7 On Your Side: Heating headache for New Jersey family

CLIFTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Disconnected pipes were all that remained in Arlene Harris-Smith's basement. The furnace was yanked in December, leaving her family in the cold.

"This has been going on for two months and I'm extremely frustrated," said the Clifton, New Jersey homeowner.

Her new boiler from Sears stopped working in December and a tech was sent out to inspect it..

"From what he described the furnace needed to be replaced and someone would be in touch in 24-48 hours," said Arlene.

After two days when no one called she called Sears back.

"Everytime I called I just got put in a loop and transferred," said the frustrated furnace owner.

"It's freezing cold so they did say we can put you down for a heater," said Arlene.

Sears sent a voucher for $160 to purchase portable heaters.

Finally a plumber came out, dismantled the boiler unit, which was less than 2 years old, and carted it away. Then Arlene found out Sears would not pay for a replacement.

"They were trying to say it was my fault that the furnace broke," she said.

Sears cited a "lack of routine maintenance," so even though Arlene purchased a master protection plan for $658 and claims she was draining the boiler as instructed, she was not covered. A new boiler would cost another 8 grand.

She brought the furnace fight to us and we contacted Sears. And within a few days a team of plumbers showed up and installed a new furnace free of charge as a one-time courtesy, according to Sears.

After enduring three long winter months, all three floors have heat.

The big takeaway here is to pump the brakes before buying an extended warranty at checkout where they're sold.

1st: Read the warranty before buying - it's a federal law retailers have to show it to you at point of sale. You should know what's included and excluded.

2nd: Check with your credit card - some credit cards already extend your warranty automatically. So don't pay for something you may already have.

3rd: Instead of buying a warranty - shop for the most reliable product. Stats show most appliances don't break down in the warranty window anyway.

Statement from Sears:
"At Sears, our top priority is the satisfaction of our members. Ms. Smith's claim was originally denied under the terms of the warranty due to rust and lack of routine maintenance. As a one-time courtesy, we installed a replacement boiler on Feb 14. We hope she remains a loyal Sears customer and Shop Your Way member."


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