When Joshua Rome cancels his dishwasher order from Sears, he hopes for a full refund. But the company wants to issue a partial credit. Can it do that?

 

Q: I need your help. I ordered a dishwasher from Sears recently, but it failed to deliver the appliance twice. I decided to cancel my order and ask for a full refund. I paid for the dishwasher with a combination of $467 from my credit card and $500 from a gift card.

After many calls, I received a $467 credit to my credit card. But Sears would only return the $500 from the gift card back to the gift card. 

Sears says it can only return funds to the original form of payment. I explained that my daughter had purchased the card so that I could buy a new dishwasher. Now that I canceled the order, I believe she should get her money back, too. Sears has offered a 10 percent discount on a new dishwasher, but I just want my daughter to get a refund of her gift card. 

It’s been three months since my request. Sears has been silent. Can you get my daughter’s money back? -- Joshua Rome, Wells, Vermont

A: Sears is right -- and wrong. Right, in the sense that it can keep your daughter’s money. Regardless of her reason for buying a gift card, Sears is clear about the terms of her purchase: “Prescription drugs and gift cards cannot be returned,” it says on the Sears site.

Sears is equally clear about how it handles refunds: They’ll “be issued in the same form as the original method of payment.”

In other words, Sears can return your daughter’s money to the gift card under its terms and conditions.

But Sears was also wrong in that it gave you such a runaround with your dishwasher. It seems Sears realized that it had failed spectacularly on that, which is why it offered you a discount on a future dishwasher purchase. That’s a nice gesture, but I can also understand why you’d rather buy a dishwasher somewhere else.

You can avoid this type of situation by carefully researching the business before making a purchase. Often, you can find out if a company is reliable with its deliveries (and also, whether its products usually work). We’ve had a case or two with Sears that might have given you pause.

Also, your daughter might have just written you a check or given you a preloaded Visa card. Companies benefit from gift cards because they’re restrictive -- you can only use them on purchases within the company -- and they’re nonrefundable.

Even though your daughter wasn’t entitled to a refund of her gift card, I thought there were extenuating circumstances. Your daughter had purchased the $500 gift card so you could buy a Sears dishwasher. I think an appeal to one of the executive contacts at Sears might have yielded a better result. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Sears managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

I contacted the company on your behalf. Sears reviewed your case and offered to either send you an upgraded dishwasher at no extra charge or to refund your daughter’s $500 to her credit card, as you requested.

 

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at elliott.org/help.

 

© 2021 Christopher Elliott

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