Sears Cancels Your Account Of 44 Years Because Your Husband Died Ten Years Ago. What?

Meet Judy, Sears’ ideal customer. When Judy’s husband died ten years ago, Sears, like her other creditors, assured her that she could continue using her account. Since then, Judy has used her Sears card to buy a washer, dryer, and refrigerator. Yet when Judy recently tried to buy a $142 saw, Sears insisted on immediately closing her account because it was in her late-husband’s name.

My sister-in-law Judy has had an account with Sears since 1964 when she got married. She has been flawless about paying her Sears bill (along with all her other bills. That’s just how she is.) Her husband passed away about ten years ago. Judy dutifully called Sears and every other company she had an account with to inform them of his death and tell them that she might be a few days late with her payment that month because of the funeral, etc. They were all understanding and told her to send in her payment when she could.

OK, fast forward to this past weekend. Judy wanted to buy a saw to take care of some tree branches which fell down during the hurricane force winds we had here on the Oregon coast. She found one for $142. on Sears’ website. Her Sears card, which she hadn’t used in about a year, didn’t have an expiration date on it, so she wasn’t sure it was still good.

She called Sears’ customer service number. Everything was going well until the CSR asked Judy what name the account was in. Judy explained that it was her late husband, to which the CSR said, “Well, I’m sorry, Ma’am, but in that case I’m going to have to close your account.” Judy was speechless but that was that; the account was closed on the spot and Judy was informed that she could call a department which /perhaps/ could help her… but not until Monday, as that department isn’t open on the weekend.

Now keep in mind that Judy has never not paid her Sears bill AND that she has over the past few years, long after her husband passed away, bought a washer, a drier and a refrigerator from Sears, using the same account with no problem whatsoever.

I’m sure that Sears thinks it has some logical reason for treating a customer of more than four decades like this, but it makes no sense to me, especially since Judy made large purchases after her husband’s death. Sears not only lost the $142. purchase, but has also lost a customer permanently, as she tells me she’s livid at them for treating her as if she was trying to cheat them somehow. She found a similar chainsaw on walmart.com and won’t be going back to Sears…ever.

This is what happens when you have ridiculous rules which treat your loyal customers like shit.

Judy’s brother-in-law adds: “No wonder Sears is Where America Used To Shop.”

(Photo: Nelson Minar)

Comments

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  1. grouse says:

    The only mistake they made was by continuing to allow her the use of the account when he died. Legally, they may not be able to pursue her for debts run up in the name of a dead guy.

  2. rjgnyc says:

    Where in the letter did Sears assure her she could continue to use the card under her husband’s name? All the letter implies is that all these CCs were told that payments to them might be late, what with funeral costs and personal grief time and whatnot.

    It wouldn’t shock me if Sears has to close a card which is owned by someone who has ceased to be for identity theft reasons. They might just have all his information, not hers, and the CSR may not have permission/the ability to take that kind of information and reset the card in someone else’s name.

    I would have rather known what happened after she called the following Monday, which it sounds like she didn’t do.

  3. Nick1693 says:

    @rjgnyc: I would have thought they’d close an account with the name of someone who has passed on. But, its Sears, so what can you expect?

  4. mgy says:

    I wish my grandmother could wield a chainsaw.

  5. msbask says:

    Why is this woman still using the card of a man who has been dead for 10 years?? Why on earth did she never get a card in her own name??

    He hasn’t been dead for only 10 days, 10 weeks or 10 months… it’s been 10 YEARS!

    What makes her think she’s entitled to use his account, card or name for the rest of eternity?

  6. humphrmi says:

    In the 1960’s, when the account was opened, married women didn’t have their own identity, they weren’t “Mrs. Judy Smith”, they were “Mrs. Bob Smith.” It is entirely conceivable that Judy went through her whole life being identified as “Mrs. “. Most women didn’t even use their own first names in official correspondence until the 1970’s.

    Hence, as far as she was concerned, the account was still in her name.

    This used to be perfectly acceptable to credit companies. I remember my mom had an account in my deceased step-father’s name (his full name, not her first and his last) for years after he died, and nobody seemed to care.

    At the point where the credit issuers did begin to care is where they should have converted his account to her name. In fact, given that he died around 1998, I would think they should have done that then, instead of just leaving it in his name.

  7. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    She may have used the card over the past 10 years but doubt that she piped up at checkout so say that she was using her dead husband’s card.

    Sometimes it better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.

  8. humphrmi says:

    @humphrmi: Whoops, sentence two of the first paragraph should say “It is entirely conceivable that Judy went through her whole life being identified as ‘Mrs. {husbands-full-name}'”. The last bit got stripped because I put it in .lt / .gt brackets.

  9. sventurata says:

    Ten years ago, privacy laws and “know your customer” regulations were in their banking infancy. Today, the account would have been closed upon her husband’s death, (and another account opened in her name), but no set rules existed then… and, on the retail end, no one cares whose card is used, as long as the bill is paid. It’s too bad that this was poorly communicated to Judy, and caused offense, but not really any one party’s fault.

    It’s the heavily-regulated (and rightly so!) banking industry that’s responsible for this, not Sears. Sears Financial (a Citibank private label card) is NOT run by Sears retail anymore. They share the brand, they both lost the customer, but who’s to blame? Not the retail end, which takes the brunt here at the Consumerist.

  10. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @msbask:
    I know a woman in a similar situation (with a different store). This department store’s card has a rewards program, and when her husband was still alive, they had accumulated quite a few reward points. When he died, she inquired about transferring the card from his name into hers. The store told her that changing over the account to her name would mean closing his account and opening a brand new account (no points) for her. THEY suggested that if it didn’t bother her to have her late husband’s name on mail coming to the house, she could leave the account in his name indefinitely.

    Some of the commenters who are jumping all over the OP for using her late husband’s account could stand to dial back their cynicism a notch. It seems that quite a few businesses have these accommodations in place. It’s possible that the guy who suddenly said he had to close her account was a new guy who was unaware of any arrangements like hers.

  11. @msbask: My grandmother died in 2000. A few weeks before she died, I received a telephone call from her. I was in college, and my digital telephone system displayed her phone number and a name: M.B. McLean.

    My step-grandfather, Mel, had died in 1974. My grandmother had not changed the name on her New Jersey Bell account even though her husband had died 26 years earlier.

    The older generation has their quirks. Don’t blame Judy for this one. She had obviously successfully used the card with her dead husband’s name for the 10 years after he died. I hope that Sears gave her the opportunity to get another card, if she still wants one.

  12. pvaras says:

    @mgy: My favorite comment of any blog I have read so far today.

  13. Angiol says:

    Her fault her husband died, obviously.

  14. sventurata says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: Not quite – behaviour encouraged on the retail end is *not* necessarily condoned by the lending financial bank.

    Many local businesses understand that families and couples share finances and swap cards from time to time, but this in no way changes the rules and regulations that the financial employee must abide by. The call centre employee who closed the account was not on the retail end, but the banking end, and probably not even employed by Sears. What the store deems appropriate behaviour has no bearing on his compliance/legal responsibilities.

    Not to blame the OP – but you’re comparing apples with oranges. It’s a bit subtler than that.

  15. Thornhill says:

    Grouse is right. When my dad died, all outstanding debt on credit cards issued only in his name was forgiven, and the cards were immediately canceled. The only exception was a Master Card, which my mom thought had been issued in both of their names, and which she continued using for the next year. It turned out the card was in only his name, and that she had been issued a second card on his account. Even though she charged a couple thousand dollars after he died, the issuer forgave all outstanding debt they realized the cardholder was deceased. Technically, I think they could have charged her with fraud, but it wouldn’t have been worth the legal fees or the bad publicity that would have come with suing a recent widow.

    Point being, when a credit card company voluntarily absolves you of thousands of dollars of debt, you can be sure they had no practical way of retrieving that money. I’m in no way saying Judy would have done so, but from Sears’ perspective, she could have maxed out her husband’s card and then told them to go to hell. Personally, I wish she had, but I can’t blame Sears for trying to prevent it.

  16. rjgnyc says:

    @Nick1693: With 100% not blaming the consumer here, it’s 100% possible that she didn’t mention the card was in her husband’s name at the time. I mean, he did just die, and she just wanted to assure the CC companies that the payments may be a bit late that time around. But, even then, policies 10 years ago may not be policies now.

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: Totally agree, which is why I really would have liked to hear what would have happened if she did call that following week, instead of just never being a customer again.

  17. randombob says:

    Yeah sorry, as I agree with most of the commenters above:

    Sears, finally, didn’t do anything wrong as far as I can see. The account wasn’t hers. She should instead be thankful that she got over this long.

  18. mammalpants says:

    sears probably let this slide for so long because they know what it feels like to be dead, too. kudos to them for understanding!

  19. morganlh85 says:

    She should have just had the account changed to her name…it would have improved her credit.

  20. Pylon83 says:

    I think this is a situation where neither party is really “Wrong”. You can’t really blame Judy for continuing to use the card as she had for years. However, you can’t blame Sears for wanting to cancel a card that they have absolutely no way of collecting on if she chooses not to pay. You can’t expect Sears (or their bank) to go out on a limb like that just because some perceive it as the “right thing to do”. I imagine Sears would let her open her own card if she simply submitted an application.

  21. wah. Big deal. Judy just needs to get her own account. Using an account of a dead person is really disturbing. GET YOUR OWN ACCOUNT. geesh. Is that too hard to ask?

  22. synergy says:

    It’s a sad situation for the older generation of women who grew up and got married etc during a time where they did not have their own identities/credit histories. However, this type of thing can happen to modern women as well. I know plenty of women who still go by this archaic way of naming themselves after their husbands and changing their names when they get married. When I got married I already had 10 years of credit history and I didn’t want to tinker with that not to mention going through the hassle of changing my name all over the place. Most easily and beneficial to me, I left my name alone.

  23. RChris173 says:

    Because the two were married wouldn’t she have the legal rights over the account (or at least for debt reasons) or does that legal brdige end when one dies?

  24. chrisgeleven says:

    That is a tricky situation. I can actually understand a credit card company’s position on this that the account should be closed. Given all of the credit card fraud going on, I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

  25. azntg says:

    @Terd_Ferguson: Yes it is. Creditors are extremely reluctant to issue new credit to those well in their retirement age. Is it too hard to ask that you think a little more before you post?

    @mgy and @humphrmi: You two probably have made the best comments in this article. My cap goes off for you two.

  26. TheLemon says:

    One more example to show women that they need to establish their own credit before something like this happens. My elderly mother used her “Mrs. Larry Lemon” credit cards for a long time when it was standard and acceptable to do so. In the 80s she got smart and opened up her own credit cards. Now if anything were to happen to either one of them, it won’t be as catastrophic as it could have been. Like this poor woman who should have been told years ago that it was time to establish credit in her name.

    Do your parents a favor and make sure they will be protected in an event like this.

  27. eben56 says:

    My father-in-law died very recently, Almost everyone we have dealt with has been extremely understanding and has worked with us very well. He was old generation (84) and his wife (91) knew very little about their finances.
    The only problem we have had has been with Northeast Bank where he had a small mortgage on a trailer his granddaughter is living in. They are very nasty. All we asked for was the payoff amount so the estate can take care of it. They will not talk to us until we get paperwork from the probate court. We told them great.. what you really need right now is a sixties trailer in a white trash park in this economy. WE have stopped making payments. The told us they would send it to collections and ruin his credit.. Told them we would love to pay it off, but if they would rather ruin a dead mans credit than get their money.. They are welcome to the trailer.

    Before the blame everyone trolls start off, I would like to say how cooperative people like the evil BOA and citibank have been.. The probate forms Northeast has been asking for won’t be available for weeks.

  28. chgoeditor says:

    Whether Sears was right or wrong is irrelevant. Judy needs to establish and build good credit in her name, because she may need that credit–in the form of a mortgage, car loan or new credit card–one day. She’s not doing herself any favors by continuing to build the good credit of her long-deceased husband.

    To clear up a few bits of confusion on the parts of other posters:
    1. Changing your legal name doesn’t affect your credit. If you review your credit report, you’ll see that there’s a section where it includes other names that you might be known by.
    2. When a person dies, credit card companies have a right to go after the person’s estate in order to pay off any outstanding balances. If the money’s there, it’s highly unethical for the estate to avoid paying it. After all, when credit card issuers write off bad debt, someone still pays…and often that’s you and me in the form of higher interest rates, etc.

  29. legwork says:

    Yep, policy could have been written to be understanding of generational/spousal situations. They could have worked with her, transitioned to another low-limit account based on spotless history. Sears/Sears Credit had an open opportunity to save the customer, their name, and profit. Instead they alienated another faithful member of the generation most loyal to the Sears brand. Bravo Sears. Oblivion Station must not be approaching fast enough.

    Some of the comments here and in other topics tell me we have an entire generation of kids who think that, because their job depends on enforcing inflexible, dead-end policy, those policies and their results must be acceptable. Even defensible. Customer sat and loyalty performance say otherwise.

  30. bullwhip6 says:

    @synergy:

    A little bitter today are we?

  31. kathyl says:

    @legwork: Agreed. It wasn’t so much what the rep felt had to be done, as the abrupt way they went about demolishing her (and yes, that woman views that as *her* account, because it was her household’s account and was in the name of the deceased head of that household, and that is how things largely are for that generation) account without any hope given to her that she could be transitioned into a new account commensurate with her history of paying on the existing account.

    After ten years, was it really “turn on the red alert light” important to nuke that account *that second* instead of asking her to call the appropriate number during the work week to transition it to her own name before she used it to make a new purchase? What, after paying off hundreds of dollars worth of purchases made after her husband passed away, she was suddenly going to stiff them for a $150 chainsaw?

    There’s policy, and then there’s logic. They really shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

  32. rjgnyc says:

    @RChris173: Did you read the part where the CSR said to call Monday to speak to someone who can handle it further than closing the account on account of dead owner?

    As far as the article shows, she didn’t call on Monday or any other day following to better settle the situation.

    I’m glad a normal-level CSR can’t just transfer a credit card to a new person without any proof of anything. In reality, no one should have been letting her use a credit card that her name wasn’t associated with since the start, even when they were married*. We can’t penalize a company for finally NOT bending the rules that were there since forever +1.

    (*I use my wife’s CC at times. She uses mine at times. I pick up her meds at Duane Reade and they barely even check to see if we’re married. While I appreciate the conveniences granted to us by staff level people, all these places are just trusting us when I say “oh I’m married to so and so,” and that’s a huge identity theft window being left open.)

  33. montecon says:

    Me thinks this doesn’t even get posted if it’s not Sears.

  34. valthun says:

    I remember years ago, i got a Target card, because my fiance’ didn’t have any credit and wanted a Target card, so I gave in and got it. A few month later I called Target and got her name added to the card. Well things went bad and we split up. A month or so after the breakup I removed my name from the account. So whether she kept it up or not I don’t, don’t care, its all in her name and she is now on the hook for any Target debt.

  35. newfenoix says:

    @RChris173: If was a joint account, yes. My wife was widowed by her first husband and Bank of America tried to bill her for a Visa that her late husband had in HIS name only and a card that he never told her about. The judge that looked at the situation told the bank that my wife was not responsible in anyway for the debt and that they were to cease the letters and calls. Sears is in there rights to cancel the account, but in doing so they lost a long time customer. Is it wonder that Sears is dying?

  36. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Somebody above mentioned identity theft. I’m a recent victim, and my life is a total nightmare (I wake up every day filled with dread, pick up my mail while filled with dread, and have my time sucked in all sorts of awful ways cleaning this up), but my life as I know it would have been over had I not frozen my credit bureau accounts in 2005. I suggest everyone look into doing this. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, and I’m conservative about my personal information like probably nobody you know. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. (Bank of America tellers gave out $12,000 of my money on seven separate occasions; on at least one, to a woman with missing teeth with only a fake driver’s license in my name with the wrong expiry date.)

    Anyway, for ID theft victims, I just discovered Mari Frank, who seems to be THE ID theft lawyer, and who has a book with all the forms you need to send to everyone. I now have pretty much the “password” in the form of a letter and the requirements (via Mari) to get the tape of the perp or perps and all other info from the bank and all the Targets and Kmart and other stores where she applied for instant credit. (Thanks to the freeze on my credit bureau files, she was denied credit, and I got the letters saying so instead of bills for plasma screens, etc.)

  37. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    @newfenoix:
    “Sears is in there rights to cancel the account, but in doing so they lost a long time customer. Is it wonder that Sears is dying?”

    Sears did not refuse to give Judy a new card. This happened on a Saturday or Sunday and Judy did not follow up on the Monday.

  38. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’ve seen this happen with SBC before they became AT&T. Phone’s in hubby’s name. Hubby dies. Wife continues to pay the bill for YEARS. One day, out of the blue, SBC realizes “hey, this guys been dead for YEARS, how did we miss this?” SO wifey gets letter in mail saying she needs to put account in her name or they will terminate service.

    Really, if a person dies, their accounts/services should either be transferred to a living person, or shut off/canceled. In these cases, though, the company providing the service was just slow at getting around to it.

  39. dotcomrade says:

    Judy should get a copy of her credit report to see if any creditors reported an account with “authorized user” or “joint relationship” status. I’ll bet she has an excellent FICO score if just one creditor–dating back to the 1960’s-is listed. She can obtain them for free at [www.annualcreditreport.com] and before she applies for a department store card in her own name, she might want to consider a card that provides cash back for each purchase. If she does most of her shopping at one store, see if that store has a co-branded credit card offering a percentage back-or get a gas card that offers 5% back on Gas purchases and 1% back on everything else. Why some cards offer a 0% APR on purchases so she can pay for that $142 saw over time. Hey, Sears’ closing the account may actually be a blessing is disguise.

    I hope she doesn’t destroy that “Charge Plate” with “Mrs. John Smith” printed on it as she can turn yesterday’s plastic into today’s gold –Vintage department store charge cards are a hot collectible. People collect and trade them like baseball cards!

    [ephemera.typepad.com]

    [www.creditcards.com]

    [money.cnn.com]

  40. AgentTuttle says:

    They should have just changed the details of the account when she told them the news, now she’s going to get screwed by Wal-Mart.

    It’s kind of funny, the person who canceled her account probably wasn’t even born when they got the card.

  41. but why did Judy need a saw…..

  42. attackgypsy says:

    My mother-in-law passed away 3 months after we got married. There wasn’t much of an estate at all, as she had been sick with cancer for a long time. Fortunately, there was enough to pay off the bills, and a little left for us. A couple thousand, that’s all.

    She had a very nice apartment for many years, and her landlord let us assume the lease on the apartment. (Yeah, creepy, but the price made it worth it). All the utilities had been changed over to our names, and we kept the phone number.

    About a year later, I got a call from a credit card company asking for her. I told them she had been deceased for a year now, and they demanded to know who was paying her debts. They actually got nasty. I told them that the estate had already been settled. They told me that as her son-in-law, I was responsible for her debt now.

    I actually laughed at them. I told them that there was “no way in hell” I was paying that, and that the probate had already been settled. So they could go “take a flying leap” at this point. (I was still on the call because I was laughing so hard). They kept insisting that I pay the bill. They told me that they’d ruin my credit rating. I asked them what my middle initial was. They didn’t even know that. So they couldn’t do anything. Finally, I hung up.

    They kept sending bills, in her name, for about 2 years after that. We just threw them away. They never hit mine or my wife’s credit report, so obviously, they were all bluster. Funny thing is, my mother-in-law had assumed HER MOTHER’S bill years ago to pay it off. So they had bullied her at some point.

  43. jjason82 says:

    The only question I have is whether this is Sears corporate policy or whether it was an individual person just being a jerk.

  44. Lucky225 says:

    The question really is weather or not this was a Joint account where financial responsibility was shared. If it was a joint account Sears should be able to just remove the husband’s name by faxing in a death certificate and an affidavit to take on all financial responsibility for the account. But then Sears /could/ require a credit check and F*** her over if she doesn’t meet the “qualifications”, but I think speaking to a supervisor would be able to remedy that when you show the number of years the account was open, the number of years it was used AFTER death without any debt going unpaid, etc..

  45. Joe S Chmo says:

    The OP would be better served paying in cash so that this kind of thing will never happen to her again.

  46. Lucky225 says:

    @MRsteve:

    it’s a little hard to pay CASH on sears.com

  47. mythago says:

    How hard would it have been for the Sears account people to ADD Judy’s name to the account and then remove her husband’s instead of closing it?

    People fussing about “well why didn’t she get her own credit” must all be under 30. Not only were women at one time expected to use their husbands’ names, it was perfectly legal to deny a woman credit under her own name.

  48. Eoghann says:

    If there was an outstanding balance at his death, she would have been responsible for paying it. I’d say at that time it became her account. She continued using the account and keeping it current, thus it was her account.

    Sears merely ensured that they have forever lost another customer forever, and that the rest of us will think twice before ever shopping there.

  49. racordes says:

    Sears, along with many others, used to have a policy many many years ago that a woman couldn’t have a credit account. My mom and dad had an account for several years and it was used a lot because we lived in a small rural town and that was the only way to purchase many things easily. in 1967, when they got a divorce and my dad moved out, my mom tried to get Sears to put the account in her name and they refused even though she was a professional and made more money than my dad ever did. They told her it was impossible to give her credit because she was a woman. So she told them to go ahead and try to collect the money owed on the account from my dad because she was no longer going to use or pay on the account. Shortly after that, they quietly made her the owner of the account but all her bills were addressed to Mr. MRS SUZY HOMEMAKER as if MRS was her first name.

  50. MrEvil says:

    @humphrmi: I was about to say the same thing, back in 1964 Women may have had the right to vote, but they were still treated as an attachment to their husband. My dad had all my grandmother’s mail forwarded to his mailbox when she went into the home and it still comes as “Mrs. Henry (redacted)” Despite the fact my grandfather has been dead since the 70’s.

  51. cottercutie says:

    Many moons ago, stores like Sears used to handle their own financing. This is no longer the case. These days, your “Sears” card is handled by Citi. It’s like this for almost all stores: Walmart’s is GE Money Bank, Circuit City is Chase, Best Buy is HSBC……….. I think Target is the exception, even though it’s “technically” a separate entity, with Target National Bank.

    Either way, this was Citi who closed the account, not Sears. Citi’s customer service probably would have done the same for a Home Depot, Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s card.

  52. drdom says:

    There are tons of legal reasons why Sears should not have permitted the account to remain open once they were aware that the named on the account was dead. The fact that someone didn’t do their job in the past wouldn’t justify neglect by the person who became aware recently.

    The argument that women didn’t have their own identity in the past is pretty thin. Most states have had marital property laws on the books since the late 1960 or early 1970’s.

    I don’t like Sears, especially since after being taken over by K Mart. They do lots of illogical and insane things, and it continues to amaze me they are able to stay in business.

    But in this case, although procedurally they might have been better served by using a little bit smoother approach, they did what they had to do. Sears is at fault for not doing this back when her husband died. She also assumes some responsibility for not transferring the account to her name or applying for a new one at some point. But once Sears became aware, they had no choice in the matter.

    My dad used to let me use a credit card issued in his name for emergencies back when I was in college. I was an authorized signer on his account. When he passed away, I was no longer entitled to make purchases he was responsible for financially, even though he had given prior consent. This situation is no different. If it had been a month or two, it might have been understandable. After 10 years, as sympathetic as I might be, I’ve got to side with Sears on this one, no matter how it pains me to do so.

  53. Pro-Pain says:

    Compassion, understanding, and proactive help/solutions from a bank? Bwahahahahahahaha!!!! I feel sorry for this woman but the bank doesn’t care @ all. Be done with the bank and Sears. That’s your best bet. I think the bank is Citi bank.

  54. radiochief says:

    At Sears, the credit card account cancels you!

  55. bwcbwc says:

    @sventurata: Actually, looking at my card-holder agreements, in most cases when I die, my account automatically goes into default status! So there’s a nice motivator for you to keep quiet. Nothing like socking the estate with 22% interest instead of 8.5%.

    If they opened a new account in her name, it would probably be with a “no credit history” option, despite the fact that she had been paying the bills for 10 years after her husbands death.

  56. TheLemon says:

    @mythago: Not under 30 here. I’ve seen many women over 65 who’ve never had their own credit history. They never bothered because there was a time when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Times have changed greatly, and instead of bashing Sears for not having common sense/compassion, I’d prefer to see people making sure this doesn’t happen to one of their own relatives.

  57. razremytuxbuddy says:

    This happened to my 85 y/o grandpa when my grandma died, although it was a GMAC card. He was a GM retiree. When she passed away, he notified the card company, was told he could keep using the card, then one day with no notice, his purchase at the grocery store was denied. He was completely humiliated. He was then given the run around for WEEKS by the crappy service company hired by GM. GM completely blew him off. There was also the matter of retaining a large number of purchase points they’d accumulated toward new vehicle. He was promised the points would transfer to him. I’m not sure that issue was ever resolved by the time he died 2 years later.

    It’s not that a company can’t cancel a deceased person’s card; it is that these companies have no integrity in dealing with elderly customers. Some of what I’ve read above is fraud on the part of the company, regardless of what the company’s original underlying rights were. Other behavior may be less than fraud, but still despicable.

  58. pigeonpenelope says:

    technically, if the account is in her husband’s name, it should be closed upon his death. he can no longer be held responsible therefore there is no one to go after should the account become delinquent. this is a case where emotions override rationality. its sad that this woman’s husband is dead and i’m sure her life has been harder without her mate however Sears could occur a large loss by allowing her to use the account. it might be Sears’ mistake that the account was left open after the individual’s death however they caught it and now it needs to be closed.

  59. pigeonpenelope says:

    @TheLemon: in many state’s the credit history becomes a joint credit history–meaning that if your husband pays the bills and his score his high, so is hers. I don’t know if that’s the same in her state but I’m betting she’s not as screwed as everyone might think.

  60. Ein2015 says:

    Meh, we already knew Sears is crap. This is just further proof.

    My question is, why the hell did she go to Walmart? :(

  61. Skankingmike says:

    why would you use a dead persons card?

    And women not having rights is a bunch of bullshit

    My grandmother has been a single mother since 1963 and raised 3 kids owned her own business (at one point in the 60’s) and bought multiple houses.

    so i think some women are just a tad lazy. besides at some point in i don’t’ know the 40 friggin years she was alive you think she could’ve gotten her own damn card?

  62. picardia says:

    I can understand Sears wanting to close the card, but given what a good customer Judy had been — and how Sears was notified of the husband’s death ten years ago and did nothing to deal with the situation at that time — it’s insane that they didn’t offer to set her up with her own card immediately. A good customer with a good credit record with them: Why WOULDN’T they do what they could to keep her on board and cover their butts? Had they done this in a polite way, probably Judy would have been perfectly happy and simply bought her saw with the new card. But the suggestion in the e-mail is that they acted like Judy was trying to get away with something. Because the phone person freaked out instead of applying common sense and good customer service, they’ve lost someone for good.

  63. Mudpuddle says:

    I dont get why this story is even here? Judy go get your own Sears card! Liberate yourself… get in debt. Silly girl!

  64. alumicor says:

    Way to go Sears….not only are you a shity company but you drove someone to go shop at an even worse place.

    Why or why did you let her order from Walmart?

    The stupidity of Americans never ceases to amaze me.

  65. Shutaro says:

    @alumicor: Your mom never ceases to amaze me!

  66. redqueenmeg says:

    Oh, this happened to my mom (my dad didn’t die though). She was told she couldn’t use his account anymore, never mind that when she originally applied for the card, women were not allowed to have their own accounts at Sears. They told her she’d now have to reapply in her own name.

    She cut up the card and hasn’t shopped there since.

  67. amyschiff says:

    @Amy Alkon: Good info. Thanks!

  68. alumicor says:

    @Shutaro: is that all you could come up with?

    Need I say more?

  69. Dyscord says:

    Did they ask for documentation when she told them that he died 10 years ago? They SHOULD have closed it right then and there, but perhaps they thought she just needed some more time and was using it as an excuse…or perhaps they were going to let her pay off what was left and forgot to notate the account.

    But closing the account isn’t really treating her like shit. They did something that they should have did ten years ago. Unfortunately, it seems, being told that you’ll be late because your husband died isn’t enough for some companies.

  70. Breach says:

    Circling the drain…

  71. erratapage says:

    Our phone bill is still in my maiden name. It was such a hassle to change it, I never did.

    I’ve been married five years. Does it matter?

  72. joleta says:

    I am the “older generation.” Before I got married in 1971 I had my own Sears card. I called Sears to change the name on my card to my married name (that’s what we did back then) and they told me they were closing my account, and my husband would have to apply for an account and get a second card for me. Guess what we didn’t do…

  73. econobiker says:

    My youngest granduncle took over the oldest granduncle’s FL home when his oldest brother died in 1993-1994 time period. The younger never ever changed the phone bill from his older brothers name (along with the rest of the homes bills!!!). Even searching on the internet you had to know whose name it was in even up to 2008 when the family finally got the property settled.

    The sad thing I never ever wanted to check was whether the one rotary wall phone in the home was still being rented from what ever company inherited Ma Bell’s business. Best to not be informed on that cost plus the living grand uncle commonly used some crappy free cordless dial pad phone he got from somewhere…

    That said it seems like this lady was way over the conversion period for retention by Sears into her own card. They should have dealt with it when the husband died.

    That said it is also telling about how different generations view customer service. Now we figure that customer service stinks and is adversaral. Back when the couple was raising kids, customer service really meant customer service not just a cost center. The same applies to banks- banks used to make money by creating positive growth- bring in money, new customers, loan money on positive projects; now banks make money via negative consequence billing- flaky deposit/credit vs. debit/withdrawl schedules, over limit fees, monthly fees, giving minimal interest on savings, etc…

  74. Jmatthew says:

    To complicate things, a few years ago pertty much every state went away from joint ownership of property as an automatic assumption.

    10 years ago if a couple were married the legality of it was that they owned each other’s property, no matter what name it was in. So 10y ago, she did own the card (and the debt), despite it being in her husband’s name.

    now the laws have changed, if he’s dead, nobody owns that debt…

  75. baristabrawl says:

    If you can’t pay the bill because of financial difficulty, then I get you being late. If you have time to call a company and tell them that your husband died and that you’ll be late, I’d probably say, “Sorry for your loss. The time it took you to call us, you could have been writing checks and licking stamps.”

    Seriously? Only your world stops, not everyone else’s, sorry for being heartless.

  76. JillCleopatra says:

    I’m Sorry to hear about this. I was a former Sears employee and although I have a sour take on the company and what had happened to me if things were different I would still be there. I am sorry about the fact that the account was closed out. But in all respect in this day in age if you tell someone your using someone else’s account with identity theft left and right no wonder they closed it out. Citi bank who issues the Sears credit card and the Sears Gold master card I believe since 2001 could of been more helpful though. They could of apologized to her for all the misunderstandings and offered her a solution. Like since she was already online looking at the chain saw did you know that during check out you can apply for a card online or go to http://www.searscard.com and apply there or possibly stop into your local sears where your going to have to go to pick up the saw anyway. Talk with an associate to make sure this product best fits your needs and your going to be able to handle it so that way it prevents returns then apply for a card at the time or purchase receiving the discounts of your first statement. That way giving a solution to the issue and appologizing for what at the time Sears Credit may have told her which may have been acceptable durring that time period, not just saying oh our phone application department is closed. Which i dont think ever is so I dont know why they said that unless it was maybe 1 am in the morning?