I don't usually rant online but today I have to vent about my frustration with Sears "Shop Your Way Rewards" program. Like many retailers, Sears jumped on the rewards program marketing scheme last year. I was encouraged to sign up for the program when my husband and I happened to be in Sears shopping for tool accessories. I thought, "Why not?" so I filled out the application and signed up for email alerts.
One day I received an email from Sears Shop Your Way Rewards offering me a free piece of apparel if I bought one other piece as long as it wasn't outerwear or a leather item. I had been into Sears earlier in the week and saw a blouse that I liked so I printed off the coupon and headed to the Sears store in town. I found a couple of blouses I wanted and went to the checkout counter with my coupon. The sales clerk scanned the coupon but it wouldn't register. She called the department manager who also scanned the coupon and didn't have any better luck. She then read the coupon fine print and said it was intended to be used at a Sears catalog outlet not a Sears retail outlet. I told her that was ridiculous since it was not obvious to a customer they meant it was only good at a Sears catalog store and not a retail store. I also pointed out that Sears catalog stores also have very little apparel if any in stock so essentially what good was it then! She finally agreed to honor it but admonished me that I'd better not try to "pull" this again as if I was trying to swindle them or something.
I decided then and there that I would virtually ignore future mailings as they were essentially worthless. But, today I noticed that my GE refrigerator filter warning light came on and commented to my husband that I guessed I would have to drive in to Sears (where we bought it) and pick up a new one. Those filters are always very expensive - about $40 each. I remembered seeing one of those emails from Sears Shop Your Way Rewards in my inbox so I checked it out and it was offering me $12 in points if I bought something from Sears before the end of the week. So I logged into Sears.com and checked for the refrigerator water filter I needed. I saw the regular GE brand filter I always bought at the store for the usual $40+. But, I noticed a generic filter that was compatible with my refrigerator for only $22 so I put it in my shopping cart instead.
When I went to checkout I couldn't find anyplace to indicate I wanted to use my points on this purchase even though I was logged in with my Rewards ID. So, I called customer support. The service representative told me that on the last page of the checkout process there would be a choice to redeem points. I told him that I saw they would accept Paypal and wanted to use it but I knew that once I clicked the Paypal option, I would be taken directly to Paypal to finish payment authorization and knew there would be no option to apply points there. The service representative admitted I was right and said if I used Paypal I could not redeem points.
At that point the service representative offered to complete the order for me so I gave him the information he needed (shipping and billing address, payment information, etc) and we progressed to the final check out page. When he attempted to redeem my points, he was told that points could not be used on that purchase because the item I had selected was shipped from a third party and not directly from Sears!! At this point I was totally frustrated and sputtered "Each time I try to "Shop My Way" with your rewards program you [Sears] always have some reason why the points can't be used! What good are they then, anyway!!!"
The service representative said he was sorry and offered me a 10% discount on my order ($2).
Maybe Sears designed their rewards program after an airlines rewards model. Between black out dates and constantly increasing the number of points it takes for a ticket, airlines have perfected the "illusion" of value with their frequent flyer programs. But Sears should keep in mind who their competitors are. Amazon's rewards program works beautifully and I have used it so often and so successfully that I regularly reach for their rewards card each time I make a purchase.
I read on the web that Sears may go the same way as Montgomery Wards. The article I read said the only thing that was keeping Sears viable was its tool sales. Well, it certainly isn't their rewards program!!