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}

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

  1. Our W/D date from the mid-80s and need to be replaced. Just after my surgery, I started to use a laundry service that picks up and delivers. Yes, over the course of a year the cost will probably equal that of a new, mid-range W/D. It’s awfully nice though not having to schlep the clothes downstairs. On the other hand, my schedule is dependent on theirs. Your sad tale is enough to make me think twice about online purchases, let alone anything from Sears. Once the dryer is going through its paces, let us know how it’s doing. I’m especially interested in whether the steam feature is worth the money.


  2. I have purchased a couple washers and dryers from Sears, but did it in store, so the process was relatively uneventful. My one problem with Sears is the service plans, not the plans themselves, but when they are close to expiring. I wasn’t hounded too badly, but apparently my grandfather’s dishwasher service plan was close to expiring or had expired when he passed away. When we were going through his house after the funeral, his answering machine had 25 – yes, 25 – messages from Sears asking if he was wanting to renew his service plan. That and now your experience are making me think twice about using Sears again in the future. Which is hard, because I like that what I buy can be serviced by them and they are all over the country in case we relocate some day.

  3. Pingback: Followup: Buying a dryer from Sears « CrunchyMetroMom

  4. Pingback: Product Review: Kenmore 7.3 cu ft gas dryer w/sensor dry (Model #91372) « CrunchyMetroMom

  5. Pingback: Followup: Buying a dryer from Sears | CrunchyMetroMom

  6. Pingback: Product Review: Kenmore 7.3 cu ft gas dryer w/sensor dry (Model #91372) | CrunchyMetroMom

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