Buying a new dryer from Sears (aka “A Customer Experience nightmare”)

{Note: an update to this as of February 2013 is now available}

When dd was a few months away from being born, we decided it was time to trade up on our old washer and dryer and go with new High Efficiency (HE) front-loading models that would be easier for me to use while rocking the baby belly. We dutifully researched the purchase on Consumer Reports, checked all the flyers, and decided on a pair of Samsung models. Of course, not thinking, “But does anyone SERVICE Samsung appliances in Massachusetts?”, we purchased them from Best Buy and just assumed that they’d be easily maintained and serviced. WRONG. According to Samsung, only one place serviced their gas washers/dryers in New England, and the parts had to come over from Korea whenever anything broke. This is, as they say, sub-optimal.

Fast-forward six years (and several expensive, difficult to schedule repairs) and we were having too many issues with the Samsung dryer. It’s been putting dark marks, almost burn marks, on light colored clothing and sheets – and nothing seems to fix it. DH didn’t want to wash a new shirt I’d bought for him until we replaced the dryer because he was afraid it would be ruined before he wore it. I’d hit my limit. Time to get a new dryer.

We went back to Consumer Reports and looked specifically for Kenmore models – I figured that would negate service issues, since I know Sears will service what they sell. Kenmore also had top ratings and the best service record of all the gas dryers tested by CR, so I was excited to get a new, more easily-serviced gas dryer. The day before we were going to make the purchase, I was contacted by a member of the Sears media team, offering me a free $25 gift certificate towards a purchase, with the request (not demand) that I blog about my experience. This is perfect timing!, I thought. And this, dear readers, is where the fun part of the story ends. It all goes downhill from here.

Purchase Process
Since the gift certificate was an e-gc, I decided to make the purchase online via MyPoints so I could get points for it. It was easy enough to add the dryer to my online shopping cart, but when I tried adding discount codes, things started to go off the rails. First, the free appliance delivery coupon code I saw on the website didn’t work because the site said it was a bad code. Then, the $35 off code I saw on Sears’ Shop Your Way rewards program site didn’t work; turns out that the code had expired hours earlier and the website hadn’t cycled it out of production. The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I tried to get my “haul-away” set up so that I could make sure my old dryer would be disposed of by Sears. Every time I added haul-away to the professional installation required by Massachusetts law, the setting never updated on the summary of the shopping cart on the right-hand side of the page. When I went back to the section of the purchase process that allowed me to verify it was part of the installation, the installation selections reverted to their default settings, forcing me to re-select all the necessary options. I went around and around for quite a while. Finally, I gave up and called Customer Service.

I was helped by Drusilla, a Customer Service Representative (CSR) who clearly was the only RIGHT THING about Sears’ online purchase process to this point. She stayed on the phone with me, promising to add the haul-away if it didn’t show up in the end. She also promised to credit me for the $35 that I wanted from the code that wasn’t working but was still displayed on the website. I went through the entire purchase process while she was on the phone with meand when we got to the end, she was able to verify that haul-away was in the order. However, the delivery date on the order was showing (to me) as December 16th, not December 26th (what I’d specified). Worse still, Drusilla saw the delivery date in their back-end system as December 27th. She suggested I wait for the order to finish processing through the system and then call the installation people.

The email I received from the Sears website still said December 16th for delivery, and it never reflected the $35 she was going to credit me – but, on the other hand, the $25 gift certificate they gave me showed up as $50 in my cart, so I was hoping that maybe some luck was smiling down on me. (The $35 showed up later as a credit to the credit card, so she was true to her word. Drusilla was the best part of this entire experience.)

And here’s where things just failed miserably. I never did hear from Sears, or from the installation people, and I was flat-out at work and at home, prepping for the holidays. So, around 9:30am on December 26th, I called Sears and asked if I would be getting my dryer today. I was bounced around a bit among CSRs until finally someone said he would help me, and what I was then told is that my dryer would come between 10am-2pm. I explained that this didn’t work for me because I had plans that I made not knowing what was going on with the dryer, in the lack of any proactive communication from Sears. What little I had in the email and on the website from when I purchased said that I’d get a 2hr window, and I’d be called a day in advance. I got neither, and I was pretty unhappy. I wasn’t expecting the installers to be open on Christmas Day, but I did expect that they might work out their December 26 deliveries before, you know, December 26.

My husband called the installing company and they said they’d see what they could do, but they seemed to have no clue of what they were doing about scheduling, so it all seemed really disjointed. While out that morning, I got phone calls from the installation company saying, “We’re here at your house. Where are you?” I spoke to the receptionist and explained that I never said I could do 10am-2pm, but I could be home by 1pm if they could do that. She responded that “Sears had confirmed” that time window, at which point I got even more upset. My guess is that when the CSR called and was told 10am-2pm, they took that as “Sears confirms this is OK” when, in fact, it was “Sears being told what time the installers want to deliver”. No one ever confirmed with me that this was okay or that I was even available – I was just told, “this is what you get” and I was given a half-hour’s notice at that. The customer – the one who paid over $1200 for all of this – was basically being told “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”, which is fine when talking toddlers and crackers but completely CRAP when talking purchases in four-figures.

As you can guess, we didn’t get our dryer on December 26th. The drivers went off early to their next installation and I was told they’d call later, probably by 5:30pm, to tell me when they’d come by. Instead, I called them around 5:15pm, in the absence of ANY communication about their status. The driver told me that they were about 45-60min away and weren’t going to be down my way until probably about 8pm. They wanted to know if that was okay. I told them YES and then went about with the rest of my evening.

8pm came and went. 9pm came and went. I called the driver and got no response.

I called the installers’ office the following morning and was told they could make me their first install of the day. Sure thing – I could manage this (I was home with the kids). The delivery guys themselves were very nice; they made sure everything was hooked up properly, they tested out the dryer, and they explained how to do some test runs with junk towels before putting in regular laundry loads. The one installer even told me that I didn’t need to use the “required” connector kit I’d bought because our connector was new enough. He handed it back to me and we were all set.

Well, sort of.

As it turns out, I’d bought THREE installation-related parts Sears insisted I needed and the installers never brought out two of them. And the third, as I said, didn’t need to be used. I spent over an hour trying to resolve that one morning, chatting on their website with one unhelpful CSR and on the phone with two other CSRs who kindly informed me that I needed to speak to someone else. This entire process taught me that if you need something sorted out, they will almost always refer you to Someone Else. Thankfully, Someone Else (Wanda) actually solved the problem with the refund for the two never-received items and confirmed that I can do the return of the third at the nearest Sears. So, it only took me four people and over an hour of my time to solve 2/3 of the outstanding problem. Fixing the remainder required going to the nearest Sears and hunting down a manager, who had to take me to the super-secret master register back in the employees-only area, since that was the only way the register would properly handle crediting my card for the return.

The Bottom Line

Would I recommend the dryer? I’m not sure yet. It has some nice features, but I have yet to see it dry a load completely to my satisfaction (there’s typically at least one item where it’s just not 100% dry). I had to call for a service tech to come out this morning, and he found an issue with our dryer vent, so I hope that was the sum total of the problem. I love that the dryer is cavernous and has a light to help me spot that random kiddo sock I need to pull out with the rest of the load. I love that it’s got lots of variety in cycles, and it has neat features like a steam cycle (which I haven’t yet used). But I can’t give a real review on the dryer until I’ve been through a bunch more weeks of laundry. The service tech also told me all those fancy-pants cycles don’t work nearly as well as time dry, so the jury’s very much out on the dryer.

Would I recommend buying from Sears? Hmm. Hmm.

If you need to buy an appliance, I still think it’s incredibly valuable to have a service option. Consumer Reports only talks about the manufacturer’s service record (based on number of service calls) but doesn’t rate by local/regional service availability. I recommend making large purchases with that highly in mind. If you can’t get something serviced, it doesn’t matter that it may only run into trouble a few times in its lifetime…the inconvenience/difficulty may outweigh that low number of calls. Sears promises to service everything they sell, so there’s that.

I was dubious about buying appliances online and this doesn’t give me any kind of confidence that I’d do this again. As much as I loathe dealing with sales people in the store, since car and appliance purchases always seem to take 3x as long as they should, it may still be easier if only to get all your questions sorted out from the beginning. I spent over $1200 on this dryer, including the state-required installation service, and I feel like my end-to-end experience wasn’t even as good as what I’ve gotten over the years from buying boxer shorts for DH from no-name online stores.

The CSR I spoke with during my purchase, Drusilla, was really wonderful, so she deserves a shout out. Wanda, the designated Someone Else, was also very nice and patient with me – solving my problem in short order, which was more than I can say for her three predecessors. Marlon, the local store manager, was buckets of awesome and super-helpful. And Herb, the service tech, was friendly, informative and thorough. My social media contact (who I will leave nameless for now only to keep her from getting bugged by people) has been really very nice throughout this entire process. She’s listened and responded quickly, and she promised to escalate my story to an executive. She also offered another gift card as compensation for my trouble (which I’ve declined, since I don’t need to purchase anything else from Sears just this sec). I think it’s worth noting the people who were trying to help…because this nightmare wasn’t without some bright spots. If the process worked properly from the beginning, though, most of them wouldn’t have needed to be involved.

Since my day job involves Customer Experience, I’m keenly aware of wins and fails – and this process has been pretty full of fail. I hope this experience isn’t what most (or even many) people experience when buying appliances through Sears or If it is, then let’s just hope I don’t need another new appliance anytime soon.

{Note: an update to this as of February 2013 is now available}

Product Review: SHEEX

Most people probably don’t get overly emotional about sheets but, if they wanted to get emotional about sheets, SHEEX would certainly be the most likely culprit. I came across SHEEX at BlogHer’12, on the expo floor, with the rather come-hither proposition of getting to lie down on a soft-looking bed covered in sheets that were billed as being the softest things I’d ever slept on. OH HOW I LOVE A CHALLENGE.

Needless to say, I was ready to fall asleep right there on the expo floor in front of all those other bloggers. I was amazed by how soft the SHEEX were. Then the rep started to talk about the selling points (softness, wicking, breathability, durability, etc.) and she challenged me to take some home and try them out. It seemed unlikely that they would live up to such billing when I got them home, but I’m a born skeptic. Then again, as a mom of two small kids – with a full-time job outside of the house – my sleep time is at a premium. So, if there’s a way I can make my bed that much more comfortable or inviting, I’m willing to give it a shot.


Don’t you just want to take a nap, now?

I put the SHEEX on the kids’ beds (I got twin-size SHEEX) and tested them out on the toughest critics: the small people of the house. The feedback from the kids was pretty immediate in that they loved the SHEEX. They found them soft and comfortable, and those first few days of having the SHEEX meant virtually needing a prybar to remove the child from the bed. Still, I wanted more time to test them out. Since DH and I have been wearing wicking material for ages (primarily for working out), we both have a lot of experience with microfiber materials that wick moisture away from the body. DH was concerned that the wicking process would cause the SHEEX to smell after a few days, so that was something we were careful to check. I also wanted to be sure that the color wouldn’t fade and that the fabric wouldn’t pill, snag or get “runs” after repeated washing.

So, here’s how things went on each of the selling points (which were taken directly from the SHEEX web site):

1) SHEEX are “ridiculously soft”. Verdict: Absolutely YES. It was hard getting the kids OUT of the bed, and it was similarly hard getting our heads off their pillows when we would cuddle with them at bedtime. The feel of the sheets is akin to a cross between satin sheets and a microfiber (like that used in the softer tech shirts worn by athletes). It makes for a very soft and comfortable bed.

2) SHEEX’s temperature control system facilitates “deeper, more restorative sleep”. Verdict: Unsure. Frankly, it’s hard to get a read on this when you have young kids doing the sleep testing – your mileage always varies on how well they sleep from night to night. However, I will say this: the SHEEX didn’t have a negative impact on their sleep patterns, so it’s safe to assume that the result is no worse than a “maybe”.

3) SHEEX breathe “nearly 50% better than cotton”. Verdict: Unsure. I don’t have any good way of measuring this. However, low thread-count sheets are notoriously bad for breathability and tend to run hot and uncomfortable, which is why DH and I tend to aim for nothing less than 400 thread count on our sheets. The SHEEX didn’t seem to be any less comfortable than what we typically put on the kids’ beds, so again I think it’s safe to assume that this is no worse than a “maybe”, but I have to be honest and fess up to the complete lack of a lab where I can truly test this out.

4) SHEEX have “precision fit” to work perfectly with any mattress. Verdict: Probably yes. We have two different mattresses for the kids’ beds (same source, same type, different years), and the SHEEX worked great with both. I didn’t notice any issues with there being an excess of fabric, nor did I see any tightness trying to get the SHEEX on the beds as they were being made. There appeared to be no slippage as the kids slept (which you would typically see with ill-fitting sheets). We didn’t find that we had to refit the fitted sheet at any point, and there always seemed to be a good amount of top sheet to cover the bed.

5) SHEEX’s wicking will keep you “dry and comfortable”. Verdict: Absolutely YES. Since we got the SHEEX in August and I put them into service as soon as I had washed them, it was simply a matter of seeing how the kids did with the nights we did (or didn’t) put on the air conditioning. The kids never woke drenched in sweat (or even mildly sweating) after a night’s sleep. This is where DH’s concern comes back – did the SHEEX smell from wicking away the moisture during the night? The answer to this is a defiant NO. SHEEX somehow, magically, wick away the moisture without taking on the odor that could accumulate over several nights of use.

6) SHEEX’s durability means they will resist fading, wrinkling or shrinking. Verdict: Absolutely YES. I’ve been holding off on this review for a while because I wanted to make sure that they held up to repeated use and repeated washing. I can say that I’ve seen no pilling, no “running”, and no other signs of wear or easy breakdown. The “plum” SHEEX I received have been able to remain vibrantly purple after several months of use and washing, and I consider this a very good sign. I will note that the plum color did transfer to lighter items in the same load of wash, so we have had to wash all of our purple sheet sets together since to avoid further transfer. Amazingly, though, the SHEEX haven’t faded – so even though some color seems to have rubbed off on lighter colored items in the wash, the SHEEX themselves have maintained their rich plum hue.

plum SHEEX

Plum is a perfect color for the Fall/Winter bed

Overall verdict: SHEEX are really fantastic. I can definitely see people getting excited about having these on their beds, especially during the warmer months, when heat and stuffiness can make sleep more difficult. Price-wise, SHEEX sets run from about $159 (twin sheet set) to $239 (california king with pillowcases designed for twin XL mattresses). You can also buy individual SHEEX pieces (top or fitted sheet, as well as pillowcases). SHEEX come in a variety of colors, so they match easily to a wide array of bedroom decors. As we’re coming up on the holiday season, consider SHEEX a deliciously decadent option to give to someone else…or to be a sweet gift to yourself.

Where to buy: SHEEX can be purchased online directly through the SHEEX store and can be purchased offline at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy’s.

Disclosures: 1) All images shown on this post are from the SHEEX web site. The picture of the plum-colored SHEEX, while not taken in my house, is representative both of the color as I saw it when I first received the SHEEX and also the color they maintained after several months of repeated washing and usage. 2) I received two sets of twin-size SHEEX for evaluation, so I could form my own opinion of SHEEX. I have received nothing else from the SHEEX folks in exchange for this review and all opinions expressed above are MINE.

Product Review: Empower Fitness Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball

{Disclaimers: 1) I am not, not do I claim to be a doctor. Before you attempt to use this product, check with your primary care physician and/or specialist health care professional to be sure that it’s right for you. 2) I received this product for the purpose of testing and was allowed to keep it as a courtesy for posting a review. I received no other compensation for this review and was specifically told, “Write whatever you want.” In other words: this is MY opinion and not a company-paid PR piece. Take that for what you will.}

NOTE: If you are attending BlogHer’12, you can WIN this item in my BlogHer Attendee-only giveaway!

There’s a part of me that totally wishes I were She-Ra or some other incredibly buff chica, ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, I have a love of ice cream that seems to know no bounds. (I suppose I could rationalize this by saying that I’m helping to prop up the local dairy – which is less than 5 minutes’ drive from my house – but that’s REALLY PUSHING IT.) Anyhoo, when I was presented with the opportunity to check out the Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball from Empower Fitness, I jumped at it. After all, dh had done several “medball” workouts and liked them a lot.

Initially, I went with the 8lb medball. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, since it was a bit too heavy for the level of workout that I needed to keep pace with the DVD. This resulted in me injuring my wrist and laying off the medball for a few days. Thankfully, the folks at Empower Fitness are extremely cool and (at my request) provided me with a 6lb medball so I could see if it was the medball or what I’d term “operator error”. Truly, it fell into the second category…and now I have my form down quite a bit better.

So, what all do you get when you purchase the medball? First off, this isn’t like most medicine balls out there. It’s squishy in a rather delightful way, with these fun little dimples all over that give it a sense of being a wildly oversized, smushy golf ball. The “fingertip grip” indentations make it a lot easier to grab onto the ball, especially when sweating, and I found that to be quite useful. The medball also comes with a DVD workout featuring Gin Miller and a bootcamp workout poster with a set of 10 exercises you can do at your own pace.

There are four weight options for the Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball: 4lb, 6lb, 8lb, and 10lb. I recommend starting with the lower of the weights you think you can manage best (e.g. pick the 6lb’er if you would normally think you should start at 6lb or 8lb), just to make sure you get your form down properly first. As I discovered, you figure it out when you’re doing it wrong…and while I didn’t need to go to my doctor to have an “exercise-related stupid” corrected this time, it’s always best to check with a doctor, trainer, etc. before picking up something completely new.


Empower Fitness 4lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 6lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 8lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 10lb Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball

The four lovelies: 4lbs, 6lbs, 8lbs, and 10lb Fingertip Grip Medicine Balls



The tests:

I did several workouts with the medball, first with the 8lb and then the 6lb. I tried both the DVD and the bootcamp poster, although I will say that I only tested the bootcamp workout with the 6lb’er, not the 8lb’er.


The results:

Overall, I think this is a really nice product. I found it comfortable to handle and easy to use. The fingertip grip indentations did come in handy as I flipped from exercise to exercise; even when I got a little sweaty or tired, I was able to hang onto the medball without fail. The size of the ball makes it easy to manage and comfortable to hold, and when you get into moves like tossing it from hand to hand or “bowling”, it balances well and doesn’t shift too much with the sand interior.

The DVD workout takes approximately 30 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down, and you can do it either in one fell swoop or pop into the menu to pick and choose which exercises you want to do. Gin’s perky without being annoying, and she gives several modifications so that you can work out at your own pace. Her cardio sections have modifications from low to high impact, and her strength sections have balance moves (or deeper moves) that allow you to push yourself a little more if you want. And, obviously, once you master one weight of medball, you can always move up to the next.

The bootcamp workout was similarly good, although I found the squishy nature of the medball a bit difficult to handle when it came to the one-armed push-ups. My wrist slipped a little and that was an uncomfortable feeling. Some of that is that I am truly MISERABLE at push-ups, and some of it is how the medball just buckled under the weight of my arm. Of course, I don’t discount that it could’ve been a form issue, but a hard medball would have given more resistance and been less likely to create that collapsing feeling that made me uneasy. All of the other exercises were great, though, and I could feel my body reacting to them (as in, “You’re making me work? Le WHUT?”). This is a very good sign. The poster-based workout takes about the same amount of time as the DVD if you do a little cardio warm-up and stretch afterwards (ALWAYS a good idea). It will take longer if you do it in “bootcamp” mode, where you insert a brief interval of cardio in between each exercise.


Where to buy:

According to the Empower Fitness web site, you can purchase these at various places online, including and Modells. Check out the Empower Fitness web site for full details.