Archive for June, 2011

June 18, 2011

How Sears Lost Me For Good

I used to have fond memories of Sears. After all, they gave me my very first credit card –and that mattered. I was making a whopping 14k a year, and while that was a long time ago – that was still a really crappy wage.

But Sears gave me a card, and I was able to use it to get tires for my car, and contact lenses, and every once in awhile, a power tool, which I’d take back for cash. (How’s that for your very own payday loan?)

They also taught me about credit – that very first set of tires for my car was still on the revolving charge list when I had to replace them. It was a terrific wake up call – I was paying for a durable good that I’d worn out. That got me on the managing my credit track in a heartbeat!

And while I haven’t frequented Sears much since then – it’s a store that I think of when needing the basics.

A few months ago when we needed a new clothes washer, we bought online at Sears. And in just over 24 hours, it was installed and working perfectly. Cool. Nicely done, Sears.

When our dishwasher gave up the ghost – I dialed up, did some homework, and purchased a replacement – and the cluster began!

(Some of that was due to the previous home owner, who used the dishwasher as the support structure for the cabinet top. And then put the shut off valve BEHIND the dishwasher – hardly smart or convenient. But we solved that, and then when our Maytag started to sound like it was grinding sheet metal – we decided to send it back).

And THAT’s when the fun began:

  • The repair guy told us it was fine (it wasn’t)
  • Sears told us we’d have to pay a re-stocking fee
  • We called 17 different people over the course of 3 weeks at 9 different phone numbers
  • They FINALLY agreed to take it back on their dime, but then didn’t do any further scheduling
  • When we called again (another few people and more phone numbers), they started the robo-calls letting us know that they were making a delivery. (What they meant to say was a pickup, but their phone tree doesn’t allow for that)
  • And then when they finally showed up? That’s right –they sent the pickup folks who weren’t allowed to uninstall the dishwasher

In any case – I’ve been thinking a lot about why they failed so badly (hardware failure aside). And I think it goes like this:

Sears quit doing their own work. They outsource delivery. They outsource installation. They outsource repair. They don’t do plumbing.

And maybe, just maybe, they saved a ton of money doing that. Which lined someone’s pocket – because they sure didn’t update their database at all. It was almost unreal – the local pizza joint knows more about me than does Sears. 17 different people, 9 different phone numbers. Buying from the web store is different from buying in person. The different folks that came out really had no idea why they were coming out.

I get that Sears is in the business of making money. Good for them. But they seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to be making money for a long time – not just for this quarter, or the next. So those cost cutting ventures, that outsourcing? It means that I won’t buy a thing from them every again. A quick look at Yelp shows that I’m not alone. Who’s thinking about long term value? About the money they hope to make in 2 years? 5? Longer? Maybe no one – and that’s sad.