In the summer of 2016 I needed a repair on my Craftsman lawn tractor and selected Agnew’s Lawn and Garden in Boardman, Ohio to help with the repair.
My selection of Agnew’s was a catastrophe, an unmitigated disaster. I give a full account of the horror story below in a letter I sent to the business owner.
Two weeks later I received a response from Mr. Agnew. You can read his response following my letter.
May the reader benefit enormously from my experience.
July 23, 2016
Mr. John Agnew
Agnew Farm Equipment
7700 Market Street
Boardman, OH 44512
Dear Mr. Agnew,
It is with deep regret that I face my keyboard to write this letter to you today. I truly wish that the circumstances were more favorable and that I didn’t have to write this letter, but as you continue reading I hope you’ll understand why I am compelled to write this letter.
What follows is the nature of my serious complaints.
I asked Agnew Farm Equipment to evaluate a problem and perform a repair (engine oil leak) on my Craftsman lawn tractor. A member of your team picked my tractor up on May 11 with a verbal promise that it would be “looked at” in approx. three weeks.
In less than a few minutes he was ready to put the tractor in his truck w/o even asking about the problem it was experiencing. He left w/o leaving us a receipt of the tractor being picked-up or a claim# of any sort that could be used to identify our unit. In retrospect, this should have been the first major clue that I should have sought service from another group. From my perspective, if a group is unable to even assess the basic problem(s) in relative short order (1-2 days), something is terribly wrong with that service group.
Strike one and two had just simultaneously occurred. But, for some inexplicable reason, I ignored my initial instincts and agreed to have your company take my tractor in for a repair.
But now, little did I know, the real nightmare was about to begin.
After more than four weeks I still had not received a call, so I called the shop and asked for an update. After an 8-minute hold, “Carol” returned and informed me that the tractor would be ready in 7-10 days. OK, fine, I said, and while the unit is in the shop, please replace the deck shield/shoot. No problem, I was told. Carol also related that she would “keep me updated” as the due date (in 7-10 days) neared. When I complained to Carol about the poor communication I received, she was very apologetic and promised to “stay on top of it.”
Fourteen more days went by. Guess what? Nada. No calls came from Carol and my tractor was still missing in action. That’s when I decided to actually go to your facility and get a handle on what the double hockey sticks was going on. That’s when I met Carol in the flesh.
After taking my telephone number and tinkering around with her PC, she excused herself and walked into the service area. She returned in about five minutes to say that she was very sorry for the delay and that she impressed upon “the mechanic” the importance of getting my tractor promptly repaired. She even added something about threatening “the mechanic” with “where her foot might go” if it wasn’t promptly repaired! She again promised me that the repairs would be complete in the next couple of days and returned to me. I took her sincerity seriously, thanked her for her time and effort and left the facility.
Another week passes. Once again, nada. No calls. No tractor. That was it for me. I had just about as much as I could take of the abuse. I returned to your facility and walked towards the counter. As I was approaching the customer service counter Carol looked up and glimpsed my presence. Her immediate reaction? Offer a, “Hello, welcome to Agnew’s,” you say? Quite to the contrary. Believe it or not, she immediately turned around and literally ran into the rear service area, never to make an appearance while I was in the facility. I was positively stunned. I almost couldn’t believe what just happened in front of my very eyes. Where am I, I wondered to myself. Was I encountering an ill-trained customer service person? Was the experience I just had a real one or was I just imaging it? I silently wondered: did I just cross over into the Twilight Zone?
Another person, after at least a 4-minute personal chit-chat with a person in front of her, decided to ask if she could help me, and she only asked at that moment because the person she was talking to saw me standing there in need of assistance and had enough common sense to politely end the conversation w/ her thus affording her to focus on the customer service work for which she ostensibly was there to perform! She asked for my telephone number, accessed the same PC as Carol did and, just as Carol did, excused herself as she walked into the service area. In a few minutes she returned to the counter where I stood and asked that I step over to the counter on the other side of the room and speak with Dorothy, who was by this time already engaged in a conversation with a person named Jeff.
I walked over to the other counter and quickly gleaned from the conversation between them that Jeff was the mechanic and that he had been forced to go out to the counter and “explain” why my tractor was still not repaired. After several minutes of rambling and inane defense offerings between them, Jeff then insisted that I follow him into the service area so he could show me what gasket he was waiting on in order to complete the engine repair.
That’s when I got to view the full progress of the repairs that were made up to that point on my unit: my engine was extracted from the chassis and was sitting in a small pool of oil on a makeshift workbench.
Yes, there was no question about it in my mind any longer; I had indeed crossed the threshold into the Twilight Zone. I knew at that juncture that further conversation with Jeff or anyone else was absolutely pointless. I thanked Jeff for his time and politely left.
It was clear to me that I had to formulate another plan altogether in order to get the tractor back under my control.
Now slow-forward to July 3. Two or three days pass after my last Agnew encounter and I receive a call from another person (I don’t recall her name) who informed me that my tractor repair was finished and was scheduled to be delivered in the following two days (July 5). Sure, fine, thank you, I said. I’m looking forward to it, I added, thinking all along that I’m simply being fed another crock of stupid.
But lo and behold, sure enough, two days roll by and up our driveway comes the Agnew delivery truck! Unfortunately, I had just pulled out to head to CVS for a quick visit and missed crossing paths with the driver. Had I glimpsed even a whiff of his presence, I would have surely returned. But, my wife, Mary, fortunately was home and she met the driver as he pulled into the rear of our property.
Mary related that the driver quickly off-loaded our tractor and promptly began to re-assemble his truck gear. Before she knew it, he was firing up his engine and putting his truck in gear to leave. That’s when she also noticed that the tractor was lacking the ignition key! She yelled at the driver to stop and went over to tell him about the missing key. Oh, sorry, he said, and began to mumble while he rummaged through a holder that was on his dashboard. She quickly tried the key to ensure that it worked and it did. But when she looked more closely at the key she noticed that it was not the key we left in the tractor when it was picked up at our home. How did she know that for certain? Because it lacked the “Craftsman” trademark impression, the only key we had for the tractor!
When I returned I quickly inspected the tractor. The engine leak was obviously repaired. I immediately noticed, however, that there were a couple of real problems. Firstly, when I lifted the engine hood, a long pair of wires extending from the ignition panel to the tractor headlights dropped to the concrete floor. OK, no biggy, I thought, just another example of the sloppy, no talent work I’ve come to expect from Agnew. A simple, plastic tie strap would fix that slop el pronto.
Here’s a photo of that memorable moment. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Then, I looked at the deck. I noticed that the deck was terribly off level. In fact, it was grossly screwed downward on the left side, leaving it, of course, reaching for the sky on the right side. Ridiculous! See photos below.
Left side Right side
With great trepidation, I turned the key and fired-up the engine. I slowly applied power. Immediately I noticed that the throttle was unable to pass through its full range. Change in engine RPM didn’t respond until the throttle handle was mid-way to the top of the range. Wow, I thought. What the hell was going on? The mechanic spent two days “testing everything out” and was unable to observe these two very fundamental problems? How could this possibly be? It is simply incomprehensible to me how anyone believing themselves to be a qualified tractor mechanic could possibly miss these two problems. These types of mechanics exist only in the Twilight Zone.
Mary started the engine to give it a test run. As she put the tractor in gear, I immediately heard a sharp (but intermittent) clanging noise as she moved forward up our yard. When she got to the very top of the yard she engaged the blades. That’s when the clanging noise picked up more stream. After cutting one small patch of grass she hobbled back to the garage to report that a) the blades stopped cutting and b) guess what, the belt broke. She was holding the belt in one hand and steering with the other. See photos of the belt below. Notice not only the nasty break but the deep cracks throughout the belt (the photo only shows two), obviously made because of the un-level deck situation causing the belt to run rapidly across something other than smooth, level pulleys!
How could this possibly occur, you might wonder? Well, at first I couldn’t understand it either so I asked the person who was cutting our lawn while our tractor was detained in Agnew Jail to examine it. He got on his knees, peered under the deck and within 15 seconds immediately saw the problem: a weld that connected the deck to the engine structure was broken. That’s what the belt was banging against, a sharp edge from a broken weld!
Strike three. The stupidity and brutality of it all was now complete.
In all honesty, I was not upset. I wasn’t even disappointed. After everything I had already endured w/ Agnew Farm, I fully expected to experience this very end result. I knew with 100% certainty at that very moment that I was not just dreaming about entering the Twilight Zone, I was actually immersed up to my eyeballs in it.
Knowing full well that the nightmare would only continue if I called Agnew to complain or ask them to do more repair work or demand a refund and an apology for the abuse I had to endure, I didn’t bother calling. The only thing I would have accomplished if I pursued that course is self-inflicted aggravation. Instead, I did what any sane and rational person would do under these circumstances: cut my losses and seek the services of another – more qualified – service provider. I’m happy to report that within a week, my tractor was fully repaired and back in service. Here’s the list of repairs that were done correctly w/ my tractor returned in three days:
Straighten, weld and level deck
Repair blade mount
Adjust (? I couldn’t make out the word that was used) & top of RPM
Install new belt
And now, Mr. Agnew, I’m also going to do what any other perfectly sane, rational and compassionate human being should do under these circumstances: I am going to do what I can to ensure that others – as many as I can possibly reach – might benefit from learning of my horror story. And trust me when I say this, Mr. Agnew: I’m quite savvy at working social media channels.
The full scope of my horror story must be told. Others must know what they’re about to experience when they haplessly pass through the Agnew Zone.
Yes, indeed, it’s now my turn to become one of Agnew’s most enduring memories. Buckle up, amigo.
PS. I took notice of the abysmal condition of the customer service area while I was at your facility. There were stick-up notices and taped-up invoices hanging on just about every open spot. That’s quite a filing system your employees have developed. Here’s my invoice# if you set out to hunt for it: 218811
Mr. Agnew’s mail response to my letter:
Aug. 3, 2016
Dear Mr. Blazo,
I am truly sorry for your unfortunate experience with our service department. Please permit me to point out a few things about our mower services.
Pick up is done after a work order is made from a conversation with the customer. This work order, along with a claim number is attached to the unit and assigned to a mechanic. Our mechanics are instructed to then call the customer to report what they have found. This was not done in a timely manner and I apologize for this mechanic who is no longer with us.
We instruct customers to not leave their key in the unit since we have master keys for all power products.
Removing the engine from an older tractor is a major undertaking and many times getting engine parts for an engine code used exclusively by Sears takes much longer than it should.
Since the pre-delivery test by the shop supervisor showed no problems in mowing or running, the deck break must have happened either on delivery, or after the mower was moved, or it just succumbed to gravity and age and parted while in your driveway. In any event we would have taken responsibility for this minor repair and replaced the belt and weldment.
The headlight wire is generally routed along the frame and also must have come off during
Again, my apologies for your experience here.
(Signed by John Agnew)