Sears Shiva

“Let us sit about and tell sad tales of the deaths of kings.” Billy Rattlelance. I forget which play. But the meaning seems clear. And quite appropriate to Sears.

I have had a Freudian association with Sears for years. When I was a bairn, Sears, along with Belk, Hudson, was a place my family went to equip ourselves. For many years my father bought his tools exclusively at Sears. That was back when they had very good quality tools and they had a lifetime guarantee. Which cost them a lot of money the way my father abused his tools – he was one of those “git er dun’ types – and was always taking them back for replacement. 

I recall in my adolescence that Sears was one of two store in Huntsville that sold slide rules. Of course, they were Pickett slide rules, made of aluminium. That was the beginning of the hate side of the Freudian association.

When I went off to college, I continued to shop at Sears. The only difference was that it was the one in the city of the Black Warrior. I recall that even in the ’60’s that the parking was abysmal. And the clerks treated the college students worse than the African-Americans. Which is saying something given the Alibam racism in those days. 

And yes, Virginia, the racism has abated a bit since then, except for people who used to be Chief Justicar of Alibam. 

The love side reached its peak when I moved Nawth to the campus of the Boneyard. My very existence depended on the Urbana Sears. That was where I could go to get winter gear that was necessary whenever I left a schule building. I quickly discovered that what was sold in a Sears store was geographic. And the Yankee stores had better stuff than the Southron stores.

When I left the campus of the Boneyard for the campus of the Tennessee, I managed to find a way to continue getting Yankee Sears catalogs for several years. This was important since when I got to the campus of the Tennessee, the Huntsville store had gone way down hill. While I was off in the MidWest, the Sears body had begun to rot.

In the following years, the rot intensified. First they closed the old Sears on the edge of downtown and moved it out to the wasteland between Huntsville and Athens. And the tools became stercus. And people quit shopping there. Not at once, but over thirty years.

Now I live in Greater Metropolitan Arab. The Sears store is locally owned. I am sorry for the owners and their employees. But we haven’t bought much there. It’s too small and what they sell is too orthogonal to our lives. 

When I was in grad schule, one of my few diversions was reading ANALOG science fiction magazine. It had a fact article or two each month and I recall one that helped me greater with being a manager. This article talked about the life cycle of organizations. It seems that most organizations go through three phases. The first phase is initiation, which is done by people who have technical competence in whatever the organization does. The second phase is growth, which is done by people who are “professional” managers. The third phase is demise, which is done by people who are accountants. 

A parallel with human dementia is appropriate. 

In effect, Sears rotted to death. It lost sight of what it needed to do and be and just worried about money. And so it died. From lack of money.

There’s a moral there and I am sure that Shakespeare said something about that. But all I know is that you can’t buy slide rules any more.