My wife and I found a washer and dryer set we liked on your website. It was a good price, and you threw in free delivery and installation, and so we added the large appliances to our cart. At checkout, you told us we’d also need to purchase other items for installation—an aluminum dryer duct and a washer hose. We bought those, too.
I was at work when the delivery showed up, but my wife said your guy was great. She said, “If they send you a feedback survey or whatever, tell them he was super nice.” (God knows I love feedback surveys.) But the guy said we also needed to buy a power cord for the dryer. I had a hard time believing you would sell me a dryer with no power cord, so I called your customer service number. The rep told me it was probably inside the appliance, but I assured him it wasn’t. He looked it up and told me I needed to purchase one.
“Can you sell me one now?” I asked. He forwarded my call to the Online Department so they could. But then the Online Department person forwarded me to someone else—a third party. And the third-party guy said, “We don’t sell that part. You have to talk to the Sears Online Department.” And so he forwarded me back to Online, who said, “We’re out of that part,” to which I said, “You sold me a dryer that doesn’t have a power cord and you don’t have any of the power cords available?”
Also, since installation was included in my purchase, I was miffed that I didn’t have an installed dryer and that even if I had the part, I would have to install it myself now because of the power cord runaround. When I brought up the issue of installation, your guy on the phone said, “If you had the part, we would send someone to install it.” And so when he told me the part was available in-store, I told him I would go get it and his guy could meet me at the house in a half-hour to install it for me. “Call me when you have the part and we will schedule a time,” he said. “Can we not just schedule a time now since I have you on the phone?” I didn’t want to have to wait through your automated service again, you see? Alas, your guy said “No, sir, you have to have the part.”
So I lied. I’m sorry about that, but it seemed like a white lie that would save us all some time. “Actually, my wife just walked in the door and she has the part with her now. So I have the part and we can schedule a time for someone to come install it.” We scheduled it for Saturday morning, from 8-10am—a two-hour window. Your guy assured me someone would come here during that time, but on Friday night, I got an automated call saying the installation would occur between 2 and 4pm. And so I made plans to leave my cousin’s engagement party a little earlier than I would have.
Like I always do when it comes to things like this, I thought about my dad as I drove to a brick and mortar store in my city to get the cord. I thought about how he’d have known about the need for it from the get-go. And then I waited in line for 25 minutes to try and pay for one before finally leaving the Appliances department and going to Bedding where a strange redneck couple were allowing their heathen child to bounce from one mattress to another, and I asked a woman in a Sears getup if I could pay her for the thing I was holding. She said no. But contrary to her response, she walked to the Appliances department, found a register and said, “Wuhl, c’moan!” in a not-friendly way.
She got angry at me because there was no price tag on the cord I wanted to pay for. She walked over to the place where they were kept and had a hard time finding the price. Then she came back to me, let out an exasperated sigh, and I paid for the thing. I thanked her. She did not thank me. I went home to meet the man who would install the dryer so that my wife and I could have clean clothes. But the man never came and we never heard from him.
I called your customer service number and rescheduled another time for your person to come to my house to install the dryer we bought from you. Part of me wanted to install it myself like my dad no-doubt would have, but out of principle—again, I bought into free installation—I refused. I scheduled for you to come today between 3-5pm. At 5:10, when no one had shown up, I called customer service and your rep told me the delivery team was running behind and they were on delivery #11, and I was #14. I called again at 7:30pm and someone purportedly named Ken (Employee ID#1011258) said they were on their way and would call 30 minutes before the delivery, and I told Ken that I didn’t think they were coming and that I wanted to talk to his supervisor. He refused. And then he put me on hold and came back a few minutes later to tell me he just saw in the notes that the delivery truck had broken down. “Is there a time stamp in the notes that tells you when that was, Ken?” “5pm.” “That doesn’t make sense, Ken, because at 5:10pm the customer service rep told me they were on their way.” I told Ken to find out where the truck was and I would go assist them in their vehicle troubles. Ken did not like me, and he put me on hold for a long time, hoping I would hang up, I think, before returning to say the delivery truck was now back on its way and they should be at my house tonight. I told Ken I thought he was a liar. And after I hung up with Ken, I called customer service back and I asked a man named Peter—I didn’t ask for his made-up employee ID number—if the truck was still coming tonight, and he said yes. And so I kind of feel bad for calling Ken a liar. But also, I kind of think Peter is a liar, too. Because it’s 10:15pm and I can’t imagine anyone is still coming and if they are, shame on you for making them work so late.
Anyway, if you were wondering why people don’t go to Sears anymore or why when I tell people that I went to Sears, they say, “Sears still exists?” or why Guy Choate is actively discouraging people on social media from purchasing anything from you, it’s because of this experience I’m in the middle of.
But here’s the thing: While I’ve always prided myself in my commitment to the principle of matters and seeing customer service battles through to the end—ask your friends over at CitiMortgage or AT&T or AutoZone or CenterPoint Energy if they remember me—I’m also in the middle of some kind of weird life transition. I’m 35 years old and having my first child in the same year that I lost my father to cancer. And so it is not far from my mind that Dad wouldn’t have bothered with Ken, even if you were clearly in the wrong. He would’ve just fixed the damned dryer and then remained pissed off at you.
I wish Dad would walk through my front door now. I can see him. I can see his steps. I can see how he would say hello to my wife who is carrying his first grandson. He would kiss her on her head—not because they are especially close, but because she turned out to be the key to the grandson he had wanted from me for years. I can see how my dad would ask me for a screwdriver and how he would push the dryer from the wall and how the sweat would glisten on his face and how he would drink his Busch Light and relax and how he would laugh. He’s my age, in my head. I will always remember the way he was when he was in his 30s. I will always be a little boy when I envision him.
But now my son is the little boy. Or he will be when he gets here. And I understand that my son will be more proud of me for not spending my time on the phone with Sears. That no matter how committed I am to shining a light on your poor customer service, my son will be more proud of me for being like my dad and pushing the dryer from the wall and installing the cord myself because it needs to be done. And so I will. I will grab a beer from the refrigerator and watch a YouTube video on my phone that teaches me how to install a dryer. And when people say, “Man, that thing you posted to Facebook about Sears was great! Did you ever get your dryer installed?” I will tell them I installed it myself, and I will say it casually, as if I routinely conquer such handy tasks around the house, like my dad did. But I won’t tell them how I spent a fair amount of time crying by myself in the laundry room because I kept thinking about how I should be able to call my father to ask him if the decisions I had made regarding the ground wire would result in my house catching fire. My dad wouldn’t tell them that stuff. And I’ll never know if he thought of his own father at times like that. Or if he ever felt ill-equipped to do the things for his children that his father probably did with ease. Maybe that’s why I’m writing down my own experience now, so that my son will know how hard it is to lose a father. How hard it is to be one. How you never know when it’s going to hit.