ACTION ITEM: Kenmore Products Are Garbage, and Sears Is Terrible to Its Customers and Employees

This, too, is why people Occupy Wall Street. Read on for the unbelievable experience I had with Sears/Kenmore, which treats both its customers and its employees like shit.

As I mentioned yesterday, our Kenmore stove broke over the weekend, one week after the warranty expired. (And please note that I did not name Kenmore yesterday, as I assumed in good faith they would make an effort to resolve the situation decently.) What happened was that a bracket which holds the panel in place broke. It's a flimsy little garbage bracket, and I can't even believe that it passed Kenmore's quality inspection, since pressing on that panel is how you make the stove work.

image of broken panel on Kenmore stove

So we called Sears and scheduled a repair. Just to get someone out to evaluate how much the repair to our year-old Kenmore stove was going to cost was $75. We were not thrilled, but okay.

This morning, the repairperson, Craig, called to tell me he might be able to arrive earlier if that worked for me. On that call, I explained to him what the problem was, and he told me that the repair would likely cost around $300. This is more than half what we paid for the stove. Not only that, Craig explained that he was able to estimate the cost because he had replaced at least five of those panels in Kenmore stoves in the last week. He informed me that it was a known problem, and that Sears was supposed to be working on a fix for it.

I told him that paying more than half the price of the stove for a repair one week after the warranty ran out to fix a known problem by replacing it with the same part that was breaking all over the place was unacceptable, especially since it's just kicking the can down the road to another parts failure and another $300 repair. He agreed with me that it was awful, and he would try to get the company to comp the repair.

At this point, I want to note that Sears, were it a responsible company, would be recalling this Kenmore stove. If one area repairperson is reporting 5+ repairs on the same part a week, and Sears is charging exorbitant repair fees to each customer whose warranty has expired, that's some straight-up chicanery, right there.

I also want to note that the Sears salesperson from whom we purchased the Kenmore stove did not encourage us to purchase the extended warranty, but, in fact, told us how his wife has the same model and it's been awesome for years. I remember very explicitly that he told us it was easy to clean (despite not being a self-cleaning model) and telling us that it had not needed any repairs.

So, on one end, we had a Sears salesperson conveying how we didn't need an extended warranty on this model to get his commission, and, on the other end, we have Sears repairs telling us that now we need to pony up $300 for repairs.

Well, isn't that a great customer service exploitation model!

Back to this morning: Craig calls me back and tells me that Sears will not comp us nary a penny on the repair of our Kenmore stove. He apologizes profusely. He tells me he understands why I don't want the repair, and offers to cancel the appointment for me. I thank him and assure him he has no reason to apologize.

Craig gives me a number at Sears repairs to call, and suggests that I call them myself. Maybe I'll have better luck, he says.

So I call the number, where I speak to Brenda C. I explain to Brenda C. the problem with my Kenmore stove, and she is barely listening and refers to it twice as my "refrigerator." I correct her: It's a stove.

I also tell her that I believe it's unreasonable to expect their customers to pay more than half the original price of their Kenmore stove to fix a known problem for which the company may or may not be developing a fix, but in any case does not yet have a fix, and thus would be replacing the faulty part with the same faulty part.

I ask her if she believes it's reasonable to ask me to pay $300 now, and $300 when the insufficient part inevitably breaks again. She tells me that once I pay this $300, then I can purchase an extended warranty for $100, which will cover it in future. But I can't purchase one now, because the stove is broken.

I laugh.

I point out to Brenda C. that it feels like we are being penalized because our Kenmore stove broke too late to be covered by the warranty that ran out last week, and too early to be repaired with a new part that won't break. I ask her if she thinks this is fair, for which she has no answer, except to reiterate I can buy an extended warranty once my Kenmore stove has been repaired for $300.

I then ask her why Sears has not issued a recall for a Kenmore stove whose most important part is known to be defective. She tells me that the repairperson who told me that information shouldn't have told me and she will be reporting it to his manager.

So now Sears is not only screwing over me, their customer, but screwing over their employee who had the unmitigated temerity to be honest with me and try to get his employer to do the right thing for me.

And not only is Brenda C. planning to file an internal employment complaint against Craig—she's TELLING ME ABOUT IT, which I cannot understand as ethical by any definition of ethics that I understand.

At this point, I request that the stove needs to be repaired for free, or it needs to be replaced—because it is in no way appropriate to tell a customer that they have to spend $400 (including the $100 extended warranty), which is nearly the original cost of the Kenmore stove, to fix what is a known problem to Sears. She offers to discount $100 on the repair.

Which, of course, is not a real "discount" of any sort, because she's just told me I need to spend $100 on an extended warranty if I don't want to spend another $300 on this repair in the future, every time that flimsy little bracket breaks.

I tell Brenda C. that I am unsatisfied with that resolution, I will not be taking her up on her offer to discount the repair, and I will not be buying another Kenmore product again. She says she hopes I change my mind.

I tell her that I hope I will change the minds of my international readership, which is predominantly female—and I trust she knows that women do the majority of the purchasing of household appliances—should any of them be contemplating purchasing Kenmore products in future.

* * *

Sears knows it's got a faulty product. Sears doesn't care. Sears is going to bilk its customers out of every last dime of repair costs for its shitty Kenmore stove that it can, instead of doing the right thing and recalling the affected stoves and replacing the weak bracket.

Why? Because it might cost them money.

And they'd rather make money off of their unwitting customers—people who are buying a low-end model Kenmore stove, and are thus probably the people most unable to afford to purchase optional extended warranties in the first place, the people most unable to afford $300 repairs, and the people most unable to buy a new stove so they don't line the pockets of a greedy corporation that's content to exploit the people who bought their faulty product in the first place.

This isn't just about me. This is about all the customers they're treating this way. I just happen to be the one with a platform.

And to boot: They're going to punish their employee who was honest with me about the problem.

This is why people are Occupying Wall Street.

Let's make some noise.

Contact Kenmore at their website, on their Facebook page, and tweet at them, and call Sears Roebuck to let them know that you are aware of their dodgy corporate practices toward customers and employees and will not be spending your money on any of their brands until they revise their corporate policies toward people who work for and buy from them.

* * *

I have posted an update, such as it is, here.

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