Followup: Buying a dryer from Sears

This is a follow-up to a post I wrote last month regarding the completely un-fun experience I had purchasing, receiving, and then using the dryer I bought from Sears. In accordance with my standard refrain of not wanting to review a product before I’d used it a few times, I gave them quite a walloping over what I felt (and still do feel) was a bad purchase process, a deeply flawed delivery process, and a product that left me wondering if I should just return it and start all over.

My social media contact was very nice throughout everything and went as far as to connect me with a “Care Manager” who would handle my specific case. I have no idea how easily such people are typically reached and whether or not you have to raise some form of unholy stink to get to these people if you’re not in some form of media…but I can say that the person I worked with was communicative, friendly and helpful.

He offered me the option of replacing my dryer, either with another of the same model or with a whole other dryer completely. So, I hit the books…well, er, Internet, to try to see what else they had that might fit the bill. The answer really wasn’t promising; there are precious few reviews of dryers, and the ones we found made it fairly clear that no dryer really seemed to be a prize. Dryers either didn’t dry well or didn’t make enough noise to let you know they were done or made too much noise when they were working or OMG ALL DRYERS HAVE ISSUES.


Ultimately, I couldn’t find another dryer that seemed to meet our requirements better than the one we had. Which didn’t work too well. So, crap.

In my desperation to see if there was ANY way to salvage the situation, I called for service. I explained what was needed and made it abundantly clear that I was NOT going to pay for the visit, even though I was told up and down by the apologetic and completely unable-to-think-for-himself CSR that I would be on the hook for $90 if they didn’t find anything wrong with the dryer. There’s a point at which no amount of cussing at the phone will solve a problem, so I just let the steam drain out of my ears and informed him through clenched teeth that I would NOT be paying for the visit and they WOULD fix whatever was wrong or I WOULD have them haul away the dryer. I could hear him nodding while he filed his nails. I’m sure he hears this stuff all day.

And then, a few days later, the repairman came out. I’m not sure how to put this, but he was just utterly fantastic. HE was the reason I bought this dryer. Remember, I wanted something that could be serviced, unlike my Samsung that needed parts swum over from Korea on the back of a whale or something, so having a repairman able to come out, diagnose and fix things is EXACTLY what brought me to Sears.

He plugged his computer into the dryer and got the two machines talking to each other. Then he took my dryer apart to check the motor, vents, and such, and then he took a walk outside to check on the vent outflow. His diagnosis: it’s not the dryer, it’s the vent. The vent flap, a small plastic piece that sits on the end of the vent, wasn’t moving, so airflow was restricted and the dryer was shutting off prematurely. Not being a vent flap expert, I took him at his word and sent him on his way. Even though the issue wasn’t with the dryer itself, per se, the tech fixed things in their system so that I wouldn’t pay. Of all the people in this, he was the first one to proactively suggest that perhaps I didn’t need to undergo one more bit of nuisance. Bless that man.

DH, extremely dubious by this point, went to the local Home Depot and purchased a new vent flap. He fitted it onto the pipe and then we ran a few loads.

And this is the moment where the clouds part, the angels begin singing, and somewhere, wherever he was, that wonderful service tech deserved every bit of the 5-star review I gave him: the dryer dried the clothes properly. I ran a few more loads. It still worked. DH was still dubious – nearly incredulous at the idea that a vent flap could’ve caused all this trouble, and yet it did.

So, here’s the final outcome of the story: I don’t rescind one word of my complaints with the purchase or delivery processes; they were both awful and the next time I purchase a major appliance I’m doing it IN THE STORE. At least there I know I can coordinate with a human being who can sort things out for me the first time. I feel utterly vindicated in selecting a product that can be serviced by a Sears tech, because those guys know their stuff.

Lastly, because I don’t want to leave any stone unturned and I’d rather not leave someone in the same position that I was in, I’m going to post a review of the dryer. It’s just not right that purchases of $1000 or more have to be made virtually blind. You take it on faith that the manufacturer built exactly what you want and then you suffer the repair bills or the frustration of wasted money when they didn’t.

Is it all better? Well, I have a working dryer, so that’s a huge plus. Do I feel any better about Sears? When it comes to purchasing IN THE STORE from nice people like Marlon or getting my dryer serviced by nice people like the tech who came out a few weeks ago, YES. When it comes to buying online and having it delivered by people who can’t be bothered to set an appointment in a reasonable fashion…well, that’s a whole other story. I’d also like to reiterate my appreciation for both the social media contact and the Care Manager I worked with; both were patient and tried their best to turn my frown upside down. And now that I have a working dryer – which is all I’d wanted in the first place – that’s much easier for me to do.

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}