Help! Sears Is Charging Me Interest On A "0% For 24 Months" Deal And They Won't Stop!

Reader Mike asks:

We purchased 2 46′ Magnavox hdtv’s on Dec 9th, 2007. At the time of purchase, Sears was offering a 0% interest for 24 months.

We have been being billed for interest for the past few months and I have been unable to resolve this.

The department manager “max” said it was an error entering the promotion in and he would take care of it. Nothing was done however. I talked with the executive customer support people this morning, so we’ll see.

Any suggestions? I am a teacher, and my wife stays at home with our kids. These tv’s were Christmas presents for our parents, and I cannot afford the interest that is being unfairly charged.

Ordinarily, we’d suggest that you try to escalate your complaint with an EECB (executive email carpet bomb), but since it’s Sears we’re talking about here there’s probably no point. We suggest that you gather all of your paperwork together and file a small claims lawsuit against Sears for the interest that you’ve been wrongly charged. We believe that this will get the fastest response. It sounds scary, but suing big corporations in small claims court can be fun and easy.

If small claims court isn’t your thing, or you feel it isn’t worth the (modest) court costs, you can also report them to the BBB and your state’s attorney general. Sometimes that does get Sears’ attention. Not often, but sometimes.

Anyone else have any suggestions? We’d love to hear about tactics that work with Sears, if you know any.

Comments

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  1. EyeHeartPie says:

    We purchased 2 46′ Magnavox hdtv’s on Dec 9th, 2007. At the time of purchase, Sears was offering a 0% interest for 24 months.

    Wow. I want myself a 46-foot HDTV… :P

  2. henrygates says:

    I wonder if he kept records if he could stop payment and dispute it with the credit agencies. Or just pay off the card. I would start writing letters with copies of my initial agreement.

    Then again, if money is so tight that you can’t afford to pay the interest while you get it resolved, maybe you shouldn’t be buying 2 huge television sets to give away to people.

  3. MPHinPgh says:

    You can afford the TV’s, but not the interest?

    Nevermind, I get what he’s saying. But that did come out kinda wrong…

  4. IphtashuFitz says:

    @henrygates: If he used a Sears charge card then he’s likely out of luck.

    I’d suggest an EECB with a very detailed outline of what they intend to do if the issue isn’t resolved quickly. Give them exactly one billing cycle to resolve it or tell them you plan to file a claim with the BBB, AG, or in small claims depending on which of those roads you want to take. Then follow through with that if/when they don’t resolve it to your satisfaction.

  5. PunditGuy says:

    Is the OP sure he’s being charged the interest? The bill might list the interest that is accruing, which he’ll have to pay if he doesn’t pay off the TVs within the 24 months.

  6. fostina1 says:

    i had a similar problem. mine was no interest/payments for 12months on a riding mower. they put me in a 24month plan instead. anything above 12 months requires a minimum payment. i was able to get it put back into the 12 month plan after just 1 phone call. and i just got my newest bill and it was 0.00

  7. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    One of my jobs here where I work is running our in house Card Promotions.

    The bottom line on this is that the store will have to a. re-ring the purchase with the correct code or b. get in touch with credit/audit and have them manually adjust it.

    You’re going to want to get on th

  8. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @henrygates: The OP’s reasoning for the purchase is actually none of your concern.

    In other news, do you know what the interest rate is on store cards? Upwards of 23%.

    Once again to the OP, after thinking, go back to the store and demand that they return and re-ring it with the correct promotion. Not only should that fix the problem…it’ll give you a new 24 months with 0% interest.

  9. NoWin says:

    My parents were tickled pink when I broke-open the wallet and paid to take them to dinner for the holiday.

    Sometimes its the thought and not the material that matters, but I’m digressing…

    Anyway, Sears cards are Citibank processed, so going the “card issuer” route won’t help. This correction has to come from the Sears management “to the card account”, so escalation is the best viable route.

  10. EvilConservative says:

    Second on that, PunditGuy.

    Also, I’d escalate first to the Store Manager and their local business/credit office with all my paperwork in person. As a bonus, you might get “Max” fired or demoted. Follow up with a letter on anything not resolved on the spot.

    I’ve had problems like this with furniture stores screwing things up with their credit vendors and gone straight to the store. Standing there in person with no intent to leave until it is resolved is a pretty good incentive. Just don’t start out being an a*hole about it. Make friends with the people who can really help you.

    Meanwhile, pay what you have to on the bills, expecting all funds to turn into principal payments at resolution. Avoid late fees, etc. if you can to avoid complicating the situation. If you don’t have the money to pay this account off today, or at least pay it off straight-line over 24 months (which has to be more than the minimum payments required), you shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

  11. Hanke says:

    Whenever I buy stuff on a credit plan (which I do a LOT-I can afford to budget for it and I want it N-O-W!) I always verify the credit terms are on the reciept. This has been the case with anyplace I shop that offers such 0% interest plans.

  12. tedyc03 says:

    He might have a problem with a lawsuit.

    Most card agreements stipulate arbitration.

  13. christoj879 says:

    It’s just what “max” said, I used to work at Sears and would fuck this up all the time (I would of course fix it) – when the sale is being rung, at the end they need to select option 4 for your payment type, which is promotional/0%. Then they swipe your card and enter the ending date of the promotion. That causes the 0% to go through correctly.

    What the asshole “max” never told you is that managers don’t give a shit and he never took care of it.

    I would try to get either the store or Citibank to credit the interest, then bring the receipt(s) to the store to have the sale rerung. I would imagine a different salesperson would be more than happy to do that for the free commission (ever notice why exchanges usually get rung as a return and a sale?).

  14. teqjack says:

    In answer to the query above about how the TVs could be affordable as long as no interest applied: Quite possible to pay say half (or even all – about eight percent per month) before the year and then be able to keep paying what would then be about the same but have trouble with, basically, another two percent (call it forty bucks on $2400 purchase) per month.

    Go to the library, photocopy adverts about zero percent with date on page(s) included and receipt (or billing statement) also with date: go to store or EMail, POLITELY mention false advertising and Attorney General…

  15. Geekybiker says:

    seriously. He can afford to give away 2 hd tv’s but the interest is a problem? I mean its wrong they are charging him, but still….

  16. LagrangianMechanic says:

    Are you sure you’re really getting charged? (hear me out)

    When I had a similar deal at Jordan’s Furniture, they would charge interest every month (and it would compound, too), but the statement stated that if the original purchase amount (i.e. NOT including the interest) was paid by the end of the promo, then the account would get a credit for all accrued interest (i.e. no interest would actually get paid).

    And that’s exactly what happened. I made no payments for 18 months, the interest grew and grew, but when I paid the original purchase amount in the final month of the promo, all the interest vanished as promised and I was left with a zero balance.

  17. Necoras says:

    I had the same issue at Lowes on a lawnmower. 12 months no payments/interest. Bill shows up with a late fee and interest charge. One call to customer service fixed it and I haven’t had a problem since. The lady was extremely helpful. They don’t sell TVs, but it’s always good to pass on good stories.

  18. APowerCosmic says:

    I think the bigger issue we have here is yet another apparently regular Consumerist reader still shops at Sears. You get what you pay for, and I have no sympathy. They should charge you interest, an expensive lesson learned.

  19. TPS Reporter says:

    Is it just me or has alot of the posts been about hen pecking the OP to death? Who cares if he can or can’t afford the interest. He bought 2 TV’s that are supposed to be 24 months NO INTEREST. So he apparently bought them because he could afford to pay off the TV’s before the 24 months was up and not pay a dime of interest. Hence not being able to afford the interest never really came into play in this transaction. So if you could afford the interest, would tell them when you bought the TV’s “No, don’t put me down for the 24 months no interest, I CAN afford the interest, so I’ll just pay the 21% that this store card offers”.

  20. Gopher bond says:

    0% Interest plans are a huge scam, well, not scam, but they exist for one reason, they make money. Why? Because if you don’t have enough money to buy something today, the chances are likely you won’t have the money to buy it 6, 12 or 24 months from today. Marketers know consumers don’t budget and even if they did, emergencies happen that will eat away at the nest egg over 24 months. Most of them, I think, will charge you the entire interest you would have owed if you’re one day past the 12 month, or 24 month mark. Most people don’t know that, they think that the interest starts when the bill is finally due, if payment isn’t made in full.

    Don’t buy something on a 0% interest plan unless you have a plan to save that money and pay it off in full.

  21. mike says:

    @testsicles:

    Don’t buy something on a 0% interest plan unless you have a plan to save that money and pay it off in full.

    This applies to people who don’t manage money well. I bought a TV in December from newegg (newegg plug here!) with a 0% interest/no payments until December 2008. I’ve been saving the money in my high-yield savings account to pay it off in November.

    I think there was a post yesterday about tricking yourself into saving money. Budgetting is a great thing!

  22. Gopher bond says:

    @testsicles: er, not that they shouldn’t hold to the deal, but that’s the thing, 0% interest plans CONSTANTLY try and screw you over. One day late, pay-up! Pay a portion of the total before the 0% interest rate is up, now it’s all due (didn’t see that fine print?). Too bad. Didn’t use your card at least twice a year? Offer rescinded, interest due and now it doubled.

  23. EyeHeartPie says:

    @testsicles:
    I used a 12 month 0% card to buy a TV that I could have paid in full at the time. However, I would rather not have driven my account under the 1k mark for a TV (what with rent coming due and all), so I used the 12 month 0% and paid it off in 4 months. That is the only situation I would use a 0% promotion.

  24. Gopher bond says:

    @linus: right, but see my post above. You can plan but you need to check the fine print, and emergencies have a way of sapping your savings. That’s why they make money for the company.

    In fact, I only use them when I have the money to pay, then I put the money in a comparable CD to ensure I have it ready when the bill is due.

  25. rellog says:

    While I don’t advocate blaming the OP generally, and Sears is COMPLETELY in the wrong, but WTH??? I’m sorry but on a teacher’s salary, buying LCD tvs for both sets of parents is moronic- especially with a stay-at-home Mom and children in the picture! As a teacher, I know the OP’s income range and it isn’t THAT good that he should be wasting his money this way. People going into hock during Christmas is shear stupidity, and it is symptomatic of our financial problems here in the US.
    The fact that this guy is a teacher underscores the issue…

  26. Gopher bond says:

    @EyeHeartPie: I agree. It can work, but you need to watch it like a hawk. It’s very easy for something to happen or to forget and then get screwed in rear but good.

  27. Daniel-Bham says:

    I have a suggestion. If you can’t pay cash – don’t finance.

    You are stupid if you purchase something not based on overall cost but instead on monthly payments.

    You have signed away two years of your life to making monthly payments. Bravo. In two years, as scuff marks and sticky peanut butter and jelly stains cover your television from your kids being crazy – you can tell everyone it was worth it.

  28. rellog says:

    @tedyc03: But his suit wouldn’t be against the credit card company, but against the store for ringing it wrong…

    And let’s hope Congress fixes that whole arbitration garbage…

  29. @MrBill38: Amen. How does his financial status have anything to do with whether Sears should honor its promotions? Man, people really love to pound on OPs these days.

  30. fostina1 says:

    maybe hes gonna pay for it with income tax. a teacher salary, stay at home wife and kid, sounds like a nice refund next year.

  31. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Yeah, I second the suggestions to get terms on a receipt or something and save them…I bought a TV at Circuit City (first mistake) under a “0% interest for 12 months” plan but Chase decided the promotional plan would only be for six months and then tacked all the back interest on. Literally the only place where the 0% for 12 months promotion was advertised was on the Web product page, and they didn’t appear anywhere else, even after credit approval, and I was too trusting and stupid (second mistake) to verify or confirm the terms. Of course, after the fact, I called around and everyone played dumb.

  32. Gopher bond says:

    This is from Sears 18 months 0% interest on television that is up at the website right now:

    Promotional offers of 14 months or more require minimum monthly payments as disclosed in the offer.

    Sears cards: APRs up to 25.99%, but if your account has a variable APR, the APR is up to 27.40% as of 04/07/08 and may vary. Sears Master cards: APR’s up to 26.49%, but if your account has a variable APR, the APR is up to 29.24% as of 04/07/08 and may vary. Minimum Monthly FINANCE CHARGE: up to $1.

    FINANCE CHARGES accrue on a promotional purchase from the date of purchase and all accrued FINANCE CHARGES for the entire promotional period will be added to your account if the purchase is not paid in full by the end of the promotional period or if you default under your card agreement. Making the minimum monthly payment will not pay off your promotional purchase in time to avoid FINANCE CHARGES.

    Yuck!

  33. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @Daniel-Bham: Geez, all those stupid drivers financing their cars instead of paying $30,000 in cash, whatever would we do without your sage advice, master?

  34. ELC says:

    @henrygates: Exactly – moron!
    “Then again, if money is so tight that you can’t afford to pay the interest while you get it resolved, maybe you shouldn’t be buying 2 huge television sets to give away to people.”

    People need to quit buying stuff they do NOT need – whether it is 46 foot HDTV or a 46″. I still have a 20″ CRT – my computer monitor is the same size. It’s called not watching much TV.

  35. opfreak says:

    I’m one to bash OP’s left and right around here.

    but in the case, the guys gettign the raw deal. 23%-27% is a whole heck of alot.

    if OP has good credit, and the sears doesn’t fix their problem. I would look to apply to get a different credit card, that has a special transfer offer (hopefully 0%, or very close to it).

    while it wont fix the sears problem, it will help with the costs.

    My sears story: bought a tv, the reciept said, you can return by date XYZ, but since it was electronics, the return period was different, Why in the world did you say I could return it by a date I couldnt?

  36. @Geekybiker:

    seriously. He can afford to give away 2 hd tv’s but the interest is a problem? I mean its wrong they are charging him, but still….

    This has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with it. He got 0% terms, but they’re (allegedly) charging him interest. Just because someone has money doesn’t mean others have the right to screw him out of his cash.

  37. @opfreak:

    I’m one to bash OP’s left and right around here.

    I’m with you – I’m blaming OPs almost as often as I blame the company, but in this case, the company is clearly in the wrong (if indeed the OP is correct in his assessment).

  38. thesabre says:

    Assuming you are able to file a lawsuit and assuming you actually do, don’t forget to charge them interest in return if you are claiming damages.

    Had that money been sitting in YOUR bank account, you would have accrued interest on it. And since they prevented it from accruing interest, they should be responsible for your payments to them plus what you would have gotten if they hadn’t made the mistake.

    For the record, IANAL, but fair is fair.

  39. DrGirlfriend says:

    I’m sorry, did I miss the part of the post that asked for random people’s opinions on what this guy should and shouldn’t be buying? Because I thought the post was about how to get Sears to fix their mistake.

  40. @DrGirlfriend:

    I’m sorry, did I miss the part of the post that asked for random people’s opinions on what this guy should and shouldn’t be buying? Because I thought the post was about how to get Sears to fix their mistake.

    Agreed, what was purchased and why is not the issue.

    But Magnavox? Seriously? ;)

  41. sburnap42 says:

    @testsicles: Like rewards cards, these 0% deals rely on most people being bad money managers. It is precisely this reason that they are awesome for people who are good at managing money. You get stuff cheaper, subsidized by those bad with money.

    If you know you are good with money, it is in your best interest to do it.

  42. Gopher bond says:

    @sburnap42: Absolutely. I completely agree. Like I said, I use them but I first put the money in a comparable CD, timewise, so I know the money will be ready when the full amount is due. Plus, I benefit from the interest time period, not the company.

    However, my point is that a lot of people think they’re good with money, or rationalize that they can easily save $X over the next 2 years. The problem is that often, you won’t, don’t or can’t. 24 months is along time for things to happen, you can have two or 3 kids (twins?) over 24 months. You can lose your job. Your parents might need a bailout. Your investments might tank. Then suddenly you owe 4 grand for two 2-year old obsolete television.

  43. jinnrice says:

    DOES THIS GUY WANT INPUT…OR WAS HE ASKING FOR HELP WITH HIS PROBLEM???THE TITLE DOES SAY “Help! Sears Is Charging Me Interest On A “0% For 24 Months” Deal And They Won’t Stop!”

  44. spivvy says:

    hey, i work (unfortunately) for sears. not in electronics, but in a similar big ticket item department and we frequently have these no interest, no payments offers on our merchandise.

    the problem is that it doesn’t happen through the card, you have to choose deferred interest as the payment type. many associates forget to do this.

    it’s easy to fix in the store, but then you need to get in touch with the credit card company (sears credit is handled outside by citi) and have them remove the interest already charged. they might not be willing to change it at the store though, especially if its been over 30 days, in which case you will have to contact the credit card company only.

  45. robotprom says:

    Every time I’ve bought something at Sears with a X months for 0% financing, I’ve had to make several phone calls to Sears Credit to get the transaction changed to reflect that it was bought under a promotion. I guess they think no one will notice that they’re paying an APR when they shouldn’t be, and get more profit!

  46. vastrightwing says:

    I have a dilemma: I want a new 42″ flat screen HD TV, but I’m short on cash. Should I put off the purchase or put myself into debt? If I put my self into debt, it’s likely I’ll pay a ton of extra money (I don’t have on interest) plus I’ll be hassled by Sears calling them many times to straighten out mess they create. On the other hand I’ll then be able to pay Comcast extra money for the HD tier but never see HD because their signal will be compressed beyond recognition. What a choice!

  47. rellog says:

    Sorry, but this is a prime example of what NOT to do…

    I agree Sears is completely in the wrong, but maybe the OP needs a good kick in the butt. Most people had no problem saying the very same thing about people buying houses they couldn’t afford that led to the mortgage melt-down. With purchases like this, it won’t be long before we have a credit card melt-down too…

  48. Omniboy says:

    We had a similar problem with Citibank for furniture we purchased at Ashley Furniture (which we will never do again.) I called Citi and complained they said there was nothing I could do but pay the interest and deal with it. Next day I made an online payment for $3500 and closed the account.

    Now they just send me these certificates for loans or something every week. Which is annoying.

  49. Omniboy says:

    Secondly, for all you people saying 0% financing is bad, or financing at all is bad, you’re over looking things like oppurtuinty costs. Saying that it’s stupid to finance anything ever is ignorant and presumsuptous. You can’t judge other peoples finances or behaviours.

    I finance everything I can if the interest rate is lower than my banks savings account rate. I use my credit cards for everything and get the points.

    I’m also debt free and have a positve net worth.

    Granted many people don’t, but you’re not helping by calling people names, you should be educating not vilifying which isn’t helpful at all.

  50. u1itn0w2day says:

    They probably rang this wrong at the register but everything else that was said fits this situation.

    1)You gotta watch these 0% finance deals like a hawk.But that’s the problem,the details are literally in the fine tiny print in most cases.This fine print,universal default etc is just as bad as signing the equivilent of a small book when buying a house.

    2)And it is that very same fine print that should’ve been on the receipt-as they say:get it in writing.Don’t let this go before someone forgets.Find anything that says there was 0% in Dec;write a formal letters and emails.Sometimes your monthly bill has those promotions printed on it.

    3)Giving 42″ TVs with an S for Christmas GIFTs? I admire the generousity and perhaps the parents have done many a favor-But that’s how they lure many a shopper in-‘nothing’s too expensive for my…’.

    Yes there is a credit bubble looming but let’s get the basics out of the way before consumers like this are berated for something that might not effect him if he get’s the deal he went in for.

  51. sgtdawg says:

    I have had no issues with Sears in the past. I have bought tools there in the past and have had cracked sockets replaced with no questions asked. I just paid off my Sears Citibank Mastercard 6 months ago and closed the account. I am currently paying off all my credit cards and on my way out of debt. This was the first account I paid off, because I did not want to deal with any issues I have heard of.

    There are some nice things about Sears. My wife went to buy a treadmill there last week. They were helpful and explained what models had what features and recommended the lower cost model, because it offered the features she wanted. I had set aside an amount of money in our checking account for this purchase. We both knew what we could afford.

    Then my wife saw the 0% interest and opened up a new Sears Citibank Mastercard of her own. Now I just have to convince her to pay off the the card and close it now. I know we are not in a position to “possibly” have extra interest payments we don’t need. We can afford a new purchase, we can afford the interest, but that does not mean we should have to pay interest on 0%.

    The offers for 0% interest have become a huge “don’t get this” flag for all my purchases. I know there are ways to use it to your advantage, but to me it’s not worth the headaches, and fine print, involved.

    Oh yeah. In the HDTV situation, I would review the receipt and credit agreement. Try to find out if there are any minimum payments, or listed interest that may be refunded. Then go to the store and get it corrected. I am always one for making sure I am wrong before telling others they are.

  52. Bruce says:

    Small claims court? Buh! Ya gotta make a federal case out of it just to get their attention.

    “At the time of purchase, Sears was offering a 0% interest for 24 months.”

    OK, dig up the advertising copy that backs up that statement. Your local library should have a copy of the newspaper from that time frame, look under periodicals.

    Then bring it to the attention of your state’s Atty. General’s office for false advertising.

    Since you used a credit card (a Sears card), the odds are that transaction was processed in a different state for approval. That could be construed by a slick talking lawyer as Inter-State Wire Fraud, a *Federal* offense.

    Are they mailing you paper bills through the USPS that demand these interest payments? Ahh, there’s Mail Fraud, there’s another *Federal* offense.

    Why goto small claims court when you can make a federal case out of it?

    Take the ad copy, the sales receipt and the mailed bill to your city’s main post office and ask to speak to the resident Inspector there and inform him that you wish to open an investigation into mail fraud against Sears since they are demanding interest payments they are not legally entitled to. They are defrauding you through the mail.

    Postal Inspectors are federal agents, they have jurisdiction in all 50 states, and territories, they carry badges and guns and have the authority to arrest people.

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall, witnessing that Sears store manager mouth off to a Postal Inspector…..

  53. ViperBorg says:

    Stop shopping at Sears already, people!

  54. mikeintexas says:

    Wow…. that was quick… I have had 2 phonecalls from Sears this morning.. We will see if it gets fixed…

    Thank you Consumerist (and readers!!!)

    As far as all the people that bash me for purchasing things for my parents, there are 3 brothers and 2 sisters that all contributed the money to buy these tv’s, On my teachers salary, there is no way in the world I could ever afford this. They all send me money each month to pay the bill. I hate asking them for more for something that is not their fault. I cannot afford the difference. I am on a tight budget (It is worth it however, to have my wife stay home and raise our kids)

    I will keep everyone updated with the result of this.

    Thanks again!

    -Mike

  55. Daniel-Bham says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Who the hell finances a $30,000 car at 100%? In any event, 2 big screen televisions aren’t even comparable to something that is arguably a necessity.

    Were I to refine my comment, I would state that only morons finance ‘wants’ without having the cash to pay for them.

    BTW: I’m a 26 year old father of three. I still managed to put $7,000 down on a vehicle, with 3% interest rate and a $19,000 balance remaining (with $11,000 in savings).

    The only way I can be in that kind of a position is by not financing crap at every turn.

  56. EdnaLegume says:

    My Mom would kick my ass to Ohio if I bought her a big screen tv and couldn’t even afford the fricken interest let alone the payment.

    Take the receipt back to them and tell them re-ring it, or else tell moms and pops to pack em up and ship em back.