Well, it's been awhile since I've mentioned my elliptical machine, Sears, and how it's going (for background on this issue, see Sears Finally Gets It Right, But Ends Up "Ok" at Best in My Book; Fine with Mrs. FMF; You Decide Who is Right). As such, people following this issue might think that all is well. Well, it's not. I'm going to catch you all up on the situation in this post and also include a few tips I've learned from this whole situation.
I started out the last Sears post saying "it's finally over." But little did I know -- it wasn't over. It wasn't too long before the machine started to knock in the handle section when it was used at even a moderate pace. It got worse over time, so we called the repair service (we bought the service contract) and they came out on April 14. (BTW, when they set a day/time to come, they agree to a time RANGE, not a specific time. So the appointment is set for 8 am through noon instead of 10 am -- which means your whole morning is shot as you have to wait around for them to show up any time from 8 am through noon. Needless to say, my wife isn't crazy about this arrangement.) The diagnosis was that the machine was missing a couple of washers (the Sears guy who put it together missed them or something), so they ordered the washers to be sent to our house so I could put them on. Yep, you read that right -- I was going to do the repair myself. Great "repair" work, huh? Nice customer service. Real nice. (Is the sarcasm getting through?)
So the washers did arrive and when I put them on, I found another problem. When the Sears guy had assembled the unit, he tightened one of the handle bolts too tightly and it was now firmly imbedded in the housing -- there was no way to get it out to put on the washer. I knew this was not good.
But I did get a washer on the other handle's side, and it seemed like the machine did better. So I was hopeful that that was that.But after awhile, the machine started knocking again. I looked and the washer (BTW, I call them "washers" -- which are usually pretty solid -- but they're pretty flimsy/thin and I'm sure the technical term is something else) I put on had broken. They had sent me four of them, so I put another one on. It seemed to do a bit better, but not much. Then the washer broke again. The process repeated. I was getting frustrated to say the least.
Then it really started getting bad. The machine started knocking more. Then the console (the display that posts your rate of exercise as well as controls the difficulty level) would shut off randomly in the middle of a workout. Imagine going at a good pace at resistance level "6" and having the machine reset to "1". Know what that does to your body? It ain't pretty. And this happened several times in a one-hour workout. Very, very frustrating!!!
So we called the service line again. But the technicians were taking vacations (of course!) so when we called on July 25, the earliest appointment we could get was for August 9. Another vote for "great" customer service from Sears. Not!!!!
On August 9, we had a technician come out. He was supposed to come out from 8 am through noon and arrived at 12:10 pm. (Which is close enough to noon, but the point is that my wife had to wait all morning (and skip a special trip for my son at church -- she couldn't drop him off) for the guy to show up. Why couldn't they just say, "We'll be there at noon?" and save her a bunch of waiting.) More good customer service from Sears. Not doubled!!!!!
This time, I wanted to be there when he showed up. My wife called at 11 am and said he wasn't there yet, and I told her I'd leave work at 11:30 and drive home -- hopeful that he'd be there sometime when I was. I got home at 11:50 am and was there 20 minutes later when he showed up. It was good that I was too. Since I had been the "repairer" of the machine, I knew what was going on, what happened at each step of the process, and what I thought the problems could be. The technician agreed with my diagnosis (of both the washers/handles and console) and ordered the parts to repair the machine and replace the console. This time, while the parts will be sent to us, they will come out and fix it themselves. That's the good news. The bad news -- the repairs can't be done until August 23 (2 weeks from the visit).
Here's another bit of information you'll love. If you remember, we paid $400 for this machine and the service agreement. The cost for the parts on this trip alone (what we would have paid for the parts if we did not have the agreement) was $253.81. Add in what the repairmen would have charged for their first trip, this trip, and the upcoming one, and I'm positive that we would have paid well over the initial $400 in extra charges just to make this machine function as it was supposed to (not to mention the cost of the original model they had to replace completely). Unbelievable!
I'll keep you posted on what happens, but here are a few things I've decided based on this experience:
- I will always buy the service agreement when purchasing any exercise equipment. I talked to the technician and he told me that with ellipticals, even the higher-priced models need lots of service and that it's always worth it to get the warranty. As I wondered how Sears can make so much money on warranties (it's reported that the margins on these are very high for all retailer offerings on all sorts of warranties), I'm guessing that it's only a small percentage of people who use them -- not because the machine doesn't need work, but because people never get the chance to get to that point. After all, exercise equipment is notorious for being purchased, used slightly, then retired as a clothes hanger or other basement ornament. It's likely that the machines aren't used very much and thus can at least perform well for a short amount of time. So Sears just pockets the warranty money for the majority of machines sold.
- The quality of the technicians varies significantly. This second guy seemed to know what he was doing (or at least I thought so -- maybe just because he agreed with me!) but my wife said that the first guy was kind of clueless. It certainly doesn't help the situation if you have Barney Fife as your repairman, but I don't know what to do about it.
- The store you buy something from is just as important as what you buy. I'm not buying anything of value from Sears for a long time. The exception might be Craftsman tools, but even that's not likely. I just don't trust them. If they had taken care of us through the problems, I would probably have come out of this liking them MORE than before (because they went the extra mile to make it right). But they messed it up (and continue to do so). So my policy is to do business with a company you trust -- one you know will stand behind their products. Having a company back up what they've sold you is just as important (to me at least) as the item you buy. Hopefully, they'll both be good, but in those cases when you buy a dud product, all you have to fall back on is the reliability of the manufacturer (which will take FOREVER to get resolved -- if you can) and the retailer (who is much more likely to help -- if they are any good -- to keep you coming back).
Update: Here's an update to this post -- and it's not going well.