The Sears stimulus plan: Lose your job, keep the washer

You know those car commercials, the ones that say it's okay to return a new car if you lose your job? Well, Sears has come up with variation on that theme. Buy an appliance and related merchandise worth at least $399, and if you lose your job between 60 days and a year afterward, you're eligible for Sears' own relief package.

For every month you're out of work, Sears will credit one twelfth of the total back. If you are still unemployed a full year later, forget the debt and keep the appliance. It's Sears' way of helping out during these difficult times.

It's also Sears' way of helping itself, of course. Sears is still the largest appliance seller in this country, even after seven years of losing market share to the likes of Costco, Lowe's and Home Depot. But market share started climbing back up last year and Sears must be loathe to lose a single point.
Sales for the most recently ended quarter dropped more than 11% at stores open at least a year. This latest promotion could inspire some uncertain people replace something that isn't broken, and help their second quarter sales.

There is some fine print. Shoppers must use a Citibank-issued Sears credit card and the purchase must be made between July 6 and Aug. 1. You must remain employed for 60 days following the purchase, presumably to keep people who know they're about to get laid off from running out and buying a whole new set of appliances.

After that, applying for the credit relief is a lot like filing for unemployment. There's paperwork and verification, and every month some proof that work is being sought. If, after a year, you are still unemployed, the entire purchase will be forgiven. According to Sears this includes extended warranties, installation and sales tax. "Everything," confirms Kevin Brown, vice president and chief marketing officer at Sears. "It's absolutely free as long as you put it on your Sears card."

Keep your receipts.
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