Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sorry Bob Vila, not at Sears!

It’s Christmas time once again, and you know what that means (besides spiked eggnog, bourbon balls, and sloppy kisses under the Mistletoe)? Well, if you’re a guy, it means power tools under the Christmas tree! I don’t know why, but guys (and a few gals I know) love the feel of a power drill, electric stapler, cordless drill or screwdriver in their hands. There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly sanded wood or a newly painted room in the morning. Of course, along with these modern “Tools of the Gods” come the New Year’s resolutions of fixing up the basement, garage, laundry room, or trying your hand at making a table or even a toy box.

So, where does one acquire these adult versions of “The Transformers”? Well, just about everywhere! Some of best are DeWalt, Black and Decker, Hitachi, Valley Forge, and the king of them all, Craftsman. And if Craftsman if the king of the tools, then the crown can only be worn be none other than Bob Vila. Mr. Vila is the living icon of the handyman/home improvement guru. Every home improvement show on TV owes a finely crafted nod to Bob Vila and “This Old House” along with several other successful shows Mr. Vila has hosted (not to mention being the nemesis of Tim Allen’s character, “Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor” on TV’s “Home Improvement”). Well, as most of you know, Bob Vila became the spokesman for Sears and their Craftsman tools several years ago, which bring me to my story.

Despite Sears’s self-promoting slogan of being “America’s home improvement store”, I recently made a startling discovery while shopping at the Sears store, located at the Jefferson Mall in Louisville, Kentucky. My wife and I have embarked on doing some home improvement of our own, starting with the kitchen. Now, as you and I know, this can be an expensive proposition. So, like most Americans, we decided to use our home equity checks on the more expensive items.

While looking at some items, a youngish looking sales clerk gave us her spiel about the quality of Sears’s products, its warranties, and of course, how affordable they are. This brought up the question about accepting home equity checks. She didn’t have a clue. I politely explained to this young lass what a home equity check was, and how it was essentially a good as cash. Noticing the glazed look in her eyes (which I somehow found ironic), she again eagerly rehashed her well rehearsed litany of payment options, including the convenience of opening a new Sears charge account. Realizing she had reached her intellectual limits, we thanked her and left.

Now, as just about everyone who knows me will attest, I’m not one to leave well enough alone. I was totally baffled as to why one of America’s largest (though financially troubled) retailers, and especially one that claims to be America’s home improvement center and has Bob Vila as its spokesman to boot, would walk away from a multi-billion dollar business by refusing to accept something as common in the home improvement industry as home equity checks. So, I contacted Sears via their website to voice my concern. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call back the same day!

The guy sounded like a nice kid, who proceeded to enthusiastically gave me the same line as the sales clerk (do they go to school for this?). I (again) politely interjected the benefits of accepting home equity checks. Silence. Finally, he hesitantly asked me what home equity checks were. So, here am I explaining (again) what these seemingly mysterious pieces of paper are to a supposedly trained customer representative. To bring the matter into perspective, I pointed out that their own spokesman, the legendary Bob Vila, who has no doubt used home equity checks on his own behalf on home improvement projects, or recommended them to his customers, would be turned down by Sears. So, what does that say about Sears? Again, silence. For a minute, I thought the poor guy had some sort of an overload as he searched for a canned response and needed to be rebooted. Finally, almost as he had encountered an insurmountable Truth, he spoke. He acknowledged this was an “oversight” by Sears’s management. He would “pass along” for management review with a recommendation that either Sears post a notice that they don’t accept home equity checks or modify their purchase options to accommodate these magical pieces of paper.

Well, feeling that I have enlightened this corporative giant and introduced them to modern finance (not to mention a multi-billion industry), which no doubt will contribute to world peace and promote the Ameircan Way to less developed countries, I suppose I’m now a lock for making the “good list” this year. Maybe the elves at Sears might even see fit to put something nice under my tree this Christmas (or, more likely, I earned a few brownie points to help offset some of the “naughty” stuff).

We’ll get back to our usual fare of politics, world and local events next time around. Meanwhile, thanks to all of you for helping make Another Opinion such a success! Here’s hoping each of you has a wonderful a Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule Fest or whatever you celebrate. And may you find the best present of all in the eyes of someone who loves you. Now, where's that eggnog?

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