Remember Eric, Fleur, and their epic air conditioner ordeal? When we last spoke to them, they were AC-less, hot, cranky, and reaching out to the Internets for help. Now they have their air conditioners, but only after a stunning show of disorganized solicitousness on the part of Sears.
To recap: they ordered two air conditioners from Sears, and waited for the promised delivery. Sears held the delivery since they had failed to pay an extra fee for delivery in New York City that nobody had bothered to tell them had been imposed. Let’s catch up with our heroes where we left off:
The last you heard from us was on a Thursday night two weeks ago. Here’s the conclusion of our Sears air-conditioning saga.
On that Thursday evening, shortly after Fleur and I got off the phone with the aggressively unhelpful complaints department supervisor-whose sole suggestion to address our situation was for us to cancel the order and take our business elsewhere-we’d had enough. We were pissed and we were sweaty.
I fired off a ticked-off-consumer letter to every Sears department I could find on their website, even sending it to some poor PR rep I located through Google because, as Fleur went in for cold showers at twenty minute intervals, I didn’t know what else to do. I also sent the letter to Consumerist because I felt the Internet needed to know the absurdity of our situation. The world needed to be warned.
At about 9:05 a.m. the next morning, Fleur received a phone call from a woman at Sears corporate. The woman-I’ll call her Godsend-had read our letter and told us our experience was inexcusable and didn’t sound like the Sears she knew. She wanted to help. Godsend’s goal was three-fold: 1) dismiss that extra $200 charge Sears had insisted on putting on my credit card after their colossal foul-up, 2) make sure we got our AC units the next day, and 3) give us some sort of “compensation” for the days of delay and the hours of phone calls we endured. Godsend said she’d make a call and sort everything out.
Fleur called me up ecstatic. Was Godsend from the Sears Cares Team, I wanted to know, that mysterious unit the SearsDeals Twitter account promised (after I tweeted them in frustration on Thursday night) would contact me ASAP? Nope. But who cared? My letter had worked and we were on our way to air-conditioned bliss.
Godsend called back about three hours later, sounding as if she’d spent the intervening time on the phone with various Sears departments trying her best to sort out the situation. Steely as ever, Godsend told us everything was set: our units would be delivered and installed tomorrow, Saturday. She said we should expect a call soon with an exact delivery window.
And then Fleur indeed received a call. We’d be getting our air-con units in two weeks. Hooray! Or not. Fleur called up Godsend and explained the perplexing call and delivery date. Godsend sighed and said she’d sort everything out…again.
Another three hours passed. Goodness knows what Godsend had to put up with during that time; my guess is many calls, much holding time, that single hold song playing over and over. Anyway, she eventually called Fleur back to say everything had been sorted out again…really. We’d be getting our units on Saturday as promised. And this time, when Fleur got another call from Sears, we were told the units would in fact be delivered and installed on Saturday.
(As I discovered on Sunday, Consumerist posted our letter on Friday afternoon. The first comment was from the Sears Cares Team asking me to contact them. This was a head-scratcher because I’d given my cell and email to the SearsDeals Twitter on Thursday night to pass along to this Team and had never heard a peep from them. During the entire ordeal, the Team never once contacted me. My Twitter interactions with Sears proved to be a bust, but since we were already in the capable hands of Godsend, I didn’t much care).
So. On Saturday morning, at around 12 p.m., two gentleman showed up with the air con units. They unpacked and installed them in about 30 minutes. We were gratefully and, finally, cool in both mind and body.
Then the calls started. In the span of about an hour, we received four calls from four separate departments checking to see if we’d received our units. After speaking with these folks, it was clear these calls were less a case of diligence on the part of Sears then a complete lack of communication between the company’s various departments. Was this a symptom of the systemic problem we’d encountered from the very beginning? Sure! Did we care? No way. We had what we wanted and were happy to field calls all day.
(Days later, SearsDeals tweeted me, asking how everything worked out. Did they not know? Or did they want it on the public Twitter record that all was now well? I shot them a Direct Message saying we got our air-cons, the Sears Cares Team never contacted me and we probably wouldn’t be giving money to Sears in exchange for goods anytime soon. They didn’t DM me back-go figure!)
One of the Saturday, post-installation calls came from Godsend herself. Was everything good, she wanted to know? Everything was good, we told her. She made no mention of that mysterious promise of “compensation,” but we couldn’t bring ourselves to raise the issue with her. Yeah, we had dreams about the snappy delivery of a brand-new TV for the TV-less bedroom, but could Sears really deliver anything snappily? And did we even deserve “compensation” for our troubles? I’ll let the ethicists in the comments section sort that one out.
So there you have it. We had our AC units. We were certain we would only do business with Sears again if we were willing to put in a few days’ worth of tweets, calls and letter-writing. Still, it was a consumer and social networking learning experience.
But then Fleur got a voicemail this morning, almost two weeks after we’d first fired up the air-conditioning. It was the Sears store in Queens. Our AC units were ready for pick-up whenever it was convenient.
P.S. The AC units are Kenmore brand — couldn’t recommend them more. Just be wary of where you purchase them.
P.P.S. More needs to be said about that complaints department supervisor. He was truly amazing, a specimen of such uncaring incompetence he should be encased in glass and studied by biz school classes. He would take about 5 seconds before responding to anything I said, leaving me wondering if he weren’t listening and was just following some customer service guide for dealing with phone calls. He kept repeating the same two sentence non-apology apology, making me further believe he was reading from a script. He claimed that no matter who else we talked to, our complaint would eventually come back to him. He was the end all and be all of Sears, he led us to believe. I wondered, Could this really be? By the time we parted ways, I was determined to find out. Hence my letter. I remain proud of the fact that I managed to remain calm during the writing of the letter, even after Fleur and I decided the only way we’d ever, ever be satisfied was if the CEO of Sears personally installed our AC units while wearing a French maid’s outfit. Hey, if he wants to bring over a TV, we won’t complain.
I think right here, we have a brilliant illustration of everything wrong with customer service in modern America. Powerless, script-reading customer service rep: check. Different departments within the same company with no clue what the others are up to: check. Customer punished for company’s disorganization: check.