Appliance buy starts to haunt her credit rating

Sally pays off her credit card bills each month and is not interested in financing purchases. She has a good idea on when she has to purchase new appliances and budgets for them.

But when she went to the Sears store in Waterford's Crystal Mall in April 2012 to purchase a new washing machine the manager of the appliance section told her of a special promotion.

Sol Ortiz Miller, the appliance manager, told Sally that if she financed the washing machine on her Sears-Citi credit card there would be no interest for one year and she would not have to make any payments for 12 months.

Sally, who lives in New London County, said she wasn't interested. "I told her I never do this," Sally recounted. However, Miller kept pressing, telling her it would be foolish to pass up such an offer.

Sally said Miller told her that "everyone takes her up on her offer."

"She made me feel so stupid," Sally said and she gave in. Next Miller talked Sally into purchasing a five-year warranty/service contract for $340.

Sally said Miller told her the new washers are all digital and she needed a service contract to protect her. However, she said she would only be charged $60 a year.

That was the origin of a financial nightmare for Sally, who asked that she only be identified by her first name.

A few weeks later she got her first bill from Citi requiring her to pay a minimum $25 on her purchase. She drove to the Sears store with her checkbook with the intention of paying off her entire bill.

Miller, she said, told her it was simply a mistake and she would correct it. Miller urged her not to pay off the balance.

Next month Sally received her second bill, this time with a $35 penalty and a demand that she pay the entire $340 for the service contract because she did not make her minimum payment. She canceled her service contract.

Miller again told her not to worry, it was some kind of a mistake and gave her a $35 credit. This went on for month after month until Sally's penalty and interest payments added up to more than $400.

Sally finally reached Miller's boss, Marc Hebert, the store manager. He agreed to give Sally a $217 credit, representing half the interest and penalties she was charged.

But to get that credit Sally had to sign an agreement promising not to discuss this issue again with any Sears employee.

Sally then paid off the $870, which included the purchase of the washing machine, half the interest and penalty. Two weeks later she received a notice from her bank saying her line of credit was being cut in half because "there has been a negative change in the quality of your credit performance."

"That really hurt me," Sally said, explaining she had worked hard all her life to have excellent credit.

She then contacted CtWatchdog to see if anything could be done to force Sears to repair her credit. I contacted Sears and its spokesman Larry Costello. Costello's only response to Sallie's allegations was that "there was a breakdown in communications on the part of our store associate with the customer."

However, a couple of days later, she received a letter from April E. Tatum, a member of Sears Presidential Communications team, telling her that Sears regretted the "misunderstanding" and was taking steps to remove the negative reports from Sallie's credit reports.

"I will never set foot in Sears again," Sally said.

I don't blame her.

www.ctwatchdog.com

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