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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

This is great. Honestly I get seriously fed up with ordering service for my home, b/c they only come out during weekdays and while I'm supposed to be at work. Usually using up vacation time to compensate. Comcast sucks, them saying their 4 hour window works for people is complete and utter bull. What happens is that you wait around for 3 1/2 hours fiddling your thumbs and within the last 1/2 hour they show up. Not to mention, they shut off my cable for no reason one weekend and I had to wait 2 days for them to come out and turn it back on, losing another half day of work. Kudos to this lawyer who did something about it.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/business...home-headlines
Sears gets slap for customer's needless wait
Baltimore County man sues retailer over service call

By Eileen Ambrose
Sun Staff
Originally published March 17, 2005
We've all been there: The utility or appliance dealer says you must be home within some large window of time on a certain day for its employees to come hook up your phone or deliver your refrigerator. Then they don't show up.

When that happened to Baltimore County lawyer Joseph T. Williams, he called Sears Roebuck & Co. to complain. He learned that no one could have come to fix his washing machine during most of the four-hour span he was told to be home because Sears technicians were in a regularly scheduled staff meeting.

So he did what many consumers might only fantasize about - he sued. And won.

A Baltimore County District Court judge ruled in the small-claims case last Thursday that Sears violated Maryland's consumer protection laws, according to Williams' lawyer, Jane Santoni.

The award - $1, according to the court docket - might be less than satisfying to a public tired of cooling its heels waiting for a repair technician. But Williams said the money wasn't as important as the principle.

The judge "was very stern with Sears and said at the hearing, 'You don't treat people this way,'" Williams said. "That was everything I wanted."

Williams can still pursue legal action against Illinois-based Sears. Because of this, Bill Masterson, director of communications for Sears, said he couldn't discuss the details of the case.

But he added, "We regret that Mr. Williams didn't receive the service in the time he expected."

The case reflects consumers' growing frustration in their pursuit of service.

"Time is extremely valuable to many families, and far too many companies have become insensitive to the time constraints that many Americans are under," said Travis Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America.

"People are just fed up with being kept waiting by companies, whether it's at home waiting for something to be delivered or on line waiting for a real person to answer their call."

Paying attention

Some companies appear to be responding, though.

Comcast said it started evening service times, in addition to daytime hours, in response to customer demand. The cable company calls customers the day before the appointment as a reminder, and technicians call the day of service to say they are on the way, said Kirstie Durr, a Comcast spokeswoman.

The cable company doesn't use specific times to set up appointments because it's difficult to know how long each job will take.

"When a technician arrives at a home, it can be a 10-minute job or sometimes people try to wire things themselves and ... it takes the technician longer than expected," Durr said. Using a four-hour service window makes customers happier, she said.

And when a Comcast technician misses the window, the customer gets a $20 credit on his or her bill or free installation, she said.

Washing machine

Williams' beef with Sears began about a year ago. His Sears washing machine was on the fritz, and the service department said it would send someone to fix it between 8 a.m. and noon on a Friday. Not wanting to be away from the office for four hours, Williams requested the first service call of the day. Sears said no.

So, on the appointed day, Williams waited at home. And waited. About 11:15, he called to find out the repairman's whereabouts. That's when he was told that service crews were in a meeting that morning, and they hadn't even reached their first appointment yet.

"I said, 'You mean I have been waiting for three hours and nobody has even started?' They weren't even apologetic about it," Williams said. "They said, 'Yeah, that's right.'"

He canceled the service call and warned that he would sue.

"Businesses do the things they are supposed to do because of lawsuits," Williams said in an interview yesterday.

During a court hearing last week, a Sears representative said the company holds meetings between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. every other Friday and service crews go out only after that, said Santoni, who represented her law partner in the case.

The Sears representative added that even though the service department knows of the meetings, it still tells customers to wait at home during hours the crew is unavailable, Santoni said.

Sears makes service calls during four-hour windows, six days a week. Several call centers set up appointments around the country.

Staff meetings are set up on an as-needed basis, and while call centers are aware of them, they do not know how long they'll last, Masterson said. When meetings are held, appointments are arranged to give technicians enough time to reach a home within the four-hour window, he said.

Half of a day

"There's enough variability in terms of the repair work done that it's difficult to give customers more than a four-hour window," Masterson said. Other service providers, he added, only provide customers the date of the appointment. "We work hard to at least give you half-a-day" appointments, he said.

In his lawsuit, Williams asked for $1,000 to make up for four potentially billable hours he lost while at home. Baltimore County District Judge Robert J. Steinberg lopped off $999 of that, saying Williams hadn't proved he lost wages, Santoni said.

Besides the $1, Sears must pay the $20 court fee, according to court documents.

"What the judge was upset about is that Sears knew that they weren't going to get there for at least two hours and yet demanded [Williams] be there for two hours," Santoni said.

An assistant to Steinberg said the judge cannot comment on cases, and there are no written opinions in small-claims cases.

While Williams can pursue other legal action, it's unlikely. "We made our point," he said.

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 10:41 AM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

yay! too bad he didn't get more money though...

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 10:44 AM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

^^^^I second that. Thats is crazy stuff.


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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 10:46 AM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

Unless Sears loses a LOT of money, or they are forced to endure serious public humiliation, they're not going to change their policies. It's not a wonder that "Mom and Pop" computer shops have been getting so popular lately. "Regular" people that don't have a corporate mindset can provide customer service that most people couldn't even DREAM of.

Eat right, exercise regularly, die anyway.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 12:34 PM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

I love it.

When I contract out I do it at $50/hr.

That means it could cost me $200 to wait for a service person to show up.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 12:43 PM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

Quote:
Originally Posted by "MetalCord"
Unless Sears loses a LOT of money, or they are forced to endure serious public humiliation, they're not going to change their policies.
Well, for what it's worth, there is the Better Business Bureau. This lawsuit will show on the BBB records, and could potentially tarnish their image.


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 02:17 PM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

I don't think anybody checks with the BBB before shopping Sears..

Enjoy your spahgetti, you're very rude.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-17-2005, 02:20 PM
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Not such a frivolous lawsuit

Yeah, I gave myself some leeway with "for what it's worth" :-D

I occassionally visit the BBB before making a large or important purchase.


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