Why is Sears playing markdown games with me?

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By Christopher Elliott

The washing machine Laurie Beane just bought from Sears is suddenly on sale. Why does the company want to return it in order to honor the new price?

Question

I’ve been without a washing machine for a few years and have been waiting for the best deal that I could afford.

I recently ordered a Kenmore 4.3 cubic foot Top Load Washer for $449. I had a Sears coupon for $35 off.

Imagine my frustration when Sears put the same washer on sale for $399 only 2½ weeks later. That was a slap in my face.

I called Sears and it said it would only price match for an item I’d purchased within seven days. Well, I did not ask Sears to match another competitor’s price after seven days, but their own. Why would Sears do that?

It makes me want to return this washer and go elsewhere. Strangely, a Sears representative said that was possible. I could return my washer for a full refund and purchase the same machine for $399. I can’t believe that Sears would rather have the washer returned.

All I asked for is the $50 credit and all would be well. I was planning on paying off the washer and getting the dryer to match. I have had medical problems that have left me on a fixed income. $50 is a lot to me.

Unfortunately, I do not see how Sears can afford just to throw away customers over $50. Please see what can be done or I will have to return the washer in the next few days. — Laurie Beane, Medina, Ohio

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Answer

I can see how you’d be frustrated. Nothing is more irritating than looking far and wide for the best deal, making a purchase, and then finding that you didn’t get the best deal after all. When money is tight, that really hurts.

I think Sears could have worked with you to find an acceptable compromise — perhaps a credit that could be used for that new dryer? I thought the offer to return the washer was a little odd, since you would have lost the price differential on delivery charges. But technically, they’re right. Sears has a 30-day return policy. (Related: Keep us posted on that refund.)

As far as the markdown games you’re referring to, that’s actually fairly common. Items go on sale all the time, and for all kinds of reasons. That’s why I advise a “don’t look back” policy on purchases. When you’ve bought something, stop shopping. Otherwise, you’ll find that someone got it for less, or worse, it’s become obsolete. (As a loyal Apple customer, I know the feeling all too well.)

You could have sent a brief, polite email to one of the Sears executives that I Iist on my site. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

I asked Sears about your case. Turns out that when you contacted Sears about the markdown, it did try to work with you. The company says it knocked $20 off the price of your washing machine after the price reduction. (Related: I canceled my Sears dishwasher order. But where’s my refund?)

“Generally a sale price markdown can be processed within seven days,” a representative told me. “Ms. Beane wanted the sale price nearly 3 weeks after the purchase. Nonetheless, I processed the $50.00 credit for Ms. Beane.”

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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