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5 On Your Side Turns Up the Heat to Resolve Old Problem With New System

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DURHAM — A Durham woman has spent three-and-a-half years trying to resolve a problem with a heating and cooling system that has not worked since the day she got it. Finally, she called Five On Your Side's Monica Laliberte for help.

Annie Poole, 72, bought a $4,500 system from Sears in the fall of 1997. The system never worked.

"It was like going to a vacant house like the homeless people," says Poole of the winters without heat in her home.

Poole spent cold winters, and the hot summers that followed, without heat or air conditioning -- even though she had a brand new heating and cooling unit.

"It sounded like a bunch of metal blinds just rattling and carrying on," she says.

Poole claims from the day Sears installed the unit in September of 1997, it has not worked. She says the heat would not come on, and when she tried to cool her home, the air conditioning unit flooded the floor.

Poole says despite dozens of phone calls and letters, Sears just kept saying she simply did not know how to use the system.

She hired an independent company to assess the problem. They found that when the system was installed, the thermostat was moved to a water heater closet where it was getting a false temperature reading, and that a condensation pump was broken.

When Poole and Sears still could not agree on a resolution, she told them to pick up the system because she was not paying for it.

"I continued telling them [they] will have to serve me in order for me to pay you one ten cent," says Poole.

A number of collection notices followed. Eventually, Sears won a $5,800 judgement against Poole.

"I guess they felt like, she's stubborn and she ain't going to pay anything, and we're stubborn and we're going to keep her name down there until it bothers her enough that she says I'll pay! But I couldn't do that because I would have to use my money to buy another furnace," she says.

The two sides battled for three-and-a-half years. Finally, Poole called 5 On Your Side.

"That's when the ball started rolling," she says. "Ya'll started getting an accomplishment that no one else could."

5 On Your Side called Sears, and after two months of conversations, spokesman Ted McDougal says the situation was the result of "a series of miscommunications over time, and misunderstanding on both sides."

The company agreed to pay for the unit to be repaired and drop the judgment against Poole. Poole gets the unit free in exchange for her cold winters, hot summers and years of frustration.

Poole's advice to others in a similar situation: "Never give up, never give up."

Stopping payment on something you have purchased is not a good idea. While it finally worked out in Annie Poole's case, you can get yourself in serious legal trouble doing that. Remember, Sears won a judgment against her for stopping payments.

Reporter:Monica LalibertePhotographer:Robert Meikle5 On Your Side Producer:Lori LairMichelle Singer

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