I suppose that I'd expect the Web portion of this transaction to be this smooth from a modern retailer like Amazon.com, and perhaps I'd even expect the brick-and-mortar experience from a long-term store operator like Sears, but the highly successful marriage of the two was refreshing, to say the least.
If brick-and-mortar stores have any advantage over Web-only retailers, this is it: low sales overhead thanks to the Web site, little involvement of in-store salespeople, and instant gratification for the customer. However, they have to do the Web part right; it can't just be a modern-day catalog. It also needs to provide this level of service. There's no way that Amazon can compete with this.
Bringing together these two worlds isn't new. Stores have had the online-order, in-store pickup concept going for a long time now, but this is the first time where it's actually worked for me. I've done the same basic thing with Circuit City, only to arrive at the store and discover that they had no idea what I was talking about, it wasn't in stock, or similar issues. Maybe that's a bad example, since Circuit City didn't find its way to bankruptcy on the wings of stellar customer service, but the point stands -- it's taken 15 years, but traditional retailers are really getting the idea now. I find this particularly interesting for Sears, since it started as just a catalog and introduced actual stores 30 years later.
I have absolutely no business involvement with Sears and no other motive for writing about this experience other than I was impressed with the way they've integrated new media into a century-old business. So good job, Sears. Keep it up.