Right Enough

What day was it that we lost the ability to cook at home? It was probably at least a month. Easily a month, probably six or eight weeks. The process of getting the stove replaced and delivered and installed was a pain but such is life. Here is how the story ended.

On Friday Sears called to say the installation would happen on Saturday. Wendy and I were (and are) dealing with much bigger issues than the stove, so while happy I was disappointed not to be able to join her for something else. During the agreed upon window a white van arrived bearing two installers. They went to work and soon discovered a problem.

Somehow, this new stove was a fraction of an inch wider than the original one. They identified the problem as being our granite counter. They explained I’d need to cut the counter if I wanted to get the stove in and did I know anyone who could cut granite. As it happens I do so I called my friend Marcos. He agree to come over but in the meantime I told the installers to get it all set up and I’d take care of sliding it in later.

They did as much as they could do and went on their way. Soon Marcos arrived and we looked at the stove and looked at the space it was meant to fill. We looked at it this way and that. Soon I saw (or thought I saw) that by raising it a bit more and pushing it to one side we’d be able to get it in the gap. We went over to Home Depot to get some items to help with the task.

Together we raised the stove and started to slide it in. It still wouldn’t fit. I saw the problem. Our cabinets were slightly off – closer together at the bottom than the top. This was a relic of yet another frustration (I shake my fist at Almir!). Marcos is very clever. He looked at the stove and looked at the space it was meant to fill. He looked at it this way and that. Soon he saw a solution.

We’d need, he explained, to detach the countertop from one of the cabinets, move the cabinet ever so slightly, push the stove into place, push the cabinet back into place and finally reattach the countertop. Wendy and I had an engagement that night so we agreed we’d take care of this the next day.

The next day got busy. We didn’t return home until later in the afternoon. We couldn’t reach Marcos so Wendy and I set to work. It was a pain in the butt but we managed to detach the countertop, move the cabinet, level the stove, push the stove into place and put things more or less as they were.

There’s still work to be done, but at least we have a working stove. It was way more trouble than it should have been but what can you do? Sears was less helpful than I wanted them to be but in the end they did as much as they probably could – particularly Carlos, our case manager. I think this weekend, circumstances permitting, we will revisit the meal we had planned all those weeks ago. Wish me luck.

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Sears Fail: Day Two

To call today day two is a little unfair. The fact is this has been a slow-moving fail, the full extent of which was only discovered yesterday.

Let us travel back to explore a few of the telltale signs . . .

The early stages of this particular fail weren’t wholly Sears’ fault. Purchasing what was at the time a fairly new technology (the induction stove) was a risk. The stove had trouble from the beginning and every time it did Sears would come out, investigate, order a part and replace it. This went on for almost three years. The part in question, a board of some sort, was replaced again and again. You would think at some point a pattern would be recognized and someone would consider the cause of the problem rather than the symptom. Eventually, when the symptoms became so frequent the patient was declared dead.

So, with authorization from Sears to replace the stove (which included delivery, installation and haul away), Wendy and I went shopping.

I’m not going to go into the back-and-forth between the sales associates but rather will fast forward to the week of April 19th. Our new stove was to have been delivered on the 25th and boy were we excited! Early in the week, however, we got a call from Sears saying a mistake had been made and the delivery had to be pushed back to the 30th. Not ideal but what can you do?

We were surprised to get a call from Sears on the 23rd telling use to get ready for our delivery on the 25th. Cool, we thought, Sears is coming through! On the 24th we got an email confirming a delivery the next day and then a call that night saying our delivery would be arriving between 12:45 and 2:45. Awesome!

On the 25th at 1:00 a big delivery truck appeared in front of our house. Wendy and I were giddy. I went out to greet the deliverymen and to move my car so they’d be able to get the stove into the house. One of the deliverymen hopped down from the truck. He asked if I was expecting a delivery and I said yes. He checked his clipboard and told me he had a wire for me.

A wire? A wire AND a stove, I said.

No, just a wire today – and did I know what kind of wire I needed?

See stoves don’t come with wires because there are all different kinds of plugs so when you order a stove you get a wire as well. And just because the stove wasn’t available didn’t mean the wire had to wait. Not knowing much about stoves I confessed I didn’t know what wire I needed but that I hoped there was some detail in the order that would help solve this puzzle. Rather than leave things to chance, the deliveryman came in to check. We pulled the stove out and he ID’ed the plug and went to his truck to get the wire. I signed for it and took his Sears satisfaction survey, not wholly satisfied.

Yesterday was the new BIG DAY. The same email/phone protocol let us know our new stove would be delivered between 9:15 and 11:15. Just before 8:30 I got a call from Sears saying they’d be delivering the stove in the next 45 minutes. I let Wendy know so her sister would be ready to greet the delivery. Cool!

When I got into the office there was an IM showing the stove in the middle of the kitchen. Great, I thought, they’re installing it! Then at 9:30 Wendy called me. The stove wasn’t installed. It was just left in the middle of the kitchen floor. She asked me to call Sears and get it fixed. I tried calling the store.

Going through the voice prompts I ended up speaking with a woman from delivery I guess. She explained that delivery doesn’t do installations and that no installation had been ordered for this appliance. I was confused. I knew we’d discussed installation. I knew they replacement of the original stove included installation. What happened? She didn’t know. She couldn’t help. She said we’d be hearing from someone within 24 hours to schedule an installation. So the plan was simply to have the stove in the middle of the kitchen for some indeterminate period of time? Maddening.

I attempted to call the store again. Impatient with the voice prompts I zeroed out and got a live person. She was helpful. She tried to reach the manager of the store. He was out. The assistant manager wasn’t in either. She offered to pass me to corporate. I accepted. It turns out that when someone at Sears redid the order they neglected to include the installation. Can it be fixed quickly? Not today. Maybe by Saturday.

Almost two hours later I’d spoken to no fewer than four people and still didn’t have a solution. Apparently there are no electricians in the greater Boston area able to install a stove. The associate who sold us the stove called twice to say he’d been calling and calling and waiting on hold to try to find out what happened and how soon it could be fixed. Saturday again seemed like the earliest it could be done. I was frustrated.

I wrote a blog post. I tweeted it. Within minutes @searscares contacted me. Please DM us your contact info and a case manager will be in touch. I sent my contact info. They confirmed receiving it and said a case manager would be contacting me as soon as one was free.

At the end of the day I went home. There was the stove in the middle of the floor. It sure looked good but when it comes to stoves, looks aren’t everything. I posted a photo of it to Twitter. Sears contacted me again to say they’d shared my tweets with customer care. I thought they’d done that four hours ago. Oh well.

This morning I still hadn’t heard from Sears. I tweeted that it had been 18 hours since they said they’d be in touch. As I write this they tweeted me to say that out of respect they don’t call between 8pm and 8am. That’s nice. Another sign of respect – as small one – would have been to install the stove. Or not to leave a stove in the middle of a customer’s kitchen. In fact, I would be willing to live with a call at 8:15 – or even 8:30! – in exchange for my stove being installed.

I was told that Carlos M. will be in touch with me within the hour. Perhaps surprisingly, within the hour I received a call. Carlos was apologetic and helpful. He confirmed a few details and said he would follow up and a few things and would be back in touch within the hour (a usefully ambiguous unit of time).

That was two hours ago . . .

Sears Fail

Read on for a sad and stupid tale of woe! Read on for a catalog of incompetence! Read on for an example of temper being set aside! Read on for a glowing example of Sears Fail . . .

In 2011 we redid our kitchen. As part of the project we replaced a number of appliances, including our stove. Our existing stove was an old electric range that came with the house. We toyed with bringing gas up to the kitchen but decided on induction. It heats up fast like gas but is crazily cool to the touch. There weren’t many models out at the time and we settled on an Electrolux, which we purchased at Sears.

Quickly the immaturity of the technology became evident. A variety of circuit boards needed replacing on a regular basis. Eventually the oven stopped working and then the whole unit died. Thankfully for use, there were more than four parts replacements in less than 12 months and Sears agreed to replace the unit.

We went to our local Sears store. We again considered gas, thought about electric but decided to stick with induction. We ordered the stove on April 18th. It was to be delivered on April 25th. Because the original stove had been deemed a “lemon,” the replacement would include the removal of the old stove and the delivery and installation of the new one.

There was confusion among the sales associates. One put together the order – including installation – but a colleague said since this was a simple slide-in unit the delivery people would be able to install it. It seemed reasonable at the time.

A few days later we got a phone call. An error had been made with the order and the stove would now arrive on April 30th. Not ideal but such is life. On April 30th the delivery truck arrived. The old stove was removed and the new one brought into the kitchen. The deliverymen couldn’t do the install. No installation had been ordered, they explained, and left with the stove sitting in the middle of the floor.

For more than two hours I was on the phone with Sears trying to figure out what had happened and find out how it would be fixed. The earliest installation, I was told, was May 3rd – four days away. This wasn’t acceptable. I spoke with a number of people at Sears, none of whom could provide any explanation for what had happened or accelerate the installation date.

How did it happen that no provisions were made for installation? Was the assumption that we’d simply have the stove in the middle of the floor indefinitely? Is it really possible that there is no one capable of installing this stove in fewer than four days?

All of these things seem impossible to me. What I have seen is a series of errors, one compounding another, until we are left with the current situation: a functionless cube sitting in the middle of our kitchen awaiting installation. This is unacceptable. The offer of a $50 gift card, while thoughtful, doesn’t make up for the many meals we have been unable to make at home. Rarely have I seen such incompetence, such a failure to perform or such a lackadaisical attitude toward a customer’s concerns.

At a time of stress for our family we have few options. The stove is there. The installation is pending. Meals are going uncooked. It’s safe to say we won’t be shopping at Sears any time soon and will be actively discouraging others.

Oxford English Dictionary Fail

More than 20 years ago, my father – a dedicated bibliophile – gave me The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. If you’re not familiar with this dictionary, it’s the two volume version of the full Oxford English Dictionary. It’s published in microtype and ships with a magnifying glass.

I’ve used the dictionary happily for years. A few weeks ago though I ran into a problem. I was looking up the word “flimp” and couldn’t find it. Not only could I not find that word, I couldn’t find any of the words that should have been around it. In fact, I discovered that there were at least 40 pages missing (from page 1022 to page 1063) in volume one.

I contacted the publisher here in the US to make sure they were aware of the problem and to find out how they would correct it. What I was offered was a more recent edition at half price:

“As I understand it the version you have is more than 20 years old and out of print. I am sorry the error was not found and a new edition provided when we had them available. I was told I could offer you the 50% discount on a updated edition if you so choose. You wouldn’t ordinarily receive such a large discount from Oxford. I am sorry however, Customer Service is not authorized to replace such a high ticketed item that is now out of print. Please let me know if you decide to place an order, I will be happy to assist you.”

One thing that’s interesting about this response is the acknowledgement that they would have provided a replacement had the error been found at some undefined point in the past. Of course all of this could have been avoided had the publisher not distributed a faulty edition in the first place. It’s an interesting idea though: sell a defective product and then offer to sell the same product again at a discount. Am I the only one who finds this approach ridiculous?

When I said this was unacceptable here’s what I was told:

“We understand your frustration, and it should also be noted that the edition that you have was used as a promotion piece for Book of the Month Club and without any proof of purchase there is no way that we can verify that you or your father did actually buy the dictionary more than 20 years ago.
I’m sorry you find the offer unacceptable, but that’s the best we can do.”

I like that suggestion that perhaps I am lying – that my father did not necessarily purchase the books. Classy. I wrote back again saying the offer was unacceptable and that I’d be sharing my story. The response was terse:

“We absolutely stand behind the product. [Clearly they do not.] And you are free to publish that on any website you want. [Thanks for the clarification . . .]”

To me this is absurd. If a product is discovered to be faulty at a fundamental and avoidable level then the manufacturer (or publisher in this case) ought to take steps to repair or replace the product. Suggesting that the customer is lying and that they should repurchase the product (even at a discount) is insulting.

The Oxford English Dictionary is not an everyday product. It isn’t something that one replaces every few years. A dictionary that is missing words is not a very good dictionary and the OED has a reputation as the best there is for the English language. It’s unfortunate that in the past they distributed a defective product; it’s unfortunate that neither I (nor apparently anyone else) discovered this defect earlier; but at the end of the day providing a complete dictionary of the English language is their business and responsibility. As they assured me in our correspondence, they “absolutely stand behind the product.” Perhaps it would be helpful if they understood what those words mean.