Sears: Another One Bites The Dust And A Curmudgeon’s Reminiscences

Sears recently made an announcement:

“Sears said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had ‘substantial doubt’ about its ability to stay in business…” (Link is here. Be warned it’s a USA Today article with an outlandish advertisement to content ratio.)

I’d assumed Sears was already gone. Who buys anything at Sears? Why?

It’s a lot like when Radio Shack went under and I thought “Radio Shack still exists?” That said, the self inflicted death of this particular dinosaur is a bittersweet moment to me. Here’s my true story about Sears:

Back in the stone age, Sears had a good reputation and I didn’t. I was young, unemployed, lonely, broke, and running on fumes. Shit happens and sometimes a young man (despite his best efforts) bottoms out.

But fortune favors the bold and I never quit striving. After many setbacks I landed a job! My future was looking better than my present.

All I needed was steel toed work boots. I couldn’t show up at the job site without them. (Even back then OSHA was utterly feared by employers.)

I didn’t have cash to buy the required safety boots. (Sounds like a country music song doesn’t it? Well it’s true so quit laughing.)

This was back before everyone and their dog had credit cards. (And yes, for the younger readers out there, there was a time when there wasn’t a Government program to provide every damn thing a person would want.) Until I figured out the boot situation I’d continue swirling the drain. None of this is complaining, I just want to set the stage.

People say “I spent my last dollar” but it’s rarely literally true. For me it was. I had half a tank of gas and when it ran out I was done for! My food was already gone. Asking for help from friends and relatives was unthinkable. I’d have died before I asked for money and I was 500 miles away from home anyway (both literally and metaphysically). (Listen to the song y’all. Many of us have been there.)

After various attempted solutions at solving my quandary. I wound up at a mall were I sought salvation… from Sears.

Back then the only way a man of modest means could buy on credit was from “store cards”. The only card a loser like me could get was Sears. No shit… there was a time when a man couldn’t easily get a Visa card. I lived in those times so I know it’s true. Yet from the modern point of view it seems remote and unbelievable.

Sears had literally one pair of steel toed work boots in the store. They weren’t cheap. I bought them (and nothing else). I was immensely grateful. I still remember that moment with a soft heart.

Surprisingly, the boots sucked. They trashed my feet. The job sucked too. I didn’t care. It’s better to have cut up feet (thanks OSHA!) and a shit job than be half a tank of gas from homeless.

That moment, when a pair of boots was a nearly insurmountable barrier, may not be my lowest financial point (there have been many to choose from) but it was certainly among the scariest. I had looked into the abyss and come back with nothing worse than blistered feet. I was very lucky. Six months later I bought vastly better boots (possibly Redwings). I paid cash and tossed the Sears footkillers in the trash.

Fast forward many years and I was slowly climbing the financial ladder. Because of the boots, I had a warm spot in my heart for Sears. They’d been a hand up in my time of need and I was inclined to “repay” by buying a shitload of top end stuff. Notably I “invested” in a pile of Craftsman wrenches & tools. I also sprung for car batteries, shocks, mufflers, sets of tires, power tools, jeans, household appliances, a fancy vacuum cleaner, and much of the other stuff a person needs to live a normal American life. I could have gotten all that crap cheaper elsewhere but I wanted “quality” and Sears still had a stellar reputation. I figured I’d buy the good stuff and only have to pay once.

Gradually I realized I was paying extra to get shitty stuff. The wrenches were good (I still have them) but everything else was crap. The sander conked, the appliances went belly up, etc…

I wanted to maintain brand loyalty for life. Yet I was getting screwed. How long should I reward them for those boots?

Finally, after my fancy vacuum cleaner conked out for the umpteenth time, I broke ties with Sears. It wasn’t the shitty vacuum that did it. It was shitty people.

I was in back trying to buy parts to keep my piece of shit running. Up front, a young couple was browsing shiny new vacuum cleaners. They looked like newlyweds from a Norman Rockwell scene. They were pondering the vacuum cleaners and debating the “investment” that was probably a big deal purchase in their budget (as it had been in mine). They were being assisted by a salesdrone. He was extolling the virtues of longevity and quality components.

The part I needed was out of stock. Parts were out of stock more often every visit. Meanwhile a different salesdrone was giving me the hard sell on a new vacuum cleaner. “Why bother with another belt? These vacuums are only meant to last a couple years anyway.”

That asshole! When I’d bought the damn thing I’d been at that very store! I’d paid twice what I’d have spent at a new competitor across the street. (A heretofore unknown Borg-like entity called Walmart.) At the time of purchase I’d been told ;”This thing will last a lifetime.” I’d been willing to pay higher prices based on the promise of quality and longevity.

I grabbed my salesdrone by the elbow and towed him bodily to the front of the store. I steered him between the shocked couple and their worried looking alternative drone. Then I engaged in a little “street theater”:

“This model is the one I own.” I waved at the vacuum cleaner that was exactly what I owned, couldn’t buy parts for, and the newlyweds were considering. “Go ahead, tell everyone what you just said to me.”

My salesdrone’s jaw dropped. He looked like I’d hit him between the eyes with a sledge. Finally, after a long pause, he shrugged and gave in; “Those vacuums are only meant to last a couple of years.”

Whether it was because they were freaked out by me manhandling salesdrones or because it dawned on them that plastic shit is cheaper at Walmart, the newlyweds left. I stomped away; leaving a salesdrone who’d just lost a sure commission glaring at the other who had stepped in it.

I never bought anything at Sears after that day. This comports with a standard Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:

A company that fucks with me is banned from my life for eternity.”

It’s inevitable that Sears will die. You can’t screw up worse than they did with me. I was hugely grateful and planning to pay top dollar for quality products as long as I lived. They had the world in their hands. They blew it for the one-time profit on an overpriced vacuum cleaner. They foisted shit upon a man so loyal I’d have crawled through broken glass to give them money. Sears didn’t lose to competition, it committed suicide.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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45 Responses to Sears: Another One Bites The Dust And A Curmudgeon’s Reminiscences

  1. m says:

    what amazes me is the number of people who think Sears actually makes their products.
    if you look at the tags the number is xxx.xxxxxxx. well, the first xxx. is the manufacturer number.
    you can google it.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      It never occurred to me to think Sears made anything. Though long ago I was naive enough to think they used care in “picking out” which stuff to sell.

  2. Rick C says:

    Somehow I got from here to your several-years-old stories about phone companies, including a handset maker, jacking you around by making a slightly-newer model be physically incompatible, and it remind me of something.

    I write software that lets companies fill out government reports. Every single one from the Federal government, they mess with the form layout every year, even if it’s just moving a couple of lines down half a line.

    Worse, a couple of these forms, they make these unnecessary and trivial formatting changes, while leaving horrible design malfeatures alone! If you have an ACA-compliant health insurance plan, then for the last couple of years you should’ve gotten a form from your employer called a 1095C. Take a look–the form puts your social security number above your zip code, meaning your employer can’t use a windowed envelope to send the form, meaning they have to buy special envelopes or print mailing address labels or something.

  3. Doctor Mingo says:

    A few months back while my buddies and I were swapping an engine in my daughters Cherokee, we discovered that we needed a u-joint torque socket to get into a tight spot between the engine and transmission. Dumb place for a torque bolt but Chrysler does love there torques.

    I found what I was looking for on the Sear online page. My friend said the local Sears won’t have it. I called and sure enough the girl on the other end said they had it.

    We drove to the Sears Tool Department and found the girl that I had talked to. She found the tool and said, “This is what my boss said you’re looking for.” It wasn’t.

    After about a half hour we found something that might work (probably Sears’ game plan in the first place). When I checked out the girl apologized and followed it up with this direct quote, “I don’t really know anything about tools.”

  4. Timbotoo says:

    Walmart may be lining up to follow Sears into the Well of Oblivion. I bought s pack of screws with anchors attached for use in drywall. Not ONE worked. Chinese pos.

    • nato says:

      The difference with Walmart is you know you’re getting cheap shit. Sears at one point did have a better quality reputation.

      • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

        Exactly, Sears once was associated (for good or bad) with better than the cheapest of shit but not too high end. I’d be a prime customer for any store that caters to quality without going overboard. I sought Sears to avoid bullshit; “there are 35 models of dishwasher and picking one out bores me… fuck it, I’ll get whatever Sears sells”. But not if the Sears model is the same shit as Home Depot with a 20% markup. Or in my case Sears was simultaneously trying to up-sell to the gold plated internet connected dishwasher while foisting the cheapest crap ever to crawl out of the factory. They practically chased my money out the door.

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  6. ILTim says:

    All companies follow through two phases:

    1) Growth. Do something better than the competition. Gain new customers via providing some “actual value” not otherwise available on the market.

    2) Decline. Manipulate the status quo of your established position to “get a little more for yourself” out of every transaction. Don’t worry, the diminished value won’t immediately reduce your sales, revenue, or reputation. Don’t worry about the new competitors who are copying your model and doing it better than you, they don’t have your “name” and could never take your customers away*.

    *Until after bonus season and you have jumped to the next company who eagerly hires you for twice the salary based on past performance.

    • ILTim says:

      Never transact with a company once it enters the decline phase. Sections of Amazon are getting there, while other segments of that organization are still kicking ass and taking names.

      • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

        I’m expecting WalMart to start fading eventually. That may seem crazy but remember that Sears, Montgomery Wards, Kmart, JC Penney, Radio Shack and many other retailers were “unstoppable” in their day. I certainly only shop at WalMart if death is the alternative and I know I’m not alone.

        You’re right that Amazon is losing it’s “young and hungry” feel. It used to be buying stuff off the internet was a PITA and Amazon was the cure. It smoothed things out. I could dink around with six different orders from six different cludgy shopping carts at six different “web presences” or just use Amazon. It was a necessary phase and they did it well.

        Now I’m not so sure why Amazon isn’t getting attacked by packs of roving competitors. Amazon is still awesome for now but it’s getting in it’s own way. I’ve noted that their shipping (which used to be amazing) is starting to suck. They do this thing where they FedEx your order all the way to your hometown and then hand it over to the USPS to lose it in the last 10 miles? What kind of fuckwit gets a package 2,000 miles in two days and then hands it to Cliff Claven to spend a week dragging it through the mud before stuffing it in your neighbor’s mailbox? Nothing says “bureaucracy starting to eat itself” like that kind of nincompoopery.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Well put. Companies become big by being innovative and awesome. They become dead by becoming big and stupid.

      Sears was awesome in it’s day of catalog sales to homesteaders. So was Radio Shack in the post-sputnik times. So was WalMart (I hate to admit it) when it dropped the price of everything by 10% 20 years ago. So was Amazon when it made it possible to do Christmas shopping from home 10 years ago.

      (I can’t recall anything good to say about Kmart but I’m sure there’s something.)

  7. Radioshack was a nich market for people who actually wanted to buy the part for something. Then the market changed and they left the customer base they had in favor of junky glittery shit.
    I bought a kit personal computer in the early 80’s from Radioshack. I bought several kids science kits and rocket kits. I built a kit radio from there.
    Radioshack, just like Sears, betrayed their customers.
    I bought my first set of car tires from the Sears catalogue and a nice leather jacket from it too.
    When they killed the Thick catalogue was when I knew Sears was history. That was long ago.
    They screwed up by getting a corporate mentality like IBM, but it was so big it takes a long time to die.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I miss the Radio Shack that sold resistors and soldering flux and shit. I needed that stuff!

      What’s funny about Radio Shack is they got so weird toward the end that they didn’t even sell radios:

      “Hi, welcome to Radio Shack, would you like a low quality toy car?”
      “Nope, I want a radio. Here at Radio Shack I’d like to buy a radio. Got any 2 meter HAM rigs?”
      “Oh…sorry; we don’t sell sandwiches. Would you like a laptop made of parts we swept off a floor in an unnamed factory in Bolivia?”
      “Can I buy a nice little shortwave? I’ve got my eye on a Techsun…”
      “Oh… sorry. All we have are things that look like iPods but aren’t. We don’t actually know what they are.”
      “Why exactly is Radio Shack in the mall if not to sell radios?”
      “You hurt our feelings. Get the hell out and let us focus on bankruptcy.”

      • Blockbuster (idiots HAD to know vhs was gone, yet persisted over ten years), Tower Records (did not go to new medium).
        They could have survived and flourished, but they thought Big mean’t unbeatable.
        Dinosaur mentality.

    • Sailorcurt says:

      This is pretty much what I was going to say. Good thing I checked the existing comments first.

      My degree is in Electronics Technology. I don’t work in the field any more, but still enjoy tinkering and building my own circuits. Radio Shack was great for that. Used to be the “go to” place for electronics components and equipment.

      As with Sears, they also committed suicide when they first tried to become a computer store, and then later when they basically became a Cell phone store. There were already stores filling those niches better.

      As my dear departed dad used to say: “When you’re good at something stick with it”.

      Re: Sears specifically, what I don’t get is that Sears was the original Amazon. I remember when the Sears and Roebuck catalogue was the place EVERYONE who didn’t live in a city shopped from. Back in the early days, you could even buy guns from them. Fill out the mail order form, write a check (or if you were REALLY brave, put the cash in the envelope), pop it in the mail and wait. Just like Amazon without the whole internet-thingy.

      So, what happened? Why did Amazon steal that niche when Sears freaking INVENTED it? Part of their suicide mission I suppose. They were caught sleeping at the switch and didn’t recognize how to turn the entire internet shopping experience into the online Sears and Roebuck catalogue.


      • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

        It never occurred to me that Sears in 1910 was Amazon in 2010. Brilliant observation!

        If Sears had simply done what it did with the catalog but at the dawn of the internet era they could have eaten Amazon’s breakfast. It seems so obvious now. As far as I can tell they never even gave it a shot.

        Shortly after Sears pissed me off with vacuum cleaners they got the fool idea to pretend to be a finance company (apparently while selling appliances in malls on the side). If you went into the store they’d hammer the hell out of you to get a Sears card (this is a dumbass move in that era when everyone already had six Visas). They’d been ahead of the curve extending me credit when I needed OSHA’s boots but were long behind it while Amazon was solidifying it’s dominance.

        Now I’m daydreaming of the never produced futuristic Sears-Roebuck catalog of an alternate dimension internet age. It coulda’ been awesome!

      • Sears was also the original dollar store in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Wal(s)mart ate them. Anyone with a lick of sense saw all these things coming.

  8. flighterdoc says:

    A year or two ago Sears sold the “Craftsman” name to Stanley Black and Decker…so buyer beware.

    My OLD Craftsman tools will outlast me (some of them outlasted my father, God bless him). New stuff? Even quality, professional tools are iffy.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I don’t assign any special value to Craftsman anymore. For that matter Black and Decker meant “good” half a century ago and “cheap dustbuster that’ll break in a week” more recently.

      • Aesop says:

        One of my earliest jobs was at Sears, bout a million years ago, in hardware, sporting goods, and toys.
        I unloaded and shelf-stocked the lifetime warranty Craftsman hand tools, made then by Western Forge Corp., Colorado Springs, CO.
        Now they’re from Wang’s Number One Steel Pounding Monkeys Company, Shanghai, PRC.

        It isn’t hard to see what the problem is.

        And any time after 1965, (One word, Ben: plastics.”) their power tools were crapola.

        They should have folded when they killed the Big Book, and gone out with some dignity.

        Free trade helps everyone? Really??
        Find a major purchase other than a car that outlives the warranty. Or a hamster.

  9. KO says:

    Ahhh… the Sears Roebuck of old. When I was a kid, there was no Sears store (at least not within 200 miles). We picked up the annual Big A$$ catalog, decided what we had to have, filled out an order blank, mailed it in with a check and waited for the package to arrive. New jeans for the new school year, tennis shoes, Christmas presents, etc. My first firearm, a Savage 24J-DL, was ordered from Sears in ’63 and delivered by the U.S. mail. An old chap about ten miles away ordered his house from Sears sometime in the ’30’s. It arrived by train and had to be put together by the happy owner. It’s still standing today, long after the Jim Walters of the ’60’s have rotted down. Yep, they used to be quality stuff.

  10. JJ says:

    Totally agree with this article and all the comments. 35-40 years ago a young couple could go into Sears, buy the mid-priced appliances and have confidence that they would last AND be repairable by just about anyone. I have sets of Craftsman screwdrivers I bought 20 years ago that are still in great shape, but wouldn’t buy a new Craftsman anything today. Last purchase of any significance from Sears was a “Craftsman” brand lawn mower that lasted fewer years than the cheap one from Walmart I had before. The motor ran great, but the rest of the mower literally rusted away from around the motor.
    Bought a Wards brand refrigerator (built by one of the major appliance companies) that lasted 25 years and moved with me to 4 different locations. I have friends who had 3 or more refrigerators over the same number of years.
    I recognized that Sears was really done when they bought K-Mart which had already been put under by WalMart. It’s like the Sears execs just couldn’t resist the blue light special.

    • revjen45 says:

      Kinda reminds me of McDonnell Douglas dying and then buying Boeing with Boeing’s own money. The MDAC business model was made manifest in the multi-year clusterf*ck of the 787 program. Hey, no reason parts made in Korea and Italy shouldn’t work together, right? I hope to God Boeing prospers since I retired from them.

      • 767FBJ says:

        As a Structures Mechanic who just today said farewells to co-workers taking “Voluntary Lay-off” packages, I’m thinking, you got the golden years. Be glad you got out when you did.

  11. Jerry says:

    Quite a few years ago I used to shop for my ammo at a local k-mart. Around that time they were getting ready to close their hunting department. I went there one day and lo and behold, sale on ammo. 20 guage winchester AA trap loads, 39 cents a box. Told the sales person to take the sales sign down. Bought em all, 39 boxes. Boy, I miss those people. Could the price been a mistake?

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      The price wasn’t a mistake… it was an opportunity. An opportunity for you.

      Your experience was probably right around the time Kmart hired a dancing monkey and metallurgist (“it’s the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel“) named Rosie O’Donnell. She went off the anti-gun deep end and drove a stake through her employer’s heart. Slick move eh?

      I’m not sure if Kmart is officially dead or just mostly dead (just like Sears isn’t dead yet but everyone knows it’s doomed). It is true that Sears and Kmart are a single entity. Why they thought to merge is beyond me. It’s akin to two drowning people chaining themselves together thinking it’ll help them stay afloat.

      • The idiots thought the dollar store concept was still open. As for Rosie, she is one person on a list I have. This list includes her, John Kerry and Hanoi Jane.
        Pissing on the graves is what I wish to do. I bet when they finally die their graves are going to smell like piss and urine for a LONG time.

  12. richardcraver says:

    It seems all the major brands are in a race to the bottom. About two years ago my trusty Makita drill would no longer charge, the batteries were now ridiculous expensive and to be fair it was 15 years old. So I went looking for a replacement at Lowe’s. Everything, Black&Decker, DeWalt, Ryobi and whatever else was made in China. Really? Ryobi, a good quality Japanese brand was made in China? DeWalt, a traditional American brand, made in China.
    I cut to the chase and bought a drill/flashlight combo at Harbor Freight, I know I’m buying junk and pay $20 vs $300. When the battery starts getting iffy, I go buy another set for less than a Makita, or any other ‘brand’ battery.
    Do I feel good about it? Hell no! If we want a country with jobs, we need to have a country that makes things. But I’m not going to make an MBA rich in bonuses for shutting down the DeWalt factory and rebranding Chinese trash at an extravagant profit. I’ll pay for good stuff, but not for overpriced junk.

  13. alaskapaul says:

    I used to buy stuff from Sears. When I was a young kid, dad and I used to go to “Monkey Wards.” Sears may be dead, but it is still walking for now….the living dead.

    Nowadays I buy Milwaukee power tools, especially the battery powered “Fuel” models. Absolutely awesome. For mechanic tools, I buy Mac, as my son gets a good discount via his school. I have no use for cheap sh*t anymore. Buy it once.

    Just think, the Sears Catalogue was its internet shopping of the day.

  14. NOG says:

    In 1989 I took my car in for servicing. After I picked it up the turn signals would not work. I fiddled with it and finally bought a shop manual. They had pulled out the turn signal plug under the dash. I took it back and the shop guy quoted me 100.00 to fix it. I instead went to the office and asked for the manager. He called them and said fix it now. He did not even apologize to me.I have not bought a single thing from Sears for these past 28 years, and never will spend a dime there. Let them go away. NOG

  15. Oldfart says:

    In my younger years I did a lot of roaming through the mountains. I soon found a small company in Seattle that sold superb equipment by mail order. I bought their top-of-the-line down sleeping bag and hauled it all over the range. I was the envy of all my buddies who were still using army surplus bags. Then I moved to Seattle where I quickly made my way to the home store and squandered a metric ton of money.

    This company was (is?) a co-op and was making money hand over fist so they decided to change. They hired a new CEO to handle the change. He had great recommendations from his last employer so he was welcomed by almost everyone. I say “almost” because I had a few reservations but no one bothered to ask me.

    Anyhoo, he came aboard and started even more changes. The highly profitable store in Seattle branched out to other cities and took on new lines of products. Where they had been the ‘go-to’ source for rock-climbing and backpacking gear they started carrying kayaks, bicycles, food bars and clothing. They now carry almost as much clothing as Sears used to.

    I’m older now, so I don’t hike as much as I did but that isn’t the reason I no longer trade with REI, it’s solely because of the changes made by the CEO whose previous employer for was – roll the drum please – SEARS!

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha… That explains why REI got on the lame train!

      I used to buy lots of stuff at REI. I had an REI card and used my yearly “refund” to buy one “nice” object per year. Originally I went there for top dollar but best quality stuff. I bought things like a tent and sleeping bag; also water filtration gear. Very expensive but when you carry stuff on your back every ounce counts.

      After a while I had most of the very few things I needed to be ultralight. Meanwhile their selection went from “stuff to climb Everest” to “stuff to look like you might climb Everest but really you’re on a wooden boardwalk at a birdwatching park”. That made the yearly “nice thing” shopping trip less fun. Recently almost nothing in REI is useful for a hunter and most isn’t useful for an actual man doing manly things. (Try buying clothes at REI you can wear near a sparking campfire!) Also a room filled with high tech chick-approved spandex running pants doesn’t make up for the fact that I need a warm jacket that doesn’t sound like fifty potato chip bags when I’m hunting. Also I like to canoe in the wilderness without equipping in colors that look like the 1970’s puked on my campsite. What’s wrong with gear that’s green and brown and blends in with the surroundings?

      So I cancelled my REI card and stopped shopping there. They’re a long way from Sears but the situation has parallels.

  16. Funny about that “fucking with me,” attitude; I just traded in a car that did that exact thing to me.

    I’d bought this car new, 12 years ago, my first new car, and it was configured exactly how I’d wanted it, and a brand I’d never owned before. There were a few reported problems, to which I’d looked into, but it appeared to me (I’m a born gear-head) that they were born of carelessness or outright neglect, for which I have no tolerance of. I quickly grew to like this car.

    I perform my own PM, and do it religiously. I never miss a date nor mileage.

    After about 50K miles (an insubstantial amount, in my opinion), I noticed it was getting a bit low on the dipstick between services. So I checked it more often.

    The older it got, the more it consumed.

    Then one day about a year ago, I crossed a nexus that should have clued me in on the whole bit; it started getting poorish mileage. Performance was down. It needed a new catalytic converter right at 100K, as I found it was clogged. Expensive to replace, but I bit the bullet and did it along with a bunch of other major PM work.

    I went about my merry way and it ran just as it did before. For a while.

    A year passes and the mileage goes to sucking a bit, as before. Performance did as well.

    So, after only 120K miles, I knew that my perfectly maintained car no longer had any “LOVE,” for me, as I knew it was burning oil passed the rings.

    It turns out that the manufacturer knew of this deficiency for many years and has actively covered it up, and recently settled a suit about it, and for a bunch of their cars.

    Once is enough for them. No more.

  17. Are Tee says:

    Spot on write up. For me Sears going down is very sad, as a young married couple in 1985 we only shopped at Sears because it was all good quality stuff. I had a bed that I bought there in 1986 that was still the most comfortable when I sold it five years ago, imagine that shit. Four years ago I bought a Kenmore 15 cubic foot chest freezer that had a bad thermostat right away, either 45 degrees above or 5 below was all it was good for. So you fill it up and now you can’t do anything cause you don’t have the time and when I got the time the warranty was out – 59 dollar thermostat, so screw it then I’ll just freezer burn the food. Contrast that to a same size Montgomery Wards freezer my dad bought in 1979 and has been running continuously since then, fucking amazing Made in the USA work of art! Used to be the Sears credit card was the hardest to get, your credit had to be very good and I was proud to whip that sucker out, but now it’s long gone. My father was born in 1924 and he used the Sears and Monkey Wards catalogs for toilet paper in the outhouses. I suspect if those 7 pound books were still around today people would do the same, except out of spite.

  18. Phoenix8 says:

    RE: dropping the catalog operation.
    About six years ago I worked with a man that retired from a long career at Sears as a middle/upper accounting manager. He was part of the corporate group that compared catalog and retail operations and decided to shut down catalog.
    He said they found that, contrary to expectations, the catalog was losing money while the retail side was profitable. So after looking at it more, they decided catalog wasn’t going to make money and shut it down.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I wasn’t suggesting the wise path was to continue to ship a 1920’s style catalog. They definitely needed to adapt to the internet. But surely the solution wasn’t to hole up in malls and sell shit until your loyal customers all hate you. (I think I’ll start calling that method “the Radio Shack Gambit”.)

    • The Catalogue lost money, but that’s what generated the profit, in the long run for the retail side.
      Just like Advertising doesn’t MAKE money, but generates perception that DOES, in the long run, generate money.
      Pheonix, some people are just idiots who only see what’s on their dinner plate and not into the kitchen.

  19. Mark Matis says:

    On the other hand, my Kenmore refrigerator was manufactured in December 1998. Only problems so far – knock on wood – have been some replacement ice makers. But then again, I suppose that Florida does not put much of a strain on refrigerators. After all, our weather down here is so cold the refrigeration system never needs to run…

  20. ILTim says:

    Last year I donated the old Sears refrigerator to re-store that came with my house. Worked great, built in 1986. Unfortunately, I had put a kill-o-watt meter on it and found that it consumed $22/month in electricity. At that rate my new (second-hand $100) fridge paid for itself in about five months. I know the new box won’t last twenty to forty years, but I will spend thousands less in total. Irritating trade-offs.

  21. For Sears read Western civilization?

  22. Malgus says:

    Screw Sears.

    Like you, I saw their demise on the horizon years ago…

    Back after Gulf 1, I was home and working on my truck with a Craftsman 1/2″ ratchet drive. Right in the middle of whatever it was I was doing, the guts of the ratchet fall out and bounce all over the floor of the garage…

    Super. And because my ride is in bits, I can’t use it to drive to Sears and get a new one even though LIFETIME GUARANTEE.

    Borrow my brother’s car. On my way.

    I get to the Sears – not a short distance, either. It was like a 30 mile drive one way – and wander into the tool section.

    “Welcome to Sears, how can I help you?” says Timmy Derkins the Counter Drone.

    “Yeah, I need a new 1/2″ ratchet because this one puked it’s guts up.”

    “Not a problem.” says Timmy Derkins the Counter Drone. With a smile, no less…

    I’m thinking “Daggum! That is some service right there! I just might buy some more shit while I’m here!”

    Timmy Derkins the Counter Drone says “Here you go sir” and hands me a little plastic bag with new ratchet guts in it… the direct inference is that I have to take this bag of shit home and put my ratchet back together myself.

    “Whoa, hey… hold on there Scooter. I want a new 1/2″ drive! Craftsman is supposed to have a lifetime guarantee”..

    The smile vanishes from Timmy’s face and is replaced by that look you get when you step in fresh dog shit on the sidewalk… in his best corporate-speak, he says:

    “Sir, we are liable to replace what is defective and only the insides of your drive need replacing. Not the whole drive.”

    Message received: Fuck you, Jack! Here’s your bag of shit. Now whatchoo gonna do?”

    What am I gonna do? Challenge accepted, Timmy.

    I swiped the bag of replacement guts off the counter and stomped out. Drove the 30 miles back home and went back into the garage, right to the workbench.

    I reefed that gutless 1/2″ drive into daddy’s old machinist’s vise that was bolted to the bench, grabbed a masonry hammer off the peg board and then beat the holy hell out of that crappy drive until it was completely destroyed.

    Grab the destroyed 1/2″ drive. Back into the car. Drove back the 30 miles. Parked and then went to find Timmy.

    Timmy says “Oh! Back so soon?”. The little shit weasel.

    I dropped the destroyed drive on his counter, right in front of him.

    “Gimme my fucking wrench. This one is… broken.”

    He knew what I did. I knew what I did. I was standing there, daring him to say something…

    Timmy was pissed off something fierce, but I got my replacement wrench. That was the last time I was in a Sears.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Awesome story!

      • Mark Matis says:

        But please do understand that a truly dedicated wrecktumologist would have taken the hammer to the store with him as well, and asked if the wrench was sufficiently broken to warrant full replacement, or if further damage would be necessary…

        Just like an onion sammich for Julie…

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