Sears Grants a Wish, For My Wife and Perhaps You (sponsored)

Disclosure: I was given a $500 gift card from Izea on behalf of their client, Sears, to participate in their campaign and “grant a wish” for someone, then to share the experiences shopping at the retail store. There is also a contest you can enter with details below for me to grant perhaps one or more of your wishes. From my perspective, I see this as getting paid to provide my feedback more then getting paid to write a blog post, but as we have seen over the last few days with regards to Chris Brogan and his involvement in the K-Mart campaign, everyone has their own perspective.

Sears at Aventura MallThe spirit of the Sears “Don’t Just Give a Gift, Grant a Wish” campaign is laudable, and also very difficult to live up to IMHO – giving a gift is easy, a wish is really, really deep.  I was able to choose whether to grant a wish for myself, for someone else or for a charity.  Given the fact this was going to be a light Christmas at best, I wanted to do something special for my wife, Kristie – we do a bit of charity work throughout the year as well as several donations, so I felt its time to do something nice for her. (video re-enactment forthcoming 😉

I believe the reason I was selected for the campaign is that

  • I have a small audience aka ‘reach’ (bigger on Twitter, smaller on my infrequently updated blog)
  • I have some insights to share which will hopefully help Sears and Izea
  • I have privately been beating up Izea and Ted in personal interactions for a while, giving him a good ribbing but also talking to him seriously about how they have embraced disclosure and evolved their business in response to complaints from people like Jason Calacanis, myself and others about disclosure and business ethics
  • I am generally known for my integrity and truthiness – which you will see here
  • I was previously invited to join Izea’s blogger advisory board but really wanted an insiders look before fully agreeing to join (though perhaps I may not be wanted after this post)

The program ‘rules’ are simple, Sears provides a $500 gift card to me, I go to one of their stores, then, after the shopping trip, I post about our experiences (which wasn’t all that good as you will soon read).  Now here is the part that makes it cool for you. I hopefully am granting one of your wishes. Izea, who is running the promotion for Sears, is also going to be picking a winner of another $500 grant a wish package (instructions for entering below, but first a bit about our shopping trip and our experience with Sears).

For starters, I should point out that Sears is not one of the stores I would shop for Christmas.  For me, Sears is top of mind when thinking power tools, appliances and car repairs even – but not clothes, electronics or even furniture.  In fact, most of our furniture in our house we have purchased off of Craigslist or a second-hand store, but it wasn’t my wish, it was Kristie’s, so I thought I would just ask her instead of worrying about it and really felt grateful to Ted for inviting me.

Of course, Kristie’s first response was that she wanted a trip to Paris (where I just came from).  Then she said, well we aren’t doing Christmas gifts this year so it doesn’t really matter.  After a bit of haggling over what I meant by the word ‘wish’ (fix the world, solve for hunger, get a big sponsor for Social Media Club so we could hire an executive director etc..) I finally conveyed it had to be physically something I could buy – in other words a gift.  After a few minutes she finally said what I knew she wanted, a Karaoke machine so she could let out her inner chartreuse.  Of course, if she was going to get a Karaoke machine, I needed noise canceling headphones to be part of her wish 🙂 The other big thing she has been trying to get for the past year was a Wii.

Kristie at Sears AventuraSo we had our shopping list set up and after Social Media Club hosted a Social Media Breakfast, we set out to Sears at Aventura mall in North Miami.

I grew up here in Miami (where we are visiting for Social Media Club events and also to spend some holiday time with my 92 year old grandfather) so I knew generally where it was, but I wanted to be sure.  So we searched Sears on the Google Maps app on our iPhone.  There were actually too many listings for Sears in North Miami to easily find it so we went to the Web site, which was actually optimized for mobile.  The only complaint with the mobile site is that they need to have the store’s addresses linked to a mapping service, because we had to manually transfer the address into the map app which made it a bit harder.

The one unfortunate thing about the timing of this campaign is that we are only two weeks away from Christmas and ended up heading to one of the busiest malls in the United States on a Saturday afternoon at 1pm. Needless to say – the mall was packed. In fact, parking was so tough we had to use the valet service after searching for nearly 30 minutes, but once that was all sorted out, we headed to Sears with the gift card in hand and our simple shopping list at the ready (though I still have no idea which Wii games we really want other than Rockband – see the musical theme of this wish?).

Walking into the store, we noticed the new signage highlighting the campaign “Don’t just give a gift, grant a wish” – but the rest of the store felt the same as it did when I used to shop here with my grandparents. Even the Christmas yard decorations setup felt a bit less then modern.  I guess the best word to describe it is that it felt ‘dated’. In fact, when talking to my aunt about it later, she said “Sears has always been the same, they never change”.  For some people this is good, for me, this is not so good.  Reminds me of the many ad campaigns such as “this isn’t your parent’s XYZ any more” except in this case, it still is.

Anyway, we headed straight for the electronics department and found the karaoke machines. We found the one Kristie wanted on sale at a great price, only $90 down from $150. Though we couldn’t find the extra microphones or music, but that’s another story.

Knowing we had more shopping to do, we asked a nearby sales associate if there were shopping baskets available. Her English was poor and she couldn’t understand the question, even after asking it several times – this is something I have become used to in Miami retail, and while unfortunate is not uncommon – I wish I spoke Spanish fluently, but I don’t.  Realizing there weren’t shopping carts available and not wanting to carry it all over the store, we left the karaoke machine and headed a few aisles over to the video games where…

We didn’t find any Wii’s… so we found another sales associate who told us they were sold out and didn’t know when they were getting it in.  Bummer, but this has often been the case with Nintendo for the past year plus, so that is not entirely Sears’ fault.  In fact, when we got back I ran across this article about November being the biggest month of video game console sales ever.

At this point, we said, ok, lets go check out the noise canceling headphones – unfortunately the choices were limited and I didn’t see the headphones I wanted.  We did find something suitable though, but then I couldn’t get it off the rack (it was locked in somehow).  With these frustrations mounting, we realized we should just wait to get the Wii from and since we had to fly home anyway, should get the karaoke machine online too.  After all, why spend $25 to check an extra bag? or waste the time going back when you can just order online and get free shipping.

Of course, in going to look at buying it online, they are only offering it in one of those silly packages designed to make you buy games you don’t really want – really not very good marketing on their point (Nintendo’s) in building a good relationship with folks like me – we are seriously considering a PS3 now, but I digress…

While walking out of the electronics department to check out the rest of the store to see if we would be inspired, we did see a great deal on a Panasonic cordless phone for the house, to replace the broken ones we have been using.

The electronics department was situated next to the appliances and our eyes moved to a beautiful stove that reminded us of that really cool and expensive French one we saw elsewhere, but this was made by Kenmore and was about half the price of the one we saw previously. If we owned our house and had a few thousand extra dollars, we might have been tempted to purchase it as our current stove is relatively small. Since we rent our flat and are paying down our debt instead of making major purchases, we set aside the big wish.

After a quick lunch break, Kristie decided she wanted to use some of her wish to buy some gifts for my nephews, so we went back to the store for round two. After searching both floors of the entire store, we finally found the toy department, by the power tools and the weight lifting equipment. Unfortunately there really was not much of a selection, just an aisle or so with a good percentage of that being toy Craftsmen power tools. They also had a small display of Hasbro board games, many of which were priced at $29.99, essentially $5-15 more than the same games cost at other stores. While it was ‘free’ money to us, there is still a sense of wanting to find value so we passed.

Kristie also needed a pair of socks (because she forgot them at home) so we picked those up while there.

Outdoor Christmas Decorations SetupSo all in all, the Sears shopping experience hasn’t changed much since I was a kid – in the case of the floors, shelves and overall feeling of being in the store, it doesn’t seem like it changed at all. If I am looking for appliances, I still trust Kenmore.  If I am looking for power tools, I still trust Craftsmen.  Now, the one thing that did seemingly change is the clothing department, they actually have some cool stuff there, including some great styles from LL Cool J, who has also put together this good video as part of the grant a wish campaign.

In short, we had some really tough challenges which shows why programs such as this one being run by Izea are risky for companies to pursue, but also invaluable if handled well.  I still haven’t seen them engaged in the kerfuffle with Chris Brogan this weekend though…  Further, campaigns such as this expose the real shortcomings of the end to end branding experience and how important it is for all different groups within a company to work together.  Finally, it proves once again that marketing alone cant solve a company’s problems with its’ market relationships.  Hopefully though, this is a learning opportunity and not a censorship opportunity.

To summarize, here are the problems we faced:

  • Went in to buy a karaoke machine, noise canceling headphones and a Wii, came out with a pair of socks and a new phone system for the house. We are going to order the karaoke machine online, and it seems we have to wait to try to get the Wii at a later date as we realized Sears currently only sells the Wii bundle ($500+) which is not what we want – we just want the Wii console ($200+) and the chance to select our own game and accessories. Shame on Nintendo, shame on retailers for going along with this exploitative bundling that forces people to buy games they don’t want or need.
  • Tried to also get toys for my nephews, but the selection was not very good – specialty stores and other Sears competitors clearly perform much better in this regards.
  • While there were some cool styles in the clothing department, the overall feeling of the store (at least the one in Aventura) was that it was ‘dated’. This is particularly troublesome in light of the fact that Aventura Mall has some of the most upscale brands in the world, so by comparison, Sears looked even more dated then it probably is.
  • The clerk in the electronics department didn’t speak English well. The other two clerks in the same department were seemingly disinterested in offering help. When we paid for our phone, the clerk didn’t even bother to say thank you, let alone happy holidays or something more cheery.
  • The store layout was really tough. Hard to find the departments and items we were interested in. The directory by the store front was a list of which departments were on which floor, not where they were on the floor.  Perhaps a design choice in getting people to stumble upon something else to buy?
  • Overall, prices were not that good really, though there were some great sales prices (like our new house phone and even the karaoke machine).  A recent steam mop I purchased from a comepetitor was offered for $20 more.
  • No shopping carts – understandable with aisle layout and for ‘department store’, but also making it very difficult to go shopping in multiple departments with more bulkier items like electronics
  • Actually paying for the items was tough – we had to track down a sales associate to pay for the phone.  When paying for Kristie’s socks, we looked around for a few minutes and eventually found a staffed customer service station (not a ‘check out’ stand btw).  Unfortunately, we had to wait several minutes because a customer had started checking out, then went back to search for more clothing for his grand daughter, tying up the cashier for several minutes.  After some audible groans from us, she did finally suspend that transaction, but by that point, we were finally at the front of the line for the other register.

Some Positives:

  • is pretty good, though minor tweaks would make the shopping experience even better – for example, the shopping cart is missing some little things like “update all items in cart” (requiring me to remove each item one by one) which is more likely to make me abandon the purchase entirely (ran into this while trying to build the wish package for you.
  • They are experimenting with programs like this and from my perspective the marketing campaign is really good – it would be great if the top to bottom experience matched it
  • The sale prices were really pretty good and Sears stores are everywhere.
  • I was really glad to see Sears is working with the Heroes at Home program to grant some wishes for military families – they are taking care of their own, with a very socially conscious program which makes my time invested here doing the review worth the while.

I can’t say I will be running back into our local Sears store anytime soon, but I am happy to see Sears engaging. Unfortunately, the campaign really is a great lesson that a fresh coat of paint and a great pitch can’t change the brand by itself.  It takes a complete retooling of the operations first and foremost, then to change the attitudes of the work force in order to change the product itself before you can make people feel different about your company.  From the choice of flooring, to shelving, to hiring practices, to motivation, to inventory selection, everything is permanently inter-linked.  One weak link may be overlooked, but several kills you and your opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship.

Perhaps I am just not the target customer that Sears is reaching for.  Are you?

I wish to extend my thanks to Sears, and to IZEA, for inviting me to get involved in this program.  As I have said for a long time to my clients (as a consultant), its not so much that people have negative things to say about your company insomuch as it is how you respond – what you say and do as a result.  So in light of the relatively positive experiences posted around the K-Mart campaign, I am interested in seeing what happens as a result of this post.  Is it a learning opportunity or is it time for corporate speak and a blind eye?

Now for the Fun Bit – Let me (and Izea) Grant Your Wish

I have selected a great package for you for feeding the mind, body and soul, or you can ignore my shopping choices (and the time I put into assembling the package) and pick your own item #’s from and include that in the comments below or your own blog post. Please do read the rules completely as I am not in charge of the contest, Izea is, but here is a general overview of how it will work.

Readers can enter via blog comment, tweet or blog post.

Blog Comment: A reader can leave a comment on this blog with the name of the wish package they would like to win. (I only made one, so its either the mind/body/soul wish or your own wish.

Twitter Tweet:
A reader can simply tweet out the following message:
“RT @chrisheuer, please grant my wish to win the #Sears XYZ package – tweet to win your own wish”  – replace XYZ with Mind/Body/Soul or Media or Gamers or My Own

Blog Post:
A blogger can enter by writing a post about the contest and linking back to your post. Be sure to leave a comment with the URL to their post as trackbacks don’t always work.

Each tweet, comment or post counts as one registration. A person can register up to three times by tweeting, leaving a comment and doing a post on their own blog. The winner will be chosen at random by IZEA based on all entries. The contests are separate, each blogger participating in this promotion will have their own package to give away.

If readers don’t want to win the specific package I selected you can put together your own Wish package by leaving the package item#s from in the comments (up to $500) in value.

The Mind/Body/Soul Package

The Media Package

The Gamers Package

Some Further Thoughts

So you may think this post was paid for by Sears, and indeed it was – but in my mind they didn’t pay for me to post this (would you pay for a review like this?) but they paid me for my time (and underpaid me at that as I sit here at 5am completing the post after spending several hours in the store, browsing the online store and reviewing program details for compliance). In short, it feels more like a mystery shopper program with complete transparency, coupled with a giveaway.  Its not about getting paid to promote them so much as it is getting paid to invest my time interacting with their brand and then sharing my experiences with you.

The original issues people had with the notion of getting paid to blog about a company had two main points: 1 transparency of transaction and intention – make it clear what you got paid and what you got paid for; 2 perceived lack of objectivity – in that people believe that honesty goes out the window when someone gives you something, which just isn’t the case for everyone, while it may be for some. I believe that this post adequately addresses those issues and believe you will find that to also be the case, though your opinion of such programs may not change as a result.  Regardless, I learned a lot so far, and expect to learn a lot more this week as I hear your feedback.

Best of luck – I hope you win and I hope you enjoy one of the packages I selected for you.

Oh yeah, and just in case the title wasn’t clear enough, I received a $500 gift card to shop at the store, share my experience and give you a chance to win $500 wish too.

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  1. #1 by Kim - December 17th, 2008 at 11:05

    I would love to win the Xbox 360 package. Thank you for the awesome giveaway!

  2. #2 by Jill L - December 17th, 2008 at 11:09

    I want to win the mind/body/soul wish package that you chose. Thanks for the awesome contest.

  3. #3 by Rose Y - December 17th, 2008 at 11:18

    I would like Element 32 in. (Diagonal) Class LCD Integrated HDTV (720p)
    Sears item# 05771318000

  4. #4 by Sonya_Allstun - December 17th, 2008 at 11:19

    I would like to enter for the gamer package. And we just got a big sears store here and I agree it is hard to find anyone on the floor to help a person.

  5. #5 by Melinda - December 17th, 2008 at 11:28

    Happy Holidays! Media Package would be wonderful! Thanks for a great blog!

  6. #6 by Jackie Diprimo - December 17th, 2008 at 11:36

    Gamer's package would be awesome! Thanks for the chance.

  7. #7 by carol - December 17th, 2008 at 11:40

    The Media Package is SPECTACULar, and my first choice, but the Gamers Package is also amazing. Chris, you've done a brilliant job, this is great!

  8. #8 by Shelley Krush - December 17th, 2008 at 11:46

    I'd choose the media package.

    thanks for the contest

  9. #9 by Jean F. - December 17th, 2008 at 11:49

    I'd like a Nikon D60 (Sears item #00353118000). I realize this is $50 over the $500 and I will gladly pay the difference if the price has not gone down to that level by the time this is over. I share your frustration at shopping at Sears, although at least around here the staff speaks English.

  10. #10 by debi welbon - December 17th, 2008 at 11:50

    Would love to win the gamers package so I can challenge the grand kids!!

  11. #11 by adrienne Gordon - December 17th, 2008 at 11:53

    I'd be remiss for the kids if i didn't wish for the gamers package

  12. #12 by Kate - December 17th, 2008 at 11:55

    the media and the mind body soul package are both wonderful. Of course what I want more than anything from Sears is a new sewing machine, mine broke beyond repair. I inherited it from my Mom so it did well for a 50 year old machine. This one would be wonderful
    Kenmore Computerized Drop-In Bobbin Sewing Machine with 215 Stitch Functions
    Sears item# 02019233000 Mfr. model# 19233


    Sears Exclusive.

    Reg Price: $449.99 Savings: $100.00 You Pay: $349.

  13. #13 by Sydney - December 17th, 2008 at 12:04

    My family would use the media package, I, personally, could really use the mind/body/soul package. Please choose for me, I am holiday overwhelmed!

  14. #14 by Kimberly B - December 17th, 2008 at 12:26

    The media package looks nice.
    THanx for the contest.

  15. #15 by Crystal - December 17th, 2008 at 08:27

    I’d choose the Gamer’s Package. I have been wanting a PS3 for a long time now. I’ve been waiting for the price to come down, and so far, that hasn’t really happened. The last console I bought was back when I was a kid – A Sega Dreamcast, 1999.

    It would be a dream come true to win something like this.

    Thank you, and Sears, for doing this 🙂

  16. #16 by Mark D. - December 17th, 2008 at 12:30

    Media Package is awesome. Thanks.

  17. #17 by colleen riedlinger - December 17th, 2008 at 12:35

    I would like the gamers package. Great contest!!!

  18. #18 by Dree - December 17th, 2008 at 12:37

    I love the gamers package. I'd love to get the 4-Drawer Ball-Bearing Roll-Away, 26-1/2 in. Wide – Red/Black Sears item# 00962021000 and the 6-Drawer Ball-Bearing Chest, 26 in. Wide – Red/Black Sears item# 00962020000 for my husband.

  19. #19 by Carrie - December 17th, 2008 at 12:54

    My 2 teenage daughters told me I want The Media Package!

  20. #20 by Cynthia C - December 17th, 2008 at 13:28

    I really need a new computer, so I would buy Sears item #00398925000. Thanks for the giveaway!

  21. #21 by Nancy K - December 18th, 2008 at 01:08

    the media package rocks. thanks for including me.

  22. #22 by Brenda Callahan - December 18th, 2008 at 01:22

    what a great thing sears is doing. I love that you are very blunt in your review! not alot of people like that.
    i would do a create my own wishlist 🙂
    00859787000 bookshelf $99
    05797862000 garmin pink gps $299
    09172298000 computer keyboard $55

    thanks so much 🙂

  23. #23 by Erin Walsh - December 18th, 2008 at 01:52

    Thanks so much for the chance to win!

    I would purchase this is I had my choice.

    Craftsman 179cc 4 cycle Single Stage Snow Thrower with Electric Start
    Sears item# 07188705000 Mfr. model# 88705 $499.99

  24. #24 by Joanne Schultz - December 18th, 2008 at 02:02

    The Media Package looks great!

  25. #25 by happyvibes - December 18th, 2008 at 02:05

    Please enter me for the gamers package.

  26. #26 by donna s. - December 18th, 2008 at 02:06

    The media package is great!

  27. #27 by Lindsay - December 18th, 2008 at 02:18

    The media package would be perfect for my family

  28. #28 by Katherine D. - December 18th, 2008 at 02:21

    I would love to win the Gamer's Package. I'm a gamer, b! 🙂 Also – it's normal to expect compensation in exchange for work – normal people get that, so don't worry about it.

  29. #29 by Jeni - December 18th, 2008 at 02:40

    The Media package sounds awesome Thanks

  30. #30 by alan - December 18th, 2008 at 02:43

    Got here via Kristie's post about the shopping experience. It's an interesting project, and while I don't have any qualms about social media people being involved with a promotion like this, I'm still not sure that I grok the overall structure.

    But hey, I'm game for entering a contest! I'd love the media package.

  31. #31 by Liz G. - December 18th, 2008 at 03:22

    I'm really glad I got directed to this blog. It was a pleasure reading this review and I am excited to go and read previous posts. I wish for the Media Package.

  32. #32 by JosephBoltz - December 18th, 2008 at 03:24

    My $500 Sears wish package would include the following items:

    Craftsman 6.75 Torque 22 in Deck Rear Bag Front Porpelled Lawn Mower with High Wheels – Reg price: $399.99 – on Sale $299.88 – Sears item#: 07137647000, Mfr model# 37647

    Apple 16 GB iPod Nano Digital Media Player – Purple – $199.99 – Sears item# 05791311000, Mfr model# MB909LL/A

  33. #33 by Kirsten - December 18th, 2008 at 03:25

    Wow. An honest appraisal of Sears? I love it. Ours is a bit on the sad side. Poor customer service and bad about returns… I would take the media package to give my daughter the video camera. thanks.

  34. #34 by Elizabeth N. - December 18th, 2008 at 03:32

    I like the Media package!

  35. #35 by D. Martin - December 18th, 2008 at 03:37

    My wish is for a new camcorder! JVC 30GB DIGITAL CAMCORDER with DOCKING STATION Sears item# 00390297000 Mfr. model# GZMG335HUS $474.99

  36. #36 by pugsley085 - December 18th, 2008 at 03:56

    The Gamers Package is great ! Thanks for this giveaway!!!

  37. #37 by Jamie - December 18th, 2008 at 03:57

    I would love the gamer's package!

  38. #38 by Amy Bond - December 18th, 2008 at 03:59

    Great contest! I would choose this item from Sears:
    Sony 5-Disc DVD/CD Home Theater System Item #05798108000
    Happy Holidays!

  39. #39 by Rose - December 18th, 2008 at 04:03

    All awesome packages, but my pick would be the gamer's package. Thanks for a great giveaway!

  40. #40 by Brandy - December 18th, 2008 at 04:25

    I'd have to go with the Gamers Package.

  41. #41 by amir - December 18th, 2008 at 05:02

    The Gamers package would rock my world!!!

  42. #42 by Janna Johnson - December 18th, 2008 at 06:07

    Gamer's package for me!

  43. #43 by Julie Terry - December 18th, 2008 at 06:23

    I put together my own package, it is made up of things that we need as a family plus a few fun things for my daughter.
    Step 2 LifeStyle Dining Room Pots and Pans Set
    Sears item# 05220294000
    Badger Basket Doll Canopy Crib with Baskets
    Sears item# 04990161000
    Mattel Little Mommy Cuddle 'N Coo
    Sears item# 05210976000
    simplehuman Upright Bag Holder
    Sears item# 00818789000
    Escali #P115NB Primo 11 Lb Digital Scale, Navy Blue
    Sears item# 00897927000
    Emerson Portable Karaoke CD+G System w/ 5.5 in. B&W Monitor
    Sears item# 05722901000
    Craftsman 12-gal 5.0 peak hp Wet/Dry Vac
    Sears item# 00917765000
    Craftsman 14 in. Electric Chain Saw
    Sears item# 07134104000
    Kenmore 680 sq. in 2 Burner LP Gas Grill with Side burner
    Sears item# 07116110000

    So there is my wish list, I really enjoyed the fact that you were honest in your post.

  44. #44 by Mary B - December 18th, 2008 at 06:29

    Gotta go for 'The Gamers Package' on this one. Kids have been hoping against hope for a video game system and this is one to get (or so I hear, what do I know)

  45. #45 by Jessica P - December 18th, 2008 at 06:34

    O would love the media package

  46. #46 by Mia F - December 18th, 2008 at 06:45

  47. #47 by monique Rizzo - December 18th, 2008 at 06:45

    I would love the Media package! Thanks for the generous contest!!

  48. #48 by Mia F - December 18th, 2008 at 06:45

    I really like the media package. Thanks for the opportunity!

  49. #49 by Anne Dreher - December 18th, 2008 at 07:25

    I'd love the Media package. Thanks!

  50. #50 by Michelle - December 18th, 2008 at 08:24

    3rd entry for a post on my blog:

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