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Yes, Sears makes home calls

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The faint odor of natural gas greeted me when I opened the porch door to the kitchen.

I could hear Carol’s greeting from the living room, and on my way through the kitchen I checked the stove burners. They were off. Dinner was ready to be turned on.

“I planned on baked potatoes,” she said, “but the oven won’t go on. I’ll put them in the micro when we’re ready.”

Another finicky appliance for me to check out. The last was the toaster, which I got to work for a week or two before it started shooting white sparks. Did I dare try my hand at our gas stove with the analog clock and self-cleaning mode, the latest thing 25 years ago? We never used the self-cleaning mode. I rotated the dial to bake and opened the open door. I could see a reddish glow.

“The pilot is on,” said Carol, who was peering into the oven.

Ollie – who knows good things come out of the oven, like roast turkey and chicken – edged in between us to get a look, too. Nothing happened. The glow continued, but there was no familiar swish as the oven ignited. We closed the door and waited. Still nothing.

The potatoes went into the micro, but that wasn’t the end to the oven.

Over dinner Carol, wondered if the stove was still under warrantee. I was sure it wasn’t. Not even Sears was that good. And what about Sears? Did they still have a service department?

Carol tried them in the morning, and to her astonishment, they not only answered but also set up an appointment for Saturday afternoon. I was impressed. You mean there was somebody out there that still services the Kenmore brand?

I was in for a bigger surprise Saturday when we got a call about 1 p.m.

“This is Dave from Sears,” the caller said. “I can be there in about 15 minutes. Should I use the back or the front door?”

Dave Ferreira showed up just as he said he would.

I looked out at the van. It didn’t read Sears, but rather A&E Service.

Ollie greeted Dave with a wagging tail and followed him into the kitchen. Of course, Ollie wanted to look into the oven. Dave pulled out the racks and the base plate to expose the gas burner and the box-like igniter. Ollie was disappointed. There was no chicken. Dave turned on the oven and the igniter started to glow. He pulled out the bottom drawer and, reaching back to the wiring, affixed a gage.

He pulled it out and explained that as igniters age they don’t glow bright or hot enough to trigger the release of gas to the burner. Our igniter was reading 2.2 when it needed 3 or better.

“Do you have another igniter?” I queried.

“We’ll see.” Dave pulled out his phone and started his search. He scrolled through plans and compared numbers.

“They don’t make that part any longer, but let’s see what we can do.”

“Good news,” he announced a moment later. “There’s a replacement part.”

I thought everything would be fine, until Dave gave me the estimate for repairs. I don’t recall, but the stove had cost us no more than $600 and I would be spending nearly $350 to fix it. It quickly became evident I would be better off buying a new stove with a warrantee than keeping the old one and praying something else didn’t go wrong.

Dave understood. He started packing up his tool bag. He still had another three stops to make. We chatted. He’s worked in the appliance repair business for 40 years, 36 of them with Sears, and he’s thrilled that the company has come out of bankruptcy.

He explained A&E is actually a Sears company. All but one of the 25 Sears trucks in Rhode Island have been converted to A&E, as the company also provides service for appliances sold by Lowe’s and other retailers. I had no idea.

Dave lamented that repairs can often cost nearly as much as buying a new appliance.

“Imagine,” he said, “buying a car for $30,000 and then being told it’s going to cost $25,000 for brakes.”

Dave goes by the books and the set rates. But not everything on his visits is predictable.

“I’m an animal person,” he said when asked whether he’s had less than friendly encounters with dogs. There were three to his recollection. One involved a pit bull that had an angry growl despite the owner’s assurances “he’s a friendly dog.” Once inside the front door, the dog charged, and Dave, fending him off with his tool bag, hastily retreated. On another visit, a German shepherd, teeth gnashing, strained on a line to reach him. Dave kept his distance, looking back to ensure the dog was restrained. As he reached the front door, to his shock he looked back to see the dog sprinting for him. He found refuge between the front door and the storm door.

“Oh yes,” Dave said remembering the third incident. As a practice, Dave rattles gates before opening them. He believed he was safe until he rounded the corner of a house and came face-to-face with a Rottweiler. The animal looked more curious than threatening. Dave talked to it, moving steadily in tiny steps toward the back door.

The homeowner was surprised. “Nobody gets back here,” he told Dave in amazement.

But then, like Sears, Dave is persistent. I paid the $99 service charge with a credit card.

“Oh,” he said before turning to leave, “let me get you a 10 percent coupon.” He went back to his truck and returned. The nearest Sears is in North Kingstown on Post Road. All is good. I know where to find Kenmore, and better yet service, should I need it.

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