The headline read “Sears posts $558M loss ahead of the holiday season.”
The guilt returned. The thought of going into my kitchen pained me. I couldn’t bear to look at my refrigerator. I wondered, as I have in the past, if some small part of Sears’ downfall rests with me.
Once the premier retailer in the country, the company can trace its roots back to the 1890s and the iconic Sears Catalog, an all-encompassing publication where one could purchase everything from tractors to high fashion to livestock to home-building kits and everything in between. The catalog was the clearly the forerunner to Amazon. The day the massive, glossy tome arrived in the mail became a holiday, of sorts, with everyone wanting their turn to ogle the items first. Don’t believe me? Nostalgia associated with vintage Sears catalogs has some going for as much as $130 on e-bay.
Today, like many brick-and-mortar stores, Sears is in decline, the result of customers flocking to online retailers and the company not keeping up with current trends. Or, perhaps, it’s because of my refrigerator.
Seventeen years ago my fridge went on the fritz, so I hurried over to Sears. One swipe of my American Express Card later, I was assured a new one was on its way. The salesman – his name was John – smiled and waved as I left the appliance department.
A few days later, a refrigerator arrived, but not the one I’d asked for. Apologies followed, then another fridge appeared. But, again, the model was different than the one I’d purchased. Finally, the third time around, I got the refrigerator I’d ordered.
It wasn’t until the end of the month that I got an inkling something was amiss. I scanned my AMEX bill, looking for the $1,000 charge for my shiny new appliance. Strangely, there was no record of my purchase. Another month went by and Sears still had not requested payment for my refrigerator.
Even though I’m now a “recovering Catholic”, I still harbor vestiges of that guilt they inject into wee papists at birth. (I’m guessing it’s a permanent condition.) So, I called Sears and requested they charge me. Their response: “What refrigerator?” I calmly explained, but was informed that Sears had not delivered said appliance to my address, let alone three.
Finally, I went back to Sears in person and asked for John.
“Sorry, he’ doesn’t work here anymore,” a salesman explained.
I told my story.
“We have no record of you buying a refrigerator,” he said, after a brief computer search and before wandering off to assist another customer.
So, I wrote a letter, detailing the delivery of all three appliances, noting the cost and indicating that I would like to pay what I owed.
Seventeen years went buy, and the guilt of my “free” refrigerator still sometimes weighed on me. Then, the piece of rubber around the freezer started to rip and a new part was needed.
“I’ll call Sears and see if we can order another one,” my beau said.
I gulped. “You know, I never paid for the refrigerator, right?”
He picked up the phone.
“What if they find out? What will they think?”
“I’m looking for a part,” I heard him say. Then he recited my name and address.
Surely, there couldn’t be a record of my purchase, when there was no evidence of a transaction all those years earlier.
“Yep. That’s it.”
I wondered, is there a statute of limitations? Is it theft? Is absconding with a thousand-dollar refrigerator a felony? Would a Sears truck soon be backing up to my door to reclaim the stolen loot while police sirens whined in the distance? Visions of the horrors that were probably living in my fridge danced in my head. Would they think me a horrible housekeeper?
My beau eyed me. “Let it go,” he said. “Just … let it go.”
I took a deep breath.
I recently read that Sears is having trouble funding the pension plan that supports 100,000 of its retirees. Eieeee!
I know what you’re thinking. Just … let it go
Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.