Rich & Char's Freezer Nightmare! But They Prevailed!
From: Rich &
Sent: Saturday, May 13, 2006 9:36 AM
Subject: Another Sears story
Here are two letters that pretty well tell our story so far. In fairness to Sears, we haven’t yet sent these letters. We thought the nightmare was over when the freezer was finally running again two months ago. They will be hand-delivered today. We’ll update you if and when anything changes.
1900 Old Cave Road
Charles Town, WV 25414-4228
March 24, 2006
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Sir or Madame:
On March 12, we discovered that our Kenmore upright freezer (see attachment 1) was no longer freezing, and called Sears Home Central for repairs. The next day a repairman named Jeff from Chesapeake Service District came out and determined that the entire sealed unit (compressor, heat exchanger, evaporator) required replacement. Due to the age of the freezer, this was all covered by the warranty. Jeff said that he did not have the parts locally so he had to order them delivered to our home and would return on March 21 to install them (attachment 2).
In the interim, we had to discard some of the thawed meat, move other food to borrowed freezer space elsewhere, and tried to maintain the temperature with dry ice (as recommended in the owners manual) and regular ice. We quickly discovered that although dry ice did keep the temperature low, ten pounds ($21) would only last a little more than a full day so it would cost far too much to keep using it. We received a parts delivery on March 20, so Jeff returned the next day as scheduled. After installing the evaporator and heat exchanger, he discovered that the compressor we received was too small for the application, did not come with a condensation evaporation pan, and also was not sealed and filled with nitrogen as it should have been. We had noticed the annotation "N. P." hand-written on the packing slip opposite the compressor, but do not know what it signified. (attachment 3) Jeff told us that he could not in good conscience install the compressor we received. He explained that if he did adapt its smaller tubing and install it, it would likely fail within a year if it worked at all. He re-ordered the correct compressor and rescheduled the installation for Friday March 24.
We received a delivery of a condensation pan kit on Thursday March 23, and another one the next morning. Examination of the contents of these boxes revealed that although the nomenclature was the same on each (see attachments 4 and 5), the size of the coiled refrigerant tubing was different. Because all the parts were not received by Thursday evening, Jeff had to reschedule the installation until Tuesday March 28. Later on Friday March 24, we received two compressors (see attachments 6 and 7).
On March 21, upon learning that repairs could not be completed, I asked Jeff what our recourse was to obtain a replacement freezer right away. He stated that something like that would have to be requested from our local Sears store. He gave me the phone number for the Martinsburg Sears appliance department, and suggested that "Sidney" might be able to help us.
At approximately 2:00 PM, I called the Appliance Department and asked for the manager. A woman named "Cheryl" (unsure of correct spelling) identified herself as such. I explained that our still-under-warranty Kenmore freezer had failed on or before the 12th, we had lost significant quantities of food and had put out significant time, effort and money to preserve what food we could, we were losing the battle, repairs had been delayed by a parts foul-up, and we needed a replacement freezer right away. I reminded her of Sears’ policy to do everything possible to take care of a customer. Cheryl replied that she would try to do that in any retail situation, not just Sears. She went on to say that she was a new manager and didn’t know what she could do for me. She took my work and home telephone numbers and promised to get right back to me after she did some checking. After 4:00 PM I still had not heard back from Cheryl, and neither had my wife at home. I called the Appliance Department again. My first call was answered, put on hold while Cheryl was sought, and eventually transferred to another department and then disconnected. My second call went to the automated menu system, and was ultimately transferred first to another department and eventually to Appliances again. The man who answered said he would page Cheryl, but the call disconnected before she came to the phone. I called the automated number again, and this time asked for the Store Manager. The call went to Appliances again, and this time the man was able to put Cheryl on the phone. She said that she had been busy and hadn’t had time to call me back. She went on to say that Sears would pay for our lost food, but that there wasn’t anything else that could be done for us. I said that that was unacceptable, and I would say so to her supervisor, and that person’s supervisor, and that person’s supervisor, and on up the ladder until I got some help. At this point she gave me to "Sidney." He indicated that he had been briefed on our problem (although he thought the failed appliance was a refrigerator and not an upright freezer). When I repeated that we needed a freezer now, he said that although he couldn’t give us a new one, he could send us a "loaner" to use until ours was repaired. I said that that would be satisfactory if it could be delivered right away. He said it was too late in the day to get one to us that day, but we could get it delivered in the morning. I got the impression that if I had spoken with him at 2:00 when I first called, it would not have been too late. He said that he would have a staffer make the necessary arrangements, and the call was transferred back to Cheryl. She grumbled about management having changed their minds. I explained to her that my carpool was just about to leave without me, and asked her to please call my wife at home and set up the delivery with her, and commented that my wife would be very pleased to be getting a freezer after 10 days fighting spoilage. Her two-word reply was surly. I believe she said "yeah, whatever." She did contact my wife, and her poor attitude was also crystal clear to her. Without hearing of my dealings with Cheryl, my wife described her as rude and uncaring. I do not believe that "yeah, whatever" characterizes the attitude Sears expects its managers to have in dealing with a lifelong Sears customer.
The delivery was supposed to have been in the morning of March 24. During the evening of March 23, Sears Delivery called me to confirm that someone would be home between 12:30 and 2:00 PM the next day to receive the delivery. I asked if it could be earlier and was told no. The delivery actually arrived just before 5:00 PM; the driver said they had encountered a two hour delay on a previous delivery.
There are several problems evident to me in this fiasco:
1. For starters, our freezer was poorly designed. Its original compressor did not have a refrigerant cooling coil in the condensation pan, allowing the refrigerant and lubricant to run hotter than they should. The two replacement condensation pan kits do include this feature, which indicates the design flaw has become apparent and is being corrected. It also features an internal condenser, somehow built into the walls of the cabinet.
2. There does not seem to be a mechanism in place for Sears or Sears Home Central to automatically offer a loaner freezer if a warranteed freezer fails and can’t be immediately repaired. If we had received such an offer, you probably would not be getting this letter.
3. There clearly are problems in the parts supply chain. The first parts shipment, which included the too-small/unsealed compressor, had "Dallas IRC" on the packing list. One of the pan kits and one of the two subsequent compressors were UPSed from Glen Burnie, MD. The other pan kit came from Distribution Services Express, Sears Unit 8393, Schaumburg, IL. The other compressor came from IRC, Dallas TX. Perhaps Jeff felt he needed to hedge his bets and order duplicate parts from different sources.
4. I shouldn’t have had to threaten to go over the head of the Appliance Department manager to obtain a functional freezer. And the manager certainly shouldn’t have behaved like a spoiled child not getting her way when her superior decided to support my reasonable request for assistance, even if he changed his mind.
5. Despite several inquiries, we have never been told how to file a claim for the lost food, dry ice and ice, vehicle mileage, time and aggravation this situation has cost us. At attachment 8 you will find as detailed an expense listing as we can make.
There was a time when "Kenmore" on an appliance meant that not only was it a quality product, manufactured to Sears’ specifications, but that it was also stood behind by Sears parts and service. Sears now sells other brands alongside the Kenmore line, a measure I’m sure necessitated by competition from home improvement warehouse stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. I leave it to you to convince me that we should ever buy a major appliance from Sears again.
Richard H. Fraysier
13 Mar Ice $9.00
13 Mar Dry Ice 21.00
13 Mar Mileage: 50@ .40/mi 20.00
13 Mar 10 lb chicken breasts
15 Mar Dry Ice 21.00
15 Mar Mileage: 40@ .40/mi 16.00
17 Mar Dry Ice 21.00
17 Mar Mileage: 40@ .40/mi 16.00
19 Mar Ice and Container 15.00
19 Mar Mileage: 10 @ .40/mi 4.00
May 12, 2006
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Sir or Madame:
Today we discovered that our Kenmore upright freezer is once again not maintaining freezing temperature. The compressor is very hot to the touch and the interior temperature fluctuates between 38 and 40 degrees F. The compressor, heat exchanger and evaporator were replaced under warranty less than two full months ago. Obviously there is a fatal problem with this unit.
Once again we are moving food to borrowed freezer space at a friend’s house, or throwing it away. We have never been reimbursed for the food we lost last time or the expenses we incurred because of this freezer’s failure.
We want this so-called freezer out of our house, now. We want Sears to replace it free of charge. We do not want it repaired again, as that seems to be a task beyond Sears’ ability considering our recent experience. We do not want a similar model as a replacement, as there may be an inherent defect. In fact, I believe we would prefer a chest model this time, preferably with a brand name other than Kenmore.
Richard H. Fraysier
From: Rich &
Sent: Saturday, May 13, 2006 7:45 PM
Subject: Addition to our story
I took the two letters I sent you earlier to the local Sears store and gave them to the manager on duty. She started to poor-mouth me, saying Sears couldn’t replace a 4 year old freezer especially since we didn’t buy a maintenance agreement on it. I pointed out that the compressor and sealed system were still under warranty when they failed in March and that for all intents and purposes, the freezer should have been as brand new. I pointed out the “cc” on the bottom of the second letter (Sears CEO) and said I was heading home to put it in the mail. On the way home we shopped for freezers. Lowe’s had the identical model to our Kenmore with a Frigidaire brand label but “Electrolux” on the nomenclature tag, and it was considerably less than we paid for ours at Sears in Nov 01. They also had another Frigidaire/Electrolux; same size cabinet but not frost free. It has cooling coils in the shelves instead of the air circulation system the frost free models have. It was $30 cheaper than the FF model. We also saw Whirlpool/Woods models for similar prices.
Sears corporate had already called and left a message asking us to call them back by the time we got home. They said they are opening a “case”. They also got the local store to agree to send us a $100 for our expenses and spoiled food from the March failure. And they promised that a repairman will be at our house on Monday to examine the freezer. If it can’t be repaired on the spot (it can’t!) the local store will send us a loaner right away. I have a much better idea: the local store will send us a new freezer, preferably one not similar to the one that has failed twice.
I will keep you posted on how things progress. The CSR from corporate seemed very concerned, but we will see what happens Monday.
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2006 3:19 PM
Cc: Home (ISP)
Subject: 15 May Addition to our Freezer story
I’m at work. Usually you receive mail from us at xxxxx@xxxxnet. We’re the ones with the Kenmore freezer that quit freezing (again) last Friday.
After talking with the Sears corporate CSR lady on Saturday, she promised to send a repair technician to our home on Monday to examine the freezer. I specifically told her that we had unplugged the freezer because even nearly empty and set to maximum cooling, the inside temperature was steadily rising and at last check was above 50 degrees F. I felt that the heat from the constantly running fan, coupled with the heat from the compressor (almost too hot to touch), was causing the internal temperature rise. She agreed that unplugging the freezer was the right thing to do.
Yesterday, I plugged the freezer in to see what it would do. The freezer’s cooling control goes from 1 (minimum cold) to 7 (maximum cold). Set to 1, it achieved 20 degrees in minimum time. Set to 7, it quickly went to 10 degrees. I let it run for a while, and then turned it off again.
A Sears contract technician did show up at our house today. He walked in, saw that the freezer was turned off, shrugged his shoulders and said there wasn’t anything he could do today. He said unless the freezer has been running for 48 hours, he couldn’t diagnose its problems. He did say that the problem might have been caused by a stuck defrosting timer. We told him we specifically told Sears corporate on Saturday that we had unplugged the freezer because the temperature inside was steadily climbing and the compressor was almost too hot to touch. The technician left and said he would try to come back in 24 to 48 hours.
I called Sears corporate again today (1-800-479-6351) and talked with “Sam.” He pulled up our case and asked me for a brief history. I brought him up to date and repeated our request that this freezer be replaced. He told me at least six times that he was very sorry all this had happened. He promised to send a SENIOR service technician to our home tomorrow, to look at the freezer after it had been running for a while. I asked him what would happen if the technician found the freezer working properly tomorrow? We don’t open it several times a day to ensure it is working properly all the time, and in view of its history, we cannot trust it to maintain freezing conditions on a freezer full of frozen foods. We will not be held hostage by a faulty freezer that might quit working any time.
I’ll continue to update you as events unfold.
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 7:53 AM
Cc: Home (ISP)
Subject: 16 May Update (this could become a best-selling novel!)
The promised SENIOR repair technician (same guy who came the day before!) showed up at our home around 11:00 AM yesterday. He apparently found all systems normal and treated my wife as if she had a screw loose for calling a repairman to look at a normally functioning freezer. He took some readings and left saying he would report his findings to Sears and they would be in touch with us within 72 hours. He left the control set at 4, the midpoint on the 1 – 7 dial. It was freezing at that time, probably in the range of 20 degrees F.
By 5:00 PM the freezer had apparently decided to switch to food warmer mode again. The internal temperature according to the two thermometers we have in there had climbed to 50 degrees F. When I got home just before 7:00 PM it was around 47.
At that time I called the Sears Corporate number again and spoke to yet another polite, apologetic, unhelpful CSR. This time I got our case number, which is 1357803. She said that until the tech who was there earlier input his findings, our case was locked up and nothing could be added to it. Apparently the technicians’ systems are set up to upload all their data from that days’ calls at one time in the evening. She said in order to get the technician back, we would need to call them back the following morning, as which time they could call the tech’s router and get him scheduled for a return call the day after that (Thursday May 18). I stated that this was going on a week we had no usable freezer and our food was stored in courtesy space outside our home. I got another apology but no help. I also pointed out that Sears already had 5 technician visits, numerous parts, and $100 in spoiled food allowance thrown at this problem, with no resolution yet, and that pretty soon it was going to be in Sears’ best interests to just replace the freezer. Another apology for the inconvenience but she repeated the mantra “Sears can’t replace the freezer until a technician examines it and finds that it needs to be replaced.” I asked her if she was aware of the Sears Screws Customers Web site and told her that I have been documenting this case to it. She claimed not to know of its existence.
I also asked her to set up the loan of a freezer for the local Sears store, as was done in March when the supposed repairs on this unit took almost two weeks. She started to say that our freezer was out of warranty, which I corrected, and then put me on hold while she called the Martinsburg store. After a long wait, she got back on the line with Sidney the store’s operations manager. He had been the person who arranged for the loaner freezer in March. This time, however, he refused to send a loaner until a technician had found a problem with the freezer. This may mean another two days without a freezer. We’re considering just buying a new freezer, making Sears repair the defective one, and then donating it to someone with the caveat that it must be carefully monitored. Either that or painting it lemon yellow with a “IRREPAIRABLY DEFECTIVE KENMORE FOOD WARMER/FREEZER” sign in it, putting a few bullets through it so it never gets used again, and placing it at the local store’s front door after taking some pictures for the media.
I tried to call the corporate number this morning to get the repairman dispatched again, but the phone banks were closed. The temperature at 05:30 this morning was 43 degrees F and the frozen items inside were all thawed, indicating it had not gotten below freezing during the night. My wife is going to continue to call until they open, in hopes of getting the repairman dispatched today instead of tomorrow.
If it would help, I plan to take these e-mails and create a journal of everything that has gone on in one file. When we get to the end of this saga, I think it would make enlightening reading for anyone considering buying a major appliance from Sears.Rich
Rich & Char Fraysier
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 11:13 PM
To: 'Steve Austin'
Subject: 17 May Addition to The Amazing Food Warming Freezer Saga
I’m cautiously elated. Today not only did we receive the promised $100 check for spoiled food and expenses from the March meltdown, but we were able to get the REAL senior repair technician to our house. Gary was very nice, checked the input from the tech who’d been here the previous two days, didn’t quite understand what the guy had reported, so he called him. It turns out the tech was saying that there was a refrigerant leak somewhere inside the sealed walls of the cabinet. Gary said that Sears had already spent almost $500 on repairs on this freezer, and they weren’t going to waste any more money on it. He told my wife Sears was going to replace it.
I expected that meant we’d receive an offer to buy another freezer at a pro-rated discount, so I was thinking of what I would be willing to accept. Imagine our shock when my wife received a call from “Sherita” at corporate, offering our original full purchase price ($519.99) toward another freezer, with no delivery or haul-away charges. The only caveat was, of course, that we were to select the new freezer from Sears or Sears.com. Looking at their line of Kenmore and Frigidaire freezers, I’m fairly sure they’re all made by Electrolux as our original one is, but this time we are going to go with a chest model. Chest freezers are less expensive to operate and often run well for decades. I called them back and told “Nelson” we would like a Kenmore Model 16572 chest freezer, which is listed at a rebated $449.99 and with sales tax will probably come right in at or near the $519.99. Nelson said they’d get to work on it.
If this all falls through for some silly reason, I might just need to take a small vacation near Chicago to run amok through a certain customer service area. On the other hand, if this continues the way it’s going now, we could be that first success story. It would certainly be a break from the pattern of your many horror stories, but perhaps others could benefit from knowing that polite pig-headedness, putting things in writing (both to Sears and here) and letting Sears know that you are perfectly willing to go public with your grievances, just may be the ticket to getting satisfaction. I would’ve preferred not to have had to go to such lengths, and am convinced that many other retailers wouldn’t have forced my hand. And maybe that’s the bottom line even if we do get that new freezer: how a retailer treats customers after the sale is just as important a consideration as price, selection and brand names.
As always, I’ll keep you posted!
Rich & Char Fraysier
Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 11:02 AM
To: Steve Austin
Subject: Victory Dance and Cigar
About an hour ago, three guys from the local Sears delivery service brought us a new Kenmore chest freezer, the one we asked for, and hauled away the old one. We would definitely have preferred not to have spent so much time on the phone and computer and in the store to get to this point. You may be right, maybe they’re either worn down or learning from the experience. We know Sears isn’t directly responsible for the merchandise they sell since it’s made for them by somebody else. But if they want to survive, they should get back to the old days where they stood 100% behind the products they sold and didn’t first try to talk their way out of it. Sidney, the operations manager at our local store, seemed supportive in the past, and perhaps he had a hand in getting this thing turned in the right direction. If he did, I thank him, and whoever else had a hand in making things right. As I’ve said before, buying a home appliance that you will depend on is a big decision, and the support after the sale is just as important as the product itself. If Sears can regain their customers’ trust in that department, they could become the nation’s biggest retailer again. If not, they’re history.
I hope this is the last entry to be made to our page! If it isn’t, well Katie bar the door!
Thanks for your support!
Rich & Char Fraysier