Duane Gundrum

Duane Gundrum
Grand Rapids, Michigan,
February 12
Writer, professor (did his Phd work in political science and holds another graduate degree in communication), former computer game designer, previously a counterintelligence agent, and currently an all around strange person. Author of 13 novels of all different types. Lives a life that is sadly in the shadow of a room full of stuffed animals who have a lot more Facebook friends than he does. Writes a lot of humor, even if his mommy is the only one who says he's funny. Also the creator of the comic strip, The Adventures of Stickman and the Unemployed Legospaceman. *********************************** My first book, Innocent Until Proven Guilty, is now on Amazon in the Kindle store. See the link as part of my links below. *********************************** If you're interested in my science fiction novel, Thompson's Bounty, the link for it is at the bottom of my profile, under Professional Writing. The link is for the Kindle version, but the paperback version is also available on Amazon. ************************************ My blog can now be subscribed to on Amazon. See my links below. ************************************ If you want to friend me on facebook, feel free to send me an invite to www.facebook.com/duane.gundrum ********************************* For twitter, follow me at DuaneGundrum.

DECEMBER 6, 2011 10:31AM

The Demise and Failure of Sears Should Be Taught in Every Business Class in the Future

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A couple of years ago, I was interested in buying a Lifecycle exercise machine, or at least something similar to it. As I was wont to do, I wandered into a Sears store and took a look around. The salesperson met me at the exercise equipment and shortly after I told him what I was seeking, he somehow talked me into a treadmill machine instead. I think the selling point was that they didn’t have to put the treadmill machine together, but the bicycle machine would have required me to assemble it. Moral of the story is that somewhere down the line I ended up with a treadmill machine that ended up becoming a piece of furniture to put stuff on as I never used it more than the one time after I bought it. I would have used a bicycle machine, but a treadmill was a useless investment for me.

But at the time, Sears actually did a pretty good job of delivering the machine to me, and the purchase wasn’t seen as a bad one by me at the time.

Fast-forward a few years, and Sears has become a shadow of its once great self. Years back, every holiday season was seen as special because it usually culminated with the arrival of the infamous Sears catalogue. This was a sought after book that practically everyone in a household wanted to flip through, even if to imagine all of the great things that were offered, even if, like me as a child, you knew you could never afford them. Some years ago, Sears stopped sending out the catalogue for free (and may not even send it out at all, for all I know), which probably should have been the first of many signs that Sears was turning into a company that was nothing like it used to be.

Today, even though a lot of Sears stores exist in most major malls, it ends up being that one big store that people recognize as being there but people generally pass around on their way to the better stores. At some point, Kmart bought Sears (or they bought Kmart, or whatever), but the quality of Sears has been going downhill ever since. In today’s business news, it was reported that Sears has changed its online policy of upselling its warranty service when not requested by customers. This comes from a company that made it a policy to tack on a warranty service to high ticket items bought on its web site, causing customers to buy something they generally never asked for. When a customer reported them to ConsumerWorld.org, their response was that few customers had complained in the past. However, due to the outrageously negative response they have received (the different message boards covering this case have been nothing but a nightmare for Sears and its non-existent customer service), the procedures have completely changed for the future.

This is not the way a company should be perceived when trying to make its way into the 21st century. The response from former customers (and I emphasize “former”) has been overwhelmingly hostile and negative. Reading the 296 comments on msnbc.com’s response to their article about this story shows a massive onslaught of negativity towards Sears for the way it has changed over the years from a company once touted as the nation’s retailer to one that people are embarrassed to mention in the same sentence as our nation.

What needs to be said is that if there’s another company out there that is attempting to see profit as numbers rather than customer service, their future is exactly what can be expected for a company that is more interested in padding CEO pockets than serving customers. I’m looking at you, Best Buy, which seems to be on the cusp of almost the same type of transformation as it becomes one of the only major electronics retailers left, yet treats customers like Mac users are treated by its genius bar (where Mac products tend to be user friendly until they actually have something go wrong, and not a single tech person at a Mac store has a clue what’s wrong with your computer or tech device because they’re not trained in technical stuff, just responding by scripted dictates). I went to the Geek Squad the other day to ask about having a programmable thermostat installed, and the “geek genius” (or whatever they call themselves) couldn’t figure out how to answer the question because it wasn’t something simple like “do I need virus protection for my computer?”.

Part of the problem of our future in technology is that more people major in business these days than they do in anything dealing with technology, which means that way too many people are interested in separating us from our money without actually being able to do anything to earn that money. Too often, the focus of companies these days is on how to maximize profits, often at the cost of doing business to get profits. Sears recently announced it is fixing its current money woes by shredding staff. Never a good sign. You’ll notice that the Post Office is doing the exact same thing. They’ve announced that they’re going to improve their bottom line by offering less service, slower service and possibly fewer days of being open. It’s almost like the one person they never hired (even though their problem has always been they hire too many people and keep incompetent ones) was someone who sat down and thought, “wait, is that really a way to build business?”

But who am I to say anything? I’m just a customer, and as I’ve already pointed out, companies don’t need me. They just need my money.

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I know what you mean about Sears -- I brought back a broken Craftsman screw driver, because they're "guaranteed for life".

Well anywho, the Sears guy said, "Sir, I can't give you a refund because this isn't a Craftsman screw driver -- in fact, it isn't even a screw driver--it's a can opener."

Can you believe the nerve of that guy? So I said, "Fine - I'll never buy a screwdriver / can opener from Sears again - bitch!"

Where did these guys lean about retail?

They were in a hard place as to legacy issues, but had a lot of brands they could have used to better effect. It's also hard to be immortal, even with that history, s the younger generation, if one time you lose that special tie too, like with the Catalog, that's hard to get back, and of course, there were a lot of changes going on to that tended to pinch them on the high end, the low end, and around them with more specialty stores too. At least there still here, and Craftsmen I always liked, if that's a Home Depot issue right there as to being pinched a lot by competition.
i have not shopped at sears since april 2004 when a nitwit security guard tried to arrest me in front of my then 13 year old son because he thought i stole a pillow! i still had the receipt in my hand and he refused to even look at it! he actually marched me through a crowd of shoppers to the cashier to verify that i actually purchased the pillow! i sent my son back to the car. the cashier said i did an exchange and did indeed purchase the pillow. the guard never apologized. he turned his back on me as if i didn't exist. i reported his behavior to the corp headquarters. i was never so embarrassed in all my life. all the guard had to do was view the receipt to verify i had bought the pillow. sears lost me as a customer from that day on.
when my cousin worked at j.c.penny he was always being chastised from his boss for failing to manipulate people into giving him their e-mail addresses for store spam.....

retail has gotten ugly. and it's not just sears. I also wish business students would study circuit city. it decided one day to lay off the customer service reps with experience (who knew something about the products) and instead to hire people as cheaply as possible. it turned into a frustrating experience...I hate stores where the people who work there haven't worked there long enough to know anything about what they're selling.

but this is the way it is now.
I would guess that every major retailer could have similar stories told about it. They are what they are.

Re the Post Office- Congress put them over a barrel with their pension fund or some such. Look it up. At a guess, the for profit delivery companies are putting the squeeze on Congress to run the PO out of business. Congress sure doesn't care about any other pension fund out there, except their own.
You may be too young to know this, that Montgomery Ward was once larger than Sears.
I'll give you 25 bucks for the treadmill.