I’m trying something new. I’ve got an axe to grind, and I’ve never before used my blog to grind an axe. But I’ve got a platform, a readership—and I’m pissed. This is my opportunity to sway opinion, to reach a hundred, maybe two hundred people, to build a groundswell… against Sears.
Picking up in the middle of a conversation with Eli: “Dad, why do you even shop at Sears?”
“I don’t know. It’s just a habit. When I was a kid, everything in my house came from Sears.” And this is true. All of our tools were Craftsman*. My father’s wrench-set, his electric drill, table saw, screw drivers. All of our appliances were Kenmore*—stove, fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer, the list goes on. My clothing, for years after everyone else in my class had switched to Levis, my jeans were Toughskins*. We bought our car tires from the Sears Auto Store.
* These are Sears, Roebuck & Company’s proprietary brand-names for tools, appliances and clothing.
“Well, it seems like the stuff we buy from Sears never works,” Eli continued. “Maybe you should find a new store.”
Eli’s twelve years old.
From the mouth of babes. That’s a biblical quote implying that children possess an innate wisdom that should be heeded by adults. Twelve is hardly a babe, but it’s young enough to offer an unbiased perspective. And Eli’s perspective is that Sears’ appliances are crap. He’s watched us replace two washers, two dryers, a dishwasher and a stove in his short life. All reasonably new, all Kenmore. Our appliances typically last four to five years.
Currently, we’re trying to fix our new stove. It’s one of those stacked double-oven jobs that are suddenly insanely popular. When we turn on the lower oven, it fills the house with a natural gas smell. For almost a year, we ignored this. Once the oven is preheated, the problem goes away, the smell dissipates and the stove works just fine. One day, Susan googled the problem and found page after page of cautionary stories warning us that our house is going to blow up.
We called up Sears with a couple of weeks left on our warranty. This was two months ago. Here’s what has happened since:
- They sent out a repairman who, after analyzing the problem, ordered a replacement part.
- Once the part arrived, the repairman came back to fix the stove.
- The first time we used the stove after he left, the house filled up again with gas.
- The repairman returned, checked out the stove, and ordered another part.
- After that part arrived, he returned to install it. The stove still leaked, and he declared the stove unfixable. He told me to call Sears to schedule the delivery of a replacement stove.
- I called Sears and they said the repairman needed to come back and “issue a repair authorization.”
- The same repairman arrived again, and asked me “Why am I here?” He didn’t touch the stove, he just spent forty-five minutes on the phone talking with Sears. Before he left, he gave me a phone number to call to schedule the delivery of my replacement stove.
- I called the number and they told me that a different repairman needed to come out and look at the stove.
- The new repairman arrived, verified that there was nothing else he could do to fix the stove, and spent forty-five minutes on the phone with Sears. Before he left he gave me a number to call to schedule the delivery of my replacement stove.
- I called Sears, and they told me a repairman needed to come out and look at the stove.
- I PITCHED A FREAKING FIT!
- A couple of days later, Sears called me to say that my new stove would be delivered the next day. When the delivery came, the team went to remove the old stove and they said “Is that gas stove? We’re not certified to remove or install gas stoves.”
- Now I have my new stove in my garage. And my broken stove is still in the kitchen, unremoved. Sears won’t send out a technician to swap the stoves it because they “don’t install gas stoves in my region anymore.” They suggested I contact a local contractor to do the work and then submit a receipt to Sears for reimbursement.
I just read over that list, it’s pretty boring. If anyone is still with me, thinking “wow, Jeff, that was pretty boring,” imagine the hours I spent sitting on the phone talking with customer service, imagine the days spent waiting for a repairman to arrive. That was boredom.
During this period, I was told twice that the stove is no longer on warranty so we’ll need to start paying for the repairs. I was also told by the recipient of my final-straw-freaking-lost-it-on-the-phone-rant that the stove is fine, it’s probably our gas pipes that are leaking.
Sears bemoans the fact that they’ve lost such a huge portion of their market-share. They wonder why they’re now in their death-rattle. I’m sure that, like everyone else, they blame Walmart. At one point, Sears could do no wrong. They were the first big-box store in America that sold everything. At one point, they even sold houses. Everyone shopped at Sears.
When I was a kid, one of the most anticipated days of the year was when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived in the mail. My brothers and I would crowd around the two-hundred-page masterwork on the living room floor. We read it cover to cover. We circled the items we wanted for Christmas and crossed our fingers in hopes that Santa would deliver. Yes, when I was a kid, Sears was an extension of the Santa myth. They had to work really hard to screw that up.
Sears has lost one of its last loyal customers. To me, they’ve been synonymous with appliance shopping for my entire life. I’ve never thought twice about dropping five-hundred to a thousand dollars there. Sure, I didn’t like it, but it never once occurred to me that there might be someplace else to go. By being inconvenient and sloppy and unreliable and just plain incompetent, they’ve driven me away. With the help of my twelve-year-old son, I now know that their time has passed.
Businesses are failing left and right these days. Many are blaming Amazon, just as many blamed Walmart twenty years ago. There are plenty of consumers, me included, who would rather walk into a store to buy almost anything rather than buy it on the internet. But the Sears and Roebucks of the world have given up. Luckily, Eli pointed that out to me.