Kmart & Sears: Stay Away

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I went to Kmart during the 2007 holiday season to buy my grandmother a fleece sweatshirt. I hadn’t been to a Kmart since 1989, but not much had changed.

  • The aisles were cramped,
  • the store was dirty,
  • and the prices were low.

I walked out of the store and thought, “There are better working conditions in China.”

Turns out that I’m right. The Consumerist published a letter from a very disgruntled Kmart store manager who wanted to set the record straight: the merger with Sears has failed, the stores are faltering, and employees are the last thing on management’s mind. Here’s the letter, reprinted from The Consumerist website, and it’s another illustration of how employee management, employee morale, and profitability are tied closely together.

Do you shop at Kmart or Sears? What are your experiences?

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I’ve been reading the Consumerist for a long time and I absolutely love it. I’d like to provide some insight about my job, as a manager at Kmart, and what I’ve learned about the company since the merger.

1. The cashiers and service desk people are not properly trained. The turnover in this area is astronomical, and we usually stick them out there with little to no training. So when they don’t know about prices, sales, special offers, or even how to deactivate EAS tags, it’s not their fault; they probably don’t know any better.

2. We have a very small budget. This is why you can never find anyone in a Kmart. The few employees you may encounter are running around, trying to put out product, marking things down, and resetting counters. Customer service should be the most important thing, but it rarely is.

3. The mystery shop is king. Our bonuses, raises, and pretty much everything else are dependent on our mystery shop scores, not how many complaints we get or how hard we work.

4. No one gets their performance review anymore.
The store manager is, in so many words, instructed to not rate people too highly because they would get raises, and the company can’t afford that. So the manager rates them a 2 out of 5, skips the review part of the process, and the employee gets nothing. It’s not about their actual performance. It’s all about saving money.

5. We still don’t know what to do with your stimulus check.
We got an email around the time of the press release, and a few flyers, but we would probably give you a blank stare if you came in with your check and wanted your 10% extra. A black hole exists between corporate and the front line managers, through which little information passes.

6. When you call the 800 number, you’re talking to an outsourced call center employee. They email your complaint to the store manager, who probably already talked to you before you left the store. You will never talk to a district manager or someone in corporate. So you might as well take the 10% discount we give you in the store for complaining, because you won’t get anywhere with the number.

7. We hate Sears just as much as you do.
When we have to call them, they are just as rude to us as they are to you. There is no corporate culture, no meeting of the minds…and we can’t use our employee discount at 90% of their stores.

8. Sears credit cards are HORRIBLE. Corporate pushes them on us and sends us nasty emails when we don’t get so many applications per customer. We are forced to ask you to fill one out. Upper management and the cashier receive a (very) small commission on every approved application, but the only reason we ask is because we have to.

9. The stores are dirty because they don’t give us money …to replace fixtures, the leaking ceiling, the horrible bathrooms, or even decent cleaning supplies. We scrub shelfs with window cleaner because we aren’t allowed to order new fixtures or take anything off the shelf that might actually clean anything. That costs money, you see.

10. Corporate just restructured the Loss Prevention position. Most of our security personnel, who had been with the company for years, were terminated. This is a huge liability problem for our employees and our customers. Expect higher prices in the future as people steal us blind.

Hope this helps,
A Very Disgruntled Manager

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