Daily Archives: August 21, 2010

17 years on the market? We’ve got an older one than that in Greenwich

Georgia mansion, listed for $40 million in 1993, sells for $7.8 – the buyer intends to tear it down.


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Eddie Lampert, Sears, and why you should short the company

From brother Anthony, a tale of woe about Sears, Roebuck.
The tale concerns Sears, Roebuck & Company, a company for which I’ve always had a soft spot. Whatever the dowdiness of their stores and catalogs, Sears for a long time had a well-deserved reputation for service. Not any more.

Back in June, after moving into new digs in a co-op in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, one of the relatively new Kenmore air conditioners that came with the place came down with a fearsome rattle. I called Sears In-Home Repair Services to schedule a repair. Ten days hence was the earliest date they could give me (in fairness, it was the onset of the long hot summer), with a four-hour time window for arrival. On the appointed day I took time off from work and waited at home for the repairman. No one showed up and no one from Sears called.

A phone call from me to Sears prompted a perfunctory apology and offer of a new repair date, again ten days hence, with a four-hour time-window for arrival. I asked if I might expect more than that from Sears and was told I might not. I asked the operator if I might speak with someone higher up and she adamantly refused. I nevertheless agreed to the new repair date (it was bloody hot and it was the bedroom AC that was ailing) but also fired off an email to Sears protesting its less-than-stellar performance. I received the following less-than-mollifying (and literate) reply.

Dear Anthony Fountain,

Thank you for contacting Sears. We appreciate hearing from you.

We sincerely apologize that we did not deliver on your expectations with your recent experience with Sears. Please know that we appreciate your business and value you as a customer. By sharing your feedback, you have made it possible for us to address the issues. We will pass your feedback along to our teams, to ensure that Sears can achieve excellence in everything we do.

Mary J.

Sears Holding Corporation

(It reads as if it were copied and pasted from a training manual, doesn’t it?) Unfortunately, sharing that feedback with the Sears teams had little effect. On the next scheduled repair date I again took time off from work and again waited at home for the repairman. No one showed up and no one from Sears called.

A somewhat testier phone call to Sears resulted in, you guessed it, more perfunctory apologies and yet another suggestion of a new repair date, this time only seven days hence (the heat wave had finally broken), with the usual four-hour time-window for arrival. When I pointed out this was the second no-show, the woman on the wire told me there was nothing she could do but after considerable discussion, at last offered me a coupon good for “free home-repair consulting services” from Sears which, having no need for them, I declined. On the scheduled date, yet again, I took time off from work and waited at home for the repairman. No one showed up and no one from Sears called.

By this time, as you might imagine, I had worked up a fair head of steam and was hell-bent reaching someone, anyone, at Sears who might be able to do something about this. After vigorous discussion with an operator at the Sears In-Home Repair Services, who repeatedly denied my request to speak to someone in management, she finally relented and transferred me to the Sears “Customer Solutions” Department. Again, more perfunctory apologies and, you guessed it, an offer of a new repair date with a four-hour time-window for arrival. At this point I had decided Sears’ owed me considerably more than just another repair date and told the “Customer Solutions” woman just that. More discussion ensued but eventually she offered up a fifty-dollar gift card. Nope. More discussion still: finally, after repeatedly denying my request to speak to someone higher up, she transferred me, after my being on hold for a long, long time, to one Mike, her manager.

Ah, what a piece of work was Mike! Mike (he refused to tell me his last name but eventually disclosed his “employee number,” 80821, so that will have to do) seemed determined to break me. Badgering and berating me, constantly interrupting me by accusing me of interrupting him, Mike 80821 chided me for turning down the fifty-dollar gift card offered earlier. Because I had turned it down, he truculently informed me, he would not offer it again, and demanded I accept his offer of…you ready? Yup, a new repair date with a four-hour time-window for arrival. I told Mike 80821 nothing would satisfy me now other than a free repair job and boy, oh boy did that set him off. I stood my ground and finally Mike 80821 threw in the towel and transferred me to his boss, a Jeff Wolf who, astoundingly enough, actually seemed sympathetic to my plight.

Alas, while we were negotiating a settlement, we got cut off. Jeff, to his credit, tried calling back but got mired in my voice mail. I tried calling Jeff back but not having his extension could not make it past what obviously serves as the Sears’ employees’ line of defense: the “Customer Solutions” department.

I find it astonishing that a company can be so contemptuous of its customers. I can only assume the employees at Sears are circling the wagons, preparing for their employer’s imminent demise. Too bad, though, it used to be a good company.


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This is why we should still have vocational ed

NYT: Bank robber forgets to don mask

EDEN, N.Y. (AP) — Note to would-be bank robbers: when robbing a bank, be sure to put on your mask. Police said a robbery suspect had a dust mask around his neck but didn’t pull it over his face when he walked into an HSBC branch Wednesday afternoon in the town of Eden, 15 miles south of Buffalo.

The bank’s surveillance video shows the man walking into the bank and handing a teller a note that police said demanded money. The video also shows a dust mask that remains hanging around the man’s neck.

While handing the note to the teller, the man answers his cell phone, then grabs the note and runs out of the bank.

Police speculate that the call came from the suspect’s get-away driver, alerting him that he forgot to put on his mask.

The suspect remains at large.


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Dutch girl, 14, freed to try solo circumnavigation

You may remember that the Dutch authorities had barred the attempt but they’ve relented after she, like those boys in Jaws”, got a bigger boat” and proved she could sail it. Good luck to you, lass.

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For once, we agree

Biden warns voters that they won’t like Republican alternative. I’ve never liked the Republican alternative.


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The NYT discovers the Brant divorce

Lots of gossip. Better than Scusie!

HE was a billionaire with a vast art collection and his very own polo team. She was a Sports Illustrated supermodel and the ex-girlfriend of a rock star. The union of Peter and Stephanie Brant was always a bit odd, and now it has turned into one of the most bitter, high-profile divorces in years.

By the time Brant v. Brant goes to trial on Sept. 20, the two sides will have generated more than 12,000 pages of public divorce documents (with thousands more sealed), paid millions of dollars in lawyers fees and fractured an already delicate cadre of family and friends forced to take sides.

Among their neighbors in Greenwich, the enclave of hedge fund managers and Connecticut bluebloods, the reaction to the Brants’ nasty dispute is largely one of witnessing a car wreck they want to move quickly past.


Mr. Brant’s looks weren’t nearly as attention getting as Ms. Seymour’s — Vanity Fair once described him as a “taller, more dashing version of Buddy Hackett” — but Ms. Seymour seemed taken. “He’s strong, intelligent, sensitive,” she told People magazine in 1994, “and very masculine.”


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A couple of sales reported yesterday

31 Dandy Drive

31 Dandy Drive, a 1957 original on one acre, sold for $950,000. It came on a year ago last May, asking $1.249. Assessment is $899,000.

74 Porchuck

74 Porchuck, an 1885 house, renovated in 2004, sold for $1.385 after asking $1.695. Assessed at $1.219. It’s a beautiful home but has just 1.2 acres in the 4 – acre zone, so no adding on. Still, I personally would prefer it to Dandy Drive.

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