5 On Your Side

Granville County woman battles Sears over tax credit

Posted June 21, 2010 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2010 7:51 p.m. EDT

Meldrina Bernard, of Creedmoor, says Sears talked her into buying a roof she was not ready to purchase.

— Meldrina Bernard, of Creedmoor, loved her vacuum cleaner so much she went back to Sears at Crabtree Valley Mall to thank the associate who sold it to her.

“I just wanted to go and give her a hug and say, ‘Thank you,’” Bernard said. “I finally got a vacuum cleaner that is working.”

But during her return trip to Sears, she said a different sales representative convinced her to pursue what she calls one of her worst buys from Sears – a roof.

“She walks up to me and she was smiling and she had a piece of paper in her hand and she said, ’How would you like to qualify for a $1,500 tax credit?’” Bernard said.

Soon after, another sales rep came to Bernard’s home.

After agreeing to the $9,200 cost, Bernard called Sears District Manager Jason Stutts about the tax credit.

Bernard said Stutts told her that once the roof was in place she should call Sears, and the retailer, would give her paperwork to take to an accountant.

But when she called to get the paperwork, representative Jennifer Pittman told Bernard the roof did not qualify for the tax credit.

In a follow-up e-mail, Pittman blamed the “marketing people” saying they are "not aware of the nuances of using incorrect verbiage with customers."

“If you're not using correct verbiage to customers in the store then you need to put some warning signs up at your front door saying, ‘Shop at your own risk. Our marketing people are not aware of using correct verbiage to customers in the store,’” Bernard said.

A Sears website included roofs in a list of products that qualify for the credit.

But in a letter to North Carolina's Attorney General, a Sears corporate representative said the only eligible roofing product it carries "is only available in California, and is white."

When 5 On Your Side called about Bernard’s roof, Sears attorney Mark Henrikson apologized for the misunderstanding.

He said no Sears employees "have any recollection whatsoever" that Bernard wanted to buy shingles that qualified for the tax credit.

Henrikson said Sears does sell one type of shingle that qualifies for the tax credit in North Carolina, and Bernard could have bought it.

The tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of the energy-efficient materials only. Labor is not included in the calculation.

Of the more than $9,200 Bernard paid, Sears said she would have only received about $250 in credit had her shingles qualified. Henrikson offered Bernard $500.

Bernard still insists she bought the roof sooner than she planned only to take advantage of the tax credit.

“I never put a sign outside saying, 'Roof Wanted,'” Bernard said. “You came to my house and sold me a roof with the plan that I will get something in return."

When dealing with tax credits, customers should remember that they can’t get them if they didn’t earn enough to pay taxes. Shoppers should check with a tax professional and visit the Internal Revenue Service website before purchasing an item involving a tax credit.