Over the weekend, or at the weekend as we say in the UK, I was unlucky enough to find myself in Sears.
I’m not sure how this happened. The plan was to have lunch and visit somewhere picturesque such as Smithfield so as at least we could look at some fairly old buildings as hypothermia set in.
But the mother-in-law had apparently seen a stroller system for $75 and as we only have two months to go until our new arrival we thought it was a prudent idea to check it out.
In saying that I had forgotten that Sears is like one of those vast department stores from the Soviet Union in the Brezhnev era. Somebody had a vision a long time ago but nobody can remember who or when. In the British context it’s one of those jack of all trades places like Woolworths, that recently folded because nobody could remember why the stores were there, apart from the pick ‘n mix candies.
After fighting our way through sections of ‘man tools’ and dung brown ‘man jackets’ to match the ‘man tools’ we finally found the desultory infant section. The labeling wasn’t clear but it looked like my mother-in-law had made a mistake and the $75 price tag referred to a cot beneath the stroller.
In any case the wheels had been removed from the strollers and they looked like nobody had bought one since the Punic Wars.
Foolishly we persevered and tried to find a member of staff to give us a price check, which is not a straightforward task in Sears where staff pretend to be members of the public to avoid awkward customer questions.
We finally found one lady who admitted, under heavy cross examination, to being a member of staff.
She immediately looked panicked and about 200 miles out of her comfort zone at being asked to discover the price of an item in a different department.
Had we asked her if she could unravel the Da Vinci Code we might have had a more positive reaction.
Finally she showed up by the stroller with a cumbersome hand held gadget. She proceeded to press some buttons. And she pressed more buttons and frowned. After 10 futile minutes she left to get help. She returned with the same cumbersome hand held gadget, pressed the same buttons and frowned again.
After an age of grunting and fumbling during which even my daughter got tired of pressing the buttons and flashing lights on the vibrating baby seats, the store worker went to seek out a manager.
Another 10 minutes later a harried, unsmiling woman with the complexion of a disaffected veal calf, arrived to tell us she had no idea how much the stroller was either. She disappeared into a sinister looking back room and finally told us it was $170, with the air of someone who had plucked the figure out of mid air.
My wife told me she had encountered the same manager a few days earlier in the women’s restrooms when she had managed an unpleasant blockage situation.
The woman told my wife the men’s washrooms were always a lot worse.
I was about as dubious about this information as I was at the price of the stroller.
It’s never a great feeling when you leave a store knowing you would have had a better customer service experience in Wal-Mart.