Against my better judgment, I found myself at Sears in Santa Monica shopping for a new dishwasher over Memorial Day Weekend (I wanted to take advantage of the special holiday sale.) After my horrific customer service experience with them last summer, I swore I would never step foot back in the store.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My then 5 year old dishwasher decided to go on the fritz. The red lights were all blinking at the same time and I knew something was majorly wrong. I called Sears to schedule a service appointment at the earliest possible date. The technician arrived about a week later, took apart my entire dishwasher and then said he needed to order parts. “Fine,” I agreed. He promised to order them RUSH and then scheduled a second appointment. Two separate parts arrived by mail within the week and a then new technician came out to install them, and guess what? The first technician neglected to order the necessarythird part! Losing my already thin patience because it had been a week without my dishwasher and now I was in for at least another week of hand washing, the new tech ordered the third part. Yet another week goes by and, I kid you not, the third part arrives, but the technician cannot install it because it is defective!! He says he is SO sorry, but there is nothing he can do other than to order a replacement part, and so he does.

At my total wits end, I called customer service to explain my extremely frustrating situation and hopefully receive some validation in the process, but no such luck. I got bupkis for my trouble, for the hours and hours of waiting at home for the techs to arrive and sitting through their futile attempts to fix my dishwasher. Instead, I got a canned script from the customer service relations department that was as utterly exasperating as it was completely ineffectual.

To add to my ongoing frustration, I kept seeing commercials for Sears with their tag line which read, Life Well Spent. I joked with my husband that their tag line should have been, Life Spent Waiting! At the same time last year, I had also picked up a copy of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh‘s book, Delivering Happiness. This tome was a #1 bestseller for weeks and touted customer service as the key to everything, the heartbeat of a company. Delivering WOW through service is their motto and they aren’t joking. Every time I order from Zappos, the process is painless and my items arrive within a day or two tops! Problems are virtually non-existent, but if a one arises, their reps are ready and able to satisfy my every need.

Thankfully now, instead of grief, we have Gripe. Gripe is a new App that allows consumers to get their complaints heard and resolved. It works particularly well if you have a decent sized Facebook and Twitter following and thus are able through social media to spread the word to your circle of influence. Mine is fairly decent with about 1000+ followers on FB and 1500ish on Twitter and growing, but they suffer largely in comparison to Heather Armstrong’s, founder of Dooce, who has over 1 million followers and who had a similar infuriating experience with her Maytag washing machine last year. She wound up going on a Twitter tirade and released a series of blasphemous remarks about her Maytag which caused quite a stir with the company.

Now I’m not suggesting that we go unnecessarily crazy, I’m just advocating our consumer right to excellent customer service! I am thrilled there is finally a place for consumers to vent their grievances other than the Better Business Bureau. In my opinion, this is a wake up call to all brands that they simply need to make customer service relations their highest priority, especially for fear that if they don’t, word on the street (or worse on the web) will spread like wildfire.

A year later, all of my frustration has basically dissipated and, like giving birth, I forgot how painful the previous experience had been and so I was back again in the trenches and taking my chances on a new Sears purchase. So far, I have to admit it looks like they have smoothed out their service kinks. They even delivered my new dishwasher one day ahead of schedule. I purchased the warranty and am crossing my fingers that I won’t be calling a tech to come to the house anytime soon. However, if things become crazy again, at least I can seek solace by venting on Gripe to the 2500+ of my closest friends.

Do you have any crazy customer service nightmares to share? Any unresolved grievances? Would love to hear your stories!