Day 7 With No Heat Or Hot Water: Thanks, Sears

Jim’s boiler from Sears broke, and he’s been without heat or hot water since. It’s not the middle of winter, but he lives in New England, where it still gets friggin’ wicked cold at night. How long ago did the boiler break down? It’s been more than a week.

Thursday night [March 10] my less than three-year-old Sears boiler with a “Master Protection Agreement” died. We called our local oil company to service it because Sears service is slow to come, and it’s winter. It turned out that the low water shut off failed (we’d had the furnace serviced in December), and the boiler ran all day without any water and cracked. We needed to find out from Sears whether this particular failure was covered under the warranty or our master protection agreement and called them in the morning (I wasn’t able to find a 24-hour number in the documents Sears gave us).

1. The representative said that the service agent would call later in the day to schedule an appointment.

2. It got to be about 3:30 in the afternoon, and I called again to find out the status of the service visit. They gave me the number of the local person who contracts with them ([redacted], and I called it.

3. The local contractor told me that he didn’t have the ticket yet and that he was booked up for the day. I mentioned to him that we were without heat or hot water (also mentioned to Sears reps for both calls). He said that he might be able to come out on Friday evening or Saturday if Sears classified it as an emergency, so he could get the overtime pay. I called him again at 5 p.m. to see if he had gotten the ticket, which he had, but it didn’t have an “emergency” classification. I then called Sears to have the classification changed. At which point, they told me, it was a new ticket and would have another 24 hours to go into effect. I called the local repair service on Friday evening and got no answer.

4. I called again on Saturday morning, and they told me that they wouldn’t be coming until Monday, that he had told Sears he couldn’t make it until then, and they’d told him that they wouldn’t reassign it. I called Sears back, and they claimed that they had authorized it as an emergency, but they weren’t going to help me get the service before Monday morning. The Sears rep. said, “The problem is that this happened on a weekend, and it’s very difficult to schedule.” I mentioned that I’d called first thing on Friday morning. He replied: “Friday is like the weekend.”

5. On Monday morning, I called the local service person again, and he came in and verified that the boiler was split and needed to be replaced. He told me that he would submit the paperwork that day.

6. I called Sears later in the day to verify that the paperwork had come through. It hadn’t. I called again in the evening, and they said that it still hadn’t come through, and some processing team was off, so it wouldn’t go through until the morning if it had been submitted. I call Sears again in the morning, and the paperwork still hadn’t gone through. They told me to call the local service person. Whoever I got on the phone from the local service company said to me, “We generally don’t file those papers for a day or two. That’s just how our secretary does it. We’ll submit it today though.”

7. I called Sears to complain, and the warranty office redirected me to another office where the person on the phone explained to me, “24 hours doesn’t mean 1 day. It means 24 working hours.” I said, “You mean 3 days?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “You can understand my confusion. For most people 24 hours means a day. Generally if you mean 24 working hours, it means 3 business days.” In any case, I’m still waiting for the paperwork to be filed.

8. On a separate call I was able to get them to open a ticket, and the care rep. told me that once the paperwork comes in that we’ll be waiting another 3 days to get someone assigned to manage the case and investigate whether it is, in fact, covered under the warranty and master protection agreement. On the same call, the care rep. got me on the phone together with the local repair person to verify that they were going to actually submit the paperwork that day. He said, “We’ll do it today, but we’ve got a lot of Sears customers, and we file them as they come in. I can’t put one person in front of another.” I didn’t ask whether all of the Sears customers in front of me had no heat or hot water.

So I am looking at very likely waiting a full week without heat or hot water to learn if Sears will actually be covering the broken system. At which point, they will need to actually order the boiler and schedule someone to install it. I am quite clearly filled with regret at ever having purchased the furnace from Sears, and I will be avoiding them in the future.

Consumerist sent his letter on to an executive customer service contact on Tuesday and crossed our fingers. Then Jim sent this update last night:

Just to follow up on this… It has now been two more days. Sears notified me yesterday that someone would be calling me within 48 hours to schedule coming in to look at the furnace and assess the job (what the contractor who already came by was supposed to do). I asked what happened to the previous contractor and was told that I’d been switched to a new contractor, and they didn’t know why.

I just called to follow up, and as usual, even though the person I called was someone I spoke to before, it appeared to come as a surprise to them that we have been living for almost a week without heat or hot water, and he promised to send an email to the contractor letting him know. I’ve heard this on three separate occasions, and as it has not sped up any processes that I’m aware of, I’m not holding my breath.