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Kenmore: Just another brand or yet another scam?

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Sears is a popular place to buy appliances because they are located all over the country, they frequently have special offers, and they are an old, familiar name. When you stroll through the rows of shiny machines in a Sears store you see all the major brands, including lots of Kenmores. Does buying this "Sears brand" have any downside for the consumer? Ya sure, ya betcha!

Although there are still a few folks who haven't gotten the memo yet, most people understand that there ain’t no Kenmore factory in Malaysia or some place. The Kenmore “factory” is several floors in an office building where corporate bureaucrats from Sears schmooze with other corporate bureaucrats from real manufacturing companies, like Whirlpool or Electrolux or LG, and get them to make their stuff for them and slap a Kenmore label on it.

"So what?" you say, "I like Sears and I don't mind spending my money with them." Well, there's more. Check this out and see if you still feel so sure…

Kenmore is essentially a marketing gimmick that Sears uses to sell you appliances at a higher profit margin. The Kenmore game is this: sell you a Kenmore-branded appliance, sell you an extended warranty on the appliance or, even if you don't buy the extended warranty, get you to call them when (not if) it breaks, and to sell you replacement parts and accessories for the appliance. It's a complete package designed to keep you on the Kenmore plantation, spending your money exclusively with Sears.

This wouldn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are aware of this scheme and a willing participant, if there weren't other downsides to Sears inserting themselves between the customer and the original equipment manufacturer ("OEM") of the appliance.

Downside No. 1: The Kenmore Information Blockade

It is difficult if nigh on impossible to cross over the Kenmore model number to that of the OEM's version of the same machine. This means if you or an independent servicer would like to work on your Kenmore machine, you cannot easily access the manufacturer's service bulletins or manuals, which may leave you at the mercy of Sears "service." Most people don't like to limit their options that way, particularly given Sear's service reputation. More on that below…

Downside No. 2: Stuck with Sears for Warranty Issues

When you buy a Kenmore machine and it needs warranty service, it will be performed by Sears rather than the local independent servicers who usually handle warranty work for the manufacturers. How bad this is for customers varies from place to place, but in my considerable experience in dealing with folks who have been in this situation, they have had much less frustration in dealing with an OEM company compared to Sears for warranty issues.

Are they really that bad?

Sears has a reputation for slow, inconvenient scheduling and ill-trained technicians who frequently don't get the repair done correctly. OEM companies, on the other hand, tend to be much more interested in keeping their customers happy by dealing with problems promptly and fairly. We are drawing on years of feedback from customers, but, of course, your mileage may vary.

Bottom line: Sears is the only entity that really benefits from the Kenmore brand. There are no actual upsides for the customer (compared to buying an OEM brand), but there are significant potential downsides when your appliance needs to be serviced.

What to do?

Buy an OEM appliance. If you like shopping at Sears for some reason, they do offer OEM machines that you can choose. Assuming you don't fall for, er, I mean opt for, the extended warranty, then any warranty issues would be handled through the manufacturer and their local authorized servicer. And when service is needed after the warranty period, you will have many more options for service since you won't be subject to the Kenmore Information Blockade.

The Appliantology Academy



Good day, Sir! Long time no see! Lots of excellent points here, but I'd like to expand on the warranty situation for branded appliances bought at $ear$.

When I worked there (admittedly, that was over 11 years ago!), the brand names were bought from the manufacturers on a "no warranty" basis i.e. $ear$ assumed responsibility for honouring the manufacturer's warranty. Now, if you had a problem that $ear$ couldn't handle and you went to the manufacturer, they would stand behind the product and send their own folks to sort things out, but warranty service still usually comes from $ear$.


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Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Brother Mad Mac!  Long time no see!  How's the railroad treating you?


Thanks for your elaborating comments on Sears warranty arrangements.


Don't be a stranger!   

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In a weak defense of Sears, they have been very good about making, and keeping, parts available for pretty much everything.  And they are still my go-to source for exploded parts diagrams; nearly every Kenmore and Craftsman product still includes one in the box, and the website keeps them on-file forever, available to the general public with no hunting.  Some appliance manufacturers do this, some don't.


On a trip with Dad to pick up a part for our dishwasher when I was a youth, I idly punched in the model number for our then-10+-year-old VCR.  The primitive computer in the waiting area pulled it right up, and every part was still available (and in stock at the random suburban parts center), even the laugably out-of-date wired remote.


That said, I'd never buy a Sears-branded product today.  The Hedge Fund Baron in charge of the outfit now is more interested in selling of Sears' and KMart's real estate than he is in running a retail operation; they are caught in the "Retail Death Spiral" and show absolutely no interest in pulling out.  Those customers owning Kenmore/Craftsman products are going to be left high and dry when the inevitable occurs.  Their Christmas sales this year were a bloodbath, and they have not presented so much as a press release with plans to keep it from happening again.

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.     Had a woman call me in tears about Sears fixing her dryer.  They came out, diagnosed a thumping noise, and, even though we all know what parts that would need, didn't have them on the truck.  Two or three weeks later, the second package of parts had arrived, but it was going to be another week or two before they came back to service it.


.     She wanted me to come fix it.  I said I guess I could use the parts they had, or order the same thing.  Fortunately, I went out and had a look.  One spin of the the drum by hand told me she needed new roller wheels.  What did Sears Service order?  A new belt and idler pulley.  The same spin had told me those were fine.  How could anyone who had even done one dryer repair before not know this problem when he or she saw it?  Did whomever Sears sent have ANY experience at all?  Apparently not.  

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This does make me sad. Sears was once a mighty fine American institution. It's almost like it's on life support with no hope for a rebound. I'd rather they pull the plug instead of continually spiraling to oblivion

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It's not just Sears technicians who may be poorly trained, guys. I have been on numerous calls where the customer had a local guy out there that couldn't fix the simplest things. Or didn't do sealed system work. In many cases, they charge the customer anyway, make off with a service fee and leave the customer having to call Sears. Many warranty companies are also sending A&E/Sears out when multiple repairs by other companies have failed. As for service plans, I find they give my customers peace of mind. I've seen hundreds of cases over the years where a small investment in repair insurance saves the customers hundreds of dollars later. Like any insurance, you hope you never need it, but if you do, it can save a lot of grief and money. As for availability of parts, we are often at the mercy of the distribution centers or manufacturers. I'm in many homes where customers have the local guy's magnet hanging on the fridge but chose to call Sears instead....millions of loyal customers can't all be wrong.

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We don't even have a Sears store in my county anymore!  But we have Lowe's and Home Depot - do the math Sears is doomed.

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I have a very close relationship with A&E and will tell you that all of the techs are very sincere and knowledgable. When they arrive on the call at the customer's house they are sincerely concerned about the customer's product and getting it repaired right and will go out of their way to see that it is done in as timely of manner as possible. If the part is not avaliable locally they will have to order it which is the case with most Korean brands such as Samsung and LG but those parts are sent out of Sears warehouse or the manufacture's by UPS so it really only takes a couple of days to receive the parts because Sears has such good logistics. Sear's doesn't just hire anybody but rather those whom are hired have to have a special disposition about them that places the customer in the center and are genuinly concered about the customer. A&E guys are the go to guys when no one else can solve the problem. A&E has appliance techs that hae been doing the job for more then 50 years and most techs do stick around for ever.

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