Ah Sears. For most Americans, when you think of home appliances or tools, Sears invariably comes to mind. The over century old company used to be the ultimate in providing everything you would need, and then some. Today, it’s nothing more than a shell of its former self, amazingly owned by K-Mart of all companies, and is slowly and clearly going completely out of business.
Why though? How could such a massive company that once dominated goods purchasing in America be failing like this? I’m far from a business expert, but I do know enough to have a few ideas. The company seems to be trying to keep up with the modern world, but can’t figure out how to provide what the consumer wants and needs, instead still running with the idea of selling you a product as a service, expecting you to just buy a new item and rely on them for the next 40 years to keep it working.
Things don’t work like that anymore, build quality sure isn’t what it used to be, and I highly doubt Sears will be around in any capacity in 40 years.
In any case, onward to a prime example of what I am referring to.
A thermostat on our dryer failed a few weeks ago. How did I know this? Well, the damn thing wouldn’t heat. I traced it to what I think is called the “high limit” thermostat, the one that tells it to stop heating when it reaches a certain point – I tested it and it certainly was bad, so I took it to a local Sears (the last one left in Memphis, really) to get a replacement.
I go in, go to the appliances and try to find where the part would be – you would think it would be stored over by dryers, right? Yeah, not the case. I’m greeted by a very nice woman who asks me what I’m looking for. When I explain it to her, she asks what model dryer I had.
I was a little surprised. The reason is this part is standard, and extremely common. Hell, I had the component with me, with its model numbers relevant specifications right on it.
When I tell her I don’t know (it wasn’t a Sears / Kenmore unit, but they all used this same standard part) she went on to tell me about how many different parts there were, how I could try all day and never find the right part from the “parts department” by myself, blah blah blah. Again, all the while, the component was in my hand, with everything I need to identify it clearly on it.
Don’t get me wrong, she was a very nice woman, but let’s face it – she didn’t have a damn clue. I’m not even aware of Sears (at least, that store) having a “Parts Department” and much of what she was saying hinted at ordering one online. Uh, no, if I wanted to order one online, I would have done it at home and waited. I had clothes that needed drying right then and there!
So, I leave. I wasn’t mean to the woman, but I was rather surprised, and thought to myself as I left that “this is why Sears is failing.” They hire people who don’t even have a clue – who may be nice “faces” so to speak but in the end aren’t knowledgeable on what they carry.
After checking out a few more big-box stores (Read: Lowe’s and Home Depot) a nice associate at Lowe’s suggests a parts store that, given its location, should have been the first place I checked out. Could have saved an hour of my day going there first.
I go in to the store, pull out the thermostat, while saying I needed a new one, and when the guy sees it, he instantly says “Ah yeah the High Limit, that’s common, we have a full thermostat kit for $20” and by the time I get what he’s saying (he talked a little low) he had the bag on the counter and told me my total with tax. Literally 1 minute after walking in I was walking out with the part I needed. No problems.
Yeah, that’s right, in a one-off appliance store I was able to get the part I needed within 1 minute, while the person at Sears gave me 3 minutes of “oh we can’t just find it we have to know the exact model number and all kinds of other information to be able to place an order for the exact model that you need even though it’s an incredibly standard component that is the dryer equivalent of a 2×4.”
But Sears still doesn’t understand why its failing.