Deceived and Screwed by Sears.com – Offer & Cancel, the new Bait and Switch?
I ordered a Slingbox 500 at a great price from Sears.com on Sunday. I spent a lot of time shopping for this item at bricks & mortar stores and online, so I knew the Slingbox 500 sells for $299 nationwide. The older version Slingbox 350 sells for $179.
To my great surprise, Sears was selling 500 for $179 and the 350 $299. It was clear Sears.com had reversed the retails. I chatted online with Sears.com and told the agent these prices were definitely reversed. She said no, they were correct. I challenged her and asked her to check further. After a long delay, the online agent responded that she had contacted the Sears.com national marketing department and they had confirmed the accuracy of the Sears prices shown online. She then offered to complete my order for the Slingbox 500 at the $179 price.
However, while I was waiting for the online agent to check the prices, I had already called Sears to locate an Slingbox 500 in a store near me; I wanted to buy it that day. I suspected that within days Sears would realize their incorrect prices and try to cancel my online order.
So, while the online agent was confirming these prices, the Sears national telephone agent searched five Sears stores near my zip code. All were sold out. As I had done with the online agent, I had a very candid conversation with the telephone agent telling her the details of the Sears pricing error. She also double-checked the prices and assured me they were correct as listed. She offered to complete my order for the $179 price in their system. I was still skeptical, so I specifically asked if Sears would be able to change the price after the order had been placed. She responded by saying unequivocally that once I received a Sears order confirmation the price would be honored and the order would be filled as the item was showing available in its system. I placed the order # 437087222.
On Tuesday, I received an emailed cancellation notice from Imran Jooma, SVP & President, Marketing (Imran@customerservice.sears.com) claiming the item was not available. This was exactly the opposite of what their sales agent had promised, but not a surprise. I immediately called Sears and spoke to two people including a supervisor named Katrina. She took all the information and promised to reply within 48 hours. No return call yet.
I also replied to Imran Jooma via email. He/she answered with more details, none of which is credible. Here is his/her reply:
We were unable to fill your order for the media slingbox, as it is not available to be shipped to your area at this time. Our website may still list the item as in stock for delivery to other regions of the country. We regret, at this time we are unable to transfer items between regions.
We regret to inform you that, we are unable to honor the same price for this item. The sale price listed on your order is part of a promotion that has now ended. The item price reflected in the cart is the correct price. However, for the inconvenience you have experienced, I will be glad to issue a 5% discount on your future purchase for the items sold by Sears and Kmart. If you place a new order, please reply to this email with your new order confirmation number, and we will gladly process a credit.
This is complete and utter hogwash. There was no promotion listed online. And they CONFIRMED AVAILABILITY! And, their pricing simply defies all logic. There is no way Sears would sell the $299 Slingbox 500 for $120 less than the lowest nationwide price. Plus, there is no rationale for them to list the older Slingbox 350 for $120 higher than the $179 nationwide price. This makes absolutely no sense even if they had the phantom promotion Jooma claims. We all know what is going on here. Sears cancelled my order (and probably many others, too) because they don’t’ want to own up to their pricing error. And this comes after I specifically asked to Sears agents Sears to double check their prices BEFORE I placed the order.
Now, there is a disclaimer on the bottom of my sales confirmation that “Sears shall not be held liable for error or omissions in pricing. In the event of an error, we will make every effort to accommodate our customers.” But, this is not what they are claiming. They insist their prices were correct, the item is just sold out in my part of the country, but they cannot ship to me from outside my region. Basically, we have it, but we just want to *** some more. So, what has Sears done for me after I contested this reasoning?
I got an email from Bowers A (aminiky) of Sears Customer Care. Under the guise of trying to “accommodate” a consumer that Sears has manipulated (shall we say screwed, manipulated, cheated, maybe defrauded?), they offered me a 5% discount on a new order for the Slingbox 500. The only problem is that the Slingbox 500 is now being offered at Sears.com for $462.20. With their gracious 5% discount, I have the unique opportunity to purchase the Slingbox 500 from Sears.com for $439.09. I can get it from J&R Music for $298…and they will actually ship the product for the price shown on their website. Can Sears even imagine that? Does Eddie Lampert approve of this “offer & cancel” policy his company is using? It’s a new version of “bait & switch”, but from ignorance.
Remember when El-Al airlines recently made a pricing error for online airfares? Instead of a fare of more than $1,000, they accidentally sold fares for something like $80. You know what they did? They honored the sale and got awesome PR for doing the right thing…and more importantly, they made a new bond with loyal customers. Sears is evidently choosing the other path to save $120. Amazingly ignorant people at Sears.
So, that big electrical generator I was going to buy at Sears, now way in the world I am buying it or ANYTHING else from Sears ever again. After all my years of Sears patronage, it is clear that not only are they too *** to get their pricing right even when a consumer shows them it’s wrong, they deliberately screw those loyal customers to thank them for the courtesy.
Product or Service Mentioned: Sears Website.
Monetary Loss: $299.