Sears Can't Get Its Story Straight Regarding Rust And Craftsman Tools

C’mon Sears, rust isn’t a magic brown fairy powder that you can sprinkle over any warranty issue to deny coverage. Brian was told he couldn’t have his worn-out sockets replaced because they were rusty. He pointed out that he needed them replaced because they were worn out, not because of some cosmetic damage due to oxidation. Now Sears has officially told him that any rust on a Craftsman tool automatically voids the warranty—which is not what Sears told us two years ago.

Brian’s first email to Sears (we reprinted it earlier today) triggered a meaningless auto-response, so he tried calling. Here’s what happened, according to a second email he sent to Sears and copied to us:

I doubt this will do any good, considering the last detailed email I sent was replied to with what looks like an auto-reply message, but here goes. I called the number you provided, and spoke to a charming girl in India or Pakistan or somewhere, who did not understand my concern. I was then transfered to another girl from the same country who once again didn’t understand. She just kept repeating that they would not replace a tool with rust on it. She even went on to tell me that I should just throw away the sockets in question. I have a problem throwing away anything that came with a lifetime warranty, so I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing that. She finally gave me a number to a different customer service line (800-549-4505) and told me to try them. I called and spoke to Judy who was very friendly and knowledgeable. She reiterated that Craftsman excludes all tools that have rust on them. Alright, fine. I give up. What about my Craftsman tool box which leaked causing my tools to rust? She stated that it wouldn’t be covered under the lifetime warranty either. It appears Craftsman just won’t budge on this issue.

I averaged out my tool purchases and came to the conclusion that I have spent about about $300 on Sears tools, per year, since I was 15. That means that thus far I have spent $3,000 on Craftsman products int he last 10 years. If you figure that I will live until I’m 80, that would mean future purchases of approximately $16,500. A new car in other words. Now with the economy the way it is, customer loyalty is very important to companies, but by treating your loyal customers this way, you won’t make it through the next 5 years. I’m just one voice and I know that the decision makers and CEO of Sears will probably never hear my story, but I have to try. I was a customer who was buying Craftsman partly because of tradition, and partly because of a lifetime warranty. Little did I know that “unlimited lifetime warranty” had exceptions. It is sad that I am now one of the exceptions. This process has left me with a feeling of alienation by a company and brand I trusted. By replacing 9 sockets that would probably cost you $5 to make, you would have kept a lifetime customer. Now I’m afraid that the warranty on my lawnmower won’t be good because it has grass clippings on it.

My next emails will be going to every other tool company that offers a lifetime warranty. Perhaps one of them will value their customers more.

Thank you for the last 10 years, and good luck surviving in this economy.

Now here’s our problem: in March 2007, our own Ben Popken contacted Sears about this exact issue, and he received the following response:

Craftsman hand tools come with a life-time warranty against product defects. If a Craftsman hand tool ever fail due to a defect in the product, simply return the item to the nearest Sears store. Some exclusions does apply which would void or do not apply to the life-time warranty, which include but is not limited to:

  • The item being altered in any way.
  • Lost, stolen or damaged by an act of God (such as fire, flood, etc.)
  • If the item is used for any other reason than its intended purpose, including neglect.
  • Rust that does not prohibits the performance of the item (most rust is strictly cosmetic and does not justify being classified as broken)
  • Precision hand tools that includes a mechanism (such as calipers, micrometers, most torque wrenches, etc).

Clearly, then, Sears means that you cannot simply trade in an otherwise functional tool with rust on it and receive a rust-free one. Rust is not grounds for replacement.

Again, just so we’re all clear (please let some Sears C-level type be reading this): Brian, a lifelong Craftsman customer, tried to replace sockets that were no longer functional. The rust is a non issue. He is not trying to return sockets because they are rusty.

So when did you change your policy, Sears? We’re having a hell of a time tracking down the official lifetime guarantee wording anywhere on the Craftsman or Sears site, but we’d love to get a look at the official language, and find out from Sears exactly when the policy changed for the worse.