Grinding my Axe

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.
  • 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.

23 thoughts on “Grinding my Axe

  1. Sears is giving you a whole bunch of BS. That stinks. I agree – I remember sitting in my mom’s 1980 Buick Riveria waiting for her to return or exchange some item at Sears. At Holidays, I was handed the Sears Catalog to circle what I wanted for Christmas – and that catalog was HUGE – it was meant for every member of the family. Sears is not what it used to be at all. I use the store now as a walk through to get to some other store in the mall. Hope your stove issue gets some resolution soon. And I agree – down with Sears!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear ya. You could buy anything and everything at Sears back in the day. However, doing any business with them now is a risk. At this point in time, they are shutting down so many stores, that they no longer care about their customers. They know their days are numbered, so why stress over something that will collapse anyway?
    Start looking for another place to shop at.
    Oh, also, just to make you feel better (not really…) nowadays, appliances are not meant to last a lifetime… And it does not matter where you buy them. Something will fail in them sooner or later. They will not have “old” spare parts and you will have to order a whole new item.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t consider this a rant at all. I’m Australian, but we seem to have the same problem – businesses go under and blame [anything and everything] except good, old-fashioned service and honesty.
    We’ve been through similar horror stories, and one lasted 3 months before I gave up – but then I ranted about the company on FB – guess what? the problem got dealt with, real quick-like.

    Liked by 2 people

      • That’s exactly what they do – the cost is less! Pity they don’t consider the cost of future custom, but then … oh, no – here come’s another rant!
        Seen it so many times, and because people are busy, with other things much more important, they know >80% will just give up – both the issue, and their custom to that business.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve still got my 1988-era dryer from Sears; it’s running in the basement right now. Our 1988 washer lasted over 15 years.

    In general, though, modern appliances never last more than 10 years, from surveying my coworkers.


    • Wow, the only thing in my house that’s 15 years old is the AC and we try not to use that because it’s going to die at any time.I’d be happy to get 10 years out of most of our stuff. Recently, 5 years has been a milestone.


  5. The Sears stores in my town are failing. Less and less inventory every time I walk through one of them at the mall on my way elsewhere.

    We have a TV station here that does consumer advocacy. You call them up, explain your situation, and they send a reporter and advocate. Apparently some consumers get justice when the business is humiliated on TV.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought about submitting what I wrote to the local paper (where it probably would have been published and might have generated a reply from Sears), but then I would have needed to fact check a bunch of stuff. Easier just to rant.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel your pain, Jeff. We used to get everything at Sears too, from underwear to tires. Now I can’t remember the last time I even walked in one. When I do go to the mall (which I really try to avoid doing), I don’t even give them the courtesy of parking outside their entrance. Unfortunately, like someone else said, nothing is built to last anymore. We live in a disposable world where even a customer relationship is something to be thrown away.


    • “We live in a disposable world where even a customer relationship is something to be thrown away.” This quote is too good to be wasted in the comments section of some random blog. Please find a better home for it where more than 15 people will read it. I’m learning a lot about Sears today. On facebook, someone told me that they will likely file for bankruptcy early next year.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Big box stores all now carry appliances. Are the stores more reliable for service? I don’t really know. However, we purchased a microwave oven and a 4 year warranty that wasn’t unreasonable. Three years plus later it emitted an awful noise, even though it still worked. We took it back with the documentation, and Best Buy just brought out a brand new one, identical, (on which we also took out a 4 year warranty). No fuss or fight. Happy Best Buy consumer).

    The ice maker on a $2500 refrigerator stopped working and under warranty was fixed free ($259 otherwise). A year later same thing happened, out of warranty. We called our local appliance doctor who came promptly ($65. house call) advised us ” this will be a yearly problem, cost $385, because motors overheat and burn out on all models of this brand.” I can make the repair but if it were mine, I’d get a separate icemaker! Which we did. For less than $100 it stopped working but we called the maker, (Canadian) who walked us through the reset and it’s working well. Igloo.

    Good Luck, Jeff. If you’d like I’ll give you the appliance doctor’s phone number.


  8. I resonate with your childhood Sears history, Jeff. Craftsman tools, Kenmore stuff. Buying tires and batteries there for my first car. And the Christmas catalog, aka “the Wish Book”, so carefully studied.
    It seems a rotten shadow of its former self. I did buy my last washer and dryer there about 6 years ago, but they weren’t Kenmore. Bosch, and still working fine, although our household is not a heavy wash house. No teens. On buying appliances, I’ve found Consumer Reports to be a good source of non-biased information on durability, etc.
    Eli spoke the truth and broke the trance.


  9. I only know this person, not that there was a whole network of them. I considered him an independent. He doesn’t look like the men on the website! Hope it works out for you.


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