August 27,1999                                                                                           

Arthur Martinez

Sears & Roebuck

3333 Beverly Road

Hoffman Estates, IL  60179

 

Dear Arthur,

 I hope you are comfortable, because do I have a story for you!  It is a tragic and probably all too common tale of abhorrent customer service.  The main characters are three young women who share an apartment in a Boston suburb, and one huge, sprawling, uncommunicative mass that you probably think of simply as Sears.

 The tale begins the first week of July when our lovely heroines discover that their refrigerator doesn’t seem to get any colder than 55 degrees, despite being turned to the lowest possible setting.  Because of the warm temperature, the women, let us call them Lia, Bess and Angela, have had quite a bit of food and juice go rancid.  A quick call to their landlord and they have been given the number of the trusty and reliable folks at Sears repair.  “Never fear,” they think, “we’ll just call Sears and they will come and fix it!”  (Ah, now how I laugh at their girlish naďveté!)

 A call to 1.800.4.Repair results in a time being set up for the repairman to come.  Lia leaves work early to meet him at the house, but he does not show.  Another call sets up another time.  Again, no one shows.  When Lia, beginning to frazzle, calls to set up a third time, she is informed that a repairman did show, but that no one answered the door.  After much confusion it is revealed that the clever repairman didn’t know which of the three buzzers went to apartment number three, so he pressed one of them and when no one answered at that one, he gave up.  (That is what I love about Sears… that commitment to see things all of the way through!  That ability to troubleshoot and problem solve on the fly!)

 At this point, the otherwise sweet and accommodating Lia is annoyed.  Twice in the previous week and a half, she has left work early to meet a repairman who never showed.  She expresses her dissatisfaction and is assured that someone will surely show up if she would just reschedule again.  Believing the trusty and polite customer service rep, Lia sets up a third visit.

 This time Angela leaves work early to be home in time for the repairman.  Much to her surprise, he actually shows up!  He putters around and cleans out under the fridge and informs her that the problem was that the control was set too low.  This was causing some sort of freezing blockage which prevented the fridge from properly cooling.  He turned the dial to the halfway point and leaves Angela with these parting words: “Don’t ever turn it past the half-way point.”  He also tells her that it will take 24 hours for the fridge temp to reflect the repairs and temp change.

 Breathing a sigh of relief, Angela authorizes the $108 bill and tells Lia of the diagnosis.  Unfortunately for our heroines, Angela neglects to tell Bess the details of the repair.

 After several days, the three ladies came to a consensus: the fridge was still not working correctly.  This resulted in several more attempts to get a repairman back to the apartment, all of which failed.  At this point Lia was pretty much resigned to never again have the luxury of cold food and drink, but Bess, still new to the world of dealing with Sears customer service, gamely jumped in for round two.  Even with the fresh reinforcements, it still took more than 10 days to get repairman #2 to the house.

 On Wednesday, August 11, Tony showed up.  (At this point the women of 275 Summer Street starting taking names and remembering dates.)  He walked in, opened the door of the fridge, saw the temperature gauge set at only half way, and boldly cranked it the whole way down and proclaimed “You just didn’t have it set to a cold enough temperature.”  Bess was, of course, mortified, because she did not know that the first repairman had decreed that was exactly what should not be done!

 Angela hears this news and gets a bit irritated.  This is a huge, multi-million dollar corporation and they cannot even get the repairmen on the same page?  Although she is skeptical, she decides to wait 24 hours to see if the temperature changes.  It doesn’t.

 Rolling up her sleeves for round three, Angela prepared to take the field for her team.  (It should be noted that she was the big-gun, the one with the temper, and the one who would take names and accept no excuses.  Go ahead, ask your CS reps, I am sure they all know her name by now...).  Angela also kept impeccable track of everyone she dealt with because, when later asked to replay “What was so bad about the service?” she wanted to be able to recreate for the listener the agony of dealing with some of the worst customer service in the history of capitalism.

 Perhaps this is the moment when you should pause to get yourself a fresh cup of coffee, and if you were not sitting down, I suggest you do so now.  What you are about to read is for mature audiences only. 

 Friday, August 13, 8:00AM- Angela places a call to Sears Repair services at 1.800.4.Repair.  She speaks with Patty Berry, a CS rep.  Patty is shocked at what our heroines have had to go through, and is exceedingly polite to a rather bitchy Angela.  Angela requests that someone come and fix the fridge “TODAY!”  Patty takes Angela’s work number and assures her that someone will call her that very day to set-up a time.

 1:30PM- Having not yet heard from Sears, Angela calls back and ask specifically for Patty.  Patty transfers her to Diana, the customer service manager.  (I think it is worth noting that Diana stands out as the only CS rep that Angela dealt with who was actually rude.)  Diana informs Angela that she could have someone over to fix the fridge “next week sometime.”  Now Angela passes from being mildly irritated to being somewhat angry and once again requests that someone come to fix the fridge tonight.  Diana finally acquiesces and puts in an emergency order, which will have someone at 275 Summer Street between 6 and 8 PM, that very night.  Then, and this might be my favorite part, DIANA HANGS UP ON ANGELA WHILE ANGELA IS STILL SPEAKING.

 5PM- Angela leaves work an hour early to be home by 6.

 6:10PM- A highpoint for Sears customer service when a lovely and exceeding polite woman called Sarah calls to say that “The repairman is in your neighborhood and he will call when he is on his way.”  Foolishly, Angela believes her, and actually feels a bit of warmth for the evil empire. 

 8:30PM- Let down once again by the fine folks at Sears, Angela calls and asks where her repairman is.  Melody, another exceedingly polite CS rep, is not sure, but she can put in a work order for someone to come "sometime next week,” to look at the fridge.  Now Angela is close to losing her cool, she is angry, VERY angry, and communicates that there was an emergency order put on for that night, someone was on the way that night, and by-golly, someone was going to fix it that night.  (I should note that in her anger, Angela used words somewhat stronger than ‘by-golly.’)  In a panic over this irate customer, Melody says “I’ll transfer you...” and in a wink she is gone.

 She is replaced by Fabian who says that he “understands how frustrating this must be,” but that, not unlike the previous three people Angela had spoken with THAT DAY ALONE, all he can do is “put it in the computer.”  Angela asks him to find the missing repairman.  Fabian cannot because the Boston office closes at 8PM and he is in Texas, so all he can do is “put it in the computer.”  I am sure you can feel poor Angela’s frustration, she had, after all, called at 8AM that morning to request the fridge be fixed.  She had also spoken with four different CS reps that day in an effort to get the fridge fixed, and while each of them, save for the bitter and angry Diana, were the picture of politeness, and while each of them claimed to “understand how frustrating this must be,” Angela was still left with a broken fridge!  All of this understanding was not getting Angela any closer to having cold beer.

 “I’m sorry,” Angela says, “But Fabian, it’s not good enough for you to put it in your computer.  We will stay on this phone together, you apologizing to me and me swearing at you, until a repairman rings my bell.”  Fabian promises that someone will be there within the hour and that he, Fabian, will personally call back to make sure that the fridge is fixed. 

 10PM- The doorbell rings and it is Paul, the repairman.  He checks out the fridge and declares that a new compressor is needed, but he doesn’t have one, and it is an expensive repair, so someone will have to come back once the landlord decides if he is willing to pay for the parts and labor.  Fabian calls back while Paul is working, and this is as good as the service got.  (That is right, someone actually keeping his word and calling was the highlight of this whole experience.)  The most interesting part of this is that neither of the first two repairmen even mentioned the word compressor.

 Tuesday, August 17- The decision is made to replace the compressor and Sears is notified.  The landlord tells Sears to call his tenants to set up a time. 

  Thursday, August 19, 8:30AM- Angela is called by an unnamed representative of Sears and informed that “We were supposed to come this morning to fix your compressor, but unfortunately, we had a mix-up, and we are missing one of the parts.  I will call you later today to confirm that we will be there between 7AM and 12PM tomorrow.”  Groggy, Angela agrees, but lets him get away without giving his name.

 He never calls back.

 Friday, August 20, midmorning- Irritated tremendously that no one has called, Bess calls Sears and ‘confirms’ that someone will be over that night between 7-9PM.  Angela cancels her dinner plans with friends and races home from work and at 7:10PM (GASP!!!  Someone is on-time!) the doorbell rings.  She opens the door and is greeted with what is my new favorite part of the story, repairman Bob, who asks “Do you have the compressor?”  Angela, absolutely dumbfounded by this question, says “No.”  That is right, Bob showed up to replace a compressor, BUT DID NOT BRING ONE WITH HIM!  Go ahead take a minute to stop laughing... I’ll wait.

Bob calls Jeff at 781.871.0717 (the Norwell, MA office of Sears).  Jeff tells Angela he can get someone over on “Monday or Tuesday of next week.”  This is where Angela crosses from very angry to hysterically angry.  Even though this was in Jeff’s computer and on Bob’s work order as a ‘must-fix,’ Jeff was proposing that it be put off until next week!  “Apparently,” Jeff continued, “there has been a mix-up and your compressor is in Norwood.”  “Fine,” Angela says, “put it in a car and drive it here.”  Jeff says, while he “understands how frustrating this is, I can’t drive it there.  What I can do is put you in to have your fridge fixed tomorrow.”  “No,” says Angela, “You will fix it tonight.”  They both repeat themselves for a good ten minutes until Jeff, realizing he cannot win, transfers Angela to Lino Lemos, another exceedingly polite CS rep.  Lino promises that the fridge will be fixed first thing Saturday morning.  Of course our jaded heroine does not believe him, and besides, she has plans tomorrow, and does Lino expect her to sit around, YET AGAIN, and wait for the Sears repairman? (While this conversation is happening, Bob tries to sneak out.  After a brief moment where she considers tackling him and holding him hostage, Angela lets him go.)

Saturday, August 21, 8:10AM- A knock on the door.  It is Paul, who you may remember from Repairman visit #3, and lo and behold, he has a compressor with him!  A couple of short hours later, our battle-scarred heroines FINALLY have a working refrigerator.  And thanks to much pain and suffering, they even get the repair done for free.  I am writing to you Arthur, because free isn’t good enough, after all, it was the landlord who was paying for it, and he didn’t suffer at all during this ordeal. 

To sum up:

·         Estimated total number of calls placed to Sears:                        20-25

·         Total number of repair visits:                                            5

·         Total number of repairmen:                                              4

·         Total number of times repairmen failed to show:             6

·         Total hours spent calling Sears, waiting for Sears repairmen, and writing this letter:                                     Incalculable

·         Total days spent without a working fridge:                       53

I am serious Art, when I say this is the worst customer service I have ever received.  I am 26 years old.  Someday I will own a house and I will need to fill that house.  I have a lifetime of major purchasing to do.  Refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, lawnmowers, dining room tables, blenders, pots and pans, televisions, VCRs, stereos, beds, bedspreads, carburetors, tires, batteries… Guess what?  I will not be buying any of it at Sears.

 I have seen the softer side of Sears. It sucks.

  Yours in stellar customer service,

The very unhappy,

  Angela Rose

Cc:  Mike Clifford, Sears & Roebuck, Norwell, MA

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