Joe Kim orders a tablet from Kmart.com, but it never arrives. Now they're balking at a refund. What gives?
Question: I've been a loyal customer of Sears and Kmart, making multiple purchases online of electronics at both stores. I recently bought a Samsung 16GB 10.5" Display Galaxy Tab S Tablet at Kmart.com, for which I paid $475.
This was a wedding anniversary gift and it was imperative that I receive the item on time. The reason I made the purchase online to have it delivered was due to the website stating that the product would be delivered within two business days or by September 25, 2015.
I received an email confirmation within a few hours, indicating that the product was shipped via UPS and giving me a tracking number. According to the UPS tracking, a shipping label was created but no item was shipped. Sears/Kmart customer service reps are now telling me the item was never available at the warehouse.
I've contacted customer service by phone several times, and the representatives from India cannot assist me. The best they can do is tell me to wait three to five business days, then eight business days, and so forth.
I've sent several emails as well, and they assured me a refund was processed and to wait 10 to 14 business days. I contacted them again yesterday, and now a "case manager" is telling me a refund was requested but nothing has been done.
They want me to wait again. I am hearing the same story over and over again with no results. To hold a customer's funds after not delivering a product is unethical. Please help me! -- Joe Kim, Sterling Heights, Mich.
Answer: In a perfect world, Kmart should have delivered your product when it said it would. And when it didn't, your refund should have been immediate.
It's not a perfect world. Products are not always in stock, which is what happened with your tablet. Refunds can take time -- too much time. The standard line is two to three credit card billing cycles, which can be up to four months. It rarely takes that long, but it can.
The strange thing about your case is that Kmart.com first promised you the refund would be in your bank account within three to five days, which is unrealistic. Then it gave itself two weeks. Still, in my own experience, it normally takes longer.
I list Kmart's executive contacts under its parent company, Sears, on my site. You might have appealed to one of them when it became obvious the phone reps were stringing you along.
Let me add one thing: The practice of making customers wait three "billing cycles" is nonsense. Someone is benefiting from the money that's in limbo -- you're basically giving them a short-term, interest-free, free loan. If corporate America wanted to fix its refund sluggishness, it would have by now. But it's not motivated. Why would it want to spend money to fix a problem that will result in it losing money?
I contacted Sears on your behalf, and it agreed to expedite your refund.
Christopher Elliott specializes in solving intractable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.