Pictou Sears was more than just catalogue shopping

Pictou-Advocate-opinion

(Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the November 22 edition of The Advocate, however, it was incorrectly attributed. The Advocate apologizes for the error)

To the Editor:

Closing the Pictou Sears office reminds me of what it means to live in rural Nova Scotia.

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The tiny office gave local families access to a world of fashion, dreams and retail business. Now it’s gone, and it will be missed. Missed, like the loss of so many stores before it, and loss of programs and services, and schools, and job, and families. That’s life, it seems, in rural Nova Scotia.

Pictou Sears was different, however; more than glossy catalogues and bundles of merchandise exchanged over a cramped office counter. It was defined by the kindness, personal touch and attention to detail provided by Murray Porter and his staff. They set the gold standard for service. Stories in West Pictou about their warmth are legend. I have my own story which typifies what many others have experienced.

Some years ago when I was a member of the Pictou YMCA, I learned that Y staff had been trying for some time to find a used rocking chair. A rocker was desperately needed for the upstairs daycare where many Y mothers entrusted their little ones while working on their personal health downstairs.

No problem, I thought. I would phone Sears and have them ship a rocker. As a new Sears customer, wading through a cold, impersonal call centre process was an unpleasant experience. At the conclusion of the lengthy exchange I was advised the rocker would be shipped to Tatamagouche. Apparently, because I lived on Hwy 256 near East Earltown, with a Tatamagouche postal code, the chair had to be shipped to Tatamagouche. Shipping to Pictou was not an option, I was advised.

Without a truck, I had no way to get the chair from Tata to Pictou. It was ordered and paid for, so in frustration I turned to the Pictou Sears office for help. The lady who answered the phone in Pictou told me not to worry. She said she would straighten things out. She called Sears head office in Toronto then called me back. She advised she had persuaded a supervisor that the Sears delivery policy in this matter was silly. She arranged for the chair’s delivery to Pictou Sears.

Next problem: local delivery. I asked the lady if she knew of a local trucker who would deliver the chair from the Sears office to the daycare.

“No problem,” she said. “Murray will look after it.”

Whew, problem solved. I told her I would drop in and pay the delivery costs before the chair arrived in Pictou.

“Don’t worry, there will be no charge,” she said. “Murray won’t charge you.”

Then she asked, “What about assembling it?”

Hmmm… silence. As a first-time Sears shopper, I had assumed it would be shipped in one piece, fully assembled, as per the catalogue photograph.

Nope, it comes in many pieces, I learned, in a large box, with assembly instructions – tools required.

“If you want,” she offered, “Murray will put it together before he drops it off at the daycare.”

Again, no charge!

Soon afterwards I learned from Y staff that Murray had delivered the rocker to the daycare, fully assembled.

As I told my story over the years to friends and neighbours, I learned that my experience that day with Pictou Sears was typical, that such stories as mine were legend.

I’ve never met Murray Porter or his Sears staff; never had a chance to thank them in person.

So, thank you Murray. Thank you for reminding me about the best things about life in rural Nova Scotia, and some of what makes Pictou so special.

Graham Johnston
Hwy 256
East Earltown