Mon
Jan 7 2013
11:16 am

A consumer perspective, after the break...

We were at the new Target on Northshore during the holidays, and I picked up a small spice shaker thing (like pizza places use on their tables for crushed red pepper). When we were checking out, the cashier noticed it didn't have a price tag or a bar code. She offered to have someone go back and check, but I didn't want to wait plus I thought it was the last one. She asked if I remembered the price, and I didn't. She called over a manager. He looked at it and said "would you give $1.50 for it?" and I said sure. Problem solved.

A while back the Mrs. ordered some water filters for our refrigerator from Sears online. They were about $70 each. A month or so ago we installed one and flushed it according to directions. The water and ice tasted awful and had a strong chemical odor, and it didn't improve after a couple of days. So we replaced it with another one and it worked fine. The Mrs. took the defective filter to the local Sears store to return it and get a replacement. They wouldn't replace it or offer a refund or anything, even though they had one in stock. (It was $44.) In addition to the wasted trip, now we have to get a return authorization and pay to send it back to Sears for a refund/replacement, if they will even do it.

This is just one example of why Target is kicking Sears' butt. I'm not sure Sears is going to make it. Management, particularly their board chairman, is Sears' biggest problem.

Today, Target has a market cap of $39.4 billion, earnings of $3 billion on $71 billion in sales, nearly 15% in quarterly earnings growth and operating cash flow of $5.8 billion.

Sears Holdings (which includes Sears and K-Mart) has a market cap of $4.5 billion, a loss of $2.8 billion on $40 billion in sales, stalled earnings and operating cash flow of minus $248 million.

It's very sad. One of the first things we did after we got married and had relatively steady jobs was to get a Sears credit card. You could charge just about anything, and get your brakes fixed or get a new water heater in an emergency and take forever to pay it off. I'm guessing that brought them a lot of loyal customers, like us.

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metulj's picture

Funny. I got a pair of

Funny. I got a pair of leather driving loafers from Land's End (part of Sears now) for Christmas. They were a half-size too small. Called Land's End. They said return them and they would replace, of course, but if I wanted them faster, just stop by any Sears and hand them back at Customer Service. I did this, including a handy PDF sent to my phone that was scanned by the CSR at Sears. The PDF had all of the details in a Q-Code image and authorized the CSR to accommodate me anyway necessary. They did not have the loafers in stock, but the CSR clicked a few times and said that the loafers would ship that evening from the warehouse. Next morning at 10AM there was a knock at the door and I was wearing my loafers in 5 minutes after I signed for them.

Still, your point is completely germane. Target's customer service is great. The stores are clean and quiet and organized so that you can actually find things you want without passing every single department along the way.

R. Neal's picture

Hmm, maybe it's a training

Hmm, maybe it's a training thing, or we didn't ask the right person. And maybe when we eventually get around to calling the online customer service they will take care of it like that. Seems like the Sears store person could have suggested that, though, or figured out some way to deal with it.

Mike Cohen's picture

Target

I have always loved Target. The second Target store was in my hometown of Duluth. They had a machine that you could watch make donuts that was a kid magnet. It is long gone, but the store is still there.

That was when it was division of Dayton Hudson Department Stores in Minneapolis. It grew to the point that, in essence, it took over the parent.

Great service and for a discount chain, a great sense of style.

Pam Strickland's picture

I am a dedicated Target

I am a dedicated Target customer. And it's things like, "would you pay $1.50 for it" that get me every time. I too used to be a Sears shopper, but it's been years since I shopped at Sears regularly. I honestly can't tell you the last time I was in a Sears store.

bizgrrl's picture

I actually try to shop at

I actually try to shop at Sears. My little part to keep them going. I also like how they are linked to Lands End. I generally handle Lands End returns at Sears. The day I was trying to deal with Sears they were busy and had few clerks/managers available. I was there 30 minutes trying to return/exchange the water filter. I might have gotten something done if I had been willing to be there longer but I was not willing.

fischbobber's picture

Or maybe not

Sears has replaced all the experienced sales folks in the appliance and electronics department with, well, kids. At West Town that means exchanging a water filter means dealing with a twenty-something who doesn't really care if he ever sees you again as opposed to someone more seasoned who understands that his livelihood and family's well being is highly dependent on repeat business. Circuit City made the same mistake and we see what happened to them.

I too want Sears to succeed, they are literally walking distance from my house, but you can't help folks who are determined to fail.

bizgrrl's picture

I didn't deal with any

I didn't deal with any twenty-somethings during this poor transaction.

Rachel's picture

20-somethings?

We bought a stove at Sears West Town in late August and dealt with a middle-aged, very knowledgeable, extremely helpful individual.

Much better than shopping for applicance at Lowes, Best Buy etc. We tried that on multiple occasions and couldn't even get anybody to talk to us. I'm quite serious. We were in the applicance section for 20 minutes on more than one occasion, desperately in search of a salesperson, and could never get one to talk with us.

fischbobber's picture

West Town

I bought a dishwasher, stove, and washer and dryer from the same guy over a several year period. Last time I was in there, (I went looking for him when buying a vacuum cleaner) he was gone. I was told they cleaned house. That's also what I read about their new business model. That's also what I've noticed in their tool department. Maybe I'm wrong.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

*

I never understood why it was the bankrupt K-mart that took over Sears, and not the other way around?

As to K-mart, though, I noticed for years and years prior to their bankruptcy that there was virtually no coorelation between their shelf prices and the price at which a given item scanned on their registers.

I had a problem in this regard on every, literally every, visit I made to a K-mart. Sometimes the disconnect was in my favor (item scanned for too little) and sometimes it was in the store's favor (item scanned for too much). In either event, though, it caused me to wonder at the reliability of K-mart's financial recordkeeping more generally--as in, did this retailer have any idea whether they were making any money???

I quite shopping at K-mart and Sears* both years ago.

*(Okay, bought a new Craftsman mulching mower there last year. Last purchase prior was a Craftsman riding mower, 14 years ago.)

R. Neal's picture

Some background: Sears as

metulj's picture

What's so fascinating is

What's so fascinating is that, in a way, the internet era is Sears' core business coming back to it after many years: a new twist on catalog sales. And they blew it.

michael kaplan's picture

my grandparents, living in

my grandparents, living in rural new york state, bought nearly everything except food out of the sears catalogs. i spent hours thumbing through its pages. i even have the very last catalog (from 1993?) still in its paper wrapper. sears was different than, say, amazon by selling its own brands. remember those Silvertone electric guitars?

Pam Strickland's picture

Yeah, metalj, you're right

Yeah, metalj, you're right about the internet/catalog connection. In small town Tennessee, we had a Sears catalog store that was readily used. When I moved out on my own most of my home goods came from there -- cookware set for $19, flatware for an equally cheap amount. But somewhere along the way that stopped.

I never was a K-Mart shopper. Just never developed that habit.

michael kaplan's picture

had a bad experience with

had a bad experience with walmart this season. received as a gift a set of sheets in full size. needed queen size, so i brought them to the nearest w-m for an exchange. after driving 5 miles and waiting in line for 15 minutes, the 'customer service' clerk said that store didn't stock the item in that particular color so i couldn't exchange it. i returned home, called 'corporate' and he said they should have exchanged it. i'd receive a call from one of the store managers. which i did. she asked me to bring the item back, wait on line again, and they would exchange it for similar. which they did -- and threw in a $10 gift card. all of which was IMO unnecessary. that's one reason i don't buy at walmart.

Rachel's picture

We still buy applicances from

We still buy applicances from Sears. That's pretty much it.

And yeah, I shop Target when I need discount big box. Which is as infrequently as I can manage.

As for Land's End, usually I can order essentially the same stuff from Bean - and they ship free.

gonzone's picture

Agreed about LLBean. Can't

Agreed about LLBean. Can't beat the quality from them.

michael kaplan's picture

I remember when just a few

I remember when just a few items in the LLBean catalog were marked "Imported." Now, most of the items are marked "Made in China." And, of course, the prices have doubled. A microcosm of how quickly the so-called economy - along with the clothing - is unraveling ..

redmondkr's picture

Lands End has a great cheap

Lands End has a great cheap all weather moccasin that I like. I despise the fact that I could heat my house with all the catalogs they stuff into my mailbox though.

R. Neal's picture

Latest twist: Lampert To

Latest twist:

Lampert To Assume CEO Role At Sears

Final nail.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

completely subjective

For several years, I was in charge of the Lost & Found at our elementary school. The job is as simple as the name implies. Twice a year, I donated the mountains of unclaimed jackets to Ladies of Charity. In the beginning, the jackets were primarily North Face and Lands End. Last year, the jackets were primarily Old Navy.

Andy Axel's picture

Tried getting appliance

Tried getting appliance service from Sears lately?

Here's my nightmare with Sears customer service: I purchased a 25HP Craftsman 48" ZTR Pro series mower with a 3-year extended service warranty. This was a not-inexpensive proposition, but it is for a home out in the country. Routine service is a crapshoot out here, and my wife and I wanted to be sure that we could have someone come out to service it if we ran into issues. And with a large zero-turn radius lawnmower out in the country, there's a better than good chance of running into issues.

First year of the contract, we had a thrown belt that actually cut through one of the control arms for one of the transmission links, so we had to have someone out to look at that. It took three weeks to resolve. First week was to pinpoint the issue, 2nd week was the guy coming out without the right part, third week was after I went to the local depot to get the right part and go out to meet the guy.

Second year: routine stuff, only needed to call them once on a defective PTO switch. That got fixed pretty quick.

Third year: Nothing until the very end of the contract year, but when I did call them with an issue, they told me that it would be two weeks before I could get a tech out. OK, I go to meet the tech, the tech didn't show. Called in, they said it would be another six weeks before I could even get a technician out to look at it, and oh by the way my service agreement ran out a month ago, so I needed to re-up. One of the pulleys had gone bent, which caused the belt to throw, which really tore a lot of stuff loose, so it wouldn't even run. I wound up having to rent a truck, trailer, and winch to move the unit to another mower place closer to home, plus had to hire out someone to cut my grass for 2 months while dickering with executive escalations with Sears corporate. They were supposed to reimburse me for that service, but owing to a "misunderstanding," they wouldn't accept my receipts for the work done, nor for the tow, nor for the 3rd party service, partially because they were issued to my home address (in Tennessee) and not my service address (in Kentucky), even though the service area for both addresses is out of the same service center (dispatched out of Nashville). You go figure that one out.

I was 4th generation faithful to the Sears/Craftsman brand (my family is from Chicago area originally), now I wouldn't buy anything from them on a bet.

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