I think the survival of Kmart and Sears depends largely on them fixing their customer service. Why do I think this you ask? It’s all because of a little pink “Olaf” shirt.
Last night I took my toddler into Sears to exchange her “Olaf” shirt for a larger size. It was a gift, so we did not have the receipt but the tag on the shirt said “Sears.com” on it. I figured we could make something happen because the shirt was brand new.
Entering through the “tool” entrance I was overwhelmed by Craftsmen tools. I must admit Sears’ tool brand is still one of the best out there. Christy and I were on a mission, though and we didn’t stop to look at the tools.
A short walk later we made it to the children’s section. There we were accosted by the world of Frozen. I left Christy glued to one display while I browsed looking for her shirt. Shortly I was able to ask a salesgirl to help me find the shirt which she was willing to do. She looked for a few minutes before walking to a different section to ask for help. A minute later this original girl came back to tell me to go to the Kiosk (not in the children’s section) to get help.
I spent the next several minutes ungluing Christy from the display to go down to the kiosk where two people were standing (without customers). I would have loved for them to come to me to help. Arriving at the kiosk I explained that I simply wanted a bigger size or a return. The girl scanned the shirt and after about four minutes of typing told me they didn’t have it in the store. She asked another guy standing there for help to figure it out. He said they didn’t carry that shirt and could not return it for me.
While talking to me this guy saw a manager and he went over to ask if they could return this shirt (which said “Sears” on it). The manager didn’t come over to look but sent him back to say “no” and tell me to go to Kmart.
At this point I was a little frustrated. Why could Sears not help me with a shirt that said “Sears” on it? I knew Sears owned Kmart but I really did not want to go to Kmart because giant nearly empty department stores are kind of eerie. Finally I swallowed my pride and decided to head over to Kmart.
I walked in the giant entrance to hear an almost silent store. There were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot but the store was built for hundreds of people. I think I could barely hear music in the background. To the far right I could see giant curtains blocking off what once had been the grocery section.
I made a quick survey of the kids clothing section and I did not see a single piece of “Frozen” merchandise. So I made my way to the customer service counter.
The “customer service” counter was a hodgepodge area. There were lottery tickets, carts and carts of returns and mountains of things marked as layaway. There was a hard working lady named “Deb” there who appeared to be the shift manager as well.
In front of me was a short dour faced woman. She waited for five minutes for Deb to complete some long transaction on an ancient computer. Finally handing out a three foot pile of receipts Deb finished with the dour-faced lady.
Next in line before me was a nice little lady and a stocky husband who leaned heavily on the rail. They simply asked for their layaway. Deb set out looking behind the counter for it. Five minutes later she decided it wasn’t there so she grabbed some keys and left. The old photography studio had been cleared out and apparently used for layaway. Deb disappeared into those rooms for ten more minutes. Finally she returned to the counter and asked the nice lady if she had received a confirmation that her order was there. The lady sheepishly replied that she had not. Deb politely asked the lady to come back after she had received confirmation.
Finally getting to me Deb attempted to scan “Olaf” with no success. Then she typed the tag code into her scanner with no success. Then she suggested I try returning the shirt to another store. I pointed out that it was a sears shirt and I had already been to sears, I was out of options. She then tried to look up the shirt online but she couldn’t find it there either.
Finally she apologized and said she couldn’t help me either. I left Kmart with “Olaf” still tucked in a little bag and wishing someone could help me out.
Reflecting on yesterday I realize that some people did try to help but the culture of both stores was not focused on customer service. Neither of the stores were willing to take ownership of the problem. They simply passed the buck. I can’t fault them for not being able to find the shirt in their systems but I would have liked to run into someone with the authority and willingness to own my satisfaction. Everyone was working to follow the rules of their stores but that left me, a sincere customer frustrated by both stores.