Right now, it's still in a box that doubles as a handy kitchen island for unloading groceries. Tomorrow, it's getting fully installed, and the old, broken Kenmore dishwasher is being hauled away.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the havoc caused by my not-yet-six-month-old Kenmore dishwasher. I really got to that point where I was determined never to set foot in a Sears again. Brian and Gabriel from Sears Cares reached out to me via Twitter and via my blog comments to let me know that they were intent on bringing me back into the family.
Along the way, I learned some really interesting things.
First, not every Sears is really a Sears. Over the past few years, as Sears and Kmart merged and experimented with some new retail concepts, the Sears name has ended up on some storefronts that are either joint ventures or outright franchises. Originally, I chose to shop at the Sears Appliance & Hardware store in Collegeville, closer to my home. It turns out that, according to one Sears representative, these stores are considered "scratch and dent" shops by Sears corporate, and that they are operated by licensees. (Similarly, "Sears Hometown" stores are totally franchised operations—essentially third-party resellers.)
My friends know that I love buying floor demos, refurbs, and even "scratch and dent" stuff. My problem was that I bought a new, in-box appliance that failed and wrecked my basement ceiling. As one of the customer representatives pointed out, Sears Appliance & Hardware stores mostly sell discontinued models. They can special order anything from Sears' warehouse, but they display old models to help move old stock out of the warehouse. As my repair technician later confirmed, the dishwasher I got such a deal on was a "notoriously" defective model that he thought he'd seen the last of.
This is where things get really interesting.
The folks at Sears corporate can call up a Sears store, scare the bejeebus out of a department manager, and move heaven and earth to make things happen. Not so much with their joint venture operations. Corporate called the Assistant Manager at the store where I bought the dishwasher. The ASM was inclined to help, but his system wouldn't let him do anything.
We tried to go the repair route, but the repair technician kept getting rescheduled for "priority" air conditioning jobs. And I don't begrudge that. I would feel bad if someone had to deal with broken AC while the guy was fixing my dishwasher. But it begs the question of why Sears has only one guy in all of Philadelphia servicing both dishwashers and air conditioners.
Once the repair tech made it out for the fourth service call and realized that we had to wait two more weeks for parts, the Sears Cares team asked me to meet with the store managers in Collegeville. Everyone was nice, but again, the system wouldn't let them do anything. I left with an assurance that they would work out the issue with the system, and that I would be getting a replacement dishwasher delivered the following Tuesday.
I stayed home from work that day, but didn't hear a peep from anyone until a customer solutions representative called me to schedule another service appointment. When I asked her what happened to my replacement dishwasher, she told me that the store manager had revoked the order and placed a request for service because I didn't qualify for a replacement.
That's when I contacted Sears Cares one more time. The folks there, already flustered, took matters into their own hands. They asked me to go down to a real Sears store, at the mall, and pick out a replacement model. They would be taking care of me directly from the executive office.
Oddly enough, the Sears at King of Prussia was very different from my last visit. There was no sales shark activity, and the sales team was really respectful. I don't know if there are different managers or team members than there were last winter, or if everyone got some new training or direction. If the crew on duty that night had been there when I first shopped for our appliances, none of this probably would have happened!
Even when they found out they weren't making a real sale, the team made every effort to help me find a model that was nicer than what I had and in stock for immediate delivery. I called Sears Cares back Friday morning with my selection and Gabriel told me it would be there Tuesday. Their preferred installer was on vacation, but he would be in touch as soon as possible with installation details.
Sunday morning, delivery guys are on my doorstep. Sunday morning—of Labor Day Weekend. The delivery guys told me that corporate had placed an URGENT flag on this order, so they brought it right out to me. Later that day, the installer calls me—from the shore—to let me know he had an urgent message to drop everything and put me at the top of his schedule on Wednesday. This guy is calling me from the shore, on his vacation, to tell me that our dishwasher is his #1 priority.
Gabriel and Brian both told me that they would do whatever it takes to win me back as a Sears customer. And they responded in the very best way possible. Edyta from their insurance team is processing the repairs to the ceiling, and she's got a great demeanor that makes this kind of hassle a lot easier to deal with.
I'm still worried about Sears. It's a little dodgy to have third parties out there abusing your brand name and allowing resellers to make customers believe they're dealing with a single company. I still see issues with sales professionals and service representatives hamstrung by "the system." But, even in the harshest confrontations over the past few weeks, nobody was ever rude or dismissive to me. Everyone I encountered genuinely wanted to be of service to me, even if they couldn't make their computers obey their wishes. It's a process, but I believe there are plenty of people within Sears that really believe in their brand and want to recapture its glory.
Tomorrow, I'll report in on the installation, and I may even get to honor my promise to Gabriel and make a purchase at Sears again.