Why is Sears playing markdown games with me?

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.

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

8 thoughts on “Why is Sears playing markdown games with me?

  1. I don’t see how Sears marking down the price 20 days later is a slap in the LW’s face. She seems to have taken the event, completely unrelated to her, as personal. Also, it is likely Sears would not have accepted her coupon on the sale price. So, the trade in (not counting shipping) would have left her “loss” at $15. Since they were offering her $20 anyway, she was already $5 ahead. Well, she ended up with what she wanted, though I don’t think she deserved it. Hats off to Sears on this one.

  2. While it may well be the established “rules” that (1) subsequent price reductions may be granted up to 7 days after purchase, and (2) full refunds may be given up to 30 days after purchase, Ms. Beane illustrates the absurdity of the rules. That is, by permitting full refunds for 30 days, consumers effectively have a mechanism of obtaining subsequent price reductions for 30 days after purchase by returning the first item and then buying it back at the reduced price (well, at least for non-consumed goods). In doing so, consumers may well have to physically bring the purchased item back to the store in order to re-purchase it, in order to comply with the Sears-adopted rule, but that rule is absurd because bringing an item into and out of Sears has no net benefit to anyone. Indeed, such physical back-and-forth increases the likelihood of injury and harm to society to the extent that it induces unnecessary travel, and we all know that there are real risks in automotive travel (some 35,000 fatalities per year), as well the risk to the individual consumer for injury in moving around large bulky items (damage to the goods, and possibly a hernia) Sears may have the right to demand the consumer to physically bring in the items for which a price reduction may be granted, and process a pair of return-and-new-purchase transactions, but it seems to me that the wise Sears manager would see the absurdity of it all, and just process the requested pair of transactions in the absence of the physical presence of the goods.

  3. When the LW called the sale price a slap in her face, to me that flagged her as someone that probably would be difficult / unreasonable to deal with. The coupon probably had restrictions on it or expired before the sale started. Many stores will have a coupon sale, then when that is done have a sale were products are on sale for the same price as the coupon sale.

    For a big box store, a seven day price match is a little short. Most stores have 30 day price match. Maybe that is one of the reasons why Sears is considered a store that will no longer exist in a few years. The original offer they made of a $20 credit was reasonable The fact Sears increased it to $50 when they did not need to, they went above and beyond what they needed to do.

  4. So, I guess any time a merchant places an item or items on sale it is a slap in the face to anyone who bought them before they went on sale? Give me a break. Some companies have a policy that if you find the item you want in their store that some other company has on sale, if you provide proof of it, it will match the price. Some places like Frys have a policy that if you purchase something from it and the item goes on sale within a certain time period after that, you can claim the difference and it will be refunded to you. Stores have varying policies concerning purchases. I see that as giving some people who made recent purchases a break. Many stores do not. That is NOT a slap in the face by any means.
    One can sit around and wait forever for a sale on an item. Sometimes the item will go on sale and often, it may not or the price may even increase. Then the item eventually is gone (sold out/discontinued/whatever) and one is still waiting – without!
    She is lucky Sears gave her a break.

  5. Sometimes, I feell like OPs take things too personally as if Sears was out to get her. I can appreciate the goal of getting the best price, and I agree it is frustrating to see it lower soon after purchase. But over weeks, holiday sales, seasonality, new versions of products, etc. all which affect price. Try to buy at a price you are happy with and look back with a “no lose” scenario. If they offer help, great, if not, oh well. Try to seek reasonable accomodations and goodwill (i.e. perhaps a giftcard instead of money back).

    One thing readers may be interested in is credit card price protection. Many cards (including no-fee cards like Chase Freedom or any Mastercard or Discover) now have this feature where they will refund you the price difference as much as 90 days later. Some do require a bit of work, but for large purchases it is totally worth it. See the table at the bottom here for more info: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/3-tips-using-price-protection-perk-1273.php

  6. Chris, I know you get a lot more letters asking for help than you and your staff can handle. Why on earth, then, did you take a case like this — a woman who believes that she is above and beyond the concept of limited-time-only sales? She’s either trolling this site, or has more than a consumer issue on her hand if she internalizes the concept of Sunday sales and thinks that corporations plot such activities just to ‘slap her face’.

  7. I’m sorry I missed this one while I was out…

    I just can’t get this mental picture out of my head…

    The scene: Hoffman Estates, IL, in the Super-Secret Level 20 Sub-Basement of Sears HQ.

    A ghoulish Gollum-Like person wearing a suit sits hunched over a computer, skin almost bleached white due to lack of sunlight. (Though the suit is REALLY clean, because this particular person works Appliance Marketing.)

    “Bwahahahahah!!!! I see we recently sold a washing machine to [OP]! Because I am gratuitously evil, even though the circulars are planned months in advance for logistics reasons, I think I’ll order a re-print the entirety of next week’s supplement in order to personally vex OP, who I have lured into my trap of buying something Not On Sale!!!! Taking fifty bucks off the price will show her that I’m PERSONALLY monitoring her purchases and making sure that she becomes upset because we had the temerity to… wait for it… Reduce The Price on something.”

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