Don't Buy a Sears Lawnmower

For years, I've bought major appliances at Sears, and I've always had good results. This week I learned that my good fortune may have been limited to Sears in California. My recent experience with Sears in Pittsburgh has been disastrous. Sometimes working through Pittsburgh's problems takes big ideas; sometimes it takes little anecdotes. Here's a little anecdote. Don't buy a Craftsman lawnmower.

Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, I did. A self-propelled push model. It seems to work fine, most of the time. This spring (and it is spring, notwithstanding the cold), it came out of the shed and needed a tuneup before the first mow. Sharpen the blade, check and change the oil, filter, etc. So we took it to the Sears Service Center in McMurray. This is a Craftsman mower (a Sears brand), and it's only a couple of years old.

Sears Service took the mower and kept it for a few days. They called and said that the mower was ready to be picked up. Went down to retrieve the mower. No service had been performed, they said; the mower had been shipped from facility to facility and then returned to McMurray, but Sears could not figure out what the model number was. No model number, no service. Remember, this is a Craftsman mower, and it's only a couple of years old.

Unhappily, the mower came home, and we went to the file and pulled out the instruction manual that came with the mower. A manual that has a picture of the mower on the front and the model number in big black letters and numbers.

Back the mower went to the Sears Service Center in McMurray. This time, the folks there refused to accept the mower because the mower had no plate attached to it that included the model number. What about what you said before? What about the instruction manual that we retrieved and delivered with the mower? But the wise souls in McMurray would not budge. No service.

I could get upset and refer to the staff at the Sears Service Center in McMurray as incompetent, obtuse morons. But I won't; that would be disrespectful to people who suffer from true disabilities. And the Sears staff doesn't suffer from any genuine disability.

Instead, I'll be calm and note that the real problem is that the Sears Service staff in McMurray choose to be self-absorbed and stupid. They could care about their customers, and they could remind themselves that they are, after all, in the service business. These people at Sears are simply too dumb and lazy and rude to do so. What about those people people who bought large Craftsman machines from Sears and who reasonably expect that a Sears Service Center will actually service and repair them? Remember, this is a Craftsman mower -- it says so, unambiguously, on the mower itself -- and it's only a couple of years old. Does Sears -- Sears! -- have some kind of catalog that might actually list the mowers that the company has sold over the last couple of years? Care to look inside? Or how about trusting the fact that the person who brings in the mower AND the instruction manual WITH THE MOWER PICTURED ON IT might be entitled to a bit of courtesy? Go ahead. Sharpen the blade and change the air filter. Make my day.

I don't suppose that these mindless Sears nitwits are representative of Pittsburgh's service economy. Some of the merchants I visit in Mt. Lebanon, for example, are the models of what a fabulous neighborhood business should be. But Sears doesn't do Pittsburgh any favors, and that's the point. When I lived in California, my Sears Service reps knocked themselves out on my behalf. You want an economy and a culture to move forward at anything greater than a snail's pace (actually, in Pittsburgh sometimes, even a snail's pace will do)? Then everyone -- and I mean everyuone -- needs to get with the program. It's a service economy. Meanwhile, I'll look for a different shop to service my mower (if you know of a place in the South Hills that does a good job with Craftsman mowers, let me know). And under no circumstances should you ever, ever, buy a large appliance at Sears in Pittsburgh and have the company expect to stand behind its product.

UPDATE and a happy ending (April 14): We decided to take matters into our own hands, literally, by recovering a sense of mechanical do-it-yourselfness (changing our own plugs, points, and oil) that came more naturally to us before we had kids. We bought replacement parts (oil, filter, plug, blade) at Sears (South Hills Village), where the staff was everything you would want a sales staff to be (that is, appalled by the behavior of their Service Center colleagues). Total cost: $30. The lawnmower will live to mow for several seasons more. Still, I can't recommend the Craftsman models unhesitatingly; there is something to be said for a brand that can be serviced anywhere -- if you can't service it yourself.


19 Responses to "Don't Buy a Sears Lawnmower"

Anonymous said... 4/10/2007 3:35 PM

Thanks for the posting. I'm glad I'm not the only non-native that finds much lacking in the Pittsburgh idea of customer service. I've had my good experiences, but the bad outnumber the good. -E

Anonymous said... 4/12/2007 7:56 PM

Mike, have you called Rolliers to see if they will work on Craftsman?

Mike Madison said... 4/12/2007 10:15 PM

I have called Rollier's, and no, they won't. That's unfortunate, but completely understandable.

Jim Morris said... 4/12/2007 10:51 PM

Take a deep breath, Mike. I'll bet the main reason you're grouchy is the horrible March/April weather which *is* a problem for Pittsburgh. I would hold Sears responsible for churlish employees, not Pittsburgh.

If anything, the tight employment situation in Pittsburgh means low level service people here are usually smarter and generally better. A quick read on the employment situation in any city can be gotten by going to a Starbucks. The smarter the barista the worse the emploment market.

Mike Madison said... 4/13/2007 7:32 AM


I'm not holding Pittsburgh responsible. (How would I do that?) Sears and its employees are responsible. But people in Pittsburgh who work in service businesses -- which is to say, everyone -- needs to be on a high-level service plane.

Intelligence and smarts have nothing to do with it. There are a lot of brilliant people out there who don't get the fact that their intelligence means nothing if they don't find a way to serve others.

My experience here over the last nine years has been highly variable. My experience living in the Bay Area for many years was far less variable. My hypothesis is that many Californians wake up every day thinking that they have something to prove; many Pittsburghers wake up every day thinking that they've already proved it.


Mike said... 4/13/2007 6:54 PM

Interesting post, Mike. I might grossly generalize and note that this is indicative of a labor pool raised in an era of "big L" labor entitlement. As that era wound to a close, this ethic (or lack thereof) was compounded by an environment of scarcity--what's in it for me? Some transitions occur in hairpin turns; this one strikes me as a horseshoe curve.

Anonymous said... 4/14/2007 4:45 PM

Same problem with sears in Tn. My mowers 1 year. Dead in the middle of my last mowing. Sears people said i should've bought the Insurance. I think they have gotting into the Insurance on mower business more than sale of lawnmowers, I'm going back Monday and tell them to just keep this pile off

jet said... 4/15/2007 10:21 AM

I don't get it, either. "Hi, I'm a customer, please take my money", doesn't seem to register with some local businesses.

Last November I got so frustrated with it I ranted about it a bit in my journal.

Anonymous said... 4/21/2007 9:02 PM

Hey, here in Raleigh, NC, I bought this craftsman mower last summer, guess what in a few months, had a problem with the height adjustor in the back wheel, took it to sears part center,
1. this place is a dump nothing like a sears store.
2. the service is appalling. 3.Sears website does not list their part/service center's operation hours. all it lists is a phone & address. call the phone and most of the time no-one picks up the phone.
4. At the service center there is a chart that lists different products, you bring in your product on a certain date, and it will be ready by another date (10 days for lawn mower, i forget what it is for others...), guess what its not ready even 15 days later (what is that chart for?).
5. Finally 25 days later, got a call from them, saying it was ready. Went there again, guess what as long as I was there (30 minutes with 4 people ahead of me, so understaffed are they), I heard the phone ring constantly, no-one ever picked up the phone much.

Jefferson Provost said... 4/23/2007 9:12 AM

I stayed away from this post originally, because I, too, was grouchy from the bad weather, and I felt like anything I posted would be unnecessarily negative. But the fact is that my experience moving back here from Austin was much like Mike's moving here from California. I feel like the quality of customer service here is lower, on average, and it's much more variable.

If you're going to measure service quality by Starbucks employees, then frankly I don't think Pittsburgh comes out too well. I've been sorely disappointed by the quality of baristas in Pittsburgh. There are a few bright spots (e.g. Aldo's, Kiva Han), but by-and-large the coffee culture here sucks.

Generally though, I don't think that service problems here are the result of laziness. To me it seems as if Pittsburgh is permeated with a kind of fatalism wherein everyone accepts the status quo and neither employees nor customers believe that it's possible for things to be better -- so nobody really tries.

While I agree that the lowest-level service workers (e.g. McDonalds) here are "smarter and better" than those in Austin and elsewhere, you don't have to go many rungs up the ladder to see a big decline. My experience with bureaucrats and office workers has been extremely variable: some are good, many are mediocre, and too many are quite bad. This holds at Pitt, and my doctors offices, pretty much everywhere.

Kathleen said... 4/30/2007 3:12 PM

I pulled up this blog, because of my frustration with trying to buy a simple tune up kit. Monroeville has 4 listed but can't find them in the store. The phone numbers at the Lawrenceville location are perpetually busy. They said I could drive 35 miles to McMurray (the dreaded location) and see if they could help me. Dare I go to be treated so shamefully? But however, Sears was eager to send me their latest credit card, even though I had opted out in writing (as they requested) over 2 years ago. Now I can't get the service that I want, but gosh darn it, I can get a credit card that I don't. Go figure. :-)

Anonymous said... 5/21/2007 12:06 PM

I have a Craftsman mower about 4-5 years old... Rear wheel drive. It died last summer. Stopped on a dime like the engine had seized.
Not so - a bearing under the deck that is part of the drive mechanism seized up, halting the engine.
Sears parts list does not list the part. The diagram doesn't even show the bearing. Mystery part. I want to buy a new bearing. Can't buy it without a part number.
This is a bastard size offshore bearing. I can but a lot of 5,000 of them, but only need one.
Sears wants to do the repair and provide the bearing but will not sell the part to me.
Out to the curb with it. And Sears.
The last Craftsman mower I will ever buy!

Anonymous said... 5/21/2007 12:57 PM

I have a Craftsman Model # 917.275753 ride on mower, i'm just in my second season, have replaced the battery, only covered for 90 days, also replaced the casting that holds a blade, two bearings, two nuts, one pulley. Never ever again will I buy Craftsman.

Jill said... 5/23/2007 11:09 AM

I am totally frustrated with the Sears lawnmower parts dept. I was given misinformation when I ordered and when the Sears service dept. gave me different info. I wasn't permitted to cancel the parts order even though it was within the hour of being placed with a rep. that basically lied to me.
I get the parts order and parts are missing (to be sent a week later)and what little paperwork comes with the parts doesn't match the parts that came.

I will never buy from Sears again. They can't be trusted pure and simple. It used to be a great company but is no longer:(.

Anonymous said... 6/11/2007 9:46 AM

Craftsman used to stand for quality. Not anymore, it seems. I had a Craftsman mower I ran for almost 10 years. I took it in every couple of years for servicing and it ran like a top all season. It finally died.

I have a friend that likes Troy-Bilt but I wanted another Craftsman. I bought one, took it home, it would not start. Took it back and they couldn't start it either. This was a 650 series key start. I got a simpler did not start either. Two mowers in a row, brand new, unstartable. Yes, the guys at Sears tried to start it also in the hot sun while I leaned against the building in the shade and just shook my head.

I gave up at that point. I bought other merchandise from Sears in the past that had to be returned because of flaws. Some Craftsman brand, some were another brand. I'm finished with Sears and finished with Craftsman.

I ended up buying a troy-bilt that started on 1st pull and runs/cuts perfectly.

Anonymous said... 7/28/2007 10:46 AM

Is Pittsblog for real?? I placed a comment two weeks ago and it was verified. Where did it go? How long does it take to appear?? MY COMMENT WAS ABOUT CASTLE WINDOWS. iS THIS BLOG ONLY FOR SEARS LAWNMOWER PROBLEMS?

Mike Madison said... 7/29/2007 3:54 PM

The anonymous comment regarding Castle Windows was rejected. It was not on topic and it made unsupported and arguably defamatory statements about a local business. If you have a complaint about CW and want to post it on the Internet, create a blog for yourself.

Bocabob said... 6/10/2008 8:47 PM

Do not buy fitness equipment from Sears either.

I bought a Weider Fitness Machine from Sears Boca Raton to use for physical therapy. After a couple times of month long repairs, I am now throwing the machine away. They refuse to give me credit or refund. If I didn't need it for physical therapy I would not have bought it. Service consists missed appointments, surveys, and long delays for part orders.

It's broken again and I will have to purchase another one. I'm out almost a thousand dollars.

Never Buy from Sears!

Anonymous said... 9/10/2008 12:41 PM

I purchased a Sears riding mower in the middle of the season last year. Within a week it was in the shop for transmission adjustment. It was a dry season so only used it 3 or 4 times. I started it a few times during the winter as well as putting fuel stabilizer in the gas. I had to put it on the battery charger to get it to start. I figures it was a bad battery. When mowing season came this year I took it to Sears repair. As always, never received a call when it was ready. After a week or so I call and they said it was ready. They claim the problem was the timing was off. I picked it up and it had the same problem. Had to take it back a second time, it now starts but not like a new mower should. I found this site because I was looking for parts. Sears says no customer parts available. A nut came off under the deck and I was looking for a diagram that would show me what else I lost (no luck). Guess I will have to take a trip to the Sears store and look under one to see what I need.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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