For weeks, I’d been meaning — not to mention, promising Stuart — to write up a little something about Craftsman’s return to the market, but for myriad reasons, most of them related to my “day” job covering baseball, there are about 13 unfinished drafts in the “Not Done Yet” folder of my iCloud Drive.
(Sorry, Stuart! Trust me, you’re not the only one of my editors to deal with this!)
Anyway … Craftsman had pretty much slipped my mind over the last couple weeks but I came home from a particularly long day at the “office” to find a replay of the game I had just covered on television, and for reasons I cannot explain, I did not change the channel.
Turns out, it was a pretty good game. Much better, in fact, than my story would suggest. What really stood out to me wasn’t the fact the Brewers managed to score nine of their eleven runs without recording an RBI, nor the fact that Wade Miley continued his surprising run of success with a six-inning gem.
Instead, I caught myself staring the ad behind home plate as Jonathan Schoop stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the eighth inning of the Brewers’ eventual 11-1 rout of the Cubs.
The familiar stylized white block letters on the bright red background spelling out “CRAFTSMAN.”
I’d noticed this ad in other ballparks — sometimes including the logos of Lowe’s or Ace Hardware — while catching the nightly highlights on MLB Network but because I’m at every single Brewers home game, I never really noticed that the advertising had reached Milwaukee, too.
It got me thinking again about the brand and I went back and re-read Stuart’s coverage from Craftsman’s launch event last month along with other coverage related to Stanley Black & Decker’s purchase of the venerable label from Sears last year.
Part of me is really excited to see what SBD is doing. The new offerings look cool and I’m certainly interested in more tools made here in the USA, but until I have them in my hand and can put them to use, I really have no way of knowing.
That said, I don’t know if I’ll ever really find myself using Craftsman tools again.
I know that SBD is pretty much starting over with a clean slate when it comes to the actual tools. I know that there is a differentiation between SBD’s offerings and what one can find at the few remaining Sears stores in the United States. I also know SBD had little, if anything, to do with Craftsman’s downfall over the last decade, but they unfortunately now have to deal with the mess and try to win back a generation of users who felt betrayed by Sears’ brand negligence. Consider me part of that group.
I just got into woodworking, home improvement and DIY a few years ago, and while I didn’t at the time own tools of my own, Craftsman was the first brand that came to mind as I started my collection. My old roommate managed a Sears and pointed me toward my first drill, circular saw and impact driver (which at the time, I thought I’d never use). Before long, I ended up with quite the assortment of C3 cordless tools and a surprisingly-reliable Evolv circular saw.
I got hooked on tools and I was also hooked on the brand. I was on a mission to create an almost exclusively-Craftsman shop and began scouring shelves, sales and Sears Outlets to find “Made in the USA” tools. Before long, I had myself a full starter set Craftsman hand tools; screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, hammer… all of it made here in the USA. My first miter saw was the Craftsman Compact Sliding Saw. My router is the fixed/plunge combo with table. I had a Craftsman random orbit sander that I absolutely loved until it fell apart in the middle of a project, and a belt sander that actually caught fire on its second use.
That’s when I started to realize Craftsman wasn’t Craftsman anymore
Eventually I realized I was being conned, ignored, insulted and taken for a ride. For a brief minute, I thought the Mach tools were some kind of innovative, forward-thinking design, but it took just one use to realize that it was nothing more than a gimmick.
I moved on to Milwaukee tools, once I realized how affordable the basic tools in their line can be. In time, I also realized that I could buy the same screwdriver or wrench set, probably made in the same vicinity as Craftsman’s, from Husky or even Harbor Frieght. They did the same job and had the same warranty as Craftsman, and I could get them at half the price.
My biggest gripe wasn’t about the gimmicky tools. And it wasn’t about their outsourcing of tool production either. Specifically, it’s about the fact that Craftsman essentially thought consumers were too stupid to realize that despite the label, these were NOT the Craftsman tools their fathers and grandfathers had used for years, yet Sears still kept them at the USA-made price point thinking nobody would notice or care.
Mixing Sears’ abhorrent customer service and abysmal online experience into the equation, not to mention the fact that there is no longer a single Sears retail store in the Milwaukee area, pretty much brought my Craftsman loyalty to an end.
It was disappointing for me because I kind of felt like I was right in Craftsman’s wheelhouse: a young (sort of) person, new to DIY/Home Improvement/Making who had never owned his own tools but knew Craftsman was — at one time — a quality brand; the brand for the DIYer.
Sears, though, never seemed to care. Not about the tools. Not about the customer. And eventually, enough is enough.
I’m admittedly curious to see how this new partnership enhances the brand — and how the remaining affiliation with Sears might diminish it — but I’m not ready to welcome Craftsman back into my shop just yet and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will. The damage has been done, at least in my mind, and I, like many others, have moved on to other brands over the years as we filled out the foundation of our tool collections. Most of what I “need” moving forward, I can get from Milwaukee, DeWalt, Ridgid or Ryobi, and so I’d need a good reason to go back.
This stubbornness is rather unfair to SBD. It wasn’t their fault that Eddie Lampert & Co. all but destroyed what was once one of the more recognizable and trusted brands in America, but unfortunately it’s now SBD’s problem to clean it up.
In many ways, its like a bad breakup: yes, someday, we might be able to be friends again, but it’ll never be what it was.
What about you? Are you ready to give Craftsman another shot or are you done for good? Share your thoughts with a comment below.