Sales at Sears. They don't honor the sales price. Complain or just live with it?

Hello everyone,
I am usually not one to complain or make a big deal out of something, but a recent experience at Sears has really got me irritated. Enough so that I actually wrote a email to the Consumerist, which I have pasted below as it explains the situation and I am too tied to retype the story. The reason I am posting this question here is to ask if there is anything that I can reasonably do to force Sears to honor what they advertised or should I just chalk it up to experience and let it go. More than anything I am irritated because it seems like Sears intentionally deceived me and others. Is this illegal? I realize it’s only a few hundred dollars and not a big deal in the scheme of things, bit it isn’t right. Okay, if you are interested, read my email below and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Hello,

I am writing to hopefully shed some light on what I believe is a very deceptive advertising ploy used by Sears. For years I have dreamed of having my own workshop, one that I didn’t have to share with the kids bicycles and last year’s Christmas decorations. About a year ago my wife and I purchased a home on five acres that had a free standing workshop. I spent the last few months rebuilding the structure to make it the dream shop I had always wanted. I was finally ready to outfit the interior and spent months researching cabinets and workbenches trying to find the nicest ones I could and still stay within my budget. My wife knew that I was a member of Sears Craftsman Club, where membership gains you access to special “insider” deals not available to the general public. She scanned the Craftsman Club ads and found that Sears was advertising all of their Craftsman garage storage products 25% off for one week only for Craftsman Club members. I was very excited as I didn’t think that I would be able to afford Craftsman storage cabinets and workbenches for my workshop.

I planned out my purchase in great detail, visiting the local Lakeland, FL Sears store several times in the weeks leading up to the big sale. I wrote down all of the cabinet and workbench prices and agonized over how to get the most for my dollars. I figured out exactly how much each piece would cost after applying the 25% discount. Finally the big day came and I was literally the first customer in the in the store that morning. The salesman in the tool department smiled and greeted me, recognizing me from my previous trips to the store when he helped me plan my dream workshop. With the salesman in tow I carefully picked out each item on my list knowing that I was on a strict budget. After picking out the items I went to the counter where my salesman friend rang up the sale. I was thinking how amused he would be as he went to give me the total and before he could tell me I would quote it to him, down to the exact penny. With everything entered in the computer he turned to me and said that will be $1358. Excuse me? The total he gave me was several hundred dollars more than the total I had figured out. How could that be? I told him that wasn’t right and reminded him of the 25% off Craftsman Club deal. No problem he told me, lets take a look at the receipt and find out what is going in.

We went through the receipt line by line and he confidently told me that everything was correct. I wasn’t so sure, so I pulled up the calculator in my phone and went through the receipt. After computing the figures three times I declared that there was a serious problem. Each item did indeed have a Craftsman Club discount, yet the discount was only 6.25% and not the 25% that was advertised in the brochure on the counter right in front of us. How can that be? Oh, that was simple he explained. The 25% off was taken of of the "full"retail price, not off of the advertised and clearly marked store prices. So that large Craftsman storage cabinet that was priced at $238 was not going to cost me $178.50 like I had thought. Instead I was billed $224.25 because the “full retail price” was $299. How was I supposed to know that, that what the price that the store was selling the item for the last few weeks wasn’t the price that was supposed to be used in planning my purchase?

I turned my attention to the sales brochure reading every single line and all of the “mice” print. No where did it say that the special Craftsman Club discount of 25% was to be taken off the “full retail” price. I went to the display items and no where did it indicate that the price listed was not the full retail price. For the four or five times I came into the store in the weeks prior to the sale and discussed my wish list and the upcoming sale with the salesman was I never told that the 25% discount was not to be given on the prices the store showed for the items. I pointed this out to not only to the salesman, but to the tool supervisor. I said that not only was this pricing difference not mentioned in the ad, but that it is very misleading and wondered out loud if it was illegal.

Then I got a shock. Doug, the tool area supervisor told me that this happens all the time and he has had to deal with many very upset customers over this issue. He then told me that he has even brought this up in store meetings. He was told that Sears lawyers have reviewed it and there was nothing illegal about this practice. Doug then agreed that it was unethical and misleading to customers. He was very nice, very patient with me and seemed to agree that the situation wasn’t right. But, he confessed that his hands were tied and he didn’t have the authority to discount the items as they should have been. I told him that I would like to speak to the store manager. He told me that he would be more than happy to get him, but assured me that nothing would come of it and I would be wasting my breath and time. He recounted many instances of customers arguing the same point, with each encounter ending exactly the same way. The store manager claiming that the store prices are not what the discount is based on and there is nothing he can do about it.

By this time I had been in the store for over two hours. I was very tired, having not slept well the night before, and quite frustrated from pleading my case and not getting anywhere. So, I reluctantly paid the total he gave me as there wasn’t much else I could do. I got the cabinets and workbench that I wanted, but now will have to make cuts in other areas to make up for the additional cost. I feel that Sears intentionally is misleading their customers and hope that by writing you I can save someone else the eye opening experience I went through. In the end I still got the items I wanted and I did get a small discount off of what I would have paid without the sale, but not nearly at the price I had been lead to believe. Shame on you Sears, you were once the name that could always be trusted. Now I can no longer shop at your stores with the confidence I once had.

Sincerely,
Obbn
Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android

IANAL, but, based on your description, it seems like you have the makings of a very serious, multi-million dollar class action suit. And based on your relationship with the store, and what appears to be your polite, careful and respectful examination of the situation, not to mention your willingness to spend mucho bucks, I’d say the store should treat you carefully and refund the difference. Maybe a polite but strong letter to upper management is in order, and a class-action lawyer might want to take the case on consignment.

Or, you could return everything and shop somewhere else. Sears isn’t the only game in town.

Personally, I hope you sue the pants off of the bastards and gain enough to buy the whole store.

If the club agreement doesn’t have wording to the effect that the 25% will only come off of the regular retail prices and won’t be combined with club discounts, I hope you sue them and win, too.

I’m not sure about my opinion one way or the other yet, but something you should probably do is go take a cell phone picture of the shelf tags. As I was reading what you wrote, I figured, somewhere in your letter, it would say “Sure, in fine print, the tag said ‘Reg $129.99’” At which point I was going to mention that it’s almost always the case that you get the larger discount (which you did). But if the items don’t appear to be on sale, that’s different.
In fact, I’d suggest, you get a picture of the shelf tag to show that there’s no “Regular Price” or “15% Off” or “SALE!” on them and that they do, in fact, just look like normal shelf tags, but that you also take a picture of the general area so that someone who looks at the area can see that the entire section/aisle/those items don’t appear to be on sale.
You might even keep them to yourself so that if someone from Sears does respond and say “No, the shelf tag said …” or there was a special on those items it was hanging from the ceiling etc then you can pull out the pictures and ask them to point it out.

Sears still exists? News to me.

They still exist, but IMO have gone way downhill since they combined with K-Mart (nominally separate chains but same overall ownership, and you can now find Sears brand items in K-Mart stores).

The original “Discover” card was simply a re-badged “Sears. Roebuck & Co.” card - in the early 1980’s Sears (and others) decided that retail was not their future - Financial Services were. Toward that end, retail was assigned “cash cow” status - and it quickly showed. I have a few 1960’s Craftsman wrenches - they are nice wrenches - the crap they now sell doesn’t come close.
In Sears bought OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware - once a nice home-improvement chain - better quality than you’d find at HD.
The result was surreal - Kennedy toolboxes being discounted to make room for Craftsman garbage.

Oh - According to Wiki, it was actually written up as K-Mart buying Sears. Go read the wiki article - scary stuff - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears

Oh - about returning stuff to the new, improved Sears - they now charge a 10% re-stocking fee.

And forget lawyers - they have more of them than you could hire, and I can assure you that, should you read the verbiage of that “Club” agreement, you will find that the contract shall be interpreted according to the laws of XX state - and the laws of XX state are quite business friendly.

Give it up, throw away your club card (and any remaining fond memories of Sears, Roebuck, & Co.

If your facts are as solid as you say, and you have incontrovertible pix of the shelves, a local news service might be interested. Any ombudsmen in your neck of the woods?

…and Lands’ End has gone downhill since Sears bought them.

Sears is snakebit, toxic.

obbn, what agency in your state is responsible for consumer protection? Atty General’s office or something? You should contact them. This is unbelievably cheesy.

Tip: Edit your letter down a bit; more summary, less background and personal detail. Use headings Summary, then Details. Just a suggestion.

I won’t buy tools from Sears anymore. Craftsman is not what it used to be.
This recent article was more salt in the wound.

That sounds exactly like some experiences I’ve had with Sears, except on a larger scale. They do seem to have, “Scam the customer as much as possible” as their business model.

I’ve not set foot in Sears since they sent my Sears mower to Austin from North Little Rock, Arkansas to repair the pull start, and made me speak with someone in Pago-Pago who refused to accept anything save $500 to repair every possible thing that was wrong with it, and tried to make me pay more than the $35.00 fee when I refused.

Is this really legally actionable? IANAL, but I was under the impression that store prices can say basically anything on the shelf, and the store does not have to honor them at the register. A company who regularly did that would go out of business in short order, which is why it isn’t a widespread practice. But the counterargument is, you didn’t HAVE TO purchase anything from them that day. When you found out about their pricing shenanigans, you could have walked out and bought from another store. In fact, you really *should *have done so. Retailers who engage in frequent skulduggery between the shelf and the register should be forced out of business because people take their business elsewhere. But I don’t think there’s any legal basis for a claim against them. You knew what you were paying before you paid it, and you still chose to pay it. It’s shitty, though, and you should definitely get the media involved if you can.

Not sure if it’s still the same but years ago I worked in a medium size store in Pennsylvania someone came in grabbed a manager then grabbed items off the shelves and scanned them to make sure prices where the same as on the shelves. We then had a little paper we hung up. For the life of me I forget the name of the state agency who did this.

Thanks for the responses. To be clear I am not the “I should sue everyone who I think has done me wrong” type, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being mislead. So I headed here to the SD to see if anyone thought I was being a moron for complaining. To those that said I should have walked away and bought elsewhere, you are probably right. I guess the only reason I didn’t is that I really wanted these Craftsman storage cabinets. They are top of the line and match all of my Craftsman roll around tool chests. Yeah, I know it’s a garage, not a Martha Stewart living room, but those of you that spend a lot of time in your garages and workshops know how I feel. There is something about having beautiful matching tools and accessories.

I like some of the ideas here and I am going follow through on a few. I plan on tomorrow making a verbal complaint to corporate and then finding out who handles consumer affairs here in Florida and make a complaint. I don’t think either will do much, but it will make me feel life I did something.

As far as Sears goes, when I was a kid Sears was THE store you went to for the best stuff. Now not so much except in my opinion tools. I am a Craftsman man, just like my father. I will admit that their tools lack the same quality of the type my father and grandfather purchased (I still have some of my dad’s and grandfather’s Craftsman tools and the still work good as new. I have noticed that not everything they carry is American made any longer, but they still have a solid feeling of quality to them, especially compared to ones from places like Harbor Freight. Also, this is the first time I’m my adult life, over 25 years of buying tools from them, that I have ever had a problem that want resolved. One of the biggest reasons I continue to shop Sears for my tools and yard equipment is that Sears has ALWAYS made things right if there was a problem. Even months and sometimes years after the sale Sears would make good on a broken item without question. It is really very sad to see another great American institution becoming a shell of it’s former self. I swear I think I was born at least forty years too late. I missed America in her prime, only catching the tail end and living through the decline.

/old guy rant off

Well, there goes Doug’s job.

It sounds deceptive but I don’t know how serious since the club is free to join and you did get an extra discount (although not what you expected). They probably have a “fall tool sale” sign somewhere that covers everything. You might check their online store. They have more sales. You could potentially take everything back, buy online and pick up in the store for free for cheaper.

If a store that is not a discount store sells an item at a “sale” price, that store must sell the item for its full price for a certain amount of time, or it can’t call it a “sale” price.

Now I think this is a federal law–or guideline, or trade practice or whatever. It is considered deceptive pricing. So what you might need to prove is that the sales price listed was not in fact an “on sale” price because the item was either never ever listed for sale there at the “full” price, or it wasn’t listed at that price for long enough.

{That is if Sears isn’t calling itself a discount store, though. They don’t ever have to offer the item at the non-sale price.)

What you will probably run into is legions of lawyers who will obstruct your finding out if the item was ever offered for sale at the top price, and for how long. Somewhere, there is somebody who knows. But that person is being paid by Sears.

Oh, look.

Typically if the floor price is not a full retail price there is some indication on the sales tag or a sign posted near the merchandise indicating that it is a discounted price.

You’re saying there was no notice of this kind?