A Searing Pain


Using the benefit of the Columbus Day holiday, I went in search of a vacuum in the hopes of finding a sale on home appliances at local retailers. I was in a buying mode, and really did not want to wait for a delivery to arrive with my vacuum in a few days after placing an order online. Rather, I wanted to touch the units to test the weight, walk out of the store with a box, and begin using the machine on my carpets immediately.

Starting at Best Buy

First step, go to local electronics and appliances store.

Walking into the store, the familiar blue golf shirts that denote who is an employee were few and far between.  However, the banners hanging from the roof marked where I could find the vacuums, so I headed in that direction.  I began to quickly see that the prices ranged from $75 to as high as $500 or more.  As I scanned the signage next to some of the products and read the box text, I could see why some of the products would be worth more than others, but still had some questions.

So, I went in search of a blue-shirted employee.  I waited over 5 minutes before I even saw one anywhere near the section I was in.  Unfortunately, that person was helping a customer.  But good fortune seemed to be smiling down on me as a tie-wearing person with a name tag walked toward  he section.  Intercepting the person’s path, I asked if I could ask a question.  I was told, “I don’t know anything about the appliances, you will have to wait for someone else.”  Now, I want to be clear here – I had not identified what my question was (it might have been, “can I pay cash for this?”  Or, “can someone help me carry 5 vacuums to the cash stand?”).  The “manager” did not offer any help, suggest that he would go secure someone for me to talk with, or do anything to recognize that I was prepared to spend hundreds of dollars.

With that response, I told the person (who had already breezed by me and likely did not hear me) that I would just walk across the street to Sears and shop their store instead.

From Bad to Worse

So, I managed to locate the vacuums on the second floor and was quickly greeted by a black-shirted woman who was in the middle of vacuuming up a rug that had been sprinkled with confetti.  Quickly sharing that I wanted a vacuum that was an upright, under $200, bagless, and preferably did not mandate changing filters, she quickly shared that she works for Dyson (a brand of vacuum) and then proceeded to try to talk me into a $350 machine that required changing bags.  My exasperation showed and she then turned to an actual Sears employee who went into a practiced speech that was haltingly delivered about Amps, Volts, and something he called Wind Amps.  I interrupted and asked what the difference was between the three. 

All I wanted to purchase - that took over 3 hours.

Now, I am not an expert in electrical matters, but I knew I was being duped when the answer I got was – basically, they are all the same.  I immediately thought to myself – Huh?  No they are not.  I then asked how I know what the wind amps are since it is not listed on the box anywhere.  His answer was that the manunfacturers don’t want you to know it.  But people go online and look it up and know.  He then claimed to point out the “better models.”  When I asked what made them the “better ones” – he answered, “that is what people buy and no one has complained.”

His answers of “generally” or “basically” and then answering with double-talk left me feeling a dull pain right between my eyes.  I left that store and actually called a friend on my cell phone who then looked online at Consumer Reports and directed me to the top 3 rated machines within my price range, type of vacuum, and brand preferences.  I went back to Best Buy, not because they deserved my order, but because they had done less to annoy me. 
As far as Sears goes – it is a shame that a retailer has fallen so far that they have no training, no management, no customer service, and even in the face of a customer that WANTED to buy – they could not close the sale.  It is no doubt that they have fallen on hard times because they have lost the immediacy of retailing and meeting customer needs.  Sending me to shop online for answers rather than having the insights themselves is feeding the enemy for many brick and mortar retailers.   

No wonder they are irrelevant!

David Zahn

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