Will it be over soon?

The consumer advocate for the San Jose Mercury News writes a column he calls “Action Line.” In today’s column he published a letter from a consumer who had a problem with a treadmill and called Sears Home Services for a repair estimate. The estimate was $915 and the charge for the estimate was $99, which I assume would have been credited against the repair, had one been made. Due to the high cost of the repair the consumer decided against repairing the treadmill.

She soon thereafter discovered that the power-strip the treadmill was plugged into had failed and the treadmill was, in fact, not receiving any power, which was at least significant to the fact that it was not working. The technician from Sears Home Services had failed to notice this issue.

The consumer called Sears to ask that another tech come out and re-evaluate the problem because the consumer was not totally convinced the problem was just the power strip and was reticent to plug the treadmill back in. She also suggested that she should not have to pay for another visit by a technician. Sears Home Services advised that the charge was at the discretion of the repair technician. She declined to pay again for what was obviously misdiagnosed the first time, so no repair technician was sent.

She contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and almost immediately Sears Home Services sent out a technician at no charge to the consumer, found there was indeed a small problem with the treadmill, which required a part to be replaced, which was done at no charge. Happy consumer? Well maybe.

My son had a similar problem with a Sears washer and dryer combo that he bought and got the same run-around. After contacting the BBB, Sears replaced his washer and dryer with a new unit as the old one clearly had a  defect in it. (It had been repaired 4 times in one year for the same problem and was no longer under warranty so they had initially said, “too bad,” you have to pay to repair it.)

Happy customer? Sort of. If you have to call the BBB to get Sears to do what they should do, who needs that? This is a far cry from the Sears I wrote about in my book, It’s Not Rocket Science: Using Marketing to Build a Sustainable Business. That Sears still operated on their pioneering premise “Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back.” That Sears is long gone and with it, the Sears that was a profitable retailer leader.

Sears has been on a downward spiral for a VERY long time. Will it be over soon? Maybe.

And should you believe that the old “guarantee of satisfaction” can’t work in today’s world consider Zappo’s, a booming shoe retailer that offers unconditional return privileges for any reason or no reason. And there are others like them that have the same thing in common.


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