Scuttlebutt over Sears Ads

I recently ran an “Ask Amy” segment about a man who saw this ad in the newspaper and drove down the Sears at Willowbrook Mall to buy the 42″ Magnavox LCD TV with 1080i resolution.

When Luckett got there, he says a manager told him their shipment of TV’s would arrive the following morning. The manager let Luckett pay the $799.99 so that he would be sure to get one of the TVs right off the truck.

But the next morning… still no TVs. The manager told Luckett the Willowbrook store would not be getting any of the advertised TVs, and instead offered him another brand, an Olevia with lower a resolution of 780p.

Here’s the statement a Sears spokesman sent us when we called the Corporate Office:

“Sears’ apologizes that some of our customers were unable to take advantage of the sale price on our Magnavox 42 LCD TV due to the success of the promotion. We sold through our inventory faster than we anticipated and directed the remaining inventory to markets with the greatest demand. We should point out that the ad does clearly state “while quantities last,” but as a service to our customers Sears offered to substitute an Olevia 42’ TV with similar features for the same price.”

End of story… or so I thought.

Then I got this e-mail from Simon Flores:
“I had the same experience with Sears with the same product. I believe they are lying to you. I went the morning of the sale when they opened. They had no TV’s on opening day. I asked to have one shipped from another Sears and was told they had sold out completely in the entire State of Texas. At 8am, when they opened? However they did have the same TV on display and it could be purchased for $1399.00. The dept. manager of the Pasadena store (Haydee or Haynee) said Sears made a mistake and that they would lose money selling that TV for the advertised price. They offered a lesser TV that was regularly priced $799.00. Not equal or greater value. This was a total scam.”
Wait! There’s more.

Pooja Soni from Findlay, Ohio e-mailed me next. Soni sent me this ad from the local paper there.

Soni said he actually bought the Sharp Aquos 46″ LCD TV with 1080p resolution as advertsied. When he got the TV home, he checked the box and noticed the model he received was a lower resolution of 720p.

Soni says he went back to the store. His concern was elevated to the corporate office, where he was finally told 3 days later that the ad was incorrect, a misprint. Sears told Soni he could return the TV and get his money back; but Sears would not honor the price as advertised.

So when is a store responsible for honoring its own ads? And is this false advertising? A BBB website explains it here:

“The laws on false advertising generally deal with “willful intents to deceive.” A single error, usually innocent and obvious, is clearly not a deliberate scam. You know that they really aren’t trying to sell a $4,000 HD TV for $40, right?

Usually a store which gets caught in a misprint must post a conspicuous sign, run a correction in their next ad, and not repeat the error. In addition, some stores WILL honor misprints if the damage isn’t too severe.

However….if a store always seems to make convenient “errors,” week after week, then we may have a real problem. In the past, some retailers have made constant so-called misprints just to sucker consumers into their stores, where they refuse to sell the advertised specials but try to sell you more expensive items. If we can prove this is deliberate, they may be pulling the old “bait and switch” – which definitely IS against the law!”

It’s Friday night folks, but I am sending these latest complaints to the Sears corporate office for an explanation. I will let you know what I hear next week.

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