Help! My dishwasher stopped working

Christopher Spark’s dishwasher breaks — and then it breaks again. Why won’t Sears help him fix it in a reasonable amount of time?

Question: I recently purchased a top-of-the-line Bosch dishwasher from Sears. A few weeks later, during the holidays, it stopped working. A service appointment was scheduled for early January.

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The day before my appointment, I received a call asking if I had received the parts that were being shipped to me. This was the first I’d heard about any parts coming my way, and no, I had not received them. The lady put me on hold for a while, returned to the line and said that apparently no parts were being shipped after all. That was a little confusing.

On the day of my appointment, I stayed home from work to await the service call. Later that morning, I received a call asking if the parts had been received. Again, I replied that I wasn’t aware of parts being sent, and had been told just the day before that no parts were on their way. The man put me on hold, returned and said that yes, parts had been shipped to me, but his UPS tracking information showed that they weren’t to be delivered until later that day. So I had stayed home in vain, and the service appointment was rescheduled for the following day.

The box of parts did indeed arrive that evening. The next day, a technician showed up and discovered that the tub itself was cracked and it was not a replaceable part. He felt it likely was damaged in the shipping process. He took some pictures, sent them to a consultant somewhere, who concurred with his diagnosis, and the decision was made that the machine should be replaced under the warranty.

I stayed home once again (third time now) the next day. The delivery truck did arrive in good time, and the crew brought the machine up to my unit, set it in the middle of my living room, and turned to leave. Only one of them spoke a little English, but I managed to communicate, “But what about installation? It was supposed to be installed.” No, he didn’t know anything about installation. If it was supposed to be installed, it would have been picked up by another crew. He showed me the order for delivery only, had no idea whom I should call, and knew nothing about anything.

So I started calling numbers I could find on the paperwork. One of them connected me with the local company Sears contracts with for installation. This lady said it definitely wasn’t her problem; I had to contact Sears, but the earliest available appointment they had for installation was the following week.
I finally reached someone at Sears. I spent over an hour on “hold” being transferred from person to person, having to start from the beginning with each new person.

Finally, I reached the right person and we made an appointment for a week later. I stayed home a fourth time, the technician arrived, installed the new machine, and hauled the old one away. All is well.
Except that all is not well. After using the machine, the door made a loud sound that the old machine never made — a very noticeable metallic “clank.” The contract says it’s a defect. Sears says the next available appointment isn’t until the end of the month.

No one will step up and take responsibility. I hear, “I regret that you’re unhappy,” but no one is willing to say, “We’re sorry, but Sears has made some major mistakes in handling your problem, and we’d like to make it right.” I guess it’s too much to hope for that someone actually cares about customer satisfaction and service quality. Thus far it’s been a series of passing the buck and ultimately, I am the one that will pay.
Christopher Spark, Alexandria, Va.

Answer: You bought a high-end dishwasher that shouldn’t have broken down. When it did, Sears should have promptly replaced it instead of subjecting you to a month-long odyssey of transferred phone calls and technicians.

Your Bosch dishwasher was covered under a manufacturers warranty. The way I read it, your cracked tub and broken door — both defects — should have been fixed at no cost to you. But the warranty and the information provided by Sears about its “flawless” German engineering is silent on how long it might take in the unlikely event something breaks.

Ah, details!

This is an exceedingly rare case. Bosch is one of the more reliable manufacturers (and heck, I’d own a Bosch dishwasher if I could afford one). So to find two defects, the way you did, is practically unheard of.

Sears should have found a way to ensure you were taken care of without forcing you to go through the rigamarole of calling a contractor, then Sears, and then being transferred around. It’s not entirely clear why this level of dysfunction is necessary to a repair a dishwasher.

I publish the names and phone numbers of Sears executives on my site. They might have been able to help you, but when I reviewed your correspondence, I decided you had suffered enough.
I contacted Sears on your behalf. Within a day, Sears had a technician at your house, and they believe they’ve fixed the problem — finally.

Who is most responsible for this mess?

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35 thoughts on “Help! My dishwasher stopped working

    1. Actually I find it a reasonable inclusion because Sears is responsible for servicing the appliance. If their customer service is rated poorly in the area where the LW lives then that should have been a factor in his purchase. Making a purchase is not only about the product but about service for the product–either warranty work and then replacement in this case or simply routine maintenance. I have not looked at ratings for Sears service in the are where the letter writer lives so I cannot speak specifically to that. I had a similar problem with this company in the 80s and have not made a major purchase with them since. Anyone can sell you a product, but service is the hallmark that makes a company stand out.

  1. I hope Sears makes the LW whole by giving him some type of compensation for all the hassle he’s been through. Even a $100 of store credit would go a long way towards showing some good will.

  2. The only thing I’ll want to add to this, is that, from experience, never buy “top of the line” of anything. Always buy the “second best” model. The top of the line models tend to be the newest, complicated products, that will often have issues or design problems. By the time a new “top of the line” product comes out, the old one would have all of its issues identified and changed, fixed, or adjusted, accordingly.

  3. Sears should have moved quicker on this. It should not have taken more than 2 visits to get this sorted out.

    I agree with Jim. The poll answer about buying from Sears is unnecessary and insulting. I think that you can do better than this.

  4. This was our exact experience with Sears “service” when we bought a refigerator about 10 years ago. Delays in getting appointments. Endless call transfers. Problems shipping parts. We will never buy anything form Sears again based on this.

  5. I had a similar issue with a brand new dryer that I got from Sears. Immediately after installation there was a problem the first time I used it. I called and they wanted to send a repairman. I wanted a new dryer – why would a want a brand new appliance repaired? They threatened to charge a “restocking” fee if I pursued a replacement. It took a direct call to the store manager weeks later before this was settled. I will never buy another appliance from Sears! Their lack of customer service is appalling.

  6. ive found a very effective was of dealing with poor customer service is twitter shaming. i send a tweet with the hastag for example #ATT directly to att using @ATT . i almost always get a responce within an hour or so. companies hate bad publicity and a tweet with their name in them is there for the whole world to see

  7. Sears is not the Company it used to be. After 2 instances of them not standing behind our agreements, I will never deal with them again.

  8. I’ve had a similar problem with Sears. Finally had to follow up with my credit card company. I’m whole again, except for the time I had to spend endlessly explaining the same thing over and over again.

    Though, to be fair, I don’t think that Sears is alone in this respect, but I do wonder how companies with such notoriously bad service manage to remain in business.

  9. The first sentence of the question is also the answer to the problem. “I recently purchased a top-of-the-line Bosch dishwasher from Sears.” When a company has one foot in the grave the first thing to go is customer service.

  10. I’ve given up buying big-ticket items from Sears. The hedge-fund baron running the outfit at the moment clearly has no interest in running a retailer; he just wants to slowly sell off the real estate. They’ve virtually stopped investing in their stores, customer service is abysmal, etc.

    They are in the Retail Death Spiral, and I don’t see them coming out alive.

    I might consider buying a name-brand appliance from Sears, but a Kenmore/Craftsman product that I won’t be able to get parts for once they go bankrupt? No way. (It’s kind of a shame too, as Sears has always been very good with selling parts to DIY-ers, and making full exploded parts diagrams available for every product for decades.)

    1. Yeah, the same guy who owns Sears (and is running them into the ground) also owns Kmart (ditto).

      We bought a lower-end Bosch dishwasher from American Furniture & Appliance several years back, to replace the Whirlpool that had originally been installed in our home when it was built in 1992. Took 2 visits from the installer but they finally got it in and working properly. And a couple of years later, American closed all their stores in STL.

      A couple years ago, we had to replace the original-to-the-house fridge. Looked at the big box retailers but decided to buy a high-end Frigidaire (I know, oxymoron) from a locally-owned appliance store. A year or so later, the store went belly-up. Shortly after that, we had a leakage problem inside the fridge, so we called a local repair company we’ve used before. Frigidaire wouldn’t pay for the repair because it was just out of warranty, so we paid $150 for the repair guy to tell us the water filter was leaking and we could just do without it. He sealed it up; we don’t have filtered water for our icemaker or dispenser, and the fridge is fine.

      1. Technically, KMart owns Sears, and the parent company renamed itself as “Sears Holding”, which is still publicly traded. Granted, it’s kind of sad what’s happening to a once proud brand name, but it’s a collective effort running it into the ground.

  11. I used to have a home full of Kenmore appliances that I could generally fix with Craftsman tools, and when that failed, I knew wonderful Sears technicians were a simple call away. That was the early 90s though, and after about five years of poor service from a brand I had been loyal to for three decades, I’m not surprised to see this story. Saddened, but not surprised.

  12. Sears, RIP. They are closing a store near me “to increase profitability.” When they close their last store, they will at last break even.

  13. Frigidaire/Electrolux has been manufacturing dishwashers using the Bosch name for several years now. When Bosch made Bosch products, they were definitely top of the line. Not so much anymore.

  14. I’ve given up buying major appliances from Sears for this very reason. In the Washington, DC area, this is typical service. There are other stores. At the same time, fixing appliances has become more complex and every repair seems to take 2 service calls, one to diagnose & order parts and a second to actually fix it. Count on a week to 2 weeks, assuming all goes well.

  15. “This is an exceedingly rare case. Bosch is one of the more reliable manufacturers (and heck, I’d own a Bosch dishwasher if I could afford one).”

    Bosch isn’t any more expensive than most other lines. They have entry-level all the way up to more expensive models. And this wasn’t really a quality issue since everyone seemed to agree the machine was damaged in shipping.

    1. Bosch is more expensive than other manufacturers. They do not make a low end $300 unit that I have seen, and their prices range from mid level to very expensive. Their dishwahers are quieter and supposedly more durable than others.

  16. Shipping parts directly to the customer seems to be the new norm. Can’t say I’m really a fan of it. A) The homeowner has no idea if they’ve received the proper part or not whereas the installation guy would immediately be able to tell. B) Plenty of opportunity for wires to get crossed like in this example. And if they never get a hold of you on the phone about the parts I guess they just have to send out the installer blind hoping the part arrived?

  17. Several years ago I had a similar situation with Sears and a dishwasher, but it was a top-of-the-line Kenmore. I had numerous service calls, parts delivered that didn’t fit and on and on. My husband finally contacted the Virginia Dept of Consumer Services (or what ever it’s called) and FINALLY I got a new dishwasher! I think they give the royal run around hoping that you’ll give up and go away. Now I have a Bosch and no problems!

  18. I’m pretty sure they would contract out the delivery and installation services, like most retailers do these days. Heck – even FedEx supposedly hires independent contractors for ground delivery, although they have to wear their uniforms and mark their vehicles.

    I bought a dishwasher a few years back along with a free installation special. The installer was an independent contractor, although the seller made good on the installation even with a few hiccups (three visits but where the wrong installation kit was delivered). It wasn’t Sears though. I’m kind of wary of anything with the Sears brand since they’re backing it and not the manufacturer.

  19. Had an old Kenmore dishwasher that failed. 20+ years old. Needed a new motor. Cost of repair exceeded the cost of a new dishwasher. Sears tech was excellent. Bought a new dishwasher from Sears. Had a problem with the door lock closing while the door was open. Could not close the door. Another Sears tech came. Said the problem was with the electronics as the microprocessor was causing the latch to close. Tech manually opened the lock. Nonsense about the microprocessor. Tech was blowing smoke at me. Next tech replaced the lock and all has been good since. Summary: was slow to get service, and techs have a wide range of competence. Sears can do better.

  20. I was fine with the first sentence until I got to “from Sears”. I bought a washing machine from Sears many years ago; the delivery guys did not speak English and refused to drive up my driveway. That was it for Sears at my house. It is worth a few extra bucks to buy from a locally owned and managed retail outlet, someone who cares about you as a customer. It’s kind of fun to take ONE day off to get things delivered, but after that it’s a royal pain. Just not worth it.

  21. I don’t understand why Chris contacted Sears. The letter writer didn’t ask him to contact Sears. I thought he just wanted to vent.

    1. he wanted to vent about not being able to get service? he was still trying to get a properly working dishwasher when Chris got involved.

      1. I guess that if I were writing to a consumer advocate and I wanted help, I’d say somewhere in the letter that I wanted help. The letter Chris printed here was just a list of complaints without any request for help.

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