If you’re buying big appliances, use a real person!

So I figure I’d be a 21st Century warrior and buy new appliances on the Internet. It’s not like you have to physically study the inside of an oven or actually run the dishwasher. You can look at two-dimensional images and read every bit of fine print to learn all you need to know.

It’s not like you need a salesperson anymore, right?

Wrong.

I visited sears.com, and within 10 minutes, I found a new dishwasher and refrigerator. I paid, scheduled a delivery date and went back to work. The entire shopping trip lasted 15 minutes.

Two days later, a very nice deliveryman/installer named Kurt showed up – with the wrong dishwasher. I had ordered shiny black. It was stainless steel. I had paid for an installation kit (one of those tools not included additional accessories). It wasn’t on his work form.

While we waited on hold for someone at Sears to explain it to us, he replaced a valve on my kitchen pipes that has made life easier. Oh, and he fixed my shower.

Then he took the dishwasher back with a promise to return in a few days. My old dishwasher sat in the garage. The sink had dishes in it because I walked past them for two days, vowing never to return to a task I had not done in 10 years.

An hour later, the refrigerator arrived! Two Sears visits in one day. I knew this one would work. One of of two would be better than nothing, right?

Wrong.

They delivered the wrong refrigerator.

Now, Kurt, the very nice dishwasher installer (Did I mention he’s a plumber?) had given me something before he left: It was the phone number of a salesman named Dave Kallens in appliances at Sears. Call him if you need him, Kurt had said.

I didn’t call. I drove over. Forget the Internet. I was without a refrigerator (also now in the garage) and a dishwasher. It was time for some one-on-one demands.

I walked in and asked for Kurt’s friend, Dave Kallens. He quickly walked me around, explaining the difference in dishwashers and suggested one that wasn’t the most expensive, but wasn’t the cheapest. He went to the phone and called three others stores to see whether the had the same washer cheaper. One did, so he lowered my price. He sold me the appliance, set up the delivery and Kurt was back in two days with the right dishwasher which he had running my dishes within 20 minutes.

As I looked around my kitchen, dish-less sink, noiseless dishwasher, happy homemaker (Uh, don’t pay any attention to that word. It has never applied to me the way it is most used), I realized the lesson that I’d learned.

The Web is for Facebook and foursquare, for Lexulous and Farmville. It is for e-mail. It is for buying great shoes, if you know your EXACT shoe size. It is for research and learning and fun. It is for games.It is for celebrity-watching when you don’t live in L.A.

The Web is not for buying appliances. Because the Web doesn’t have Dave Kallens, a real live person who could look me in the eye and promise a delivery.

Oh, the refrigerator? I couldn’t use a salesperson for that. I had to use sears.com. They brought out a second refrigerator with a damaged shelf. They said they could send me another shelf in 7 to 10 days or they could bring out another refrigerator the next day, which was Sunday. I didn’t understand why they could bring an entire dishwasher but not bring a single, simple shelf. I asked for a manager. A woman in the administrative maze that houses the people in charge said that managers did not talk to customers.

So after a week and two wrong refrigerators, the delivery guys showed up Sunday after church with a new refrigerator. When they guy asked what was wrong, and I said I had a damaged shelf, he said, and I am not kidding, “Man, we can just take the drawer out of the new one and put that in.”

And that is what he did.

So actually, it’s nice to have people in every department – sales and delivery. And on the Web, I’m sticking to buying shoes.

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