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January 29, 2008


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Well, Mr. Lewis was ousted as CEO, so you might want to change the heading.

Aside from that, I think this is an excellent, concise letter that proposes a solution to the problem.

Firstly, love your site!

Secondly, not sure if you read the consumerist, but they often put up Executive Customer Service numbers. Most companies have these now. They are cust. service depts run right from the CEO's office and they have full power to personally take care of you. I'm sure if you called them, they will probably resolve your problem immediately, faster than sending a letter.


Good letter. I would also be sure to CC the manager of the local store.


Just a bit of healthy (I think) paranoia:

Have you considered the risks of sending this letter or run it by a lawyer?

I doubt Sears would have any legitimate cause of action, but then I'm not a lawyer myself. I'm just saying if it were me, I'd run it by someone.

One thing your letter would give them the ability to do is reveal your identity as the blogger behind this site. I don't know if that would really cause you much harm, but I assume you have your reasons for being reluctant to reveal your identity thus far. Either way, given the readership of the site, they might see it as a public relations situation to be handled. If you think they'll act in good faith, I'd add something to your letter about how you'd appreciate them respecting your privacy as the owner of the blog should they wish to issue a press release or anything like that. If you're not convinced they'll act in good faith, leave out the name of the site but still say it's a personal finance blog with 6000 readers a day.

Then again, maybe I'm over-analyzing a bit.

Someone this reeks of blackmail.

It's great that you have a blog and can rant about a bad product, but you are wielding your "power" in a very personal, self-serving way.

That's not why I read your blog!

Somehow this reeks of blackmail.

It's great that you have a blog and can rant about a bad product, but you are wielding your "power" in a very personal, self-serving way.

That's not why I read your blog!

EChris --

FYI -- I put this in because someone suggested I do so in the last post.

Do you think they're more likely to respond with or without it?

Definitely check Consumerist, like Asish said. Use the contact info for Sears to launch and Executive Email Carpet Bomb (search EECB on consumerist). You won't regret it.
Good luck!

I'd go without the blog reference in the letter. To me it reads like blackmail, and if I were a Sears representative I'd be resentful of your attempt to bully me and less inclined to help you. You have a real problem that needs to be addressed, so I don't see that it's necessary to hold this over their heads in your letter. Simply ask that they take care of you because of your experiences. If nothing comes of it THEN you can pull out the trump card and mention the blog. Doin so provides an avenue to get results should this process take additional action.

On a side note, while referencing your blog is beneficial to you, it has the opposite effect for the thousands of readers you reference that don't have this card to play. There's little we can gain from this experience as we can't emulate your actions and determine how it might be adapted to fit our own needs.

You could always print a copy and give it to the store manager, giving him/her one last shot.

I would also recommend going just above the store manager's head to the District Manager. They see a bigger picture (or at least they're supposed to :) ). I'm a DM myself and you'd definitely get your money back if you approached me with this problem. Unfortunately for you, I'm not a Sears DM!

I would change the first line to

"On February 3, 2006, I purchased a XXX model elliptical trainer from Sears"

I would say to change the blog reference to just a generic one but then they might not believe you. Not sure how to handle that one. I would also think about giving the store manager another chance.

I agree with leaving the blog reference out and to specify which model elliptical trainer.

Also, I'd drop "(though I won’t ever buy exercise equipment there again.)" It's negative and you want to end on a positive note.

This isn't black mail. I think it quantifies the "If you don't give me what I want, I'll post it on the internet!" threat that some unhappy consumers make, but never follow through with, and if they do, are relegated to some far corner of the digital world where the complaint will have no impact.

The letter clarifies that not only has the issue already been posted on the internet, but that it has made a very significant impact. It's not blackmail. It exemplifies the old adage that while a happy customer may recommend a product to a few people, an unhappy customer will denounce it to this case, many many more.

This isn't blackmail, it's just quantifying the gravity of the situation, showing that resolving this issue is just as important to the customer as it is to Sears.

It's only blackmail if you make a threat to do something bad to the other party unless the other party does what you want.

Since regular updates of the Sears elliptical have already been posted on the blog, (along with the proposed letter) it's no longer blackmail. The cat is already out of the bag. FMF is not making a threat, he's only giving Sears the chance to do some damage control after the fact.

I read Jesse's comment, but I have to say that I still think the approach is wrong. Smacks of "Do you know who you're messing with , Do you know who I am?!"

The difference between the average Joe saying he will post a rant/complaint and what is happening here is that, in this case, the blogger is threatening to badmouth another party...will the other party have a (reasonable) chance to present their side of the story? Who knows? Maybe there is more to this story--another side to this story--than we are reading...

In any case, I think the first 3 paragraphs of the letter are perfect, as is the last. I would send this sort of truncated letter instead, perhaps with a more ambigious threat about what you might do if you are not pleased with their answer.

But whatever you do, you should REMOVE this blog post because you are really no longer just threatening to post the letter and badmouth this are already doing it. (If I was the guy in charge of settling your case and I read this blog, I would think you are dishonest, making me question the facts in your letter and, then, ignore you.)

I don't see how FMF posting or sending this letter and threatening to post it online is anything other than free speech. He is simply stating what happened to him and wants to share the experience with others - positive or negative. I would bet every one of us does this nearly every day of the week, albeit on a much smaller scale.

As far as the actual letter itself, I would put the exact model # in the first paragraph. Everything else seems fine.

EChris --

I don't get your last paragraph. If I should delete this post then I should also remove ALL my posts regarding Sears, right? There are probably 5-10 negative ones on this site.

I also think you should leave out the mention of your blog, but to me the issue is not whether or not it's blackmail. It's more about giving Sears the chance to fix your problem because it's the right thing to do, and not just because they are scared of negative publicity.

I would include the model number as has been indicated. I would completely remove the 4th paragraph, it is not necessary, I am not sure it is blackmail, but it is not needed at this time.

Also remove " (though I won’t ever buy exercise equipment there again.)"

This is also not needed.

Send the letter with the model number included and eliminate the above and you will receive a credit from Sears or a full refund.

The part about how many people read the blog comes across a bit like blackmail, I might not emphasize that so much. Also I would go into more detail as to why the previous credit offered was unacceptable and the full refund is a reasonable request on your part

Sorry to double post, but I just read some of the other comments regarding the "blackmail" issue. Whether or not it actually is blackmail is beside the point. The paragraph comes across as harsh and threatening, and a natural human reaction would be to become defensive. It doesn't hurt to mention that you have a hard time recommending their products give your experiences, but don't emphasize so much how large your audience is. Keep in mind that while perhaps they should give you a refund, they really don't have to. If you really want the refund I would recommend taking a more pleasant tone, while still being firm and about what you want and why you deserve it.

It's free speech, no issue there. (So is calling your neighbor a jackass behind his back.) But I don't think it's the courteous thing to do.
And, yes, I think FMF should pull all of the posts that speak poorly of Sears until the thing is settled, one way or another. Otherwise, the *threat* that he implies in his letter to Sears is not honest--it is, in fact, no longer a threat but (because of these posts) it is already a reality.

Here's another approach, FMF. Why not take the credit towards another elliptical and just get another one (but do not open the box), and then return that one for store credit? You need not explain exactly why you are returning it...just that you "got it and now decide you want something else". I don't think there is an ethical problem in this approach. (But I welcome your feedback!)

Kevin and EChris, there are lots of things that you can say that are covered under free speech but aren't really advisable. I can call someone all sorts of obscenities and it's completely within my rights, but I doubt it's going to convince them to offer me a rebate that they don't really have to. Ever heard the saying "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with mud"? On the Internet people often get so caught up in "sticking it to the man" that they don't always stop to think about if sticking it to the man is really in their best interest. FMF has every right to send that letter if he wants to, but I think he'd have better luck getting his rebate if he tried a more tactful approach.

Sears has treated me the same way, if you try for repair for more than 90 days, then you're stuck with the product. Thank Eddy Lambert. charlie

You really want the Sears fairy to swoop in and fix this two years later just because you have a blog?

Why not out the manufacturer? Or the part? Or the manufacturer of the part? Aren't they more "guilty" than the big-box retailer?

FMF. I've made this same comment before and I think this still applies. If I recall correctly, you only spent $200 or $300 for this elliptical machine. I have also read several blog posts regarding how important your time is and your time is worth $ to you (i.e. your posts on why you hire an accountant and other posts). That being said, you have spent several posts on this topic and I imagine several minutes writing these posts (or hours). You have also spent several hours on the phone and face to face with Sears complaining about this issue. And only for $200-$300. At one point, I recall they agreed to fix the issue by giving you store credit (seems fair to me). If you don't want to buy another elliptical from Sears, couldn't you just donate your store credit (I know are are very charitable and like to give). So if I were you, I'd stop wasting your valuable time trying to recoupe $200-$300 especially since Sears already offered you a solution previously and you didn't take advantage of it. Now it's too late ... seems like you dropped the ball. I hope I don't sound too harsh .... it can't be as harsh as your letter.

p.s. I love your blog and read it daily. I didn't go back and read all of your previous Sears postings so I am going off memory so forgive me if I misquoted you.


^^ What he said

Okay ... I went back and read some prior Sears Elliptical posts and you actuall paid $400 (not $200-$300). My opinion still does not change. Too much time spent trying to fix this issue probably is causing you too much grief and stress. Let it go.

Of course, the issue makes great blog postings and you great several comments so it's a win for you blog, I suppose. If this is the case, perhaps you should be paying Sears! It seams this issue is generating good traffic for you, right.


I think your beating a dead horse in trying to make a moot point. I would have taken their offer then bought a new one from them, sold it locally or on ebay then bought a different one elsewhere. Sounds like alot of extra hassle but then how much time have you spent already. Dude life is too short to spend almost 2 years on a piece of equipment. Move on

Wow--I'm sold.

Dog --

I have a three year service agreement with Sears. It says they're responsible for the product. That's why I'm dealing with them.

RJL and a few others --

You seem to think I had an offer from them and then missed it. No, I did have an offer from them, let it pass, got an inspection, and got the offer back again.

Tim --

Yep, I've gotten some good material from this. ;-)

EChris --

I'm not taking down the posts. They're true and can be verified by Sears' own repairmen.

Also, your "get the item and then return it" idea seems dishonest to me. If they were ok with me doing this, why wouldn't they just give me the credit/refund outright? Not to mention that it's a HUGE hassle.

Thanks to all for your input. I'll let you know how it goes!

Great job on the letter! Very impressive! Well done.

I'm sure you know by now Mr. Lewis is stepping down. I'd sent it anyway; it will find it's way to the right person.

I had a problem w/ Sears about a year ago and wrote a letter to Mr Lewis and Eddie Lampert (chairman). It was worth the time and effort. (I wish my letter was as good as yours).

Good Luck!

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