Monday, December 19, 2011

How many accounts will Sears Canada lose this month?

I'm home. I'm sick. I'm cranky.

I just spent 20 minutes on the phone with Sears trying to fix my broken credit card so I could send flowers to my family at Christmas.

Apparently they sent out a letter, in response to a new government directive, stipulating that customers had until December 5 to present government-issued photo identification or their accounts would be closed.

Two points:
  1. I am positive that I gave photo id when we opened the account a year and a half ago, when we bought appliances for our new home. At the time I was irritated to be opening  a new account. Our original Sears account shut itself down while we were in Colorado, which ticked me off because I still used it to buy appliances for our rental property in Ottawa and gifts, such as flowers, for family.
  2. They likely DID send a letter, but have you noticed how much JUNK Sears sends with their bills? Digital clocks, Franklin Mint kitsch, and high-tech snuggies: you will find ads for all of them tucked in with your bill. They may even have sent this very important mailing as a separate letter. (If they'd made a promotion out of it, like "Earn 150 Sears points when you reactivate your card with photo id," I'd have done it, and remembered.) 

Coincidentally, I used my Sears card on December 3 and was asked for photo ID, which I presented. The clerk mumbled something about not having had it when we opened the account. (Which is rubbish; it may have been Colorado ID, but it was government-issued.) The clerk also noticed the old Colorado phone number on file and said she updated our account.

I thought nothing more of it until I tried to order flowers today, figuring that is a simple enough task for the bedridden. [Fail-buzzer.]

So, despite feeling like the bottom of a compost bin, I called the credit card service desk.

For the first ten minutes, the chap struggled to confirm my identity as they still had my old Colorado cell phone on file, despite my having updated it at the store in person as well as on my online account profile.

Five minutes after that, the fellow chirpily told me, "The account is closed," as if that is what I had wanted all along. He insisted it was because of having the incorrect phone number on file.


My eyes welled up and my throat tightened; I was about to cry, which is what I do when I'm frustrated and angry at the same time.

I have, in the past, spent hours (no exaggeration) with these poor front-line help-desk underlings. Today, I went right for the manager.

The guy ignored my request FIVE TIMES, asking me if I would like to open a new account! (How can one do so over the phone if photo id is required, hmm?)

"No. I would like to speak to a manager," I said, a little snippily, I grant you.

Finally, I spoke to an "expert," who informed me of the whole government edict/letter/photo id issue. I told him about my December third transactions (which the previous guy had insisted I look up as part of verifying my identity), and that I had shown ID at that time.

"Well, did the sales clerk phone us?"

It's Christmas season, my biggest shopping season of the year. No, I don't recall if she picked up the phone, but having been a Sears clerk myself, I know that the system would not have allowed the transaction to go through without an authorization code.

"It's not too late," he added encouragingly, "you can still bring in photo id and reactivate your account."

This is a step in the right direction, especially given that I have a good deal of redeemable points still on the card. And it's probably what I will do, but not without a fair bit of grumbling. And I will close the account as soon as I redeem those points.

Sorry, Sears. You lose.

On a related note, here is Seth Godin's rant on the topic of customer relations.

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

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