Need A $34.95 Warranty Covered Part? That'll be $65 For The Useless Service Call

Dear Mr. Lewis,

I’m sure you are quite busy so I would like to thank you now for taking the time to address the concerns of a long time Sears customer. I’ll give you a brief explanation of my problem followed by a more detailed version of my experience if you are interested.

Basically, Sears won’t replace a warrantied $34.95 part without paying a minimum of $65.00 for a service call, “it’s policy”. I know what part is broken and would simply like to exchange it for a working part. It will take me less then a minute to take off the bad part and replace it with the new one.

If you could help me out I would be most appreciative. Please see my contact information at the end of this letter. Here’s the full version…

(person information redacted)

Yesterday (10.03.07) I tried to get a replacement part for a warrantied Craftsman garage door opener. I started by going to a nearby Sears Service Center as stated in the warranty. The representative there informed me that since it was more then ninety days after the date of the purchase I would have to have a service technician come to my house and diagnose the problem. Also, I would have to pay for the labor, a minimum of $65.00. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary since I brought the defective part in with me. He then informed me that I’m not capable of diagnosing the problem (I was capable of installing the opener myself) and could not get a warranty replacement without the service call.

I knew then that I would be wasting my breath, but I felt the need to explain to him how I did manage to diagnose the problem.

The garage door would not go down and the light on one of the safety sensors was out. I checked the wiring and alignment and everything looked fine. I swapped the sensors and the same one still did not light up. I was pretty sure by now what the problem was. As it happens, my neighbor came over and said he had the same type of opener. We took one of his sensors, replaced it with mine, and the garage door worked. He tried mine on his door and it didn’t work. We both came to the same conclusion, the sensor was bad.

After relating my story to the Sears representative he again informed me that Sears “policy” requires a service call or I could simply purchase the part for $34.95 plus tax. I told him the Sears “policy” basically made the warranty worthless. He gave me a very pleasant smile. He had nothing else to say so I thanked him for his time and let him know I would call Sears, I’m sure they would understand and could help me. He smiled pleasantly again.

Once home I called the Sears Parts & Repair Center Phone number from the back of the owner’s manual. After giving the representative my phone number, name, and address so she could better help me, I explained my problem. I was told I hadn’t purchased a warranty for the garage door opener. I then explained that I was looking at the warranty in the manual right then. After putting me on hold for a few minutes she came back and said she could help me. I already felt better. I gave her the part number, she confirmed that it was a sensor and then told me she could not order it for me. I needed a service technician to diagnose the problem. “It’s policy.” I explained how that made the warranty worthless and there was silence. I’m sure she was smiling pleasantly.

After she offered to sell me the sensor kit (and recommended buying some chain lube at the same time) I asked if I could talk to a supervisor. I mentioned how the supervisors where I work have the authority to override problems like this where the policy obviously doesn’t apply. I was told there were no supervisors and they wouldn’t be able to override the computer anyway. I asked who else I could talk to about my problem and was transferred to customer relations.

That sounded good. These have to be the people that keeps Sears customers happy and coming back to make more purchases, like the Kenmore washer and dryer I own. And like the Kenmore dishwasher I purchased two years ago. Not to mention the Kenmore refrigerator or the Kenmore oven/stove I purchased last month. These people will take care of me.

I gave the customer relations representative my phone number, name, and address so he could better help me. I gave my phone number, name, and address to the next twelve representatives from customer relations, home service, and parts so they could better help me.

I was sure I was finally getting somewhere when the final representative (#14) gave me the number to Sears Rapid Resolutions (800-215-9169). “Rapid” means only waiting five minutes on hold before giving the representative the information needed to better help me. “Resolutions” means resolved as far as Sears is concerned. I would have a technician come to my home and I would pay at least $65.00 for the labor.

I was exhausted, over a hour and a half on the phone. I was angry. I was upset. I was defeated.

Mr Lewis, I’m still upset, but have decided to give Sears one more chance to keep a customer happy. Please help me resolve this matter in a logical manner. Please don’t make me pay $65.00 for a $34.95 part. Please don’t make me pay $34.95 (plus tax) for a warrantied part. Please override the Sears “policy”.

Thank you once again for your time and consideration,

Dale Reid

name
address
phone number

P.S. I’ve included a copy of this letter to “The Consumerist” blog. They care and report on how consumers are treated and they really do like to hear about positive consumer experiences. I hope I can pass on good news to them.

What a ripoff. Just give the guy the damn part. Who cares if the service call is “policy.” Policy! Policy! Like it’s a magic word that makes any problem cease to have validity. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s our we-get-to-spit-in-your-eye policy. Didn’t you read the sign? This policy is stupid and its screwing Dale. Dale’s also has a policy. It’s called, “You Don’t Screw Dale.”

Dale sent this to CEO Aylwin B. Lewis at alewis1@searshc.com. He says if it bounces back, he’ll try calling (847)-286-2500 and asking for the office of Mr. Lewis. If that fails, maybe he’ll try faxing them to death.

Comments

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  1. warf0x0r says:

    This is why parts and labor warranties with split values are a rip-off. If you get the parts for free who cares, with todays insane labor costs you might as well just said, 90 days parts and labor. At least then he could expect to pay 34.95 for the part.

  2. UpsetPanda says:

    The most hilarious part was when the CSR told him he hadn’t bought warranty, when he was staring at the warranty booklet. Love it! I hope he gets his part and doesn’t have to pay a dime. He paid for the garage opener, he seems to know exactly what he’s doing, and he should get what he paid for.

  3. FREAKHEAD says:

    I could ALMOST understand this if the service call was free. This would be to prevent “weekend warriors” from making matters worse but this ridiculous. Give the guy a freakin part.

    I have been really turned off by Sears and every time I hear another story like this it reminds me why I purchased from a local company that has taken good care of me and my appliances.

  4. Razzler says:

    Well, that’s a rip-off. Every warranty I’ve ever purchased includes service calls.

  5. joeblevins says:

    Well written letter. Looks like the guy tried his darndest to resolve the issue before alerting the media.

    I look forward to the resolution. Ideally Sear’s will not only make good with teh OP, but will also change the policy.

    Does the Warranty itself mention the required service visit?

  6. minipony says:

    Sticky situation…
    It sounds like you are a handy homeowner and your photo-eye does sound like a bad one, but I have to agree with Sears in this case.
    You see, the photo-eyes are the main safety feature in their garage door system, and if there is a problem, they want to make sure it is professionally handled. In addition, most of the time a photo eye problem has more to do with door operation, sunlight interference, or most often of all, faulty or pinched wiring. Sending out new pairs of photo-eyes to every person who “thinks” they need one would get very costly and would more often than not satisfy the customer. Therefore, the cost of professional inspection must be covered by the SELF INSTALLING homeowner. This is key, because while Sears garage door openers are high enough quality, it is rare to see one perfectly installed. I repair garage doors and openers perfectly every day. :) But don’t ask me to diagnose your leaky sink! Homeowners can’t be expected to be experts at everything, and Sears knows it. $34.95 isn’t too bad.

  7. bohemian says:

    This “policy” might be illegal in some states. Having to pay a fee to use a warranty? If Sears doesn’t do the right thing he should contact his state atty general’s consumer protection division.

    On a side note, the CSR he talked to claimed there was no supervisor? I have gotten this line a couple of times in the last year trying to resolve problems. Is this a new call center tactic to try to make people just go away?

    I have heard too many horror stories about Sears recently. I guess they don’t realize that people buy appliances at Sears due to the kind of service they used to provide. Now they are no different than buying an appliance at Sam’s or Lowes.

  8. CarlR says:

    I think this is one of the few cases where I’d feel justified buying a new garage door opener, swapping out the sensor, and then returning it.

  9. ry81984 says:

    Buy the part from another website or ebay. At least they do not get to make the profit.

  10. UpsetPanda says:

    What I am a little confused about was how Sears could refuse to sell him the part. All parts come with serial numbers, right? Or at least some identification letting a user know that it is indeed a garage opener part and not a lawnmower part. So unless they have them stored and won’t hand one over, why doesn’t he just find the part (unless it’s a lot of money) and do it himself? I get that he wants it to be handed over because it’s part of the warranty, but meanwhile his garage door doesn’t close, so I’m pretty sure at some point it’s just cheaper to replace it yourself and not do business with Sears ever again.

  11. MoCo says:

    Similar thing happened to a friend whose Sears water heater had failed. Sears first sent out a serviceman to “diagnose” the obvious tank leak and changed $60 for the service call. The next day, they came back and replaced the water heater at no charge. My very persistent friend was, however, able to reach someone at sears who issued a $60 refund for the unnecessary diagnosis visit.

  12. hubris says:

    So tired of the bullshit “let’s pull out the human decision making capabilities” that’s poisoning American business. Let’s just hope it blows up and blows up big.

  13. sixninezero says:

    As a former Sears employee (selling garage door openers etc.) I can see how this is frustrating. I dealt with countless customers that had minor issues like this. More often than not the customer came into the store vs. the service center. I always did my best to resolve their issue without sending them to the SC. The key was how the customer acted towards me. If they are unpleasant, they would get a map to the SC. Someone like Dale would have gotten a new sensor straight from a return or opened GDO out of stock.

  14. ianmac47 says:

    Why not just order the kit, install the NEW part, and then return the broken part for a refund? Dishonest, yes, but not more dishonest than failing to honor a warranty.

  15. somecop says:

    My father purchased a Craftsman mower 3 months ago and 30 days later was lying in a hospital bed a month away from death. I went to help my mom handle things while my dad was sick and jumped on the mower to take care of the grass, only to figure out that the deck magically drops into the lowest position every 3 minutes. Being under warranty I contacted Sears and they sent someone out a few days later. He fixed the problem in about 10 minutes and then asked me for the $20 fee they supposedly charge for coming out. I told him where Johnny lost his shovel and how to find it and he simply entered “customer declines charge” on the receipt. He said this charge was fairly new and he cringed every time he asked someone for it because he knew how retarded it was.
    The only thing Sears sells is their name and their customer “service” is horrible.

  16. Caroofikus says:

    @CarlR: I agree. If they won’t give you what you paid for, make them give it to you. It’s not technically theft as you’ve paid for the warranty.

  17. kahri says:

    @CarlR: I like the way you think.
    Another option might be contacting the manufacturer of the garage door opener. Trust me, retailers don’t like it when you deal directly w/ their vendors. I wouldn’t suggest this if Sears actually attempted to help you. You’ve done nothing wrong and in fact have handled your complaint very professionally from what I’ve read. IMO if you’re forced to pay the service call, then see if they could “service” your dishwasher/fridge/washing machines while they’re there.

  18. OnceWasCool says:

    “He gave me a very pleasant smile.”

    This smile goes over like a fart in church. I remember when Sears was a good respectable company.

    Sears needs to take care of this fast!

  19. JiminyChristmas says:

    I had a nearly identical experience with a Delta table saw. Six months into a 2-year warranty the on/off switch burned out. How did I know it was the switch? By the scorch marks inside. I was able to swap out the Delta switch for a generic toggle and it works just fine, but the generic doesn’t fit the switch housing…so you really need the Delta switch.

    So, I took the burnt switch to the Delta retailer/service center where I bought the saw, brought my warranty info with me, and asked for a new switch. They said, “Sure! All you have to do is bring in the saw and we’ll replace the switch.”

    Now, this saw weighs about 350 pounds. I would have to disassemble it into manageable pieces to get it back out of my basement and to the service center. Not to mention, I spent about 2 hours assembling the saw, and another 2 hours getting all of the critical alignments under .005in. So, I could look forward to repeating that entire process if I want to make use of the warranty. Oh, and the switch? It retails for about $14.00. Hmmm…worth it?

    I can sort of see it from Delta’s point of view: they need some way to stop people from getting new parts for bogus reasons. However, the ‘bring in the saw’ policy means the threshold of pain for using the warranty is pretty high. If it’s something I can fix myself in a couple of hours for under $100 it’s not worth the effort to bring in the saw. It’s sort of like a high-deductible warranty.

  20. Blue says:

    Did they offer to re-imburse him if the service representative determines, it is in fact a warranty repair??????????????

  21. Scuba Steve says:

    @JiminyChristmas: Wow that’s like someone having a “Bring in your fridge for service” policy.

  22. TPIRman says:

    @somecop: “I told him where Johnny lost his shovel and how to find it and he simply entered ‘customer declines charge’ on the receipt.”

    The best sentence I’ve ever read in these comment threads.

  23. Boberto says:

    Just buy another unit, swap out the parts, and return for full refund. That’s what I always do. Such a waste of time arguing with clerks. Exploit the laziness. They won’t even look in the box.

  24. rjhiggins says:

    @MissJ: They’ll *sell* him the part for $34.95. Or he can get it free when they do the service call.

    What they won’t do is just give him the part.

  25. macinjosh says:

    @Johnny:
    So where did you lose your shovel?

  26. derobert says:

    Hmm, does this violate Magnuson-Moss’s tie-in sales provisions? Something to look into.

  27. @minipony: Sure, they want it to be checked out by a professional. That’s why they offered to sell him the part, right?

    And not only did they offer the part, but the entire install kit and some extra chain lube to go with it. If I were Dale, I’d buy the lube but I certainly wouldn’t be applying it to the chain.

  28. OK…
    I read up to the part from “problem follows sensor; tried with good known sensor and problem follows sensor” bit (as per textbook calls for).
    If Sears doesn’t follow through with a replacement acknowledgment accordingly, they are over their heads with this one!

    ~ discounteggroll out!

  29. ShadowFalls says:

    I don’t see why he is having a problem here. Sears needs to step up and make this right. The potential money you could make on this far outweighs the amount of money you will lose in future business.

    When an intelligent person throws that in the equation that equals the policy, the policy is canceled out and replaced with potential earnings. If you had stepped up and gave him no issue with this, you would have his guaranteed future business. How come they are missing the logic of that? Customer loyality doesn’t just bring you more money, it brings you more customers who bring more money.

  30. Scuba Steve says:

    To be honest it’s really about liability to both the customer for safety reasons and to the service company that Sears works with for monetary reasons.

    I remember, being a lowly CS rep, having a “hands on” individual call us up and ask for directions on how to fix the wiring in the control panel of a dishwasher.

    I didn’t know if what he was doing was dangerous, but I was not really allowed to take the chance and have the company help him potentially hurt himself. He went on for about 30 minutes how we’d have more business if we had do it yourself repair kits and how GE dishwashers were pretty easy to fix and how he did all sorts of handiwork.

    I’m not sure what happened in that case, I think I escalated the call or he just gave up after a while since I couldn’t give him any directions (CS reps don’t get Tech numbers, and they don’t train reps THAT well.)

    I felt bad for a day or two. But alas, mental blocks due to Service-related jobs take over, and I can’t remember crap.

  31. chartrule says:

    seems like it would probably be easier to go to an electronics do-it-yourself store with the part.

    would probably be even less than sears cost for the part

  32. KimHCreations says:

    @minipony
    If ‘minipony’ were to reread the blog with the same attention he does installing garage door openers he would see that the photo eye was determined as faulty by several different people, the saleperson at Sears and the representative he spoke with on the phone. Also, he said that most of the time it doesn’t work because of door operation, sunlight interference and faulty/ pinched wiring. That was disproven when the neighbor took his part and installed it Dale’s garage opener & it WORKED! He then took Dale’s part & put it in his garage opener & it didn’t work! Logic would tell you if the garage door opener was operating initially, it didn’t suddenly stop working because of door operation or sunlight interference, especially if the part extracted was helping another door open. Furthermore, if the cause is because of faulty wiring, then it stands to reason the product is dysfunctional.

    But, regardless of whether it is correctly installed or Sear’s doesn’t want to just send out parts to anyone asking, the fact remains there is still a matter of a parts & labor warranty. I doubt the manual or warranty booklet explained that the warranty is useless, or rather you have to pay each time you use that warranty. If they want to determine that it is a faulty part then they shouldn’t charge for a service call. I would think if they are so worried about anyone and everyone asking for parts & installing them correctly, then they would want to absorb the cost of a service call because they will be saving themselves in the long run. If they don’t want to stand by their warranty then they should no longer put warranties on their products.

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @KimHCreations: Amen. They swapped out the part and the problem went away.
    Although this is better than calling Gateway to get a part and having to go through the 45 minute “script” to get a new modem for my mom’s computer.
    It’s policy. My policy is to not shop at stores whose policy is to screw me and my consumer bretheren.

  34. AndrewJC says:

    I have a Kenmore air conditioner that I bought at Sears a few years ago. It’s an in-the-wall unit that uses a 220v outlet and cooled my whole apartment. It also cost me in excess of $500, which is a ripoff in and of itself, but it was the only place in the area that sold a 220v model. They probably knew as much, too, when they sold it to me.

    Well, it worked for one summer, and then magically stopped working when it got hot again the next summer. I called Sears about it and they sent a tech out, explaining that it was a burned out circuitboard. I thought, cool, this is something I can replace myself. The circuitboard was warranteed for one year, so I had to pay for that service call. I was fine with that.

    So when they mailed me the part I replaced it, and my A/C still wasn’t working. So I called again. They sent out another tech (well, it was the same tech… nice guy and knowledgeable about HVAC). He determined that while the circuitboard had been fried, it wasn’t the root cause of the problem. The problem had been that there was a coolant leak, and because the condenser coils were empty, the motor was churning away and doing nothing, which had caused the circuitboard to blow. Good news: the condenser was warranteed for five years. Bad news: I couldn’t just get a new A/C unit. He had to refill the condenser even though he knew there was a leak and that it would be near impossible to find.

    So he refilled the coolant and the A/C started working again. For about fifteen minutes until the coolant had all leaked out again.

    I had to place yet another call with Sears and have them send out a tech (same guy, which I was glad for). When the tech got to my apartment, he took one look at me and said “Oh God, not this again.” He was there for about five minutes, we chatted a bit, and then he told me that he would mark down that the unit was bad and needed to be replaced. He told me that it was common for techs to have to make three service calls before any unit could be replaced.

    Long story short (well, as short as it can be), it was getting toward late September by this time, so I didn’t give it much thought until the next spring when it started to get warm again. I called Sears, explained the situation, that the unit had never been replaced the previous year and that I had the slip the tech had given me (as well as in their records) that said that the unit needed to be replaced.

    Their answer? The slip didn’t say that it needed to be replaced. The slip actually said that I wanted it to be replaced, which is apparently two different things. They told me that because it had been more than 90 days since the tech was there, they’d have to send another tech out to assess the problem. I told them that this was ridiculous, because the unit didn’t magically fix itself and then stop working again during the 8 months I hadn’t been using it over the fall and winter. Their answer was, “It’s policy.” I told them that there was absolutely no way I was going to spend yet another ninety dollars for a service call when I knew what the problem was and had a slip saying as much. This was in addition to the over $500 I’d paid for the unit itself, plus more than $300 trying to get it fixed. After about five minutes of bickering with the customer service person, she finally agreed to waive the service call fee provided that the problem was as I said it was.

    Tech came out, agreed with my (and the previous tech’s) assessment, and I had a new A/C unit before the week was out.

    I guess what I’m saying is this: If the part is warranteed, then you shouldn’t have to pay to get it replaced. Period. Perhaps you’ll be able to convince them to waive the service call fee if the service tech agrees that the problem is what you say it is. I think that would be a win for all parties. Sears would get to have its policy followed, you’d get your part without paying for it, and your garage door will be working again.

  35. Consumer007 says:

    I just wanted to thank the author for posting the CEO’s contact i nfo. I sent the following email as moral support…enjoy!

    Hello Mr. Lewis -

    I just wanted to alert you to the fact that I had read this account regarding how one of your longtime loyal Kenmore appliance customers is being treated, and your organization is refusing to honor his warranty on his garage door opener.

    [consumerist.com]

    Well, I hope you do the right thing, but I also want you to know this has changed my mind about Kenmore and Sears, and that I definitely do plan to purchase any of your products, I am going to further share this with about 50 close friends, all of whom buy appliances from time to time, and my father, who absolutely swears by your products (but won’t any more) because:

    NOBODY deserves

    - not to have paid warranties honored
    - to be denied help by over FIFTEEN of your representatives when calling for help
    - to be insulted and told they are not smart enough to diagnose a problem.

    Look at how much of his time and good will your people and policies have TRASHED here.
    What kind of organization are you running, anyway?

    I am only thankful that CONSUMERIST.COM helps keep consumers like me safe from unethical corporations like yours.

    Of course, you know as CEO of Sears it doesn’t have to be this way. You have all the power to change this, to take this to heart, to have some emergency executive board meetings with “managers” who won’t come to the phone, who won’t help customers and who train front line staff to insult them and refuse service. Make it happen. Now.

    Quite Sincerely,
    Scott W
    Denver, Colorado
    Consumer007@gmail.com

  36. Consumer007 says:

    “definitely DO NOT plan to purchase” that is…typo here but correct in email to bigwig…those pesky carat characters don’t display as one expects on web pages like this noe…argh

  37. Consumer007 says:

    Oops…that’s “do NOT” plan to purchase…dang carat symbols exclude text on web pages…argh. But ist was correct in the email.

  38. Suppafly says:

    just pay for the $30+ part with your credit card and then do a charge back later stating that your warranty should have covered it or something.

    or pay for the$60 visit and do a charge back for the same reason.

  39. jawacg says:

    I know I am going to catch a lot of hell on this but oh well. I don’t know how Sears has to handle their warranty repairs but where I work (construction equipment dealership) we are required to handle warranty repairs by the manufacturer to make sure the problem really is the problem (reference the A/C repair comment farther up). We as a dealership provide a travel time and mileage warranty to the customer for x amount of days or x amount of hours on the equipment set aside out of funds of the sale but basically out of our own pocket for added value to the customer, but the manufacturer pays us nothing for service calls unless it involves a safety issue that could cause harm to property or person. So in the case described above we would have three choices.

    1. We could abide by the rules set forth by the manufacturer that we are a dealership for and perform service calls or perform the repair at our facility and charge the customer so that we don’t lose any money after travel time and mileage coverage has expired as told to the customer.

    2. We can do the warranty repair and get reimbursed for the repair parts and labor but lose money if we made a service call and didn’t charge or require the customer to bring the unit to our facility.

    3. We can hand out the warranty parts for the customer to do the repair himself but take a chance that he didn’t diagnose correctly and that the part he brought in isn’t broken but is actually a symptom of a bigger problem. At that point since we chose to do that we would lose the money for reimbursement for the supposed broken part since we can’t file back to the manufacturer for warranty as we didn’t do the repair. Also, if that isn’t the actual problem there will be further parts needed and since we have set a precedent for handing out the parts we may lose a lot more money or even a possibility that the problem might not get fixed until we look at the equipment.

    I’m not trying to defend Sears, but these things aren’t as simplistic as they seem. The sad part is that a lot of companies don’t try to make a customer understand why they are taking an action, just that is the policy and tell them nothing further. Every product you buy has a different twist on their warranty. You should make sure you do your job as a consumer and read and understand it so that misunderstandings like this doesn’t happen or that you decide not to buy this product. The people that sold you this product need to make sure they explain the reasons they are acting like they are so that they don’t seem like they are being jerks to rip you off or just for the sake of being a jerk.

  40. bombaxstar says:

    I work at Sears as a cashier in hardware [I`m not legally old enough to work in commissioned sales so I just go there as a cashier] and I think I might know the problem.

    Craftsman garage door openers automatically come with limited warranties [seven years and ten years are the first two to come to my head, depending on the specific GDO]. They’re also eligible for Master Protection Agreements for a certain number of years [this I cannot recall at the moment]. The warranty pattern for a GDO WITHOUT a PA goes like this:

    First 30 days: Parts and labor are covered

    First 60 days: Parts are covered

    After 90 days: Nothing EXCEPT the motor is covered. Hence, limited warranty.

    Yes, it does suck that he HAS to get a service technician out to diagnose the problem [I don't personally agree with this policy], but we do offer the PAs for a reason.

  41. bombaxstar says:

    @MissJ: I think that when the CSR told him that he hadn`t purchased the warranty, she meant the PA.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Here’s my guess at the Sears Complaint Problem. Sears has outsourced complaints and guarantee problems to a third party who is paid a flat fee for doing the work. Then, the 3rd party bears the cost of the replacement parts. This is an incentive to deny service. I ran into this problem when I bought a stove. The Sears sales rep was not happy with the 3rd party, either, but had to live with them. This doesn’t excuse Sears – they decided to outsource. It does help to explain the reluctance to help anyone as that reduces profits by the 3rd party company.