build relationships, but good ones

A Tale of Two Beds Or How Sears Failed Customer Service 101 – Guest Post from Katharine Holmes

Welcome to the good, the bad and the really bad of customer service. Katharine Holmes recounts her epic attempt to purchase a bunk bed from Sears Canada.

For a while now, my husband, Paul, and I had planned on getting our son a bunk bed. We were moving in a few weeks, so we thought that was the perfect opportunity to order it (this is February 3, 2011). We could sell/give away his current bed, and have the new one delivered to our new house. How perfect is that? Now, to find the perfect bed. Immediately, I thought, “I’ll just go on the Sears website and look online.”

build relationships, but good ones

Isn’t this a lovely picture? This was not Katharine’s experience

I’d shopped at Sears’ site for lots of stuff, but not big ticket items. Turns out we could get it delivered directly to our new house. Perfect! Our son was going to be away the weekend we moved, so we could surprise him with a new bed when he came home. We found a great single-over-double bed, and a couple of mattresses (on sale!). After filling in the important info, we clicked the “Place Order” button. When the address confirmation screen came up, it had a random address on the Trans-Canada Highway (addresses are based on the postal code). This didn’t surprise us, since it is a new house, so we called Customer Service. Unfortunately, the department that handles adjustments to orders was closed (it was already 11 pm), so we had to call back the next day. While on the phone, I scheduled pick up for a few days after we moved in (we were moving in on February 19th, and the bed was supposed to arrive on the 22nd).

So I called the next morning, and corrected the address, and waited for the bed to be delivered.

Moving day came and went, and on Monday, February 21st, I got an automated phone call from Sears saying the bed would be delivered the next day, and was given a toll-free number to call if there was a problem.

The next day comes, and just before lunch, I get a call from the delivery driver asking where on the Trans-Canada Highway my house was located. I explained that the address was wrong, and that we lived in Sooke (a suburb of Victoria, BC). The driver explained that they would have to deliver the bed two days later, as they only deliver to Sooke once a week (we’re about an hour outside Victoria). “Is this OK?” Did I have a choice? As soon as I got off the phone with the delivery driver, I called that toll-free number I’d written down the day before. A Customer Service representative picked up, and I explained that there had been an error in the delivery of the bed. As soon as I said, “I ordered it online,” I was told that I would have to call a different toll-free number and talk to the ONLINE Customer Service people. Seriously, there’s no way to transfer a customer?

I called the Online Customer Service number, and got a very helpful lady named Tammy. She figured out that when I called, Customer Service had changed the address alright – the address on my profile. Oops. So that got sorted out, and we determined which depot the bed and mattresses could be dropped off at. Turns out that they don’t actually do home delivery to my area, even though it’s less than a kilometer away from the depot. After I got off the phone with Tammy, I called the Sooke Peoples Drug Mart, and got a helpful lady there to organize the re-routing of the bed. Hooray! Bring on the bed!

On Thursday the 24th, I called the Drug Mart to see if the bed had been delivered, but it hadn’t. Apparently, Sears will hold items in their storage area until it’s worth their time to ship it. I called again the following Tuesday. By this time, our son had been sleeping on his old mattress on the floor of his room, or in our bed for ten days.

Finally, I’d had enough when I checked the website, and saw that it stated that the bed had been delivered. I sent them an “Undelivered Items” e-mail, explaining all that had gone on. I got a phone call early the next morning. Suddenly, the bed could be delivered to our house (not to the delivery depot), and there was a delivery the next day. I called them back right away, and arranged for the bed to be delivered the following afternoon. When I hung up the phone, and told my husband that the bed was coming the next day, he reminded me that we were both going to be out of the house the next day. I called Sears back and arranged for the delivery to be done on Friday (which struck me as odd, since we’d been told they only delivered on Thursday. I figured maybe they were being super-helpful just to get this done). I hung up the phone feeling quite triumphant. The bed was coming!

But, as it seemed prone to do, something went awry. I got another phone call from Sears saying that, no, in fact they couldn’t deliver the bed Friday (not a delivery day), and that it would be the NEXT THURSDAY (the date being March 10th. Yes, we’d been waiting almost 3 weeks).

That evening, my husband had a brainstorm while driving to dinner. Why not just get the bed from the warehouse directly? So, we called Customer Service again, and made our suggestion. The woman on the other end of the line informed us that we couldn’t do that because of liability issues. She went on to explain to us that the bed wasn’t actually at a “warehouse” per se, but some depot, or whatever (I’m voting for somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle at this point). After some back and forth over where/when/how we could get the bed, we were given the option of canceling the order, and then placing it again. Basically, start over. We asked if this would result in us getting the bed sooner, to which the response was that it would take about a week. So, in short, we were no further ahead. I’d long since given up talking to the representative, so I had Paul talk to her.

He explained that what we wanted to do is get the bed we ordered as quickly as possible, and that if it could not be done in a timely fashion, we would just cancel the order and go buy it from the store. At this point, the lady become quite insolent, and any inquiry was met with, “Sir, do you want to cancel the order. Yes or no?”

“What should I do? Should I cancel, or can you help us?” Her response: “Do you want to cancel the bed? Yes or no?”

We’re the ones having problems, and making no headway, and SHE’S giving us attitude?!? Apparently, listening and people skills are not tops on Sears’ list of important customer service attributes.

Since we were driving (all of this was over speakerphone), we pulled off into the parking lot of a nearby mall. Fed up with talking to this representative – obviously nothing positive was going to happen – Paul asked to speak to her supervisor. At this point, this was a 26 minute phone call. We were put on hold, and the supervisor came on the line. We explained what had taken place so far, and asked if there was anything he could do.

He informed us that, no, there was nothing he could do, and again suggested we cancel the order and start over. We were flabbergasted. Start over? We explained to him that there had been an error on the website because the delivery address was completely wrong, even though I had called to change it, and that there was obviously something wrong with their system. In short, he told us there is no human interaction on their side when the address is input into their system, so it had to be my error. We reminded him that I had called to change the address, but it had not been changed in the correct place (namely the delivery address).

“We have no record of that, sir, so I cannot say.”

So, it’s MY fault that the customer service representative I’d dealt with three weeks ago didn’t do their job properly? How does THAT work?

My husband then says, “So what you’re saying is that it’s OUR fault?”

The manager dodges that by saying, “That’s not what I said.” Of course he didn’t SAY it, but it was certainly implied. That pretty much did it. It’s one thing to say, “There’s nothing I can do,” but it’s something different when you start blaming the customer when there was an error in their system.

Our best guess is that they were using an out-of-date postal code database, and trying to automatically match addresses to postal codes somehow. The entire Sooke area recently was reassigned new postal codes, where they previously had one standard code. Either that, or we decided to make up an address on the Trans-Canada Highway just to confuse people…

Needless to say, we cancelled the order. We then walked into the mall’s furniture store, walked over to the bedroom section and bought a bunk bed. We got excellent customer service, and got exactly what we wanted. Was that really so hard?


  • Absolutely unacceptable. And Sears didn’t call you back to ask why you canceled the order? We bought a new Sony TV – we had a slight issue and called them. They helped us on the phone. A couple of days later we got another call just to make sure everything was ok. Well done Sony. Sears, you suck.

  • Customer Service is horrible at Sears. They are worse than the government. I have avoided Sears for years now and shop where I am understood and don’t get attitude. I am the customer after all.

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