The Screwdriver Story
A true Story
Written 4/ 2013 rewritten 2/2016 unedited
I know that there is some lesson that I should have learned from the screwdriver story. Probably “Thou Shall Not Lie” comes to mind.
However, I have to take in consideration that I was only 16 years old at the time the story took place.
In 1956, Sears and Roebuck proudly advertised their line of “Craftsman Mechanics Tools” Their advertising gimmick was that if ever one of their tools ever wore out or broke, they would happily replace it, providing it had not been subjected to misuse or abuse. I think they still have the same policy today.
It was a good sales gimmick as how could anyone turn down buying a tool with a lifetime warranty.
Sears was pretty smart with that type of guarantee, after all, how many tools does any one actually wear out or ever break under normal use, I think very few. Also it was probably because the Craftsman brand tools were so well made. They seemed to use hardened chrome plated alloy steel that they probably tested over and over and under normal use their stuff rarely wore out or failed.
Another excellent sales factor for Sears, was that besides from their tools being so well made, and carrying a lifetime warranty, there was always was a Sears Roebuck store within driving distance from wherever you were.
So, as a budding mechanic, at 16 years of age, they had certainly sold me on the “Craftsman” line of tools, and I always bought additional Craftsman tools every time I had an extra couple of dollars.
In the winter of 1956, I had a 1940 Ford convertible, which I kept parked in our back yard, and I remember that it was extremely cold that Saturday winter morning, in Westville Connecticut.
I dressed up really warm and went out to my back yard to start my car up. Because of the extreme cold, I had wanted to warm the car up before I drove to Hamden Connecticut.
The temperature that morning must have been far below freezing, it probably was close to zero Degrees.
As I got into the driver’s seat, I remembered that I needed to put my tire lug nut wrench back in the car trunk. I had a flat tire the previous day, and when I changed the tire, I had forgotten to put the lug wrench back in the trunk of the car, and it was still sitting on the front passenger’s side seat.
So, with gloved hands, I inserted the car key in the trunk lock and turned it, but the trunk on my car didn’t open.
Well I thought, the weather was obviously way below freezing, so there was no question my trunk lock was probably frozen too.
I went into my garage, that’s where I kept the toolbox with all my Craftsman brand tools. I was looking for something that I could use like a crow bar, something to force open the trunk lid with.
Well I didn’t have a crowbar, so I found the next best thing. It was my brand new Craftsman jumbo screwdriver.
This was no ordinary screwdriver, it was their jumbo heavy duty model, a really giant screwdriver. It was way more than a foot long and the screwdriver’s shaft was about ½ inch square, made of the finest hardened steel.
I remember that screwdriver well, it had the beautiful clear plastic Craftsman handle with its blue and red stripe and the name Craftsman molded in.
I think this was possibly the biggest and strongest screwdriver I had ever seen.
So, I again put the key in the car’s trunk lid, and pushed the screwdriver under the lower edge of the trunk lid, and using the screwdriver like a crow bar, I turned the key, and gave a hard push down on the screwdriver.
I didn’t realize it but the weather was so cold, the metal in the screwdriver was very brittle because of it.
The screwdriver just snapped in half, perfectly into two pieces.
I had never seen anything like this happen before, especially with a heavy duty ½ inch diameter, hardened shaft that this screwdriver had.
I stopped to think where there was a Sears Roebuck store, so I could replace the screwdriver, after all, I knew it had a lifetime warranty.
I was in Westville and I knew there was a Sears store in Hamden, the very town I was heading to.
I drove from my house up to the Merit Parkway and through the tunnel to the big Sears and Roebuck store in Hamden.
At the Sears store, I parked in their parking lot, which had just had the snow freshly plowed. I was one of the very few cars there that morning, and it was still freezing cold outside.
I went into the store, and up the escalator to the Craftsman tool section. I was carrying my broken Craftsman screwdriver in two pieces.
I found a salesman at the tool department and handed him the pieces of my screwdriver, and I asked him to make good on my lifetime warranty replacement.
The salesman looked at the two pieces, then he looked at me and said, “How the hell did you break this?”
Well I wasn’t going to tell him that I was using the screwdriver like a crowbar to open my frozen trunk, so I said, all I did was turn a screw and the screwdriver broke.
He looked me in the eye and said, you must be kidding, you can’t break a screwdriver like this turning a screw.
He said, “I have worked for Sears for 20 years and never saw a giant screwdriver broken like this”.
It has a guarantee doesn’t it? I said, with a straight face.
Yes he said, but the warranty excludes misuse, or abuse of our tools.
So I gave him my best innocent look.
The salesman looked a little disgusted at me, but he went to a cabinet and took out another jumbo screwdriver and handed it to me. I saw that he was shaking his head as he did it.
I said thank you, and I went down the escalator and out of the store into the parking lot.
It was still freezing cold, and my trunk still wouldn’t open.
I put my key back into the trunk lock and put the screwdriver under the trunk lid like a crow bar and I pushed down on it, and again the brittle screwdriver snapped in two pieces, just like the first one had done.
I picked up the broken pieces, and studied them. Yup, broken in half just like the first one, so I walked back into the Sears store.
I went to the tool department where the same salesman was still standing, I said look, and I held out the broken screwdriver.
The salesman just looked at me, he was speechless.
I don’t know what he was expecting me to say.
He looked at the screwdriver and studied it. It was snapped in half perfectly into two pieces.
It has a lifetime guarantee doesn’t it? I said.
I could see by the expression on his face that he wanted to kill me.
He must have thought about his going to prison for hitting a 16 year old kid over a screwdriver.
He calmly went to the cabinet and took out another jumbo screwdriver and gave it to me. Don’t you ever come back here again he said. I didn’t.
The next day, the temperature went up, to about 40 degrees and my trunk lid popped open, just like always did.