Sears Employees Not Entirely Sure How Manufacturer's Warranties Work

Russell was browsing at his local Sears, seriously considering a purchase of fitness equipment. He grossly miscalculated, though: he got the idea in his head that he could ask an employee about the products for sale in the store and receive a factually correct answer. Instead, the salesperson emphasized the uselessness of the warranty, losing the sale and annoying the customer.

So I’ve heard lots of bad things about Sears for big ticket items. Knowing that, and being what I think is a fair guy, I decided to give them a chance. I bought a small ticket item with them using their “shop online” feature and it went smoothly, so last night I went in to the [redacted] Sears in [redacted] (redact if you need to) armed with a healthy dose of skepticism and wandered over to the treadmill department. I was looking at a NordicTrack model that ran somewhere around $580.

The guy was very nice and seemingly helpful. He pointed me to a slightly cheaper model with the same internals, and explained to me all of the features. However, I had noticed that the warranty information on the treadmill said “25 year motor warranty, lifetime frame warranty”. I asked him what that means. This conversation is paraphrased, but essentially correct according to my recollection.

“Well, it only protects against manufacturer’s defects. Once you take it home pretty much everything will be considered wear and tear.”

“So let me get this straight. The minute I take it home, the warranty is pretty much worthless.”

“Well, yeah. Most companies will want to save as much money as possible and get out of using their warranty as much as they can. But if you buy our master agreement…”

At this point, red flags were going off in my head.

“OK, let me put it another way. I have a Macbook, and say the SSD drive goes out. Based on what you’re telling me, they won’t replace the SSD drive under the standard warranty because it’s normal wear and tear.”

“That’s right.”

Of course, being someone who works with computers for a living, I knew that was total BS.

“And let’s say the frame broke right here” – and I pointed to a place on the lower right side of where the feet go – “would this be covered, even though it’s a lifetime warranty?”

“No, it wouldn’t.”

“Sorry, that’s a dealbreaker”.

I walked out without making the sale. I was already deciding between that and a new iPad, so I went right over to the apple store. I like the new iPad, btw.

I called NordicTrack this morning and asked them if what the salesperson told me was correct. He told me that no, it wasn’t. The part is indeed warranted for 25 years against wear and tear – but if I wanted someone to come in and *install* it, that would cost me money. That’s not perfect, of course, but it’s better, and much better than what the Sears rep told me. They also told me if I bought directly from them, they’d ship it free, match Sears’ price, and include a free item. I might do that at some point in the future.

Regardless, Sears lost a sale. I really hate being sold to like that, I gave them a chance, and they blew it. Don’t insult my intelligence, and don’t lie to me.