Friday, June 09, 2006

Why Sears Is Going Out of Business

Earlier this week, I dragged my tired pregnant butt and my recalcitrant toddler to Sears because we need so much stuff for The LeadDome, as I have now come to think of our home-for-the-year. I wanted to buy a HEPA vacuum cleaner on the recommendation of the EPA's Lead Poisoning Hotline guy. (Since the EPA is not exactly known for being TOO cautious, I figured I better do everything her recommended at a minumum. Unfortunately, her recommended HEPA vacuuming 3x a week, PLUS wet mopping and wiping everything down with a phosphorus-containing cleaner then throwing away the cleaning supplies, PLUS keeping all the windows closed.)

Consumer Reports said the best buy in HEPA cannister vacs was actually the Sears brand Kenmore, and there's a Sears right nearby, so off I went. Ironically, this is just after a friend's experience with numskull Sears Maintenance phone people reminded me of my own Sears maintenance nightmare. But I went anyway.

The first sign of trouble came when, after a lengthy search, I found out the only elevator was the freight elevator. Chicago, what is with your disdain for the disabled and practically disabled (i.e. stroller pushing)? May I interrupt this anecdote to report that I had to haul Nutmeg, diaper bag, purse and stroller up an El stairway right downtown yesterday, because El stations do not all have elevators???? You had to wait for an employee to come operate the freight elevator for you, and then ride up with a bunch of refrigerators, stoves, what have you. Of course, Nutmeg actually enjoyed the freight elevator ride, so I could forgive them for that. If it weren't for what I saw the moment I stepped off the elevator: the toddler clothes section. That's right, a Sears without an easily accessible elevator puts its toddler section ON THE SECOND FLOOR.

We immediately found the Kenmore vacuum cleaner I wanted, and hey, it was marked down $50. They only had one portable dishwasher, and it wasn't one of the brands recommended by my extensive research (, so we proceeded to pick out a microwave. Nutmeg was being a dream, and all I had to do was find an employee to give me the stuff I wanted, and I could pay and be out of there.

He he.

For those of you who haven't been in one recently, Sears is not like Target or any other modern store where the boxes are right out there on the shelf, and you just put a huge vacuum cleaner box in your cart and proceed to check-out. No, it works more like a Communist Bloc department store, where you locate a clerk who then goes through lengthy paperwork before releasing the merchandise to you. When I found the woman in charge of the appliance section, she was helping two nuns deal with some complicated return and purchase using a rebate. I, of course, smiled and waited very patiently, because, come on, nuns. They were old, and one had a thick accent, and the saleslady had a different kind of thick accent, and things proceeded quite slowly. The nuns were having some trouble deciding on their purchase. The saleslady kept shooting me complicit looks, but I refused to participate in mocking the nuns. Instead Nutmeg and I scoured the rest of the 2nd floor for other things we need -- curtain rods, a king-sized mattress, a reliable bathroom scale. None, only at outrageous prices, and only crappy looking ones. I might have gone to try on a pair of shorts I saw on the way in, but that of course would have involved the freight elevator, so I was kinda stuck up there.

We probably waited about 45 minutes. Honest to god. I figured that no one but this woman was allowed to sell appliances, until at one point she actually asked me not to "give myself" to another salesperson. Do they get commission at Sears? Finally, the nuns were about to carry out their transaction. Nutmeg was by this time acting up, climbing up on her stroller and pawing my chest demanding "nursie," and I can only imagine what was going through the nuns' minds. Suddenly the nuns suggested that they might as well let me go first, since they had another errand they could do, and they'd come right back?

Sisters? Not to be disrespectful, but could you not have decided that 45 minutes ago?

I thought my transaction would be done in 3 minutes, since I knew exactly what I wanted. I showed her the vacuum cleaner, and she pulled out a handwritten list of model numbers that they had in stock, and studied it for a good long while. Nope, not in stock. She ordered it for me, and rang it up, explaining that this would have to be rung up separately from the microwave I wanted, because it was a different department. I asked if I could buy some vacuum cleaner bags along with the micro, and she said sure. The microwave actually was in stock, and it was on sale for $30 off, even though this was not advertised. Normally I would have been delighted, but at this point of course my toddler was trying to climb the washers and dryers and I didn't blame her, so I just smiled wanly and reminded the clerk about the bags. Which of course she forgot until after ringing up the micro, so she had to do a third transaction. Each transaction with a form to sign with carbon copies, and, hey! a $5 coupon for my NEXT VISIT.

I'd like to say there would be no next visit, but of course I have to go back to pick up the vacuum cleaner once they get it from the Sears Tower or wherever they're keeping their vacuum stash. But Jesus, Sears, could you maybe join the 21st century, or else hurry up and go out of business?

Meanwhile, I'm finding the full-time management of a toddler and a pregnant body to be much more exasperating work than my old job at the paper, even when my editor was acting like a toddler. I can't say I've had full-blown morning sickness yet, I just feel low-grade crappy, with no energy and a stomach that either constantly needs something or is constantly having a negative reaction to what I just ate. The pregnant body and the toddler are practically the same thing, actually: They both keep having fits without telling me what it is they really want, and they both need a nap every afternoon. To extend the metaphor, Nutmeg is going potty three or four times a day, whether she needs to or not, so our airless, stuffy bathroom is probably the room where we spend most of our time.

Unfortunately, there are no awards for parenting either the toddler or the belly, but there are awards for journalism, and I just found out that I won two of them recently. I got first place for a technology story in the Peninsula Press club, and shared honorable mention. Unbelievable. I never win awards all by myself, it's always for some joint project. Now, of course, I finally got my own prize, and I didn't even hear about it until about a week after the awards ceremony happened in California.

OK, boohoo for me, and all that. But I actually feel not too bad today, so I think I'm gonna get off my butt and do some cleaning/unpacking. Oh, and also, Nutmeg and I went to the Museum of Science and Industry this week for free and it ROCKED! And Blues Fest is this weekend, which we hope to attend if it is not raining too hard.


Kori said...

The Sears that you went to with Nut, on the northside, must be the one I went to to buy our fridge, after the first one randomly caught fire. I thought that if I went to a different Sears (instead of the one on the southside near us), I might be waited on in less that 45 minutes by the one -and-only staff member in the entire appliance department.

Then I was confronted with the freight elevator. Ugh.

I feel your pain, chica.

Anonymous said...

This is another reason why I love online shopping -- particularly for things (like a dishwasher) that you'll have to get delivered anyway.

Kayadela said...

Wow. I remember shopping with my parents for major appliances at Sears and the memory is probably the cause of my needing to be medicated on a regular basis.

Congrats on your awards. That's so awesome.

K's Mumma said...

Congrats for the awards & HM! Abt ur Sears xperience - now I will think 2wice b4 visiting one!

Anonymous said...

I've experienced similar situations with Sears. I think you have provided an accurate view of how the company conducts business in contrast to competitors. However, I don't think you'll get an award for this article.

Anonymous said...

I work in appliances at Sears and you are very right, that happens all the time. We do get paid commission, but asking you to wait is pretty messed up. I work there and I can't wait till they go out of business just because they are so dumb:(

Anonymous said...

Also work for Sears, for many years. At one time a great place to work, and shop. Now neither. Most managers are dead from the neck up, and don't see that taking care of associates takes care of customers...Most times so short staffed that customers will walk away. Shop elsewhere now, not even my discount is enough to keep me loyal.

maryanne said...

You should all find something better to do with your time. It's such a shame that the American mentality has come to this. This is what CONSUMERS have come to, not customer service.

Anonymous said...

you're just some dumb bitch who obviously only cares about herself. You said Sears was going to go out of business. Well here it is almost 3 years later and Sears is still around. Get off your high pedistal and come back to reality. It's people like you that we in the retail industy call "the shitty customer". I hope you rot in hell you dumb fucking cunt

Anonymous said...

you're just some dumb bitch who obviously only cares about herself. You said Sears was going to go out of business. Well here it is almost 3 years later and Sears is still around. Get off your high pedistal and come back to reality. It's people like you that we in the retail industy call "the shitty customer". I hope you rot in hell you dumb fucking cunt

Anonymous said...

damn you shitty customers