I recently attempted to buy a couple pairs of jeans from Sears through their Web site, an attempt which failed spectacularly, as did my attempts to get Sears to fix it. Also, it turns out that not only does Sears spam people who order through their Web site, but they keep doing it after they’ve been asked to stop, and they intentionally format their spam to evade spam filters. Read on if you want all the details…
I ordered two pairs of regular Levi’s 501 jeans from their Web site. Both pairs were the same size; the only difference between them was the color.
A week later, two pairs of jeans were delivered, but neither of them was the one I ordered. One pair was simply the wrong size, and the other was shrink-to-fit rather than regular, which means that the size was wrong for that pair as well, since shrink-to-fit jeans need to be ordered in a larger size.
I immediately sent a message to the Sears customer service department through the Web site, explaining that they had sent me the wrong products and asking how to return them at their expense. A couple of days later, I got back a form letter, generated either by a bad computer program or a person doing a good imitation of one, explaining how I could return products at my expense if I was dissatisfied with them.
I sent a strongly worded response in which I made it completely clear that it was obviously, completely unacceptable to expect me to pay for the shipping to return products which had been sent to me incorrectly. No one ever responded to that email.
After waiting about a week for the response that never came, I picked up the phone and called their toll-free customer service number. I reached a friendly, seemingly helpful woman who agreed that I obviously should not be expected to pay return shipping for incorrect items. She told me that she would arrange for UPS to come pick up the items to be returned to Sears at their expense, and that said pick-up would happen within a few days. She said that I would receive a refund for both the jeans and the original shipping charge.
A week later, when I’d still heard nothing from UPS, I called again and asked what was going on. This time, I was told that the woman I’d spoken to a week ago had not entered the return order correctly and therefore it had not been processed. She reentered it and assured me that the jeans would be picked up. She also assured me again, when I asked, that the original shipping charge would be refunded to me. (See where this is going?)
Amazingly, the jeans were picked up by UPS a few days later, and a few days after that, a refund showed up on my credit card. Unfortunately, only the cost of the jeans, and not the shipping charge was refunded, and I had to call Sears yet again to get the shipping charge refunded as well. That’s a total of five interactions with customer service at Sears, just to arrange to return products which they should never have sent me in the first place.
Meanwhile, while all this was going on, shortly after I placed the jeans order with Sears, they sent me bulk email. Although it ticks me off that companies return the favor of a new customer’s patronage by spamming him, I’ve come to accept it as a fact of life, so I give Web merchants one “free pass,” as long as they provide a mechanism for unsubscribing and it actually works.
Well, it didn’t. I unsubscribed on January 13, by clicking on the link in the spam. They spammed me again January 14. Then they spammed me again on February 2. And when I logged into their Web site and checked my profile, I discovered that the “Yes, please spam me” checkbox was still checked, despite the fact that I had told them on January 13 to unsubscribe me. (I unchecked it, but who knows if it’ll actually work.)
After all that, I noticed this text that appeared at the bottom of each of the spam messages: “This is an a d v e r t i s e m e n t.” See the spaces interposed between the letters in the word “advertisement?” That’s because that word is a trigger for spam filters, and Sears doesn’t want their to be blocked by those filters.
It is astounding that a supposedly reputable merchant like Sears would employ the same tricks as penis enlargement hucksters for evading spam filters — subscribing people without their permission, unsubscribe links that don’t actually work, and structuring their spam to evade spam filters.