Monday, January 16, 2017

Craftsman Tools Sold

My Dad bought me my first real tools, a Craftsman 3/8 drive metric socket set, in the 4th grade. Given I rode/raced 2 strokes and owned a vintage British daily driver as a first car so saw plenty of action.  That 3/8 ratchet is still my most used hand tool. Dad got his money's worth. Ultimately the Lifetime Warranty wasn't really even a factor because Craftsman tools were still designed/intended to last a lifetime.

Sometime around 2004 when Sears purchased Kmart that dramatically seemed to change. Craftsman tools by and large became crap. Sears still honored the Lifetime Warranty. But who cares when the 20 year old broken pliers you loved are only going to be replaced with crap. The retail rumors had it that famous warranty was a burden Sears no longer wanted anyway. The fact that Sears marketing had shifted to selling tools to people that didn't actually use tools didn't help. I didn't need Sears new infomercial driven miracle pile of shit. Even their vanilla end wrenches no longer functioned as well either. Cheaper quality meant thicker castings that no longer fit in tight spaces. I just stopped buying them.

Some segment is going to say why screw around with Craftsman stuff in the first place? You should just be buying Snap-On. Well Snap-On is a huge step up for us guys that will never make a living with our tools. It's a hobby. I'm normally combing the couch cushions to fund my next parts order. While tools are super important they ultimately compete for my somewhat limited parts budget. My family seems to think they need groceries, rent and other pointless stuff like that...

5 or 6 years ago I just started buying vintage Craftsman tools on eBay instead. Joe Garage-sale is buying up 60's and 70's era tools that are still in great condition and flipping them on eBay. Oddly there doesn't seem to be much collector interest in them yet. The warranty is still useless but the tools are good enough used correctly they will certainly outlast me. If you are willing to shop a little the cost is almost identical to the new Craftsman crap tools. There are two problems with this approach though. Sadly this stuff is only available because the originally buyers are expiring. Also, I suspect it's only a matter of time before people start collecting this stuff, driving the price up to where it's no longer cost effective to buy and use them.

 I wasn't surprised to hear Sears sold Craftsman to Stanley Black & Decker last week. I'm not exactly a fan of Stanley Black & Decker but I can't see how they could possible do worse with Craftsman than Sears.

I knew Sears was floundering horribly and that it was only a matter of time before they were dead. I have friends that had worked for Sears for 20 years and parted ways with them in the 2000's because things things had gotten so bad. What I didn't know is the reason (well worth a read).

While Sears CEO Eddie Lampert's misguidedness and corruption is an extreme case I think this sort of executive incompetence is rampant in Fortune 500 companies today. I worry the decision to abandon the legacy of quality and value previous generation(s) worked to build will result in a loss of competitiveness we will never reclaim. The US auto industry and the price we paid for similar mismanagement in the 70's and 80's is a great case study. Detroit is now a ghost town

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