was originally handed to us instead of one that was in good working order. That was out of our control. The fact that the repair center improperly fixed the first television was out of our control. What was in the control of Sears was to stop and objectively look at the facts at hand and handle this in a manner that wouldn’t have caused such an escalation. My fiancée is not a person that I’ve EVER seen get as upset as I did when I arrived at the store yesterday. If things had been rationally explained and if people weren’t so busy to hide behind policy, tempers never would have flared, the police never would’ve had to come, and my son wouldn’t have this nightmare memory of almost witnessing his step father hauled off to jail over this whole ordeal.
Don’t get me wrong, we understand our own part in this mess, but we’re willing to admit and apologize for our temper. Tony purchased cards to thank the officer who helped calm him down along with an apology card that he’s sending out because he feels awful with how he chose to handle the situation. Regardless of how ashamed we feel for our initial reactions, it doesn’t take away from the reason why our tempers flew off the handle. If such policies are in place as Kevin frequently stated yesterday, I would advise that reference to them be made on your receipts or in a book available for your managers to show the customers upon request at your service desks. While your customers will probably continue to hate this policy as much as we do, they can’t argue with it if there is visible documentation that states it. I would also highly recommend that mangers be trained in what-if scenario’s that involve this type of ordeal so they are better prepared to handle them in the future.
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