Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sears: into everything imaginable, including fraud

This just blew me away. I received a letter in the mail from Sears Canada the other day, which was headed AGREEMENT OFFER and looked very much like a legitimate invoice. It read:

Thank you for the interest you have shown in our Sears Protection Agreement Program. During our recent conversation, you manifested the wish to receive detailed information on our products and the type of Protection Agreement coverage we can offer you. This information has been outlined for you below, including the cost for each item listed. If you are interested to give yourself peace of mind, please check the plan coverage you prefer, specify the method of payment and return the signed form.

The 'coverage' offered is insurance to extend the warranty on "EXERCISE EQUIP" worth $1000-$1499, at a cost of $108.94. I was instructed to detach the lower part of the form, sign it, date it, include my credit card number, and then I would have insurance (and "peace of mind"!) on my 'exercise equip' until June 3, 2013. Sounds great! However, there's just one teeny tiny problem:

- I had NO recent conversation with Sears (no phone call, no email, no letter, no personal contact with a sales rep.).

- I expressed NO interest (or for that matter, "manifested the wish") for information about product insurance or extended warranty. Since when does anyone in the business world use a phrase like that anyway? Maybe "manifested the wish" means the "conversation" was conducted using psychic mind powers. While both parties were asleep.

- (and here's the beeeyootiful part) I PURCHASED NO EXERCISE EQUIPMENT WORTH $1000-$1499 within the last year.

I phoned Sears Customer Service and (after getting transferred about five times) was told that it’s standard practice to phone customers when their product warranties are about to expire, and offer them extended insurance coverage. Fair enough. Further, she informed me, if and when customers do not answer their phones, it is standard practice for Sears to send out the form letter saying, “During our recent conversation…”

Heck, never mind that it’s a bold-faced lie!

Call me obtuse, but it’s not technically, legally or morally a “conversation” if one party doesn’t pick up the phone, and the other party doesn’t even leave a message on the answering machine. She said that Sears phoned me in late May, 2011, because the warranty on my exercise cycle (purchased last June) was about to expire. Except that I didn’t purchase one, and I told her so.

The fact is, I DID purchase some exercise equipment last year: a pair of weighted gloves. Worth $14.99. As far as I know, the gloves had no warranty, but if they did, I wouldn’t pay nearly $110 to extend it. I asked how the exercise bike got onto my records. She said it was “an error” and apologized.

Yah, sure.

I’m much more inclined to think it’s standard practice. I told her that what they are doing borders on fraud. I can only imagine how much money Sears has extorted from forgetful seniors by using this method. “Peace of mind,” for crying out loud? If that’s not deliberately calculated to bamboozle vulnerable elderly folk, I don’t know what is. Scumbags.

Greatest irony of all? Sears has a "Fraud Prevention" page on its website. I quote:

They even provide a link to the Government of Canada Anti-Fraud Centre.


Maybe I'll mosey on over and complain about Sears and their sketchy insurance racket. And maybe ask my brother the lawyer to send Sears a letter. I wonder how they might react to a threatened lawsuit for attempted fraud, lost productivity (I've already spent several hours of my life ranting to my husband and/or assorted relatives, phoning Sears, and writing this blog post) and --of course-- mental anguish (I'm sure being royally pissed off qualifies).

I will, of course, offer to settle out of court. For $110 or so. Because I'm interested to give myself peace of mind.


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