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My Own Personal “Summer of Hell”


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Those of you who do not live in the New York metropolitan area may not know this, but 2017 has officially been deemed “The Summer of Hell.” It has been named that by the governor, the newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and even the commuter railroads, which is ironic since this moniker was created because of the work that Amtrak is doing to the tracks around Manhattan’s Penn Station. That has resulted in the cancellation of dozens of trains, derailments and cattle-car packed conditions.

Thankfully, while I am no longer commuting into Manhattan daily, I have my own version of a “Summer of Hell,” thanks to Sears, Roebuck & Co.

On the morning of June 21, ironically the first day of summer, I woke up to find my refrigerator had died. The repairman was unable to fix it, so I measured the old unit and that evening went shopping for a new one. My plan was to go look in my favorite Sears store in Watchung, N.J., and then P.C. Richard & Son, our leading appliance chain, and then Jacobson’s, a local independent appliance store.

In Sears, I found a side-by-side Kenmore unit like my old Amana. It was $1,199.00, on sale for $749.99. When the salesman informed me that I had $50.00 in “Surprise” Shop Your Way Reward Points that expired on June 21, and that I also qualified for free delivery, I opted to order it on the spot and skip P.C. Richard’s and Jacobson’s. With tax and the haul-away fee, the cost came out to $775.00. Quite the bargain, I thought.

The salesman arranged for delivery on Friday, June 23. The next evening, I received a robocall stating that my new refrigerator would be arriving between 4:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. on Friday. I was glad it was coming in the afternoon, because the forecast had called for drenching downpours Friday evening. Incidentally, that same evening I also got an e-mail news bulletin that Sears was shuttering another 35 stores, including the location in Watchung.

About 5:45 p.m. on Friday I received a call from a woman at Sears stating that the delivery men were running late and would be there by 6:50 p.m. That time came and went, and at 7:20 p.m. I called up their 800-number and the woman said they had just left a house about 20 minutes from where I live and would be there shortly. They showed up after 8:00 p.m. – just as the skies began to open. The deliverymen came in, took off the door and storm door and took my old refrigerator out the side door of my house. As they did so, they hit and broke a lamp on the wall of the hallway. The deliveryman then came and said the new refrigerator would not fit in my house because it was 1-inch wider than the old one. They refused to bring it through the front door because they would have had to take off another interior door, getting nasty and saying that was not their job.

 I complained about the broken lamp and the one delivery man took $25.00 out of his wallet to pay for it and then made me hold it while he took my picture – mugshot style – with his cell phone to show his boss. They then said they would leave the refrigerator in my detached garage. I refused that, so they had to take it back to the warehouse and I had to reschedule delivery for the following Monday. They also refused to take away the old refrigerator, even though I paid the haul-away fee, leaving it in the middle of my backyard.

I vowed then and there never to shop at Sears again.

On Monday, a different crew arrived within the allotted time and brought it through the front door. They could not have been nicer and had the refrigerator set up and running within 20 minutes.

Sears then sent me an email stating that since I had purchased a big-ticket item I would receive $20.00 in Shop Your Way Rewards Points on my next purchase of $60.00 or more, which I uploaded to my account. I still vowed not to shop at Sears, but as luck would have it, the next day when I was mowing my lawn, I hit a rock and killed my lawn mower.  

I went to a different Sears to buy a new Craftsman lawnmower. When I told the salesman I had $20.00 in points, he could not find it and had me call the 800-service number. After about five minutes of trying to reach a representative I got disconnected and had to call back. When I finally got a representative, she could not locate the points or the email and I had to ask to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor informed me that the email stated that after my big-ticket purchase if I made another purchase of $60.00 or more after that then I would get the $20.00 uploaded to my account for another future purchase!  

I found that just another excuse to get me back into Sears. Because of the way they treated a loyal and long-time customer, my loyalty to Sears is permanently damaged.

The lesson for supermarkets is that it is easy to lose a life-long customer if you treat them with disrespect. As a retailer you should go out of your way continually checking on how your customers are treated to keep them happy and make sure they keep coming back.      

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