Why Is Sears Being So Sneaky On This Dishwasher Rebate?

On Black Friday, Sears offered free installation on select Kenmore dishwashers in the form of a rebate coupon. The coupon is pretty simple to understand as far as these things go–buy one of the listed models, and Sears will pay for the installation. According to William, however, the listed model that he wanted remained out of stock only for the duration of the coupon. When he asked Sears to honor it the next day, they agreed to–but then after he bought the dishwasher they told him he had broken a nonexistent rule and therefore had voided the coupon.

Over the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, I attempted to purchase a dishwasher from Sears.com that had been heavily discounted and included a free installation coupon. Checking the Sears.com website I found it curious that from the time Black Friday had begun, to the sunset of the coupon, the dishwasher (Kenmore Elite #1318) seemed to be out of stock around the country (I checked multiple zip codes).

Perhaps most interesting was that when I stopped by a Sears store and inquired about the availability of the dishwasher, they too were very surprised to find that the item was out of stock around the country. Of course, as soon as the coupon expired, the item was suddenly back in stock on both Sears website, and in the store.

Armed with this rather curious information, I contacted Sears.com and asked them to explain the coincidence, or perhaps to offer to honor the now expired coupon. They came back to me and told me that they would honor the coupon and that all I would need is to send them an order number as soon as I purchased the dishwasher. Given the tough economy and the helpful service I received at the Sears store just days earlier, I decided to try and purchase the dishwasher through the store and thus give them a bit of business. Following my purchase, I obtained a “sales check number” and contacted Sears.com thinking that this would suffice to receive the rebate. Sears.com came back to me and told me that the number was not in their system, and that I should check again with the store. I contacted the store and asked them if the order had been processed… they informed me it had, so I went back to Sears.com.

During my conversation with their representative, I was informed that Sears.com could not honor their commitment as I had purchased the item in a store as opposed to the website. I informed the representative that there was no requirement in either the original coupon or in the emails that they had sent to me. They informed me that there was nothing that they could do.

Thankfully, the store that I purchased the dishwasher from has decided to waive my installation charges. However, I don’t see why they have to foot the bill when this is a Sears.com problem.

Here’s the coupon (pdf). You can see that models 13182, 13183, and 13189 are all listed as part of the offer; the final digit denotes washer color. You can also see that nowhere on the coupon is there a stipulation that the purchase must be made on Sears.com instead of at a store. And it really is suspicious that Sears was mysteriously out of stock on the dishwashers only for the duration of the offer.

William says he’s already informed Sears that he’s going to file a claim against them with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Update: William also mentioned in his email, “I purchased the dishwasher from a ‘Sears Appliance Store,’” not at one of the forbidden Hometown or Outlet stores.

Comments

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  1. deejmer says:

    Crooked bastards.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    It’s unfortunate Sears.com was not able to get on the ball and treat the customer right. I’m glad the store was at least accomodating enough to honor the terms of the coupon, in a manner of speaking. At least this person was able to get what was promised to him in the end.

    Nonetheless, this is a classic bait and switch scenaeio! Shame on Sears.

  3. GearheadGeek says:

    I understand that what Sears did has at least the appearance of shadiness… but I fail to see what standing the OP has for a legal claim, since he received the free installation Sears was supposedly offering. Did he end up more for the dishwasher than the offer price Friday-Monday?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If Sears did indeed purposesly advertise a sale, and then lie and say the product was out of stock only to have it be in stock right when the sale is over, that constitues fraud in advertising. That kind of activity should be reported to your Attorney General.

    • dreamcatcher2 says:

      The issue was that he did NOT receive the free installation. The Sears offer was for a REBATE for the installation costs. After purchasing the dishawasher, including installation costs, Sears decided not to honor their earlier promise to provide him with a rebate.

  4. OmniZero says:

    Do you think it was an instance of classic bait and switch? “Oh this model is ‘out of stock’, but look at this one”?

  5. Red Cat Linux says:

    It does say that Hometown and Outlet stores are exempt, but it says nothing about a plain vanilla Sears or any ‘thou shalt purchase this online” statements.

    Sears is coyote-ugly shopping for me. Whatever I’m forced to get there must not exist in any other local store, and be counter productive to purchase online.

    I’d gnaw off my own arm before I went in there to buy something. Or get it at Walmart. Kinda the same for me.

    But I’m glad they waived the installation fee. They must have felt the order was about to get cancelled.

  6. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    While I hate to disagree with the OP, he purchased the dishwasher OUT of the time range of the rebate. What it says on the rebate form doesn’t really matter, then. While it may not say you have to purchase it from Sears.com, it also says it will not be valid after 11/28. Apparently the Sears.com people were willing to help him out, but he decided to break the agreement he had with whomever he spoke with, so of course they can’t help him out. Sorry.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You missed the key points of the article maybe. He tried to purchase in the time window given, but they were mysteriously out of stock until the day after the sale. He asked them to honor the agreement after the sale because of this seemingly shady situation, and they agreed. Then, they filched on the rebate because of a term of the rebate that is non-existant. Three strikes you’re out, Sears.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        True story. This BF I decided, after I couldn’t find it at the stores I went to, to get a 1 TB Seagat external drive from Staples. I went online, and they were in stock. Sweet. I added it to my cart then went to check out. All of a sudden they were out of stock! So I tried again. In stock! I went to check out, still in stock. I add a new address. Still in stock. I add a new CC#, now out of stock. It literally kept going in and out of stock every 30 seconds or so. In the end I preloaded all my info and got one. I’m just saying the online systems, especially on slammed days, can be screwy. I’ve had them say the store had 4, the stores computer says that they have 6, and they have 0.

    • Chris Walters says:

      That’s the thing, according to the OP he didn’t break the agreement. He claims they told him via email to buy the dishwasher and send them the order number, so he did. He just elected to buy it from the local store instead of online, but he says Sears.com never stipulated that it needed to be an online purchase.

      The original coupon definitely doesn’t say online only.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        I guess what I am thinking is that the person at Sears.com was going to cut the guy a break on their end because it was a sale for Sears.com. Since the OP went and “tried” to buy it at the local store instead, they didn’t want to give him the break.

        I mean, I know rebates pretty well, and most are handled by third parties. Usually the store has no control over the rebate company, and I would imagine can’t speak for them. That’s why I think they were going to be nice guys.

        • floraposte says:

          To me that’s a change of terms, not honoring the coupon. So the CSR needed to inform the OP that the terms weren’t the same as the initial coupon.

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      The biggest rub on this story is that the OP spent significant time trying to buy the discounted product during the sale, but it was mysteriously nowhere to be found until immediately after the end of the sale.

      When someone questioned the shenanigans, Sears quickly relented and stayed true to the original offer, but then tried to renege on it.

      To me, this is just like companies that mysteriously charge you a big fee, but readily wave it for anyone who questions the fee. The whole thing rings of “How can we make this look like a sale when it really isn’t?”

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I agree, but on a different principal. If he was going to purchase the washer in the store, he should have gotten the agreement to honor the coupon from the store at which he intended to make the purchase. Not all stores have a good link between online and brick & mortar sales.

      The Sears here still uses cash registers that look like 286 IBM compatibles. When you buy something in the electronics department, they literally send the sales guy down into the stock room to physically look at the shelves to find out if it’s in stock. Inventory control is not their strong suit.

      Every thing else in the coupon (except the effective date) was still in effect, though. If he’d ordered it at Sears.com he would have gotten his deal.

      It’s like going to a store in Baltimore, getting the manager to agree to extend a deal, then buying it from the store in Annapolis and getting pissed because the manager there had no idea what the guy in B’more had agreed to.

      In the end, the manager of the local store comped the install anyway, so he didn’t lose anything except his patience.

  7. NJDave says:

    Since the Sears store is comping William the installation fee, I fail to see his standing to file a claim. There was no harm done to him. Maybe he’s filing on behalf of the local store?

  8. calchip says:

    I can’t speak for current times, but Sears of years past has been nailed for all sorts of shady practices. If I remember correctly, they were repeatedly nailed for bait-and-switch on consumer appliances, their auto shop was nailed in a number of states for various deceptive practices, and their credit cards (and Discover, which they once owned) were known for inaccurate credit reporting.

    In short, not a company that seems to have a long history of honest dealing.

    I can chalk up the coupon rebate issue to honest miscommunication, but my concerns would be more with the item(s) magically being out of stock everywhere and then magically in stock the day after the coupon expired. And I think the OP is appropriate in reporting the issue for investigation.

  9. wickedpixel says:

    Most likely just a case of the Marketing department not being on the same page as Inventory Control. I work for a clothing retailer and you’d be surprised at the lack of simple communication among departments.

  10. KlausKinsky says:

    Why do people continue to buy from a company that makes its customer jump through so many hoops? Sears is the LAST place to look for a real bargain– especially in this economy.

  11. d says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: DON’T DO BUSINESS WITH SEARS, KMART, or BEST BUY.

    The only thing they do consistently is figure out new and innovative ways to screw over their customer base. What’s your time worth? Go to another store that doesn’t screw you over. Even if you pay $10 more, you’re still coming out ahead.

    This is just one more reason why I install everything myself… I take the thing with me right then and there, and hook it right up. Toss the old one in the yard until junk day rolls around in March, schlep to the driveway, volia! problem solved…

    • macdude22 says:

      I would but my local appliance store offers free installation so I take advantage of that. Hell even when I moved they only charged me 50 bucks to move both my washer and dryer.

      The local sears hometown store charges 65 bucks a pop to install each and won’t do after the purchase installations. No thanks.

  12. dolemite says:

    I ran into the reverse of this. Sears had a weight set I wanted, so I ordered it online. They sent me an email that it was ready for pickup. I arrived and they had none in stock besides the floor model. After trying for 1.5 hours, they finally figured out how to cancel my online order. They had 1 floor model I was willing to buy, if they could match the online sale price, but they refused, so they lost a sale, and probably a customer. I spent 2 hours in the store to leave empty handed due to ineptitude.

  13. RevancheRM says:

    Rings of Ryan from ‘The Office’ and his Dunder-Mifflin 2.0 website.

  14. erratapage says:

    For those of you wondering about standing, standing is not a requirement for filing a complaint with the state. It is a requirement for almost all lawsuits.

  15. H3ion says:

    Sorry but I agree with some of the other posters. This is a no harm, no foul situation. At the end of the day, the OP got exactly what he thought he was entitled to.

    As to Sears being in stock, out of stock, out of luck, most states (I assume Virginia has this rule as well) require that a merchant have a reasonable quantity of an item advertised for sale. Quantities may be limited, and disclosed as such, but having one item in the store when a reasonable expectation is in the tens or hundreds, is not going to cut it. This may be enough to substantiate a complaint.

  16. xaraan says:

    It’s been a while since I worked for sears (a couple years now) as an appliance manager, but not much has changed.

    I can tell you that for a high end dishwasher like that; if it went on sale and the warehouse the southeast pulls from only has a few in stock and a few on order, it will cut off orders for them. And they don’t often stock a lot of these at once. Even people re-ringing orders and such can screw up the inventory system and it won’t allow orders until the next day when everything washes out and the computer drops out bad orders.

    That being said, we (never wanting to lose business-both for my dept and the associate not wanting to lose commission) would usually ring up the sale as a take with item to create a salescheck for the customer to use their rebate. Which may have been what they did. One issue though, is if they re-ring it the next day to order it, they have to do it manually because using the same salescheck you are sending off to create an exchange will end up canceling that salescheck- keeping the rebate center from being able to pull it up.

    As for the rebate people telling you suddenly it had to be purchased online? I don’t know. I was always fighting with them. As a manager at the store level I could never make them do something. But if it’s not on the paperwork, then the manager should have something to go to bat with.

    Personally, I would have argued with rebate for a bit (might be several days and attempted escalation on my part) while I let your order go through and come in. If for some reason I couldn’t get my way (which I would if the paperwork said in store), but if not; then I would just eat the cost of the install. Cost is not always the same as the charge, I’d get with the install company and see what they could do for me and I’d eat whatever they charged me and save the sale of a high end dishwasher and hopefully save a customer.

    I know it can come off more complicated to hear all this crap than just having someone fix it. But the fact is, it is more complicated. But, it can and should be done.

    • BBBB says:

      xaraan’s comments show what I have found at my local Sears. Most of the staff actually try to help and will do what they can to fight the system. When I bought a washer last year the salesperson was very knowledgeable and carefully made sure that the three different rebates/discounts had everything correct. A few years before, the store manager went through his personal files in his garage to get me the specifications for an item that had been discontinued about fifteen years ago ["customer service" was worthless and sent me to various other departments that were no help and some just didn't return messages.] Even the young kids in the tool department will do their best to help.

      This is why I still give Sears a chance while refusing to shop at Best Buy or Kmart.

  17. JoshRogan says:

    Since he bought it at a “Sears Appliance Store”, he may have bought it from an outlet. You can use the Sears.com store locator to find various Sears-branded stores. The only appliance stores listed are “Sears Appliance Outlet Stores”.

    http://www.sears.com/shc/s/StoreLocatorView?storeId=10153&catalogId=12605

  18. ginnel says:

    I gave up on Sears years ago. They just make it too difficult to shop there. Always a gimmick or a hoop you must jump through to get a deal. Not worth my time. And the rudest , most uncaring clerks anywhere.

  19. ctyankee says:

    I bought my last dishwasher at Sears, a Frigidaire that turned out to be a POS. I told the clerk I wanted a really quiet machine. He casually pointed out some machines and took me to the one I ended up buying. Probably the promotion of the week for him. I’ll never shop there again.

  20. CTAUGUST says:

    “Given the tough economy and the helpful service I received at the Sears store just days earlier, I decided to try and purchase the dishwasher through the store and thus give them a bit of business.”

    While the dishwasher magically being out of stock only during the rebate period is odd, the OP did NOT do as Sears.com asked. They told him to place his order online, provide the order number and they would honor the rebate.

    I am glad this worked out for him, but let’s be clear. He did NOT do what Sears.com asked him to do (order online) so he voided his own offer.

    INSTEAD, he decided to ignore that directions and because he wanted to give his local store “a bit of business” he bought from a Sears store, NOT what Sears.com had offered.