Letter to Sears Roebuck & Co.

2001-07-23 • 2001-08-15 • 2001-09-25 • 2001-10-15 • 2001-11-09

Attn: Mr. DeMaris Williams and/or Mr. Southerland
Customer Relations
Sears Roebuck & Co.
3333 Beverly Rd.
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179


Dear Sears Customer Relations:


--> This is the seventh time I have tried to communicate with Sears regarding this issue. I never spoke with Sears on the phone. However, I received a letter, dated August 8, which says "when we spoke, we indicated that we would contact you at a later date.... We have been unsuccessful in our attempts to reach you by phone." I have received NO calls from Sears at 617-484-0005. Nothing on Caller-ID and no recorded messages. I wrote back to you, but still have had no response.

--> My letter of 2001-09-25 was just returned to me, marked as undeliverable. Perhaps this was because the ZIP code on your return address, 60179 is, I am told outdated. The correct ZIP code is 60192-3322, correct?

--> Nope. I just called your department again, and was told that Mr. DeMaris Williams is no longer with Sears. Then why wasn't my letter forwarded to you?

I must relate to you the disappointing and frustrating process that my wife and I experienced this past weekend while selecting gifts from the Sears Gift Registry for soon-to-be-wed friends. This happened to be at the Cambridgeside Galleria store, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but it is my understanding that this is a corporate-level problem.

To begin with, the Gift Registry Kiosk, a standard touch-screen system, seemed to take the user through more steps than necessary. For instance, instead of asking the user to enter the two-letter abbreviation of the state, it asks only for the first letter. Then it shows a list of states beginning with that letter, from which the user then must choose. If the user initially had the option of entering the two-letter abbreviation OR the first few letters of the state, that would remove the extra step, as well as assure the correct state is chosen (in those cases where the user doesn't know the common two-letter abbreviation. I know that some are tricky).

At least the Sears kiosk worked, which is more than I can say for the Filene's Gift Registry Kiosk at the same mall, which required so much pressure on the touch screen, that the monitor had been pushed all the way back into the cabinet from the resulting and/or causal abuse.

Second, and more importantly, the print-out produced by the Sears Gift Registry system provided information more useful to the cashier than to the customer. Included in the columns of data printed are the "Division," "Stock Number" and "Class."

[simulated output]

"Division" and "Class" are meaningless to the customer (at least they were meaningless to us without some kind of cross-reference table).

The "Description" is an understandably abbreviated one which would be adequate, if not for the absence of a column listing the actual manufacturer of each item. For instance, the item we were looking for was listed only as a "BLENDER/PROC," which required us to look through nearly the entire kitchen appliance section to find what we thought might be the item in question. We determined that what we were looking for was in fact a "Cuisinart" brand blender with food processor attachment. We were only able to come to this conclusion by matching the price shown on the Registry print-out with the shelf tag.

Shelf Tag Label - Front

Both the shelf tag and the Registry print-out fail to indicate another crucial piece of information; the manufacturer's model number (in this case, Cuisinart No. BFP-703).

Manufacturer's Model Number on product box

In extremely tiny print at the bottom left of the shelf tag, we did see among the series of various meaningless numbers a group of numbers that seemed to match the "Stock Number" on the Registry print-out (Incidentally, these itty-bitty numbers, printed outside the box of the shelf tag, look like they're only label identification numbers, easily ignored by the consumer as meaningful only to stock clerks). Okay, that was clue number two. But we weren't shopping at sears to play "who dunnit," were we?

Shelf Tag Label - Back

Flip to the back of the shelf tag, and we now see more information to help us. Here, there appeared to the "Stock Number," again, amidst other meaningless code characters.

By now, the typical consumer is familiar with the bar-coded SKU number printed on just about any product sold in the united states. yet nowhere on the Registry print-out or front of the shelf tag was this additional piece of information that would help us confirm that we were taking off the shelf the product box that contained the same item we had just selected on display.

On the back of the shelf tag, however, is a number that although not identified as such, matches the SKU number on the bottom of the product box.

SKU Bar-code on bottom of product box

Okay, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Well, how about the rest of the items, not as easily located as a kitchen appliance, without so much as the manufacturer's name? What are we looking for with a description of merely "VEG BOWL, AMALFI CLASSIC?" We know it's apparently a vegetable bowl of some sort. We know the style is called "Amalfi Classic," (whatever that is). But we don't know on what shelf of various manufacturers' goods to start looking. So we wasted a lot of time determining that most of the items on our list weren't to be found.

When speaking with the three employees in the Housewares department, we were reminded that not all Sears stores carry all items. That's perfectly fine; reasonable and understandable. We just wanted to easily confirm which of the items on our friends' Registry list were in stock at this particular location so we could make our purchases and leave in short order.

We asked one of the clerks to check by Stock number if this store carried the items. They said that they couldn't do that (I think they'd need the SKU to do that, which wasn't on the Registry print-out). We asked if someone could check the computer for which local Sears stores did carry some of the items. We were told that all except for the older computer were incapable of accessing that information, and that whoever it was that was capable of operating the older computer wasn't there at the time. Do I understand correctly that the newer computer system has reduced capabilities compared to the older computers?!?!

I suggested to one clerk assisting us that I was a computer database designer by profession, and that if I tried to pawn off a system that printed such poor reports and labels as this and prohibited access to critical information, I would be thrown out on my ass.

Might I suggest to Sears Roebuck & Co. that they do the same to the company they hired to design their POS infrastructure, and have the system redesigned by skilled professionals?

Your reply is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Erik S. Wegweiser



© Copyright 2001-2004 Erik Wegweiser. All Rights Reserved.