Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sears: Where Customer Service is for Cardholders (long, boring post)

You won't see me at Sears Canada again. I can't believe their rudeness.

I bought an electronics item from Sears online for my wife for Christmas. Two weeks after Christmas, with the product unopened, my wife decided she didn't really want that model. So a few days later I called Sears customer service to inquire how to return it -- only to find that I had missed the return deadline.

I was told I had only 15 days to return electronics. When I pointed out that that date would have come before Christmas, the voice on the end of the phone looked into it and admitted that yes, since it's an Xmas present I had till 15 days after Christmas. But that would have been Jan. 9, she said, which meant I had still missed it by five days. So, no return.

I didn't have time to pursue that conversation, so I took it up again the other day. Called customer service and told them I need to discuss a return-deadline extension. The operator who answered said she would pass me on to Customer Service, like it was a big deal. They answered the phone, I started explaining, then I realized I was talking to dead air. I had been cut off.

Called back. This time the agent who answered the phone wanted to get all my details before passing me to Customer Service. So I gave him my ID and phone number, the details of the transaction, and confirmed that I had already been told the deadline has passed. I told him that I found the deadline oppressive, and that as a longtime Sears customer I was politely asking for an extension. He took down all the details and said he would pass them on to Customer Service while I stayed on Hold.

The agent got back to me a minute or two later to inform me that Customer Service had said I had missed the deadline.

I replied, quite patiently I think, that I already knew that, and that I wanted to discuss an extension with someone empowered to do so. I also mentioned that since Sears accepts returns of items bought with its own credit card for up to 90 days, I knew that my deadline was an arbitrary choice, not a company-wide policy - and that I didn't like being treated like a second-class citizen.

He promised to connect me with the next available Customer Service supervisor. Again I waited on hold. Then I got the beep-beep-beep saying I had been cut off. Again.

So I called back, explained my problem to another telemarketer, and she promised to connect me to Customer Service. After taking my name and phone number. Soon after, a supervisor came on. I mentioned that I had been hung up on twice and hoped it wouldn't happen again. She said, coldly, "How can I help you?"

Not a good sign, I thought.

I went through the story again. As a longtime customer, I was asking Sears for a favor. She said I should have known the policy. I said the tight deadlines were not obvious on the website when I bought from them. She said I missed the deadline. When I persisted, she asked me for my name and phone number. She looked up my record and then said, as if this was something new, there was nothing she could do.

I said, one more time, I wanted to have a conversation as to why I thought I merited an exemption. She very brusquely made clear she had no interest in such a the discussion and said there would be no return.

So I asked for the name of her supervisor. She said there was no one else to talk to. She would give me her name, which was Tanya. But Tanya, it seems, is a dead end.

I said that I was surprised that a customer service supervisor would have so little empathy for a customer calling with a problem. Especially someone who had equipped two laundry rooms with Kenmore appliances, and had already been cut off twice. She told me she wasn't responsible for other people cutting me off. And, one more time, I had missed the deadline and there would be no return.

Ouch. Watch your back when shopping at Sears (see my note  on their mutilayered return policy, below).

Thank you, Tanya, for your interest and concern. I won't darken Sears' doors or website again. And I hope you get some customer-service training soon.
Once, you could count on department stores for the best price. Then, as the deep discounters emerged, it was service. Now I don't know what Sears is. But it doesn't really matter any more.

Returns Policy from (you have to click through two screens to get to this policy, so it's not exactly front and centre):
Our goal is that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. If for any reason you are not satisfied, simply return your purchase with your receipt for an exchange or refund within 90 days when purchased on your Sears Card, Sears MasterCard, Sears Voyage MasterCard or Sears Gift Card.

Items purchased with any other method may be exchanged or refunded within 30 days.
You have to read down for another 400 words (a full screen or more) to find that electronics has a different deadline.

Computers, Electronics, Electronic Games, Electronic Consoles and Health/home care products Exchange or refund within 15 days
Within 15 days of purchase, items may be returned providing that they are in new and unused condition, with all original packaging, accessories, instructions, etc. A restocking fee of 20% will be charged on returned product.

Sears. Where customer service is reserved for cardholders.
New Management Welcome.

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