Over the weekend a reporter from a major national newspaper got interested in my treadmill saga. He called Sears to get their side of the story. And in no time at all, on Monday Shirley from Sears corporate offices in Hoffman Estates, Ill. — the real corporate offices as opposed to the “executive offices” that house Stephanie — was on the phone to me sorting things out.
Yesterday Shirley called to tell me I’d have a treadmill by Monday — the “2013 model” — which was presented as a great favor because it has a larger LCD screen (like I care? My plan is to be walking at a constant pace, listening to my podcasts or maybe in the future watching DVR’s Daily Shows and Colbert Reports). Supposedly the 2013s too are currently on ‘backorder’ so getting one to Miami by then is an exceptional event.
Given that the Sears.com web page currently promises delivery to my zip code of the very same Sole F80 by 10/06/12 — Saturday — I’m not as impressed as Shirley might wish. Either this great favor isn’t a great favor or, at least as likely, the web page is misleading people. I asked Shirley about the delivery info online and she blamed the manufacturer, who she says loads the availability data directly onto the Sears site and, she seemed to imply, says goods are available when they are not. If that’s true, it seems an awesome failure on Sears’s part not to write contracts that would penalize suppliers for creating circumstances that pretty seriously trash Sears’s customer experience and brand. But what do I know, I teach law not marketing. No doubt the wizards of Bain could explain why this is really good business because it saves on an employee somewhere.
Shirley clearly has real power, though: the Sears bot did not call today. What a shame Sears cannot or will not empower its call center people to turn off the calls too. After all, if Sears will let an arms-length manufacturer write direct to the database that runs its web sales arm, why won’t it let its outsourced call center employees control the robocaller?
More importantly, why does it take the threat of unfavorable national publicity to get a company to honor its promise in what should have been a fairly routine consumer transaction? I would love to hear someone at Sears explain what went wrong in not just in their supply chain but more importantly in the delivery and post-sale customer support networks — and especially what they plan to do about it. Otherwise, it sounds like time to short Sears stock — surely no firm can survive doing business like this?
If the article appears, I gather it would run
onNEXT Sunday. I’ll be sure to link to it if does.
[Next installment: A Quick Dispatch from the Treadmill Front]