Liz and I bought a washer and dryer on Black Friday. Five days earlier, we had been instructed by the participants of Occupy San Luis Obispo (all eight of them) to stick it to the man by not purchasing anything whatsoever on Black Friday. But we did anyway. It’s so much fun. We got up at 4 in the morning and went to Target and bought hecka stuff and then to Macy’s for even more stuff (in both cases, utilizing the numerous gift cards we were so kindly given at our wedding) and finally Sears where, as stated, we found a seemingly (and now, having processed through them several loads, I can confirm not merely seemingly but indeed quite) perfectly operational washer and dryer at nearly half the price.
Our last washer and dryer I had purchased on craigslist from a nice lady who had upgraded. That washer and that dryer, likewise, were perfectly operational, but we had to sell them last summer when we moved to New York. Upon returning to California last summer, we did not replace them, and have been frequenting the laundromat ever since, which—what with having a car again and all—isn’t as bad as lugging a thirty pound bag of dirty clothes down three flights of stairs and down the block as we did each week in Brooklyn, but it’s not the most convenient thing ever and we were pretty eager to do laundry at home again.
Anyway, this isn’t a post about exploding appliances or anything like that, merely about what we saw when we returned to Sears this past Thursday to pick up our purchase.
Let me set the scene: Sears has a pick-up area. In the back. There are some large sliding doors, special parking spots to back up to, and a waiting area adjacent to the warehouse with some chairs and such. Within the waiting area, posted in two or three different places, are notices of a policy in which the customer receives a coupon for store credit if said customer has to wait longer than five minutes to receive their merchandise. Also posted on this wall is a whiteboard boasting that on that particular day, 100% of customers had waited less than five minutes, and for the entire month, 94%. Facilitating this policy and these statistics were a mounted television screen listing customer last names and their corresponding wait times and a self-service digital kiosk which scanned either the customer’s receipt or the card used for purchase. When the receipt or card is scanned, your name appears on the screen and the clock starts. Sounds great, right?
So when Liz and I entered this waiting area, before noticing any of the notices or statistics, we found eight to ten people—enough people to fill the waiting area sufficiently enough that not everyone could move out of the range of the sensor governing the automatic sliding door, preventing said door from closing—all looking both weary and frustrated. Liz and I looked at one another with a maybe-this-will-kind-of-suck-but-oh-well-washer-and-dryer-yay look, and once we had waited long enough that the other waiters felt a sense of solidarity with us and began conversing with us, it was revealed that they had been waiting anywhere from an hour to two, which seemed strange given that by that point we had noticed the notices regarding the wait policy and the impressive accompanying statistics and also noticed that though there were eight to ten weary and frustrated customers in the room with us, there strangely were no customer names, let alone wait times, listed on the screen mounted above us.
The reasons behind this discrepancy became clear when a nice older lady was brought her dishwasher. It goes like this: when you enter the waiting area, Employee 1 politely asks you what you are picking up and tells you oh yes I can help you with that may I please see your receipt thank you it will be right out. Employee 1 then reads the item number to Employee 2, who then radios the number into the warehouse while Employee 1 sort of stands in front of the self service kiosk. When the item is finally located in the warehouse (or in the store, maybe, I don’t know) and is on its way to the pick up area, Employee 2 is notified by radio, Employee 2 tells Employee 1 to go ahead and scan, Employee 1 scans the receipt, and the customer’s name suddenly appears on the overhead screen and the clock starts.
The nice older lady with the new dishwasher, though she reported having waited for nearly an hour, had a “Wait Time” of thirty-four seconds. A nice young man who purchased a new riding lawnmower and who claims to have waited for an hour and a half had a “Wait Time” of ten seconds.
You can’t really blame these employees. Someone or some committee at Sears corporate (part of the 1%, probably) came up with this idea for this policy and passed it down to the stores, probably putting a bunch of pressure on the store manager who then put pressure on the warehouse manager who put pressure on Employees 1 and 2 to uphold this policy that particularly during the Holiday season is probably unrealistic.
And it’s not like anyone—or at least anyone while we were there, including us—really challenged it. Once people had their merchandise, it was all in the past. So Liz and I spent twenty minutes marveling at the absurdity, had our twenty second wait time, and were headed home toward laundry bliss.