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Archive for April 21st, 2012

Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Repair: End of the Story

Our story so far:

So here’s the Rest of the Story, reconstructed from my notes…

Having already torn the thing apart and discovered that the repair would include both the drum+spider assembly (not available separately, which may actually make sense given high-speed spin balancing) and the front half of the plastic tub, I priced them at RepairClinic and Sears Parts Direct. In round numbers, this adventure would cost $300-400 just for the parts, a bit less than half the cost of the washer.

As I recall, the Sears price for the drum was roughly twice that for RepairClinic, while the tub was about the same. I suspect Sears deliberately inflates the drum price to make sure nobody actually buys the thing and to pad out the tech’s time to replace it.

The warranty in the front of the Owner’s Manual seemed promising:

Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Warranty

Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Warranty

So I called the Sears Parts & Warranty line, walked the menu tree, explained the situation, asked for a new drum, and was told that they must dispatch a tech to diagnose the problem. Despite the warranty, there would be a labor fee and an additional fee to process the parts order. There was no way to determine those fees before dispatching the tech.

I pointed out that I’d already dismantled the washer, knew exactly what the problem was, and just needed the replacement drum as described in the warranty. I was put on hold to “process my request”, eventually being transferred to a “tech specialist department for further assistance”.

The “tech specialist” was willing to spend as much time as required to convince me that the Lifetime Warranty had expired, based on a deliberate misreading of the terms. As far as they were concerned, the sentence “After the first year, you will be charged for labor” meant that the warranty had expired on a five-year-old washer and that the drum was no longer covered. They would not, under any circumstances, send me the drum. Yes, I asked for a supervisor and, no, I doubt that she really was one; handing the call to the next cubicle is standard call-center subterfuge to placate irate customers.

I eventually decided that this was not a language-barrier issue, but a carefully planned & executed part of their standard script: letting their Indian-subcontinent call center take the heat works wonderfully well for the purpose of getting rid of warranty claims.

So I looked up the phone number of the “interim CEO/President” (I assume he’s long gone by now) at Sears Holding Corporation and gave him a call. Of course, I didn’t expect to actually reach the CEO, but I figured I’d shake the dice a bit to see if a better combination came up.

It turns out that they expect this sort of behavior and immediately connected me to their “Executive Customer Service” department, which was described as “the highest they can go”. So I told my tale, asked her to ship me a drum, and was told that wasn’t possible. What she could do, as a “one time offer”, was to “waive the labor fee” when they dispatched the tech.

I asked if there were any other fees. She refused to answer that question. I asked if there was a charge to order the parts. She refused to answer that question. It being a Friday, I asked when the tech could arrive; she said that they would attempt to schedule it for Monday, but Tuesday was more likely. I asked if he’d arrive with the drum. She said the tech would assess the problem and order the necessary parts, requiring a second appointment later in the week.

I told her that it was obvious Sears had no intention of honoring their warranty. She repeated that this was a one-time offer. We did not part on good terms.

So I ordered the drum & tub from RepairClinic, two huge boxes arrived on Tuesday, I installed everything, buttoned up the machinery, and the washer has worked fine ever since.

Every time I looked at that big drum, I got mad all over again. I never mustered the enthusiasm to take the spider off the back for a post-mortem, which is why there’s no Part 2 after that post. Eventually I hauled the carcasses to the town’s disposal site and bid them good riddance.

Obviously, Sears won: they got rid of me without spending a dime on the warranty. It cost them maybe two hours of phone time, but I doubt the pleasant voice in the “Executive Customer Service” department makes much more than minimum wage and Indian-subcontinent personnel are basically free compared to that.

I’m doing a bunch of appliance repair right now and wonder just how much we’d be spending if we had to go through the Official Channels for repairs. I’m definitely earning my keep… and having much more fun than being jerked around by that corporate structure.

And that’s the end of that story…

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