The blog of Chicago-based freelance writer David Johnsen.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Trials and Tribulations of the New Water Heater, Part II
Monday night we got an automated call from Sears informing us that a service representative would be here Tuesday "between 8 AM and 5 PM." So much for "Tuesday morning." Sheesh, at least the gas and phone companies can narrow it down to a four-hour window. After my 30-mile bike ride, I couldn't hold out from showering any longer, so I had to take a cold one. I did it "Hokey Pokey" style, thrusting one limb into the chilly water at a time. I'd liken it to banging my head against a wall -- the best part was how good it felt when I stopped.

On Tuesday morning, I awoke at 11 AM. Morning was almost over, and there had been no sign of the technician. At 4:55 PM the phone rang. It was the technician making sure I was home. Well, yeah, I've been here all freaking day. He said he was about 30 minutes away. When he arrived I led him downstairs. "Oh, I've never seen one of these in the field," he said. Lucky us, we're the first customers to get a defective model since it came out a few months ago.

After looking it over for 20 minutes, he said that one of two parts was bad. One of those parts would probably take a week to order, and the other one would take at least two weeks. Needless to say, one or two more weeks without hot water was not an option for us. He recommended that I call the store and ask them to install a new one. This was exactly what the installers told me would happen -- Sears would send out a technician who would confirm the problem and say it couldn't be fixed, and then they would be back at my house installing another water heater.

I called the local Sears store, assuming it would be reasonably easy to get a new water heater now that I had the official word from the technician. Well, maybe it would be easy if I could find the right person. My call got transferred at least five times. The last person listened to my entire story and said, "Sure, we can take care of that, let me put you through to someone..." After waiting on hold for upwards of 15 minutes, I hung up in disgust and redialed. This time I fared better, finding someone who actually dealt with water heaters. There was one problem: by this time it was 6:30 PM, which meant it was too late to contact an installer. He took my information and promised that someone would call me Wednesday shortly after the store opened. That made my chances of getting a replacement before Thursday slim, but I didn't have any choice. It burned me to know that if the technician had arrived in the morning as originally promised, I'd probably have a new water heater on Wednesday.

Instead, I awoke Wednesday to wait for a call from the local Sears store. An hour after the store had opened, I decided they weren't going to call me as promised. Sure enough, when I called them, no one had any record that I had spoken to someone the night before. The clerk was very helpful, though. He promised to call me within half an hour, and he kept his promise. Unfortunately, he only called to tell me he didn't have it sorted out yet. Apparently, replacing a brand new, defective water heater is a radical process that has never been attempted in the 121-year history of Sears. He called back in another hour to let me know he had figured it out. I had to give him my credit card number to purchase another water heater, but I should get a refund within ten days. He was going to fax my information to the installer, who should call me soon, and I should have my new water heater on Thursday.

Guess what? Now it's Thursday. I called the installer, who has no information about our impending installation. Bad sign. She said they don't handle faxes anymore as of Monday and told me to call Sears customer service. After getting put on hold and disconnected once, I got through to a human. He said my water heater should be installed tomorrow because he was putting a rush on it. Gee, it's about freaking time somebody put a rush on it. I was afraid I'd have to go down to their offices and flick my BIC under their butts. I still may have to "turn the place into a car wash," as my dad used to threaten. At least car washes have hot water.


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