Saturday, December 13, 2014

customer service...

Last night, Arkansas Governor Beebe, celebrated the end of his 8 years in office with a party in which 120 staff members were given boxes that I made for them. Each was engraved on the inside of the lid with the words, "Thanks for Believing! Beebe Administration, 2007-2014. Those were good years, and it is my hope that these boxes serve each as a pleasant reminder. I was honored and grateful to have the opportunity to serve our Arkansas Governor in this way.

In my love of fixing things, I sometimes encounter difficulties obtaining parts. For instance, this last week the igniter on our Kenmore oven went out and I knew immediately why the oven wouldn't warm up. So I went online, and ordered what the Sears Parts website insisted was the right part. It arrived and I opened the oven panels to begin removal and replacement of the part. But what I discovered was that the parts new and old bore no resemblance to each other.

I immediately called Sears Parts and after navigating through their menu options and being on hold for the usual distressing period of time, I talked to Debra. She was kind and courteous, but insisted that they had sent me the right part. I was kind and insisted that the parts bore no resemblance to each other, and that there was no apparent way that the new igniter would fit. Finally, Debra transferred me to a manager, who after another extended period on hold, informed me that yes, they had shipped the correct igniter. I asked if it was a substitute part, and she said no, but that she would check with GE, the maker of the range. After checking with GE she said, yes it was a substitute part, but that GE assured her it was the right one and would fit without adaptation.

So based on such strong assurances, I took the old igniter off and with some difficulty, attached the new igniter and "fired her up." When I turned on the oven, and waited for the oven to start, I was greeted with the sound of a small explosion and the smell of gas. Lovely, I thought. No baked potatoes tonight!

The next morning I called Sears Parts and insisted that they had sent me the wrong part, which they denied. Finally the woman asked whether my range required a male or female connector. I told her that my range required neither, that the part was directly wired using wirenuts. She couldn't understand that and insisted it had to have either a male or female connector and that the problem must be that they had sent the wrong one. She suggested another part, gave me the part number so that I could look at it on google, and I found that it was shaped and configured just as the one that made my stove almost blow up. In frustration, I asked for a service repair call.

Three days later, the service tech arrived, and we were his last stop on a very long day of service calls. It took him only a few moments to notice that the igniter was obviously the wrong one for the stove. He checked and learned from his computer that they had sent and I had installed "the right one" as specified by Sears Parts and by his service manual, but that there was no way in the world that the "right one" as specified by Sears would work.  He pulled that wrong part out and put in a substitute part shaped exactly like the one I took out and charged me $218.72. If they had sent me the right part in the first place I would have successfully installed it.  I would have spent less than $60, not spent hours on the phone, and would have had the oven working 4 days earlier.

The next day I called Sears Parts to arrange the return of the wrong igniter, and made note to them that by selling the wrong one and insisting it was right, and encouraging me to install it despite my concerns, they had endangered my home. They agreed to refund the charges on the wrong igniter and sent me upstream with an email address where I might file a complaint.

Sears Holdings Solutions is a part of Sears where they try to address customer complaints by throwing small amounts of settlement money at them in order to avoid small lawsuits and calls to the attorney general's office, but not to avoid problems that would put customers or their homes at risk.

I told Jeff K. at Sears Holdings Solutions about the troubles, and he offered a $65 partial refund of the $218.72 repair charges, but told me that if I had safety concerns, I should call back on their 800 number. Can you believe how callous that was? ...that someone in Sears Customer Service would care so little about the safety of their customers that they would place the burden of safety on me, expecting me to spend another half hour or more on the phone to fix what was already well documented in my case and concerned a duty that they had to assure customer service and safety? I found their lack of concern astounding.

Well so much for my sad story. The lesson is one we learn over and over again. Don't think that just because someone spends time sitting at a computer all day, that they have any grasp of reality. If you are living and working in the real world, expect occasional stupidity from those who are not.

Yesterday, the photographer for the Historic Arkansas Museum's Living Treasures Exhibit came and set up a shot of me at my work bench, surrounded by tools and boxes. Part of the display was of an arrangement of Froebel blocks from Gift 5B. This is the set that offers the ability to construct Romanesque architectural forms.

Make, fix (safely) and create...


  1. Doug,
    sometimes it seems one is better off following a youtube video from an unknown source than trying to work with customer service. Even if I have my doubts I would at this time still look at some youtube videos before calling customer service at the vendor or manufacturer.
    Depending on the problem a pic can be powerful. A few years ago I bought a snow blower that according to the ad was ready to go only to find out a year later that no gear lubricant had ever been added to the auger gear case. After making my case with a picture of the gearcase debris the manufacturer send me a replacement gear and suggested that I not mention it to the shop that sold me the snow blower. Those guys insisted that they were not to blame -what does ready to go mean?- and that the repair was too expensive to be worth it. It took an hour to install the part.
    I can understand that customer service does have its challenges, but what counts is the willingness to make amends and improve service.


  2. The deck is stacked against us as consumers. By now we should all be used to bending over in these sorts of circumstances. The internet however, is a great place to take revenge in the form of telling the truth. Good work. Sears sucks; buy elsewhere.

  3. Anonymous8:20 PM

    Luckily we have an independent parts store in the area. The only guys I'll go to. Had a washing machine that wouldn't spin anymore. Long story shot, part was $20, the socket wrench extension less. They told me how to do the repair. Half hour of work, back in business.
    "But sir, the computer shows you have the correct part." Yea, sure...... Never let reality get in the way of your screen!