A version of this story appeared at Medium.com. It contains some adult language, for which I suspect you’ll forgive me.
As a caretaker dad running a business, married to a severely overworked physician, I think about time the way most people think about oxygen— or at least the way they’d think about it if they were trapped underwater. Fairly ordinary scheduling issues have the potential to plunge this household into chaos for days. When we do business, we need to find no-nonsense professionals on their A game.
Recently, we went to Sears instead.
October 29, 2016 — Frustrated by the deteriorating racks inside the dishwasher and an oven that, by all accounts, has a bit of a personality of its own, my wife approached me about finally replacing the major kitchen appliances that were installed when our house was built, just after the year 2000. Feeling we were in a reasonable place financially and, frankly, just eager to spend a day with my severely overworked spouse, I agreed.
October 31, 2016 — The appliance selection isn’t infinitely wide at the Sears in our local mall, but we quickly found a refrigerator that we just HAD to have. We worked with a pleasant and knowledgable sales associate to find a suitable oven, dishwasher, and microwave, and the saleswoman orchestrated teams and appointments for delivery and installation before giving us her personal phone number. We gushed about her over Panda Express and marveled at the fun, painless experience we had.
“It’s so nice to be taken seriously and treated with respect,” I told my wife. She happily agreed.
November 7, 2016 — After a weekend family getaway our appliances arrived as scheduled. A couple of friendly gentlemen introduced themselves and one began unloading a rented moving truck in the street, while the other worked on getting our current appliances unhooked. Oh, except for unscrewing the water line from the fridge, because if a Sears mover unhooks a water line from a fridge, our galaxy will implode. It is known.
“Sir,” Truck Guy called out. “Your fridge is damaged.”
Sure enough, it looked like someone had taken a hammer to the corner of a refrigerator that retails around $3,500.
“I mean, it’s not bad but that’s also where the compressor is,” Truck Guy said. “It’s up to you.”
Needless to say, I did not accept the refrigerator.
I went in to check on Inside Guy, who handed me a bent piece of metal.
Him: This is your anti-tipping bracket. This is why the oven sticks out from the wall. (Sure enough, I could have fit my head behind it.)
Me: (confused) Because of this?
Him: Yeah. That’s so it won’t tip over if your kid is climbing all over it.
Me: Climbing on the stove?
Him: Yeah. That’s what keeps it from tipping.
Me: Not the weight of this huge thing?
Me: But it’s not installed.
Him: Right. There you go.
Trying to determine which one of us was the idiot distracted me long enough for them to get away before I realized the top of the oven was bent, as if the damaged refrigerator had been leaning on it by a corner. (Oh hey! Maybe I connected the dots!)
November 8, 2016 — As my wife and I watched with surprise as states were declared for Donald Trump, a new team arrived with refrigerator #2. These guys were friendlier and seemed more competent, until they started dropping shit and didn’t seem that way anymore.
Inside Guy: So, did you guys get out and vote today and make your voices heard?
Me: Absolutely, my man. How about you guys?
Inside Guy: Nope.
Me: Oh. Well alright.
By the time they were done, I was pretty tired of the new team’s attitude — there was a lot of “Why did you get a fridge this big?” and shit like “Why isn’t this doorway bigger?” — but I was happy to have the fridge delivered and set up.
“Why aren’t the doors even?” my wife asked.
“Those will settle in a few days,” Inside Guy lied.
All we had to do was wait 24 hours for the unit to prepare to keep everything cool, then put our food in.
November 9, 2016 — A third team arrived to install our dishwasher and microwave. The leader started talking smack about Sears upon arrival and never stopped. I was surprised, but he seemed to believe Sears wasn’t capable of acting against him, even if they found out. He and his partner did a good job and left.
That night, we put our food in the fridge, which was already getting pretty cool.
November 10, 2016 — At some point overnight, the fridge died, never to function again. By the time we checked on it, it was warmer inside than out. Somewhere between $300–400 worth of groceries was ruined. We filed a claim through Sears’ warranty site, using a special form dedicated specifically to ruined food claims. This should have been a huge red flag.
We used our great and celebrated salesperson’s phone number, who helped us schedule a third fridge and a second oven to be delivered.
November 12, 2016 — Starting at 5 PM, I sat around the house in anticipation of fridge #3. Team #4 missed their two-hour window completely. I received a call letting me know they would arrive shortly after 8 PM.
They never arrived.
I left several voicemails for the delivery contractors that I’m not especially proud of.
I announced to my wife that I was pretty sure the fastest route to a completed kitchen was to ship everything back and start over somewhere else. We agreed it was to be avoided at all costs if Sears could just complete, y’know, their primary job of over a century.
November 13, 2016 — I received an automated call shortly after noon from Sears’ delivery department, asking me to call them back about a “delayed appliance.”
Yeah, no shit.
“I’ve been waiting for your call,” I said when I reached a person. “I need to know when my refrigerator is going to be here. We really need to get all this resolved.”
“No, sir,” the man started in a heavy but polite Indian accent. “I am calling to inform you that the oven you ordered has been delayed about two weeks. Is that acceptable, sir?”
“We’re out,” I replied. “Come get your stuff. We’re out. Refund it all. We’re done.”
I won’t trouble you with that entire 35-minute phone call, but “Arnold” made a series of insulting offers in the course of just doing his difficult job, including an offer of “about $200 worth of reward points on your account if you would be willing to keep your damaged appliances.”
Eventually, he initiated a refund and scheduled a team to come get their crap.
November 14, 2016 — I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Surely, I thought, this would be the corporate office trying to talk us out of an $8,000 refund.
Her: Hi this is (whoever the hell) with Sears’ insurance claim processing center (or whatever the hell). I’m calling because I see that you had entered a claim through our website about food that was damaged by a faulty refrigerator.
Me: Oh. Yeah. That was us, how’s that going?
Her: Well, unfortunately I see here that that claim has been denied. We’re not able to issue checks for ruined food unless one of our technicians have been out to inspect the refrigerator.
Me: Well no one inspected it because you guys immediately agreed to replace it.
Her: I see that, unfortunately there’s just no way for us to process a check in that circumstance.
Me: Well the fridge is still here. Have your guy come take a look at it.
Her: Oh it’s still there? When is the pickup date?
Me: Sometime this week. They’re supposed to call me back.
Her: I see. Well there’s really no way for us to get a technician out in time.
Me: Then I’ll hang on to the fridge. Pick up the other stuff, send out your guy, then he can update my account, you can send a check, and we can get the fridge picked up.
Her: …there’s really no way for me to do that.
Me: Then pay for the food. You can’t deny the claim because you didn’t inspect the fridge, then refuse to inspect the fridge.
Her: Unfortunately there’s just no way that I can —
After I casually brought up speaking with an attorney about all this shit and she was entirely unfazed, I let her off the phone.
November 15, 2016 — Team #5 arrived late in the evening. Two more friendly guys introduced themselves and one headed back to the truck.
Inside Guy: Sir!
Me: What’s wrong this time?
Him: This dishwasher and this microwave are installed.
Me: Yeah. You guys did that.
Him: We can’t do uninstalls.
Me: What are you talking about?
Him: We can take the fridge and the oven. We can’t touch this dishwasher or this microwave. We don’t do uninstalls.
Me: Of course not. Who can?
Him: All you’ll have to do is call the delivery center back and they’ll schedule an uninstallation.
I called the delivery center while the guys were working. I got another outsourced gentleman who half-listened to me and explained that my delivery team should be along soon.
Me: You’re not listening to me. A refund has been authorized. Sears just needs their crap back. I need you to send a team that can uninstall the last two appliances.
Him: I see. I’m terribly sorry sir. Could you tell me the reason you want to return the appliances?
Me: No. Go do what I just asked.
Him: I understand, sir. Please hold for one moment.
Him: Thank you, sir. What if I was able to offer you about $200 in rewards points to keep the damaged appliances?
They tell me this was the moment I lost my shit.
After watching me accost the fellow on the phone for ten minutes and giving me that Tom Haverford look, the delivery team standing in my kitchen called their manager to see if there was anything they could do to help.
This was definitely above and beyond their responsibilities, as they are certainly not Sears employees, but the manager said the best he could do is suggest I call the actual store we bought the appliances from.
Me: I’m in the middle of shipping my appliances back to Sears for an approved refund. You guys sent a team that couldn’t uninstall two of the appliances. This has gone on long enough and I need it done. Please schedule an uninstall as soon as possible.
Her: I’m so sorry, sir, one moment.
Her: We don’t do uninstalls.
Me: What the hell are you talking about?
Her: Yes sir, we don’t do that. You’ll need to do that or find someone you know who knows how.
Me: Oh, I’ll get these appliances out. Send a team. (Team #5 had left)
Her: Oh you have to do that through the (outsourced) delivery center.
Here’s where I’m using my knowledge of these absolutely true events to project the following events, that have yet to unfold.
November 22, 2016 — Team #6 will sneak into the house while no one is home, reinstalling the broken fridge and the damaged oven we got Team #5 to take away.
Later that night, I will die in my sleep from complications due to hypertension.
November 23, 2016 — My grieving wife will have my head preserved in the Whirlpool 36″ French Door Refrigerator with the sliding Infinity Shelf pushed back to make room. My body will be cremated using both compartments of the Electric Double Oven Range with its True Convection heating technology.
November 25, 2016 — Due to the fridge’s faulty cooling system, my head will need to be thrown away.
July 8, 2018 — As predicted, Sears Holding Corp. will go bankrupt, absolving them of any liability for a refund, ruined food, or my head.
August 18, 2033 — Just before moving into the dorms at a nice university, my son will have Sears’ appliances uninstalled and removed by Amazon drones while they deliver his new Apple Kitchen. He will receive about $200 in rewards points.
Update— I’m not sure if the real team #6 was better or worse than my fictionalized version. My wife got home from an overnight shift while her brother and I were weightlifting in the basement, announcing that a couple of guys with a moving truck had arrived, completely unexpectedly. Her mother was watching our son at the time.
I showed them to the garage where their garbage was, and my wife and her brother walked up behind me while they were loading up.
“Hey, they yelled at my mom,” my wife informed me.
“Yeah,” she continued. “They didn’t want to wait for you and tried to come in the house.”
Shit. I tried not to stop to think too hard.
“HEY YOU, COME HERE…”
Like any tough guy who just yelled at an older woman, he promptly clammed up and closed himself in his truck when I inquired about his problem. We left them to it.
His boss called me later and asked how pickup went, and sounded serious. She insisted I’d picked up their call the night before and agreed to a pickup time, and she was quite sure she knew exactly who they contacted each day.
She misdialed and called me again as soon as I hung up, asking for a different customer. It was absolutely perfect.
Update #2— Just after I initially shared this cautionary tale with readers at Medium, my wife and I went to Lowe’s to start over. I just want to stress here, days after Thanksgiving, we still wouldn’t have a full set of functional appliances if we’d let Sears keep our business. Just over a week after our visit to Lowe’s, two teams showed up simultaneously. 35 minutes later, our kitchen was fully functional and featured incredible appliances. I had to agree to terms and conditions just to use my refrigerator.
The guys at Lowe’s almost did as good a job as Sears did an impossibly horrible one.
If you’re a visitor at this site, it probably means you’re part of a family that deserves the best you can offer it. Be an informed customer. Be a demanding customer. Protect the people you love from the people outside your home whose carelessness is effectively an attack on your peace. Use it as a teaching opportunity for your kids— that you handle your side of business fairly, that you maintain control long after others have abandoned reason, and that you take the steps required to achieve results.
If nothing else, know to talk smack online early and often. No one should ever have to resort to this style of battle with a century-old company in the public arena to be taken seriously, but damn if it isn’t effective when done correctly.