Sears: A Corporate & Consumer Failure

By Jon F. Merz


Yesterday, my wife and I ventured to the Dedham, MA Sears store to purchase a new washer and dryer. Our current models both decided to need replacing at virtually the same time and since they’re about ten years old, we decided it was a good excuse to upgrade. We also bought a new stove. At the store, we worked with a great associate named Don, who was capable and friendly and made the shopping experience quick and seamless. When we explained to Don that we didn’t have a working washer & dryer at the moment and would therefore appreciate the fastest possible delivery of the replacements, he told us he would look up the delivery times and let us know. He came back and told us we would have our entire order today – October 31st. Needless to say, we were pleased, paid for the order and left the store assured that we would have a new setup today.

Yesterday at around 4pm, I got a call from an automated service telling me there was a delay in the delivery, but instead of telling me any more information, I was directed to call a number. This number turned out to be in the Philippines, judging by the accent of the woman I spoke to who informed me that delivery was now slated for November 4th. I told her that we would not have purchased the new appliances had we known delivery would take an extra five days. She then tried to call the warehouse, but got no answer. Then I got disconnected, which meant I had to repeat the entire process again. This time, the CSR suggested I call the Dedham store and ask if they had any stock they could ship to us instead.

Fine. I called the Dedham store and wound up speaking to an automated operator who apparently does not understand clear, concise English because I was shouting into the phone to things like “large appliances” and the always challenging “yes.” After trying to navigate that for a while, I finally reached someone human who told me to call back the Dedham store and press zero when the robot came on. I did. And promptly wound up at customer service at a national call center rather than the store itself. I once again explained the situation – stressing the importance of us getting our new washer & dryer. I was fine waiting for the new stove to be delivered. Ours works fine for the moment. But the new washer & dryer are sort of important when you have kids.

This time, the CSR told me that since we’d ordered in the store, she couldn’t actually see our order. That made no sense whatsoever. How can that be? Do Sears computers not synch to the same network? Don’t they “talk” to each other? She finally managed to locate my order and according to her, it was still scheduled for an October 31st delivery and that I should ignore the automated call that started this entire thing. She stressed that I would receive a call last evening giving me a delivery window for today and to call a certain number if I did not receive that call.

In the meantime, I took to Twitter and bitched directly at the Sears twitter account. I got an immediate response, but upon giving them my contact info, was told they’d get back to me in 24 hours. FAIL. If you don’t have someone manning your social media who can produce results for consumers, what the hell is the point? Lip service is a shoddy replacement for actual results.

And guess what – no call last night either.

So I called back, and for the third time found myself speaking to the Philippines. And once again, I was told that the delivery had been changed to November 4th. The CSR tried calling the warehouse and again, no one picked up the phone. I asked when the warehouse opened in the morning and she told me their hours are 9-5.

A few thing for the Sears Corporation to ponder:

1. Why, despite the fact that this was post-Sandy, did your computer systems not have updated delivery times? Or do you encourage store clerks to routinely lie about delivery times?
2. I’m in Massachusetts and we were not unduly affected by Sandy. I have to imagine that any appliance delivery is coming from a warehouse in Massachusetts – especially since I was told I’d have it the day after I bought it. In fact, a quick Internet search shows several that are fairly close to where I live. So given that Sandy didn’t swallow half our state, why is there a delivery delay? If I was in New Jersey, then this would certainly make sense. But I don’t think I would have gone shopping for appliances yesterday if I was!
3. Why was the CSR unable to locate my store order? That one still defies reason. If your computer systems aren’t synched, what century are you operating in? It shouldn’t matter where a consumer purchases your products, you should have a complete picture all the time. You might want to fix that.
4. Your warehouse apparently doesn’t believe in answering the phone. You might want to fix that.
5. The person manning your Twitter account has no apparent power to get results for aggrieved consumers. You might want to fix that.

We dropped about $2500 in your Dedham, MA store yesterday. That’s not an insignificant amount of money. And one would think that a large store like Sears would appreciate that large a purchase and make every attempt to make good on their promises. After all, it’s a pretty basic relationship: I give you money and you give me products. That’s how it works. It’s not: I give you money and then have to call the Philippines, get disconnected, deal with robot operators, try to understand your labyrinthine rationale behind your computer networks, get told conflicting things, and then take to the Internet to write a thousand-word blog post in the attempt to get said products delivered to my home.

Here’s the thing: it’s October 31st and I want my appliances. I want them today, when I was told they would be here. Your clerk made that promise; if your warehouse knew delivery times were going to be affected or delayed, they should have updated the system with those delays. Because frankly, telling me AFTER the purchase was made is bullshit.

My suggestion: get a call into your warehouse and get my delivery made today – as well as the deliveries for anyone else who was promised the same thing yesterday.

Good luck getting them to answer the phone.

BTW, I have around 50,000 followers on Twitter, over 2500 fans on Facebook, 4,000+ friends on my facebook profile, and a few thousand on my newsletter list.

And ALL of them are going to see this post.

(For my readers, if you’d like to help Sears understand the error of their ways, you can Tweet the following: “Sears: A Corporate & Consumer Failure @searscares @sears Please RT!” and then encourage anyone else to do the same. Thank you!)

UPDATE: 31 OCTOBER 2012 14:34

So earlier today I received a voicemail from someone named Edwin in Texas at Sears, referring to the Tweet I’ve been blasting everywhere. After apologizing, he invited me to call him back at 888-572-8119 and if he was unavailable to leave a voicemail at extension 19. He also gave me the case number that has been assigned to me.

Soooo….I called. Turns out it’s not a direct line and you’re invited to enter an extension number in, so I put in “19.” There’s a series of beeps that sounds like you’re being transferred somewhere and then nothing but dead air. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I tried pressing buttons; I tried waiting for someone to pick up. But there’s nothing.

Disgusted, I hung up and called the actual number that Edwin had called me on earlier: 512-248-7700. When the line picks up, they ask you to say the name of the person you’re trying to reach. I said “Edwin.” That then transferred me to someone named “Ed,” who on his voicemail says, “If you’re looking for Edwin, I’m afraid you’ve dialed the wrong number.” But then he doesn’t tell you the right number. I called back and repeated Edwin’s name again only to hear there’s no one named Edwin at that location.

Then just now, as I’m typing this update, someone from Sears calls to tell me they need to delay delivery and can fit me in Saturday. When I ask where the shipment is coming from, they tell me Westwood, MA. I asked them why the warehouse hadn’t told the store there would be problems with delivery and they said that the system was updated last night. I told them that made no sense, since they should have immediately informed the stores yesterday morning that there might be delays.

So here we are: Sears may well be trying to make this matter right, but I have no way of knowing since their systems seem to be completely un-synched and no one is talking to anyone else. Westwood is a few miles from my home – I see no reason why they can’t get my delivery here on the day the store promised. If they can’t figure out their systems, that’s not my fault; it’s their problem.

Thoroughly and completely disgusted with such inept service.

Birthday Thoughts

By Jon F. Merz

Today is my 43rd birthday. Sometimes that number seems far too high to be real. Sometimes, it seems far too low.

I’m sometimes asked about what the best birthday present I ever received was. It’s a tough question, because I’ve certainly gotten some enjoyable things over the years. But there is one time that stands out a bit more than the others, and I’d like to share that with you all today.

October has always been special to me. Not just because it’s my birthday month. I’ve loved Halloween and the crisp Fall days for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we always celebrated my father’s birthday (on the 21st) with mine over a nice small family dinner. Growing up I used to enjoy this because it felt like it brought my father and I closer together. We were the two last remaining Merz men – there was no one else. And, as my father often reminded me (usually when I’d just been shot down for a date, lol), “It’s all on you. If you don’t have a son, then our name dies with you.” Nice pressure for a fourteen year old who couldn’t score a date!

But it did feel like we were closer during October. Growing up, I was always in his shadow, until I learned how to step out from behind it and create my own path. There were times in my young life when my father felt like my biggest enemy in the world and his ideal felt impossible to live up to. He was both a superhero to me and at times impossible for me to understand. But no matter our differences, each October seemed to bring us back together. And I’m thankful that our birthdays were close together – I think it helped me understand the man he was as I grew up, and I hope it helped him understand the man I was becoming.

There was one October when I wasn’t home. I was in Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in lovely San Antonio, Texas. I’d left in late-August (I think – it’s been well over twenty years since those days) and I was scheduled to be at Lackland for a while still. Being in Basic meant that communication with home was severely limited. But as August and September fell by the wayside and October rolled in, with it came the usual feeling of happiness and excitement I always felt around that time of year.

But this October was also very different. This particular October was the first where I’d been away from home for a long time. I didn’t have my father or mother around as a base of support. I couldn’t simply go home. I was off on my own, in the care of my ever-lovin’ Uncle Sam. It was a scary, exciting time for me to be off spreading my wings and engaged in the challenge that is Basic Training.

And on one particular day that October – this particular day, in fact – I graduated Basic Training. October 24th, the United States Air Force deemed me worthy of graduating Basic Training and I pinned on my Airman First Class stripes and felt like I’d just completed a marathon. I remember walking to the pay phones near the dorms and making a phone call to my father. At that time of day, he was just starting his 4pm-12am shift at the hospital where he worked as the lab supervisor. And I will never forget the pride in my voice when I told him that I had just completed Basic Training. Nor will I ever forget the pride in his voice when he told me how very proud he was of me.

Something changed that day.

Perhaps for the first time, my father recognized that I was growing up. He’d been in the Air Force as well, and I think that the test of Basic Training was one he knew intimately well. Before I left, our relationship had been somewhat strained. When I returned home for the first time around Christmas that year, the hug he gave me was different. I wasn’t his little boy coming home from camp. I was his son, the one he’d tried to raise as best he could having lost his own father early in life, coming back a man.

In the years after, my father and I grew much closer than we had been. I have incredibly fond memories of sitting up late at night with him, drinking and laughing as we related stories of our own experiences. There weren’t many of those nights, because only a few short years after he would pass on. But there were enough. And they remain some of my most deeply-treasured memories.

The day I graduated Basic Training is still one the most precious gifts I’ve ever earned because with it came a newfound respect from my father. And that is something very special, indeed.

8 Awesome Novels for Halloween!

By Jon F. Merz

Imagine being able to get EIGHT amazing novels that are all just perfect for the Halloween season and pay what you want to own them. That’s the idea behind and I’m very proud to be a part of their current offering. My novel VICARIOUS along with great reads from bestselling authors like Douglas Clegg, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Nassise, Patricia Fulton, and Annie Walls are all available for any e-reader or computer right now just by clicking here!

You get to choose how much of what you pay goes to the authors and how much goes to (typically, the split is 70/30) and you can even choose to allot a certain percentage to some very fine charity groups!

Storybundle is a fantastic way to support indie authors and feel great about participating at the same time. So I encourage you all to go to and purchase this exciting Halloween bundle right now! Don’t miss your chance to truly immerse yourself in some incredibly fine writing from some truly talented folks. And please be sure to spread the word – the more folks who know about this, the better!

Have a great weekend!


By Jon F. Merz

Over this past weekend at the 15th and final New England Warrior Camp, I had the chance to talk to a lot of folks. Some of them I’ve known for many years and some are recent acquaintances. During one of the conversations with a more recent acquaintance, the subject of me doing the GORUCK Challenge came up. In one breath, this person said to me, “Dude, that’s very badass that you’re doing it.” And in the next breath, he asked, “Why?”

When I pressed him a little further, he said he understood that it was cool and everything, but given that I’ll be 43 years old this month (three days prior to GORUCK), he wanted to know why I am doing the Challenge now.

I get it.

Society has a tendency to condition you if you let it. Each and every day, we’re bombarded by sights, sounds, and ideals of how most people think we ought to live. And at 43, according to society, I should probably be approaching middle age with some degree of slowing down as my body gets older and my hair lightens a bit more. My boys aren’t babies anymore. I should be enjoying the middle stage of my life, with its somewhat relaxed pace, and possibly even start preparing myself for later life.

To hell with that.

My father passed when he was 48 years old. That’s five years from now. His father died at about the same age. To say that doesn’t weigh on my mind would be lying as badly as Romney. I think about it all the time. Now granted, both my father and grandfather were lifelong smokers (my father eventually quit after his first heart attack) and that no doubt played a major role in their deaths. I don’t smoke. And I exercise and try to take care of myself, within reason.

A lot of my contemporaries in the writing industry are within a few years of my age. In recent weeks, one of them has been operated on for an advanced brain tumor; two others have had heart attacks; and several others have pretty much openly stated that their forties are a real drag and added some incessant whining about various life factors that pretty much make me want to puke.

My view on life has always been that it shouldn’t be this bubble you live in, trying your damnedest to get to the end with an immaculate body. You need scars. You need danger. You need adrenaline. Why? Because those things – those instances when you push the envelope and put yourself into the crucible – they make you appreciate the treasures that you do have in your life. It’s in those moments – those spaces of time when you stand at the brink and literally stare down death, or injury, or your own previous preconceptions about what you could and could not do – that you see the flow of life as no one else does. In the blink of an eye, it’s over. But in the wake, you feel that pulse – that genuine flux of life and death twisting together, melting, melding into the vortex where your reality – your life – shines through without any distraction. In that instance, you see your soul naked and exposed in the brilliance of truth.

When my time comes – and there have been many times already when I thought I might be checking out – I don’t want to look back and think, “Well, that was safe.” I want to go out laughing at all the fun I had, all the love I experienced, all the pain, all the sadness, all the risk, all the failure, all the reward – everything. I want to do things – anything that piques my interest – at whatever age of life I happen to come across them. I don’t want to be hampered by what society thinks I should be doing. I want to do what I want to do.

Those who know me well, know that my general philosophy on life is this: train hard, fight hard, party hard.

The notion of “safe” for me is a death sentence. I tried “safe” up until I was about fifteen years old. Safe didn’t work for me. Safe didn’t prepare me for bullies or love or anything else it supposedly promised.

Risky, on the other hand, that was some serious fun. I’m not talking stupid (although I did enough of that as well – turns out Stupid is the delinquent step-brother of Risky – who knew?) but risk undertaken with intelligence.

That’s where I live.

So yes, I’ll be a 43 year old man doing the GORUCK Challenge. I’m sure there will be folks on the team half my age. I hope they have a blast. I did things like GORUCK back then as well and I enjoyed the suck. For me, doing the Challenge isn’t about having some midlife crisis; if I didn’t do the Challenge and resigned myself to some lazy ideal of a gradually slowing down lifestyle, THAT would be a midlife crisis for me.

Let others allow the onslaught of time to wear them down and pigeonhole them into some lackadaisical shuffleboard experience. For me, the future isn’t about scaling back – it’s about warp speed toward more challenges, more excitement, more fun.

Is that badassery? It might be. I don’t really care.

To me, it’s life.

New England Warrior Camp 2012

It’s over.

As I sit here and write this, I’ve had a long hot shower and a shave. I’m back home, waiting for my wife to get back from my in-laws so we can go out with my boys and get a great dinner. I’m tired and relaxed and can’t stop thinking about how much incredible fun and power those of us who were at New England Warrior Camp this past weekend got to experience.

NEWC, for those who don’t know, was started by Ken Savage after he earned his 5th degree black belt test in 1997. As Ken tells the story, he and the others who took the test and passed that day, were taken aside by the 34th Grandmaster of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu and told they had been given a seed. Ken decided to do something with that seed, and NEWC was born in 1998. Since that time, the Nobscot Reservation in Sudbury, Massachusetts has been our home for one weekend each Autumn where practitioners from all over come to train outdoors under the sun and stars, live in rustic conditions, and experience the unique qualities of Ed’s cooking.

In the fifteen years the Camp has run, I’ve been honored to teach at thirteen of them. I’ve met an incredible number of people and enjoyed every aspect of the Camp. We’ve done every type of training there is: from traditional weapons to unarmed combat to escape and evasion to sensitivity exercises and other stuff that will always remain for those who know.

This was the final year of Camp. For Ken, this event has been an incredible undertaking and the people he has affected number in the thousands. But all good things come to an end – and sometimes, even the best things come to an end also. Ken said it best, I think, when he spoke about going out on top – and this year certainly proved that. Ken had every Shidoshi (those ranked at 5th degree black belt and above) teach this year and those who attended got to experience something that will likely never happen again.

I usually do a recap post after each Camp, but this year is different. Frankly, what happened this year is a true treasure that I don’t think can be adequately explained with words and the memories of one man. This Camp was a shared vision of the unity that exists among practitioners of a very old martial lineage. We all owe Ken Savage a tremendous amount of gratitude for his efforts over the years to make the Camp what it has been and what it will always be for those who have attended – the finest annual gathering of Ninjutsu practitioners ever gathered anywhere, all in the quest to explore, challenge, and develop their warrior spirit.

Thank you, Ken: you are one of my oldest buyu and dearest friends; my travel compadre in foreign lands amid new cultures, “interesting” situations, and extraordinary experiences; a man I’ve learned an incredible amount from in terms of martial arts and life itself. I am humbled and honored to have been one small part of the New England Warrior Camp. You succeeded in creating not just the Camp – not just an amazing annual event treasured by all who have attended – but a enduring and lasting piece of the legacy itself. Years from now when we are all a part of the ethereal winds, those who come along the path after us will still speak of the Camp and your contribution to a living lineage that continues to evolve and grow thanks to men like you.