And believe me, it wasn't pretty. The Sears in our already substandard rural mall is closing. Ours is one of 79 stores in the Sears Holding Corporation that is closing after a disappointing holiday shopping season. The store is currently liquidating its merchandise. Electronics and home appliances are marked down between 25-50%. Seasonal items, such as clothing, are marked anywhere from 50-75%. These are not the sort of drastic sales you might expect because what doesn't sell by April 30th, when the store is set to shut its doors, will be transported to other Sears stores that are still in business. But still, the store is swamped with people trying to find a deal.
It's really a dismal atmosphere. Sections of the store are completely bare. There is no rhyme or reason to the displays. Everything has been picked over. The bright yellow signs hanging from the ceiling are depressing. What's worse is the thought of an anchor store sitting empty after multiple smaller stores in the mall have already left. With few chain retail stores left, I fear the whole place will be turned into a factory outlet mall.
In the hour I was in the store, I witnessed two altercations between customers and store employees. In both instances, the customer was rude, and the employee lost his cool.
An irate man at the jewelry counter yelled, "Is anyone going to help me? I've been standing here 25 minutes." An employee walked past and said to him, "You have to let her finish helping that other man." Then there was a back and forth exchange about which customer was at the counter first. In frustration he said, "Never mind. It's not worth it. This sort of thing is the reason why you're going out of business." "No," retorted the employee, "it's because of people like you." Again, they went back and forth and sounded like children fighting on a playground. The customer left in a huff.
I actually had to eavesdrop on this one. A woman was arguing with the manager at the same jewelry counter over the amount of the discount. She refused to believe that the 50% had already been discounted. Finally, the manager told her, "Look, I don't know what else to say to you. That's the price. I'm not going to argue with you. If you want it, pay for it. Otherwise, you need to leave the store!" It was at that moment that I realized a security officer was standing watch.
When I went to the checkout counter to pay, I had to ask the clerk, "Does this sort of thing happen a lot these days?" She nodded her head sadly, "It's really tough to come to work some days." Then I asked, "What's going to happen to you once the store is closed?" "I'm 78-years-old," she said. "I've been with Sears for a long time. I'll probably just gather my unemployment and be done with it." "And the others?" I asked. She looked me in the eye and didn't have to say anything. As I was leaving she told me, "Thanks for being understanding."
Unbelievable! This is what it's come to. Customers swarm the store searching for mega deals in a state of frenzy. The problem as I see it is that everyone assumes that because the store is closing, they should be giving away items for free. The philosophy seems to be: We are doing you a favor by taking this merchandise off your hands. In turn, the employees have nearly given up on being civil to the customers because there is no accountability. It's not as if they have to concern themselves with losing their jobs. It must be very demoralizing for the employees. I have seriously never witnessed a situation quite like this before. Sadly, I feel like what I saw today is a small-scale version of our society and culture as a whole.