Round 18: Sears vs Citibank

This is Round 18 in our Worst Company in America contest, Sears vs Citibank.

Sears stores are dirty and staffed by people who don’t give a damn. Getting a warranty repair is a nightmare. The company seems to be composed of different warring factions, with the customer as canon fodder.

Citibank: Like most retail banks excited by late 90′s deregulation, Citibank got hot and heavy into the subrpime mortgage industry and helped to precipitate the current economic crunch. They boost people’s credit card interest rates for no reason, sometimes have customer service completely impervious to logic, and otherwise behave like a typical gigantic bank, which is to say, horribly.

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2008 series. The companies nominated for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. Keep track of all the goings on at consumerist.com/tag/worst-company-in-america/

STILL OPEN FOR VOTING: Wal-Mart vs TJMaxx, Mattel vs ATT, Capital One vs Video Professor, eBay/Paypal vs COX, Apple vs SallieMae, Diebold Vs Pfizer, MTV vs TransUnion
CompUSA vs DirecTV
Target vs Best Buy
Allstate vs Verizon,
DeBeers vs 1800 flowers, Starbucks vs United Airlines,
Exxon vs Crocs, Google Vs Sony, Ticketmaster vs Wachovia, Facebook vs The American Arbitration Association, Comcast vs Menu Foods

Comments

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  1. razremytuxbuddy says:

    A Sears credit card is actually a Citibank card. So, it’s too bad one company will be able to eliminate the other in the first round.

  2. forgottenpassword says:

    I am voting sears because I (and family members) have just recived all-around shitty subpar service from them over the years(from their shitty automotive service to their BS warranty repair services).

    ANd with my citibank Credit card …I have had hardly any problem with.

  3. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’m voting sears because the couple times I’ve dealt with them, they just gave me a bunch of problems.

    Both of my credit cards are CitiBank cards, and I’ve never had a problem with them at all. They’ve treated me pretty well.

  4. Sears is now a subsidiary of K-Mart. I know it’s been ages since anyone has been inside a K-Mart, but you can find Sears branded items there now. The Craftsman stuff has always been pretty good, and Consumer Reports rarely has much bad to say about Kenmore. OTOH, other retailers from Wal-Mart to Home Depot to Best Buy have been eating Sears’ lunch for years.

    I’ll vouch for Sears’ totally screwed up business model; it’s the reason K-Mart bought Sears rather than the other way around. Their automotive service still sucks the big one and appears to exist to rip people off, and I’ll bet it still takes a month to actually buy anything there larger than a toaster oven.

    Evil is much worse than mere incompetence, which is why any of the major credit companies, especially Citibank, will beat Sears any day of the week. It’s simply no contest.

  5. BTW, if you open a Sears charge, they’ll give you a $15 credit to spend anywhere in the store. You know the drill, take the card, spend the money, pay the first bill, and cancel/shred the card.

  6. DeafChick says:

    Voting for Citibank b/c I have student loans with them.

  7. homerjay says:

    Once again, if its a toss up, I’mm voting bank.

  8. noquarter says:

    Consumerist: Can you please switch to the Polldaddy polls that block repeat votes based on cookies rather than IP address?

    I don’t know how they determine unique IP addresses, but they always claim that I have “already voted” whether I try from work (probably because I’m behind a proxy) or at home (I have no idea – it should be just me).

  9. Pro-Pain says:

    Best Buy lost (stole) my mothers laptop that was left @ the Geek Squad. It was a lemon junker so we disputed the charge with the credit card company (Citibank) when Best Buy refused to do anything about it. Long story short. We actually LOST that dispute. Couldn’t believe it. We had a clear cut case with a police report even. 100% legit FRAUD on Best Buy’s part. Citibank said they were “unable to secure a credit from Best Buy’s bank” therefore there was nothing they could do. We would have to sue Best Buy in court. Nice dispute handling Citibank. Two months later we get an advertisment with our Citibank statement with special offers from Best Buy in it. NO WONDER they couldn’t do anything for us. Bastards.

  10. Jon Mason says:

    Never had dealings with Citibank, but had a horrible experience at Sears over Christmas so voting for them:

    We were interested in a large (but not heavy) item (forget what it was) that was not priced and no “price check” scanners were nearby, so I picked it up and hauled it to the counter (quite a way across the store). We asked the cashier if she could price-check it for us – she told us and it was more than we wanted to pay. So far so good. Then the conversation went something like this:

    “OK – we’ll leave it thanks. Can I just leave it with you?” (expecting the usual friendly “sure!”)
    “Well, I don’t know where you picked it up from!”
    “Oh, it’s just at the back there on a big display.”
    “Great now I have to go put it back! I’m busy.”
    “Urr… OK, I’m just leaving it.”

    I begin to walk away.

    Her:”I can’t believe this! You didnt even buy anything!”

    Followed by me asking for her manager – her resisting my attempts to get her to find one “Hes not here/hes busy”. As I was storming out of the store, bumped into 2 floor managers and let them know I wouldnt shop at there store again because she was such a biatch. In all fairness, they were really nice – what I had been used to before at Sears (where over thanksgiving craziness I actually had some excellent customer service) and their niceness cancelled her out to the extent I would probably consider shopping there again. But they still suck.

  11. timmus says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Citibank lately. Not as much as the scumbags at First USA / Capital One, but quite a few, and they’re high up on my list of companies to never do business with. They need to do some serious work on their customer service and PR.

  12. Xkeeper says:

    @noquarter: Disable cookies. Click vote. Click vote again. And again, and again, and again…

    If it’s really that much, just vote at home.

  13. I have only had a couple small problems with Citibank over 5 years, like when I initially linked my account to their ThankYou Network program, and when I referred a friend to their credit card and they didn’t may me their referral fee. But everything was ironed out without wasting long, ridiculous hours of my time. Sears wins.

  14. cerbie says:

    Citi, because you can easily choose to just walk out of Sears. Citi will be harder, and you may get your money or debt under their umbrella without consenting to it. Even if you did, and maybe should have known better, it’s awful late now, and…

  15. urban_ninjya says:

    OMG, Sears is FAR WORSE!! Citibank is just the typical scummy credit card company. But Sears through their stores and Kmart lure unsuspecting people into signing up for their store credit cards with out rageous interest rates (way higher than Citibank cards for sure).

    These are targeted at the lower income brackets where people many not know any better. With the lure of cheap ass Martha Steward living goods, low cost booze, and clothes that might look nice, but gets shredded after a couple washes, the low income people are tempted to sign-up for a credit card they can’t afford for the taste of the not so good life.

  16. Beerad says:

    Yeah, I’m kinda puzzled by all the Citibank-hate. Sure, they have the same problems as other giant banks, but I don’t think they’re worse than others. Sears, on the other hand, seems to be actively vying for the coveted Worst Company prize.

    Have there been a ton of Citibank problem posts that I’ve missed?

  17. jaydez says:

    I’m voting for Citibank because my stock tanked and lost 50% of its value in less than a year.

  18. Landru says:

    @noquarter: It always thinks I haven’t voted.

  19. WhirlyBird says:

    Every time I read ‘Citibank’, I can hear the guy from South Park saying “Shitty Bank”.

  20. AceKicker says:

    Aww, Sears is losing and they’re the company I nominated…

  21. rmz says:

    I’ve never really had a problem with my loans through Citibank.

    Sears, on the other hand…

  22. I can’t not like Sears. Sears is like your Grandpa, he gets a little stinky now and then and sometimes has trouble chewing his food, but damn, the old coot sure has been around a while, and if you need a hammer, he’s got one for ya’.

    My local Sears has been good to me. I bought a fridge there a couple years ago, I bought the cheapest one available. (that’s how I roll, don’t be jealous) They delivered it and the next day it was making a noise, I called and they sent a guy out the next day. He said to call the store to get a replacement fridge. The store was out of stock of that same cheapo fridge, so they sent me the next best one the very next day.

    As for Citibank, wtf… isn’t the fact that they spell their name with 2 i’s reason enough to hate them? Why don’t they just dot those i’s with little hearts or stars to get the full effect… [snarl]

  23. milk says:

    Once I was locked out of my online Citi account after entering my password correctly (seriously-no caps lock, I pecked each letter to get it right). I called because I had a payment due that day, and I was asked what my reminder word was. I said, “It should be [x].”
    “Sorry that’s not right.”
    “OK, then it’s it’s [x] with an Z at the end.”

    From this point on, he chose to completely ignore my second answer.

    “When you submitted this you picked a pet’s name.”
    “No, that’s just the subject I picked. I never use my pets’ names.”
    “But you picked that.”
    “That’s not the word I used. How stupid would it be to use a word so easily guessed?”
    “Well look, it says a pet name. What are your pet names?”
    “Tima, Janeane, and Raz.”
    “None of those are the answer.”
    “I just SAID it’s not one of those. Look, if it’s not [x] it’s [x] with an Z at the end. I already said that.”
    “Neither of those is right. I won’t discuss this any further.”

    At this point he got a lovely explosion in his ear about his inadequate level of intelligence and various other lovlies I shouldn’t repeat. I hung up and immediately called the same number, getting a woman this time. I explained my situation, that I’d already spoken with a Mongoloid, and was hoping she could help. She asked my word, and I said, “It’s either [x] or [x] with an O at the end.”
    “OK, wait about five minutes, and your account will be working again.”

    That guy’s only one of various CSRs who have been relatively useless.

  24. Starfury says:

    I voted Citibank, I’ve had good experiences at Sears buying appliances or other items. The rare times I’ve had to contact a CSR they’ve been able to fix the problem in one call.

  25. IamTCM says:

    Does no one remember the Sears “track everything you do” program?

    Is Sears Engaging in Criminal Hacking Behavior? [www.schneier.com]

  26. Sears = sucks at life
    Citi = knowingly sucks at life

  27. cookmefud says:

    citibank’s lending practices seem to be similar to payday/title loan shops… while sears is just sad and poorly run.

  28. Drowner says:

    @HRHKingFriday: So, I should vote for sears because it has the more miserable life?

    also the fight image hurts my eyes.

  29. JiminyChristmas says:

    Based on my personal experiences, I had to vote for Sears. I took in a table saw that was just barely out of warranty for repair.

    Strike 1: the motor and arbor bearings on a machine tool should not be shot after three years of extremely light use.

    Strike 2: The clerks at the store and the people at the repair center were all nice enough, but they were universally incompetent. First they couldn’t figure out what to charge me, then they changed my due date three times over three weeks. When I called to check on the status at one point they didn’t even know where my saw was.

    Strike 3: Even though the tag on the saw said Inspected and Tested it still wasn’t fixed. Another trip to the repair center would have cost more than the saw was worth, so now it’s collecting dust and I will never buy a power tool of any sort from Sears again.

    As for Citibank, I can’t complain. I’ve had a card with them for about 12 years. At one point I was in hock to them for a lot of money. Now the only balance I have with them is a fixed 2.9% balance transfer that I am able to make quick work of thanks to the low rate.

  30. tape says:

    Any time a Worst Company round involves a massive bank, I vote for the massive bank.

  31. fuzzymuffins says:

    sure you can all vote as to whether it ‘personally’ affects you…. i’m sure that citibank has a record of treating the average joe who has an account and a credit card with descent customer service.

    but on a higher, moral level, citibank has played a major role in the sub-prime crisis… this affects our entire economy!!!

    crappy retailers are a dime-a-dozen now. the service industry is in the toilet because they pay dirt and under-staff and mis-manage to woo us with ‘lowww prices’…..

    have a bad experience? chances are there’s another place to get your wares instead….

    the definition of a bad company is not just how they treat you, but how they turn around and mess up the world with the money you just gave them.

    think more about where your money goes, not just what you got for you money.

  32. DrGirlfriend says:

    I have never had a problem with Sears, however, Citibank held my savings account funds hostage for almost 3 months. It was an epic saga. Then again, my parents met while they both worked at Citibank. Can I vote against the place that allowed my parents to meet, and therefore allowed me to be born? What a dilemma.

  33. dweebster says:

    Citibank (I prefer to call them “ShittyBank”) had a legit promotion going for a “free ipod” where you HAD to apply online for a checking account.

    Did that, filled out everything they requested, then waited. And waited. And Waited. about a couple three weeks, with calls in to them to check on it. Then the idiots decide that you need to bring ID to a local branch because anyone could be anyone online – (OK, that’s true, but if I have to go into the bank anyway what’s the point of applying online, eh?). So I go to my local branch, show IDs and such to the manager and have them contact their seemingly incompetent online banking division to (hopefully) move things along. Also opened up a savings account while I was there to get interest on the minimum required balance for the promo. The checking account needed to come from the online monkeys because they initiated it.

    So I took my savings account info home, and waited and waited and waited…. more screwing around over the phones with their online people and wasted calls to the manager of a couple local ShittyBank branches just to open a checking account(!). About a month-and-a-half in I had my checking account and ipod on the way, and couldn’t wait for the 366th day when I could cancel that account and never have to deal with these idiots again.

    If that’s the caliber of intelligence floating around our financial centers then I’ll go with the opinion that it was stupidity and not *all* corruption that led bankers to believe houses would never stop increasing in value and that poor people would suddenly become rich under Republican policies. I’m going mattress shopping soon, as the S&L’s were killed off by the Reaganite deregulated greed + corruption and Banks seem to be headed in the same direction now. Lay off the Koolade, dummies.

  34. dweebster says:

    Citibank (I prefer to call them “ShittyBank”) had a legit promotion going for a “free ipod” where you HAD to apply online for a checking account.

    Did that, filled out everything they requested, then waited. And waited. And Waited. about a couple three weeks, with calls in to them to check on it. Then the geniuses decided that I needed to bring ID to a local branch because anyone could be anyone online – (OK, that’s true, but if I have to go into the bank anyway what’s the point of applying online, eh?). So I go to my local branch, show IDs and such to the manager and have them contact their seemingly incompetent online banking division to (hopefully) move things along. Also opened up a savings account while I was there to get interest on the minimum required balance for the promo. The checking account needed to come from the online monkeys because they initiated it.

    So I took my savings account info home, and waited and waited and waited…. more screwing around over the phones with their online people and wasted calls to the manager of a couple local ShittyBank branches just to open a checking account(!). About a month-and-a-half in I had my checking account and ipod on the way, and couldn’t wait for the 366th day when I could cancel that account and never have to deal with these idiots again.

    If that’s the caliber of intelligence floating around our financial centers then I’ll go with the opinion that it was stupidity and not *all* corruption that led bankers to believe houses would never stop increasing in value and that poor people would suddenly become rich under Republican policies. I’m going mattress shopping soon, as the S&L’s were killed off by the Reaganite deregulated greed + corruption and Banks seem to be headed in the same direction now.

  35. crapple says:

    I’ve had a citibank card since I was 16/17 (I’m 27 now) and they’ve treated me pretty well.

    Sears, I’ve never really shopped there as I have learned from word of mouth for years and years and years that they’re awful. Also, my dad is a carpenter and he wouldn’t buy a craftsman anything – even with someone else’s dollar.

  36. Blackneto says:

    Sears is a pathetic shell of its former self.
    I can’t vote for them. It’s like kicking a dying dog.

    Citibank it is.

  37. @dweebster: I guess next time we elect a Republican president, credit unions will be next.

  38. AD8BC says:

    @Steaming Pile: I highly doubt it would make any difference which one of the three Amigos that we choose from this go-around.

  39. jefffromNY says:

    Sears is plain idiots.

    Citi is trying to make a profit (we are still a Capitalism right?)

    This one goes to Sears, since I’m not a Socialist.

  40. Gadgetgirl says:

    Sears bites it in this one. I still hold a grudge against the ‘Circle of Beauty’ bitch (years ago) who transformed my face from an understated, barely made up one to that of Bozo the Clown’s sister! My face resembled a drag queen’s closet! Needless to say I kept my head down low until I got home.

    I’ve never had complaints with Citibank. In fact, they were quick in helping me out last year over some mess I had with Dollar Rent a Car in Puerto Rico. Basically, they claimed a scratch* on the bumper=them keeping the $500 hold on your credit card they release after returning the car. A couple of calls to Citibank and it was taken care of. Dollar had the nerve to send me a letter with a 10% off coupon should I ever use them in PR again. Right…

    *Was in PR last July around my birthday and at the HoJo I was at, the parking lot was PACKED (on 7/25 in PR is their Independence Day and my BD)! Since you have to pay to park just about everywhere on the island, HoJo allows non guests to park and the lot resembled a junk yard! A scratch on the bumper was the least thing to worry about!

  41. ghettoimp says:

    @Blackneto: “I can’t vote for them. It’s like kicking a dying dog.”

    Nice.

  42. SOhp101 says:

    I’ve actually received better service from Citibank, but it’s contribution to the subprime mortgage crisis is inexcusable.

  43. gravedi66er says:

    @Steaming Pile: >>BTW, if you open a Sears charge, they’ll give you a $15 credit to spend anywhere in the store. You know the drill, take the card, spend the money, pay the first bill, and cancel/shred the card.<<

    haha, I’d like to see your credit rating. You take a inquiry on your report and then another hit for opening then closing account, all for a $15 credit? Wow, you are ruining your credit rating if you do this often.

  44. gravedi66er says:

    I’ve had two Citi cards for about 10 years and haven’t had any problems with them. Whenever I have a late fee(which isn’t often) I just call and they credit it bank to my account.
    Sears auto lost parts off of my wheels when I had my tires mounted there.
    I vote Sears.

  45. thesuperpet says:

    I used to work at Sears and I cared!

    Of course, they drove me out (they hired me as a Tools Consultant when I was 17, then later ‘found out’ it was company policy that Tools Consultants be of legal age. Not company policy, however, that they know what they are talking about)

  46. mythago says:

    Way back when I was a young thing in college, I came home one day to a very nervous roommate who had taken a screaming, angry call from a Citi rep (I had a student credit card). Said rep refused to believe my roommate’s telling her that I was in class and therefore unavailable, and berated the roommate at length, telling her “you’d better make sure she calls me back”.

    Mystified, because I was paid up, I called back. Turned out there was some minor discrepancy in their records regarding my address and they wanted to call me to confirm it was correct.

    While Sears is horrible, and their auto division tried to rip me off (back before they got slammed with fraud charges – yes I’m old), they at least have some Lands End stuff now.

  47. BlackFlag55 says:

    Sears. A black word at our ranch. A very black word. Here’s the nut of it … 1987 we bought a washer/dryer and refrigerator from Sears using their in house credit card they issued for this sale. We had perfect credit. No dings, no lates, always on time, and especially, no debt. Short on cash at the time, but no debts. Three months later we were arranging for a line of credit against our (then) home and the bank wanted an explanation for an Adverse Report from Sears on our credit report. Checking the date of the Adverse Report, it was issued against our file the day after we made our purchase with Sears Credit Card. I since have learned this was common practice by Sears in the 80s, ‘why’ this was their practice has never been answered. A relative, a senior underwriter for the nation’s largest mortgage wholsaler (back when that meant something) told me the one credit ding they expected on everyone’s credit report was an Adverse Report from Sears. In short, if you did business with Sears issued credit, you got dinged. That simple.

    And I have never bought anything from them again. And never will.

  48. the lesser of two weevils says:

    @Steaming Pile:
    KMART is owned by Sears, not the other way around. Sears ownership was supposed to boost kmart but the opposite effect happened.

  49. Sven.T.Sexgore says:

    Man, as a Canuck I’m left wonder how big a difference there is between Sears and Sears Canada. I found, no matter the city, Sears was usually better than the other box stores (though that isn’t saying much). All the hate though makes me guess the standards aren’t the same.

  50. Josh says:

    Oh shoot, I was shopping for a nice watch and ended up purchasing one from Sears (bad mistake). To make a long story short, the transaction has finally ended after 3 watches, 3 trips to Sears, and a lot of dealings with their rude employees.

  51. Sears shows its irrelevance even in the voting count.

  52. adam_h says:

    @Sarcasmic:

    I work for Sears — and we are definitely are owned by Sears Holdings which is owned by the craphole formerly known as Kmart.

    Unless you restructured our corporation last night.

  53. theora55 says:

    Damn you, Consumerist (shakes fist!) 2 great evils pitted against one another.

    Citibank: Sure, let’s sell you a mortgage you can’t afford, then package it for speculators. The US Government will bail us out when it all comes crashing down. We’re a bank, so we deserve huge fees for basic customer service, but when it comes to actual banking, we forgot how to do it right. Our bad. However, my recent customer service experience with them was totally painfree.

    Sears: we’ll break your car and then bill you for a bunch of stuff that’s not broken, and that you don’t need or want. We won’t solve easy problems by phone, no, we have to send a technician for a minimum of $75, and you have to be home between 8 and 2. And, of course, we want you to buy this wildly overpriced extended warranty. My customer service experiences with Sears over the last few years have been horrible. So, I voted for Sears.

  54. unclescrooge says:

    I voted Citibank because they had my student loans while I was an undergrad. In my senior year, they refused to process my in-school deferment and one of their reps told me that if I had continued taking out new Citibank loans they would have acted differently.

    Despite my efforts to get them to acknowledge that I was in school, fulltime, and filed my paperwork by registered mail, they still refused to defer my payments and as such, I ran into default. It took a year of garnished wages before the DOE finally helped me move my loans over to Sallie Mae.

    I hate Citibank and I know that I have cost them at least $100K in business by insuring that none of my friends or family ever open or use Citi accounts for anything. No one has a Sears, Home Depot, or other company card that is handled by this horrible company and I will continue to dissuade everyone from using them.

    And no…there is nothing Citi can do short of erasing my loan debt to them completely, before I ever forgive them.

    Congrats Citi…you made a lifelong enemy out of me and I will tell everyone I know what you did to me and I hope I can deny you $1 million or more in business by spreading the word.

  55. chenry says:

    Sub-par retail store vs. giant bank partially responsible for the US housing crisis and exacerbating the impending recession?

    That’s not much of a contest.

  56. engle22 says:

    As a sears employee, I can’t vote against sears. It’s a great company to work for. True there are some people who don’t care about their job, or the people involved, but if any of you had me as your cashier, I would change your mind.

    Citibank, on the other hand, is an evil company. I am ashamed that we sold our card to them. Yes, it’s a Sears Card by Citibank. It’s citibank’s policies, and I’m tired of getting yelled at by customers over something I have no control over. On the Sears side, we fight for customers. I have been on the phone with many rude citibank people. Sears is trying to change as a company, so please try to give us another chance.

  57. drewB says:

    I cannot fathom why someone would vote for Sears here.

    Citi makes more money off credit card fees than interest. Hence, it’s their duty to their stock holders to screw you over with small print, obfuscated copy, and traps.

  58. Derek says:

    Sears just makes me a little sad. Citi, on the other hand, pisses me off. No contest.

  59. elvinator says:

    @engle22:

    As a former Citi employee that had to deal with Sears cardholders I can assure you a large chunk of the credit issues start with Sears. The amount of dishonest salespeople was only overshadowed by the amount of salespeople that have no clue about the laws and oversight credit card issuers have and get mad because the phone agent won’t break the law for them.

    Credit in general is evil, but I would much rather deal with a major bank than a subprime like hsbc.