On 12 December 2005, we purchased a new central air system (external unit, i.e., compressor + evaporator/coil) from two Sears HVAC representatives (Mr. Steve Bryant and Mr. Chris May) after they came to our house and surveyed our AC system replacement needs. The unit was installed by a Sears contractor during the last week December of 2005. In the last three months, we placed at least three service calls due to the suction line leading to the compressor freezing up and the system shutting down. The same contractor came to our house at least three times but could not get the problem fixed. A second contractor was brought in and made two service calls; the problem only got worse, capped by a failure of the compressor unit. A third contractor (subcontracted by the second contractor) came in, only to leave without performing any service. He said he did not want get involved in any installation issues in a system that he did not help install.
Contractor No. 1 During the first service call, the freezing was blamed on clogged lines. In the next service call, the compressor fan speed was increased. We were also told to remove the high efficiency filters that cost us over $800 that the Sears HVAC salespeople also sold us. In the third service call, the contractor installed a thermostat and also found an obstruction in the furnace. The freezing continues. At point, we were told of a possible incompatibility of existing furnace with the new compressor. Had the Sears HVAC representatives informed us that the furnace might not work with the new AC system, we would have gone ahead and purchased a new furnace. With each service call, we had to wait at least 1-3 days before the contractor came.
Contractor No. 2. A second contractor was brought in. During his first service call (the fourth overall service call on the unit), he removed a damper that he claimed was impeding air flow. The following day, the line froze again, along with a high-pitched metallic sound from the location of the furnace, followed by the complete shut down of the system. They diagnosed the problem as being due to a failing blower and replaced the blower. This was service call no. 2 for contractor no. 2. After this contractor left, I notice that the blower was running, hot air was coming out of the vents, and I could hear the compressor violently going through start and stop cycles every 1 minute or so. I immediately called contractor no. 2, who has halfway to Mississippi at this time. Contractors No. 1 and 2 all were based in MS, about a two-hour drive to our location in Monroe, LA. Contractor no. 2 turns around, and diagnoses the system as low on freon, possibly due to a check valve that popped with all the freezing events. The following day, the compressor completely failed, i.e. would not start, and I detect the presence of oil-like stains on the pad as well as on the bottom of the unit . Contractor No. 3. After another series of calls to SEARS HVAC representatives, the New Orleans district manager assured me that a contractor would come in to fix or diagnose the problem. Contractor No. 3 told me that Contractor No. 2 called him to perform the service. After I showed him the oil film on the pad and on the bottom of the compressor unit, he told me he will not service the unit, explaining he wasn't involved in the installation process. To add insult to injury, he tried to sell me a complete system that would work. He runs his own heating and cooling business in the area, called "Discount Heating and Cooling." Marginal living conditions. Meanwhile, my family had to endure marginal living and sleeping conditions through the days and nights without a functioning air conditioner. We had to purchase a window AC for our master bedroom and two days later, a slightly bigger unit to reclaim part of our kitchen and living room. We are still limited to using about 25% of our 2,100 sqft house. Our normal family-centric activities have been severely interrupted. Our five year old child has had to sleep in with his parents. He also has allergies and has not responded well to such an environment.
Experience with SEARS representatives on the phone.
On Tuesday, May 23, I spent at least two hours on the phone (800-469-4663), trying to get my situation addressed by Sears HVAC representatives. I may have come across as an unsatisfied consumer, but I had the general impression that these representatives were rude. For example, I was referred to a person named Christine (Orlando). I tried to explain to her that we were unsatisfied with the system and would like our money back. She referred me to a Brian (New Orleans). After explaining my case to Brian, and my request to get our money back so that I can get an alternative system installed, he referred me back to Christine. At this juncture, please understand that I am now faced with the dilemma of further service calls or getting an alternative system installed. I felt we deserved a better service than what we were getting. The person named Christine sounded arrogant on the phone, claiming this could not be done in one day, at one point challenged me to go the legal route. Both Christine and Brian suggested that my furnace or something in my system is causing the freezing problems. I tried in vain to explain to these persons that I went by the recommendations of the Sears representatives when they sold me the system, thinking that they were professionals and that they surveyed my system before they sold me the unit. She then referred me to a resolution specialist. I again explained my situation. While the resolution specialist showed sympathy, I have been persuaded to let a different contractor (Contractor No. 2, see above) come in on Sunday to perform a load calculation and troubleshoot our system. He did not come that Sunday or the following Tuesday, claiming the New Orleans office gave him the wrong mobile number. As a direct result of a complaint I filed through the Better Business Bureau, a Shannon, identifying herself with SEARS legal department called me and asked "how do we resolve the problem." At first I though she would be the key to finally resolving my issues. However, Shannon is based in Orlando, while Brian is in New Orleans. Shannon would tell me on thing, while Brian would give me a different version. Time and time again I would request that I be refunded because I have not been satisfied with the whole thing. On June 9, I requested that I be refunded and that SEARS remove the unit from my property. At which point Shannon, rudely told me that "Mr. V, the compressor is a lemon, we are going to replace it." Brian then tells me that they are still trying to get approval from the manufacturer and that it will not be until next week.
Why we chose SEARS and why we are sorry we did.
When we bought our system, we felt good about Sears and I believed that the band represented a good quality product with good customer service. The line that said SATISFACTION OR YOUR MONEY BACK told me that this was the best option for my family. After this experience, I feel very differently. While the conflict resolution specialist came across as understanding my situation and made feel important as a consumer, the rest of the people I contacted were indifferent, at times arrogant, and did not represent what a good customer service should be. Throughout this whole process, we have been fairly patient, giving SEARS every opportunity to fix the problem. On the contrary, it only got worse, to be capped off by the mechanical failure of the compressor unit. We went by the recommendations of the SEARS Heating and Cooling representatives in the purchase of our new system. My recent phone calls have led me to believe that certain basic procedures like load calculation might not have been performed when the unit was sold to us. It appears that all of this unpleasant experience might have otherwise been avoided if such standard heating and cooling procedure was performed. We have lost confidence in the expertise of the SEARS contractors that installed and or serviced our system. Above all, the SEARS HVAC representatives that we have been in contact with appeared to be not in synch, giving different versions of events and expectations of delivering services. No person should ever be subjected to such a callous and arrogant treatment by customer service representatives. We made the purchase in good faith, but we are finding out in a rather sad way that when we needed SEARS to live up to its guarantee of satisfactory service, our good faith hasn't been rewarded.
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