This blog has always advocated for consumers. Today's blog post is about the experiences a friend has had with extremely poor home appliance repair service.
In July 2009, Ilene purchased a boiler from Sears Home Improvement with a Master Service contract (including repairs through 2015), for steam heat for her home. When Ilene tried to use the boiler for steam heat in the fall of 2009, it failed to start. Ilene's experience:
"In July of 2009, I bought a boiler from Sears Home Improvement along with a service contract. The first time I fired up the boiler to heat the house [in the Fall of 2009], it failed to work. I called the appropriate number to get service and was told that there were no contractors in my area and they would have to locate someone. I called several more times in the next few days and after 4 days of living in the cold, I called my plumber who not only fixed the problems, but also told me the installers had failed to skim the system and do several other things that were according to code."
"Sears did send someone to inspect the boiler installation. He admitted to me there were flaws in the installation and said Sears was no longer using that contractor. Nevertheless, when I asked Sears to pay the plumber's bill, they refused, saying they had not authorized me to call my plumber. This caused me to sue in Small Claims Court."
Ilene sued Sears in Small Claims Court in March 2010, and won a settlement of $500. (Don't mess with seniors!) However, the court process cost her a filing fee and a day's lost pay. You'd think that after this experience, Sears would correct any gaps in its residential repair service. Apparently not by March 2011:
"On March 17, the boiler stopped working and after making sure it was not a fuse or thermostat problem, I called Sears Home Improvement for service. I was put on hold for over ten minutes (twice) and hung up convinced this was a deliberate evasion tactic. I was not called back until 5 days after I had lost heat, one day after my plumber had restored it. I was so angry, I told [Sears] it was fixed and I was going to sue them again."
Ilene lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- near Boston, a major metropolitan area. She wants to know why Sears sold her a service contract if they don't have any reliable contractors where she lives. And, Ilene also wants Sears to honor the Master Service contract she paid for.
In New England, it is often cold during March, with daytime temperatures in the 30's and low 40's -- colder nights with temperatures below freezing. As a senior citizen who has family living with her, and who recently had hip surgery, a working boiler for heat is critical.
Understandably, Ilene feels like she has been mugged by Sears:
"They certainly are not the same reputable Sears I grew up with!!"
Obviously, a consumer should not have to sue a retailer to get resolution. It seems unbelieveable that Sears cannot arrange reliable repair service for consumers living in a major metropolitan area in the Northeast.
According to The Consumerist blog, at least one other New England resident also went without heat during March after Sears failed to send a repair technician. Seven days without heat is too long. Repair service failures like this are unacceptable in cold weather regions.
It would seem that Ilene's experience of failing to get home boiler repair service from Sears is not an isolated event.
After some online searching, I noticed that while the Sears Home Services Twitter page is active, the Sears Home Appliances Twitter page appears to have been abandoned (with its last tweet dated May 2010). The Consumerist blog advised consumers to:
"... contact the Sears Cares executive customer service line, which can be reached at email@example.com."
Ilene asked for my help. First, I suggested to Ilene that she write to her U.S. Congress House representative and to her Massachusetts House representative about the repair service failures. Second, on Ilene's behalf to get Sears' response to this repair service failure, I sent an email inquiry to Sears on Sunday, March 27. While I did not receive a reply, a Sears representative called Ilene on Tuesday, March 29. According to Ilene:
"I was contacted by a representative from Sears as a result of your inquiry. She had reviewed the record and said Sears, "had definitely dropped the ball". She is doing further investigation, but acknowledged that I had a Masters Contract to cover repairs. I have an expectation that Sears will pay the bill to repair the boiler and hopefully to replace the pipe clogged up with sludge. Thank you so much for your assistance!"
You can contact the Sears representative, Stephanie, at 1(800) 573-8431, extension 11032.
Has anyone else experienced home repair service problems like this from Sears? If so, what did you do to correct the problem?