I Didn't Get My Packages From Sears: Help Me, WalletPop!

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Q. I placed an order with Sears online for a pair of tennis shoes and a tool for my husband for Christmas. I paid extra for shipping to be sure it was delivered by Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, I had not received the order so I called customer service. I was told the shoes were delivered by FedEx on Dec. 22. I never received them. I was also then told that the tool I ordered was on back order. When I could get nowhere with this person, I asked for a supervisor. He kept repeating that the shoes were delivered on the 22nd and could offer no explanation as to why I was never notified that the tool was on backorder.On Monday I called the Sears home office and spoke to someone else who offered to refund the $32 I paid for the express shipping. She also said she would put a trace on the shoes that supposedly were delivered. I have been emailing and I tried to call Sears' management online team several times. When I finally was connected to a person, he was extremely rude and put me on eternal hold, which I hung up from after 25 minutes. Then I received an email saying that the tool order was finally canceled and that the money would be credited back to my account, which has not been done and only half of the $32 express shipping charge was credited back. I tried to send an email asking when this money would be credited back but have been ignored. Will you please help me?
Janice Jacobs

A. Hi Janice, I can understand your frustration -- it sounds like this has been quite a mess. I got in touch with Kim Freely, a spokesperson at Sears, who worked with their customer service team to figure this out. They put a trace on both packages – the shoes and the tool -- and found that they were delivered separately to your correct address on Dec. 22nd, one by Fed Ex and one by UPS. Apparently, the customer service representative who told you that the tool was back-ordered was incorrect (it's possible that by the time you called, it was, actually, back-ordered, but your order was filled).

You're probably wondering why they were delivered separately, by two different carriers. I was too. Sears partners with third-party vendors on their website; in other words, some of the products featured aren't sold by Sears, but by another company selling through the Sears website. The item description will include information about who the item is being sold by under the price (if it's from Sears, it will say "Sold by Sears"). However, it's possible that the company isn't making this distinction clear enough, a point that I brought up to Freely. Your email was actually the second we've received from someone who purchased something from the Sears website without knowing that they were buying from a third party.

In your case, it was the shoes that came from an outside vendor, instead of from Sears directly. So what they've done is issued a refund for the price of the tool - $154, according to Freely. They did this despite the fact that their records -- and UPS records -- show that the package was delivered, which I thought was very generous.

In order to get a refund for the shoes -- or at least track down that package -- Sears says you'll need to take that issue up with FedEx directly. They are unable to refund your money for those because they weren't purchased from Sears directly. So I contacted Paula Bosler, a spokesperson there. She was very helpful, but told me that once the package is delivered, it's essentially out of their hands. "At that point, we advise customers to contact the shipper to see if they have a refund policy in case of theft, because there's really nothing we can do if there's a final delivery scan on the package. We do offer other suggestions if someone isn't going to be home, they can have it delivered to a work or alternate address where someone else might be able to accept it."

I took her advice, and continued to follow the breadcrumbs to that third party vendor, Tennis Express, and finally had a breakthrough: When I sent an email the company, Sam Foster, the manager, replied and told me that they'd already re-shipped the shoes to you. Victory!

In the end, I have a couple pieces of advice:
  • Plan ahead. If you're not going to be home to receive a package, follow Bosler's tips and have it delivered to work or to a friend instead.
  • Read the fine print. I understand that when you order from Sears, you expect to be dealing with Sears. But before you buy anything -- and particularly online -- you need to read the entire description, from the top to bottom. If something is confusing, pick up the phone.
Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.
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