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