The Demise of Sears & Roebuck

Sears & Roebuck was and has been one of those great stores that was always there. I will never forget the trips to the only S&R in town with my parents on Saturdays. That was a real treat and the best part was the treat I would get. Yum, always loved those sweet orange slices from the candy counter!

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But like many pieces of Americana, S&R is slipping away and has been for a very long time now. Financial reports make it plain that the writing is on the wall for them and it’s very doubtful if they can get it corrected. My recent disappointments with them have only added to the foreboding that I feel for an American icon. Did you know that back in the day, you could buy a car from Sears? Or a house even> and of course you could furnish it top to bottom and never leave the store. When my dad bought his first and only house, one of the first home improvements was a chainlink fence around the the entire backyard and guess what – it was a Sears fence, installed in a day’s time and it still stands and works just as well as the day it was built. As a kid, all the neighbor kids wanted to check out the new fence complete with gates on each front side and one at the rear. Plus you could point to the Sears emblem on each gate with a certain amount of pride – this was quality stuff. Silly yes, but a powerful statement about American. Kenmore was the name to have on your appliances and jeans, tennis shoes, shirts that I wore all came from Sears.

Over the past week or so though I am starting to understand why Sears & Roebuck is in the mess that it is in. Our microwave went out and after doing a little reading I decided to call Sears for a repair. The technician came out at the appointed time but could not even figure out how to remove the microwave from the cabinet so that he could diagnose the problem. Yet, he still managed to write up a $412 repair estimate based on what I described had occurred when it quit working. I of course refused the repair and was then charged a $75 fee – nonrefundable of course. I didn’t like it at the time but I was not going to make a big scene of it either. Later after fiddling with the unit a few times, I was able to get it removed, did some testing and found that the magnetron had failed. I replaced it, reinstalled the unit and all is good. I decided that I needed to call Sears about the fake $75 charge. A lady basically told me that I was out of luck but she would have a manger call me about it – I am still waiting for that call. The second deal was snapping a Craftsman socket in half and my Craftsman 3/8″ air ratchet quit on me. I went by a store and got the socket replaced but was told that they no longer repaired the air tools. I told the person so much for warranties and his reply was yes, one year and that’s it. I mentioned that when I bought it, it was covered for life, then it had been reduced to a free repair and now not even that much help. So the bottom line here is that Sears and Roebuck no longer stands behind the products that they sell, which probably translates into people not seeing any value in purchasing from them now. I know that other than getting hand tools replaced, my visits to a Sears store will probably come to an end too. It’s sad to watch something like this happen but it just shows how lacking the concern for customer service is in this country today. Please note that in the picture of the catalog in this post, the words “Satisfaction Guaranteed” are underlined. Funny but that used to be the truth.

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