The email promised that because she was a Sears "premier" member, Cathy Graves would have access to the company's exclusive pre-Black Friday sale.
It seemed almost too good to be true.
The Plainfield resident had been looking for an inexpensive television for her teenage son, and the presale offered a 32-inch Seiki-brand LCD HDTV for $97.
So Graves sat down at her computer on Nov. 18, clicked on the link to buy the TV and considered herself lucky when the website asked for her credit card information and processed the sale.
About 15 minutes later, she received an email from Sears confirming the purchase, which with taxes came to $105, a savings of $101.88. The email instructed her to wait for another email which would inform her when the television was at Sears in the Fox Valley Mall.
The next day, the second email arrived informing Graves that the TV was ready for pickup.
"Please bring a printed copy of this email, photo ID, and the payment method you used with you to the merchandise pickup area of the store," the email said. "Thank you for shopping at sears.com!"
Graves hopped in her car, drove to the store, and scanned her email at the pickup window.
After about five minutes, a man came out but was not carrying a TV.
"He said, 'We don't have this TV,'" Graves said. "I said, 'Do I need to come back?' He said, 'No, they're just not giving this to you.'"
Graves asked for a manager.
"The manager comes out and said they sold 40 TVs and only got one in," she said. "They were only able to fill one of the orders."
The manager then offered to sell her a 40-inch television — for $100 more.
"That's when I got mad," Graves said.
She told the manager she did not want another TV and asked for the 32-inch Seiki LCD HDTV for which she had paid.
Again the manager offered to sell her a larger TV for $100 more, she said.
"I said, 'What you're doing is bait and switch,'" Graves said.
Angry, she drove to her office and called Sears' customer service.
"They told me they don't have the TV in stock," Graves said. "She gave me the same spiel the guy gave me at the store, tried to sell me the 40-inch TV for another $100."
The customer service agent then offered to refund Graves' $105.