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Sears Staffers Deliver Upbeat Experience

I think there is hope for Sears.

Yes, the chain lost $279 million during the first quarter; it has to find new uses for its many shuttered stores, and its Hometown and Outlet stores are having troubles.

But a visit to my local Sears yesterday afternoon to purchase a lawn mower showed signs that all may not be lost. The store in East Northport, N.Y., had a tremendous sales staff. I am usually the type of person who avoids sales people, but for certain purchases I must interact with another human.

(A quick side note: I normally shop at Home Depot for this type of item, and had in fact gone there first, but Home Depot has decided that summer is over and only had six mowers on display — most returns.)

As I was checking out the mowers, I was approached by an associate and asked if I needed help. He quickly added that the store’s lawn mower salesman was busy, but he would do his best until he was free. I was interested in a model under the clearance sign, and the young man went to check on whether only the floor model was available. While walking to the counter, he told me offhand that the clearance models did not come with the standard two-year warranty and some were refurbished models. All had been returned for one reason or another.

I quickly backed away from that model, not wanting to buy someone else’s problem. The associate said he understood and that all those for sale had been checked out and fixed.

I still decided against it and continued looking. In a few moments the other sales associate came by to check on me. I had now settled on another model and he said he would check to see if they were in stock.

In this store the mowers are adjacent to the small appliances, so I busied myself by looking at some coffee makers. Immediately, a worker walking past stopped and asked if I needed help. I said no, I was getting a mower, and he quickly said there was no reason I could not bundle that deal with a coffee maker.

I laughed, but after a second I was not so sure he was kidding. I was handling a particular model with a built-in coffee grinder when my mower associate came back. He mentioned to me that he had read that built-in grinders were not a good idea and to use a stand-alone model. I thought the other staffer would have a fit because his coworker was throwing cold water on his mower-coffee maker sale. However, he joined right in and agreed that keeping the grinder separate was a good idea.

With that, I said farewell to the coffee section. At the checkout the mower worker ran through a quick list of add-on sales — extra oil filter, gas stabilizer — and he said if I take out a Sears card, I could get $15 off the price. I like discounts, so I signed up for the new card, knowing I will pay it off immediately so as to not incur Sears’ 25.4 percent interest rate.

The associate thanked me and told me where and how to pick up the mower. It was ready and waiting for me downstairs, and I was on my way. As I write, my son is busy cutting my lawn with our new tool.

Overall, my experience was truly top-notch. I was happy with the associate, and impressed at how keen the other sales people were to make a sale and the general efficiency of the operation. If similar such people are the norm, then my hope for Sears is strong.