I decided to purchase a riding lawnmower a number of years ago while living in Maryland. My first choice was a Sears Craftsman. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I had $1,700 in my wallet. I had already decided I would spend every penny of it on a good tractor and whatever accessories $1,700 would buy. I buzzed into the Sears showroom like a bumblebee in search of a flower, and after a while, there it was: the DREAM machine that I was going to take home.
Or so I thought.
I waited patiently for a salesman to approach, but none seemed interested. At some point I noticed two salespeople talking among themselves at a nearby register. As I approached, one wandered away and the other one looked at his watch. “Hey, there,” I greeted the man. “I’m here to buy a lawnmower.”
The salesperson looked at his watch again. “Sir,” he said. “I’m just about to get off work. Do you mind waiting for the next salesman? He should be coming on duty any moment now.”
I was beside myself. “You see this?” I asked the salesidiot, opening my wallet and fanning through 17 one-hundred dollar bills. “I was going to buy THAT riding lawnmower right over there. All I needed was to be rung up. But NOW you can kiss my money goodbye and I will NEVER buy a Craftsman ANYTHING again.” I walked out of the store and drove immediately to Montgomery Wards, where I purchased an outstanding Scotts’ Turf Master, 15 horsepower, 43-inch, 4-wheel steering lawn tractor.
Or so I thought.
After several years of happy mowing, I needed a replacement mower part — a cable that affixes to the mower deck and attaches to a lever that raises and lowers the cutting depth. After about an hour of useless Google searches, I visited the Scotts website, where I uncovered a customer service telephone number hiding way down in the fine print. Telephonetime passed (as telephonetime often does) before reaching a human being. “I’m sorry,” said the customer service person, “but Scotts doesn’t actually MAKE lawnmowers. MURRAY makes them and we just stick our name on them.”
“But, but,” I stammered. “By golly, that sucks! I used to own a Murray mower that died after only two years!”
“You know, sir,” consoled the Scotts’ representative without missing a beat, “I agree — it really does suck. May I have your zip code, please, so I can give you the number to the nearest Murray parts-dealer in your area?”
I bit my lip until it bled, and gave him my North Carolina zip code. I was rewarded with a toll-free number. Sure enough, a bona fide “Scotts” parts dealer (in OHIO) answered the phone. Ohio is pretty darn close to my zip code, right? “That cable will be $6.75, Mister Lee,” he said, after a few minutes of parts number lookup. “Plus $8 shipping and handling.” I bought TWO of them.
The fact that I can purchase what I believed to be a “Scotts” lawnmower and end up with a Murray irks me to no end. How can they do that? Is a Ford a Ford? I know, I know — just look at kitchen appliances: Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag: whom makes which ones?
To be fair, I like my Scotts Turf Master no matter who made it. I wish it were truly a SCOTTS, though. But I’m sure glad it isn’t a Craftsman. Then again, who knows? Maybe it is.
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