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14. Sears: There Was More For Your Life

Dan Bobkoff,Anna Mazarakis,Amy Pedulla,Sarah Wyman,Hayley Peterson   

14. Sears: There Was More For Your Life

Before Sears filed for bankruptcy, it was run by a reclusive billionaire who'd call into meetings from his mansion on a Florida island. It was one of the unusual ways Eddie Lampert ran the department store chain. He also stopped investing in the stores. The CEO had outwitted kidnappers, and many thought he was defying skeptics on Wall Street, too. This is the story of how Sears stayed alive so long, and how it all fell apart.

Produced by Dan Bobkoff, Anna Mazarakis, and Amy Pedulla, with Sarah Wyman.


Note: This transcript may contain errors.

DAN BOBKOFF: Describe for me what's it like walking into a Sears in 2018.

HAYLEY PETERSON: I would quote one of the shoppers that I spoke to for a story recently who told me that it was like a ghost town.

DB: Hayley Peterson is a senior correspondent at Business Insider. She covers retail, and has written a lot about the slow downfall of the Sears department stores. She also lives in Richmond, Virginia, and fairly often she walks into the local Sears. Many of the shelves are bare.

HP: There are some areas of the store, entire corners that could really be their own stand alone store, they're pretty large areas that just have nothing there. No racks, no products, nothing, there's maybe torn up carpet or a sign that's long been torn down from the wall that's leaning up against the wall now, or ladders, abandoned carts.

DB: Hayley told me she'd walk past displays for its famous brands like Craftsman and Kenmore, and then she'd see whole areas of the store where sheets were hanging

HP: Whether it's bed sheets or shower curtains to hide some empty areas of the store because they don't want shoppers to see how empty the stores really are.

DB: She'd see handwritten sale signs.

HP: And these signs, the handwriting was illegible and the sales that they were advertising made no sense. It would say '17 percent off' and then the math would be wrong on what the actual end price, would end up being for certain goods and it made the store look like it was going out of business, which it wasn't.

DB: It was a mess. And empty.

HP: You'd be hard pressed to find an employee. And that's not because the employees are off in a backroom not doing their jobs, it's because there's typically only two employees in the entire store that has two floors and it's a giant, sprawling department store. And they're in charge of all these different departments, from apparel to appliances to shoes, you know, everything.

DB: Sears's decline took years — some might say decades. But the story of why Sears ended up in bankruptcy is tied up in the story of one reclusive billionaire who took a big bet that failed. Even if he benefited himself along the way.

From Business Insider and Stitcher, this is Household Name. Brands you know, stories you don't. I'm Dan Bobkoff

Today: Sears. For years, it was America's biggest and most famous retailer.

But a few years ago, a hedge fund wunderkind named Eddie Lampert took control. At first, it looked like he might breathe some life into Sears. Now, some shareholders and critics don't like how he enriched himself as the company fell. But if he hadn't would Sears have survived this long?

The Eddie Lampert story includes a kidnapping, a yacht, and the world's worst videoconference.

Stay with us.


AD: Why do I shop at Sears? It's easy for me: I can pick up tennis balls, children's clothing and a torque wrench, all in the same shop. Sears: Where America shops.

DB: Sears is one of those brands that's been part of the American landscape so long, it feels like a given. It's like the definition of mainstream. A store many of us maybe stopped visiting years ago, but still felt comforted that it existed. As it has since 1886.


DB: When the Sears bankruptcy was announced, comedian Stephen Colbert tweeted:

"I'm going to miss Sears. Especially on those days when you just want to buy a suit, a carpet, an air conditioner, a lawn mower, a foundation garment, an air hockey table and a tractor…."

As Hayley Peterson told me, shoppers still remember Sears' heyday.

HP: The number one thing that Sears' most loyal shoppers remember is opening up the Sears catalog every year around Christmas time and thumbing through those pages, and circling what they wanted to get for the holidays.

SEARS CATALOGUE : If you think you know Sears' catalogue wait till you see this. Sears new spring catalogue is hot and cool...

HP: Everybody waited for that catalog. At one point, I think it was 1000 pages, and Sears dominated this mail order catalog industry, and so many people say that it was the Amazon of its day back then.

DB: Like Amazon, Sears opened distribution centers to speed the products to far flung parts of America. Rural towns all of a sudden had access to lots of goods at consistent prices. It started selling watches by mail, but by 1900 the Sears catalog was hundreds of pages long. And it sold just about anything you could want — and some things you might not.


Silk stockings
Life preservers
Hair brushes.
Electric belts...for your body
Arsenic complexion wafers.
Washing machines
Whole cars
Whole houses.
Whole schoolhouses

DB: During the Great Depression, its mostly practical products and good prices made it a success.

Sears then helped build the suburb, by providing credit, those whole cars and houses, and even creating Allstate insurance. As the suburbs grew after World War II, Sears opened stores in new malls springing up in towns and cities. It was never too far to head to the local Sears to see the new Kenmore dishwashers or buy a suit. It was the only place to buy its own popular brands like Diehard.

HP: They had over 3000 stores, and when I say anchor stores, I mean these are the big hulking buildings that are at the entrances of shopping malls. They're major traffic drivers, and they're giant spaces, multistory spaces that really are critical to the survival of many shopping malls.

DB: Sears released its final catalog in 1993. By then Walmart had overtaken Sears as America's biggest retailer. You could see this moment as the beginning of a long end for Sears.

But to really understand how Sears ended up in bankruptcy in 2018, you have to get to know Eddie Lampert.

HP: Eddie Lampert wears a lot of hats. He's a hedge fund owner, a landlord, an investor, a chief executive, and chairman. He's in his 50s now, but in the '80s, he graduated from Yale.

DB: Where treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was his roommate.

HP: He worked at Goldman Sachs, and when he was 26, he started his own hedge fund, ESL Investments, which stands for Edward Scott Lampert.

DB: Twenty-six is young to start a hedge fund. But Eddie was a star. Year after year, his fund gave investors big returns — like 20%.

The Wall Street Journal called him "the climber". Businessweek put him on its cover and asked if he's the next Warren Buffett.

He made a deal for a store called AutoZone, which sells things like car seat covers and motor oil.

HP: Eddie Lampert made a big bet on AutoZone. It was one of his big success stories. He acquired 30% of the company, bought back a ton of stock, which sent share prices soaring, and then eventually sold his stock for $1.5 billion.

DB: So he made a lot of money?

HP: He made a lot of money. It was a very successful bet.

DB: That success caught the attention of Wall Street and of four men in Connecticut.

HP: It was the evening in 2003.

NEWS: Welcome back. A bizarre kidnapping over the weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut. Edward Lambert, who was regarded as one of the nation's most successful money managers, was kidnapped on Friday night...

DB: Eddie Lampert had just left work.

HP: He was walking to his car from his office in Greenwich, Connecticut,

DB: One of the wealthiest towns in America.

NEWS: He is listed by Forbes as the 288th wealthiest person in America. The second wealthiest in Connecticut, worth somewhere around 800 million dollars...

DB: His office was in a three story brick building a stone's throw from a tony shopping district. He'd been working on trying to acquire KMart out of bankruptcy, but as he was about to get into his car…

HP: Four men grabbed him and shoved him into an SUV

NEWS: Confronted and kidnapped in an underground parking garage there in Greenwich, Connecticut...

HP: And took him to a Days Inn where he was held captive for 28 hours.

DB: They blindfolded and handcuffed Eddie.

HP: He was told by these men that AutoZone officials, where he was a director at the time, had offered to pay them $3 million to murder him.

DB: It was just a story. One of the kidnappers, who was in his early 20s at the time, later told Vanity Fair that he was just looking for local wealthy targets and read about Eddie in the paper.

HP: They threatened Lampert repeatedly, that they would kill him. They made promises that they wouldn't if they could settle on some sort of amount of money , and ultimately, they settled on a $5 million payoff.

DB: The next thing the captors did is kind of baffling. In the middle of the night, they drove Eddie to a highway off ramp, and told him to go get the money.

HP: I guess they trusted they were going to get their money. And instead, he walked straight to a police station and sought help.

DB: What happened to the kidnappers?

HP: The kidnappers were quickly nabbed by police because they took Eddie Lampert's credit card and went on a shopping spree buying about $800 of electronics.

DB: These were not very smart criminals.

HP: No. I don't know if this was their first job, but it sounds like it probably was.

DB: Eddie Lampert almost never speaks about this incident. He told Vanity Fair: "I don't really want to talk a lot about it for a lot of reasons, but I know it's not an unimportant event."

And it may have affected how he'd later run Sears.

Just days after he escaped the kidnappers, Eddie Lampert got the prize he was seeking: KMart. Through his fund, he bought more than half of the retailer out of bankruptcy and started to turn it around.

Then he got a bigger idea. He would merge KMart with one of the most famous retailers in America: Sears.

HP: Eddie Lampert didn't really have any experience in retail before coming to Kmart. Not unless you count AutoZone, but a department store is much different kind of retail. He acquired Kmart out of bankruptcy in 2003, and then it was in 2005 that he orchestrated a merger with Sears to become Sears Holdings, and he was chairman of Sears Holdings until 2013, when he became CEO.

DB: At first, he looked like a genius. Sears Holdings did really really well and ESL's investment alone was worth $5 billion by 2007. The company was flush with cash and spent billions of dollars buying back its own shares from 2005 through 2012.

HP: I think some of Eddie Lampert's critics say that the reason that he had interest in Sears was for its many valuable assets, from its real estate with all of these big department stores at different shopping malls around the country, as well as its valuable brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman and DieHard. These are American brands that had been around for decades that had a lot of loyal followers.

SEARS AD: Bright Ideas, Kenmore too, Craftsman has the tools for you...

DB: And until the Great Recession, it seemed like a good bet.

HP: According to some executives that I've spoken to that were around in the early days, Eddie Lampert had a goal of making Sears a strong retailer to stand on its own. I think at some point, during and after the recession, as business was getting pummeled, it seems that he started looking for other ways to extract value from the business.

DB: When the recession hit, Sears sales dropped, and never really recovered. The last year the company made a profit was 2010.

And during this time, Eddie soured on Sears's stores. You might think if you were running a big name retailer, you'd put money in the stores to make sure they're fully stocked, and look clean and fresh.

HP: He would argue that there were better uses for the money. And so he took Sears cash and he invested in things like share buybacks. And what share buybacks do is essentially increase the value of the shares outstanding, so the company share price goes up and shareholders of the company benefit.

DB: How can you even call a share buyback an investment when all it's really doing is just like the simple math equation where there are fewer shares outstanding so the value goes up but it's not actually based on more sales, or momentum or anything like that, I just wonder, how, how long can that last? I mean, you spend a few billion dollars in share buybacks but you're not investing in stores? How can that not lead to the decline of this company?

HP: I think it was a successful strategy for him with Autozone, and so he thought he could do the same thing with Sears.

DB: And why didn't it work with Sears?

HP: It didn't work with Sears because the lack of investments in the stores was so great that a downturn, a sales downturn happened that was so severe that it, at a certain point it just couldn't be reversed or stopped and when you're not just meeting those basic tenets of a good retail business, it can't survive.

DB: It's around this time that Sears and KMart stores start looking shabby… when employees start hanging sheets to hide the barren shelves.

Meanwhile, at Sears headquarters in Illinois, Eddie Lampert was nowhere to be found.

That's in a minute.


DB: We're back.

When people talk about Eddie Lampert, they often use words like reclusive or shy.

CNBC Clip: Lampert rarely speaks publicly...The guy never gives interviews...

DB: His spokesperson also did not make him available for this podcast.

Some speculate the kidnapping incident made him even more quiet.

HP: He lives in a place called Indian Creek Island, it's off the coast of Miami. It's an incredibly private, very wealthy area. It's one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. It has only about 40 homes on the island, and it's heavily guarded. It has its own private police, and he has a home there that's estimated to be worth about $38 million.

DB: Eddie Lampert is also the kind of guy who names his yacht The Fountainhead. Also Inspired by Ayn Rand, he divided the company into 30 divisions. Each one had to compete with the others for resources. This proved expensive and inefficient.

That's one reason Sears didn't really bounce back from the recession. By 2015, morale at the company's headquarters was low. It didn't help that Lampert was almost never there… in person. Instead, he'd beam in electronically from 1400 miles away from that mansion on that Florida island.

DB: I'm imagining Eddie Lampert on the screen as this kind of menacing Big Brother, like a larger than life face.

HP: He's sort of up there on this giant screen, at the front of the room, people sitting around a conference table, you know waiting for him to flash onto the screen. Even some employees at headquarters would refer to him as the Wizard of Oz.

DB: In 2015, a few mid-level employees had to gather in a conference room to meet with The Wizard of Indian Creek Island. Before Lampert's face appeared on the screen, a manager rushed into the room with a huge chart pad.

HP: He had written three words on the chart, and he said 'do not say these words.' One of the words on the chart was "consumer." Apparently Eddie Lampert hates the word "consumer" and he prefers that employees refer to customers as "members."

DB: When Eddie appeared on the screen, he was sitting behind a desk at home which had the Sears logo on it.

HP: If any of those words were uttered in front of him then the presenters could, as what was told to me, get shredded by Lampert. He apparently had frequent tirades that had fostered this climate of fear among the companies most senior managers, according to sources that spoke to me.

DB: After this tense meeting with Eddie on the screen, one executive decided to quit. He became one of dozens who've left in recent years.

One of the reasons Eddie would flip out over the word "consumer" — why he wanted customers to be called "members" — is that he had become obsessed with a pet project.

HP: Shop Your Way was Eddie's big idea for Sears' online business.

DB: Eddie had stopped investing real money in stores, but he did spend a lot on Shop Your Way. This was his bet that Sears could compete with Amazon.

HP: It's a loyalty program that he hoped that he would get all of Sears' customers to sign up for, hand over their information, and that in that way he would sort of build up this community, this online community of shoppers, where he had access to all their former purchases and their information, sort of like what Amazon's done with Amazon Prime. And there's a social networking part of the program where members can see and comment on products that their friends have liked or purchased, so it's sort of like a Facebook for shopping in that way.

DB: Eddie wanted customers to set up profiles and talk about products.

HP: I think one of the problems with Shop Your Way is that a lot of Sears customers are from an older demographic and didn't really find a lot of value in an online network like this.

DB: Did anybody use the social network?

HP: Some people did, but when I went on it and sort of looked at what kind of activity was happening, I saw a lot of Sears executives commenting and being involved in the network. And I heard that Eddie Lampert sort of made it a point to really tell Sears employees, 'You have to really get involved in Shop Your Way if other people are going to do it.'

DB: You could go on the site and find one user named Eli Wexler leaving reviews and asking questions on various products. Turns out Eli Wexler was an imposter.

HP: Eli Wexler is a pseudonym that Bloomberg reported in 2013 is Lampert himself. And in February of 2016 Lampert, presumably posting as Wexler, clicked on a pair of boxing gloves and posed the question, 'Does anybody have these? Will it protect my hands since I punch very hard?'

DB: Lampert kept putting money into Shop Your Way and not into Sears stores. Stores then had fewer and fewer employees. At the same time, cashiers were forced to try to convert customers into Shop Your Way members.

HP: Sometimes the signups took so long that long lines would form, and at limes when you're dealing with labor cuts, there's not somebody else to take another register. And then you've got some customers abandoning carts because they can't find anybody to check them out in a timely manner, and so this sort of all contributed to some of Sears' problems in stores.

DB: He really hates those stores, doesn't he?

HP: I think he just really maybe pushed Sears to go online maybe a few years too early or something. I mean, he had the right idea investing in online, but I think that maybe the equation of investments in stores versus online just wasn't quite right, or maybe he was a little before his time.

DB: Eddie used to talk about wanting Sears to be what he calls an asset-light company. But Sears is not some app. It has a lot of assets. Big stores, inventory, brands like Kenmore and Craftsman.

HP: He's publicly compared Sears' strategy to Apple's and Microsoft's, and he said that Sears is trying to meet new customer needs, and has said that it's like Uber and Amazon and Tesla.

DB: On what grounds? What does Sears, even in that period, have in common with Apple or Uber?

HP: You know, I think you'd have to ask Eddie Lampert that, because I don't have a lot of evidence to make that argument for him.

DB: Eddie used to complain that Sears would get more scrutiny from Wall Street because it's a not a tech company.

DB: I just, I can't get over the fact that he just never seemed to change course, like even in this situation. Obviously the social network wasn't catching on, but it was also making things even worse in the stores. Is he just stubborn?

HP: I think maybe his idea of an asset-light organization is a Sears that one day doesn't have any stores at all, and that's ultimately maybe where he sees the company surviving, and he couldn't get there fast enough before the company had to declare for bankruptcy. I mean, they've closed half their stores, more than half their stores, in the last five years.

DB: Maybe he'll go back to just being a catalog.

HP: It's possible. I've been asked 'what could Sears look like if it emerges from bankruptcy,' and it might look very different than the company that we see today.

DB: Eddie ran Sears as it tumbled. But Eddie is also a hedge fund guy. So did he benefit as Sears declined?

That's in a minute.


DB: We're back.

HP: Eddie Lampert has figured out a way to make gains even when Sears loses.

DB: All the while Eddie Lampert was chairman and CEO of Sears, he was still running the hedge fund that bears his initials, ESL.

HP: It's really difficult to untangle the web of businesses that Lampert has created that prop up and benefit off of Sears.

DB: On the one hand, Eddie, through ESL, loaned a lot of money to Sears over the years. Those billions kept the company afloat. He also earns a lot of interest from Sears on those loans. And those loans are also backed with Sears's assets and real estate.

HP: And it also puts him among the first in line to be paid as a creditor of the company in the event of a bankruptcy. This doesn't necessarily mean that a bankruptcy benefits him more than had Sears turned into a healthy retailer, but it means that he found ways to gain no matter what happens to Sears.

DB: It gets more complicated.

HP: At the same time, he's created and spun off Seritage Growth Properties and this happened in 2015.

DB: Seritage. Eddie created Seritage as a real estate investment trust. He orchestrated a plan where Sears would sell Seritage a few hundred of its best stores and then pay it rent.

HP: Seritage also makes money, not only off the rent that Sears pays but over time, the whole plan for Seritage is that it takes over space in Sears stores whether wholly outright by the store closing, or little bit at a time meaning Sears will close its second floor and Seritage will put another retailer in there like a HomeGoods.

DB: Eddie runs Seritage and Sears, so he could close the Sears store and rent it to a Zara or a Whole Foods for four times as much.

DB: How is this okay? This seems like the biggest conflict of interest I've ever heard.

HP: So at the time that this deal was created, it gave Sears a sort of lifeline, which is how Eddie Lampert's kept this company going for so long, because he keeps coming up with these ways of infusing cash into the business at times when everybody thinks it's about to go dead.

DB: A spokesman for ESL told us: "We have consistently been committed to following transparent procedures that ensure that any transaction with ESL takes place on fair and reasonable terms." He added that this kind of real estate arrangement isn't unique to Seritage and Sears.

But this arrangement also meant that some Sears stores that previously never had to pay rent, had another expense each month. And that could be the difference between a profit and a loss.

A group of shareholders actually sued Lampert, ESL, and members of Sears' board of directors over the Seritage deal, claiming that it stripped Sears Holdings of its best assets to enrich Lampert and his hedge fund.

The lawsuit said that the Sears stores were worth far more than $2.7 billion and that Lampert — by standing on both sides of the transaction — stood to benefit regardless.

The lawsuit was later settled for $40 million, with the the defendants saying the settlement was not an admission that the lawsuit's claims were valid. A judge said it wasn't clear whether the deal unfairly benefitted Lampert.

But now the deals are facing new scrutiny from others.

DB: So I know he's a hedge fund guy, but it sounds like he's literally hedging his own bets here?

HP: I think that's pretty astute. I think he really had the intent originally to revive Sears' business and really make it a great retailer, but as that looked increasingly uncertain, he started looking for other ways to either hedge his bets or just extract value from the company, even if the retail side of it didn't necessarily survive or thrive the way he wanted it do.

DB: You could argue that Sears wouldn't have survived this long without the cash Eddie and ESL injected into the business. He told Jim Stewart of the New York Times recently that he's taken a big personal hit from Sears's fall and bankruptcy. "Not just in money, but time," he said, adding: "There's been an enormous opportunity cost."

HP: As for whether Eddie Lampert is the sole sort of reason for Sears' demise, I think there were a lot of different factors putting a lot of pressure on Sears. I don't think that he helped the company by reducing investments in stores at times when they needed it the most.

DB: Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That means it's reorganizing, rather than liquidating like Toys R Us did when it abruptly shut down.

After the bankruptcy, Eddie Lampert stepped down as CEO. Sears has just about 700 stores left — down from nearly 4000 at its peak. If more close, hundreds of jobs will be lost. As we learned in our Macy's episode, malls that lose a Sears can see their own decline, though healthier malls may be more than ready to replace it with something more exciting like a Whole Foods.

HP: I think there's two sides to the story. I think you could say that Eddie Lampert is to blame for the decline of Sears, or that he's the reason why it's stayed alive this long. I think that some people will argue that he stripped the company of its most prized assets, it's real estate, its brands, that had the most value, and all that's left is an ailing retail business.

It's been almost unbelievable how he's been able to find all these different ways to plug these holes and find lifelines over and over and over for the company, when every year there's been speculation that it's going to file for bankruptcy. He has found a way to keep it alive, and so I wouldn't be surprised if he again finds a way to help it emerge from bankruptcy.

DB: What have you felt and learned, just through all the reporting you've done on Sears over the years? What are you left with?

HP: I think a lot of people feel really a lot of nostalgia about the decline of Sears, and they don't want to see this once-great American retailer die. I think it's been really interesting to learn about how much an American company can really be woven into the lives of so many shoppers, so much to the point where they feel so much emotion about seeing this happen, this sort of slow death happen to a brand that they grew up with.


DB: Hayley Peterson is a senior correspondent here at Business Insider.

It's time now for "Product Misplacement." This is the part of the show where we get to hear from you about how brands have affected your life. A couple of months ago, we did an episode about the real Charles Shaw, whose name is on the famous Two Buck Chuck wine at Trader Joe's. Caitlin Harper from Brooklyn, NY heard that and sent us her own Two Buck Chuck story.

CAITLIN HARPER: I got married at the end of September 2012. We had a City Hall marriage, my husband's English so his work visa was running out over the summer so he was like, 'uh, if you want you can marry me and come somewhere in the world where I get a job.' And I was like, 'ok, that's great.' (laughs)

So yeah he got a job in Vancouver, Canada on my birthday, actually, at the end of August so he was like, 'let's get married and go live in Vancouver for however long we're there' and I was like, 'alright, great.'

So we were like, 'alright we want to get married, but we definitely want to have a party because we're crazy, so—

DB: I want to talk about the party—

CH: Yeah the party—

DB: You get married in September

CH: Yes, have a party—

DB: Party in October. How much notice did you give your friends?

CH: I sent everyone like a Facebook message basically being like 'this is going down in two weeks,' so we did that. My godparents gave us like $250 and I was like 'ok, this is the party money like that's all we have for the party.' So we had it at an art space that I volunteered at so that was free. I worked at a bakery for a really long time and my old boss made us cupcakes for free so that was, I had a cupcake tree cake. And then I was like 'alright all that's left is food and alcohol' so we did the Trader Joe's wine thing, because Charles Shaw's stuff had been like the 2 Buck, 3 Buck Chuck has always been like a big deal in our lives.

DB: Wait so how many bottles did you get with a $250 budget?

CH: I think we had like 45 or 50 people. I didn't think that we needed like one bottle per person but we did! So that was intense. Just walking in and seeing like 50 bottles of wine...which again, it only cost $3 so. (laughs) It's not a big deal.

Everyone had like their own bottle all night, like multiple bottles that belonged to only them so there's like pictures and pictures and pictures like no one's holding wine glasses, everyone's actually holding entire bottles of wine which is probably not healthy.

DB: What was the party like?

CH: It was...awesome? And then we actually had to go back and clean up after the party in the morning because there was gonna be yoga there at noon, cause it's this like community space. So the entire floor, it was like this really nice honey-colored was like black. Because so much wine had been spilled on the floor and like stepped in and I was still in my cocktail fake wedding dress, and it had ripped all the way up the leg from dancing. So I walked back in the morning with Martin to like actually get down on the ground and like clean the wine off the floor in the morning (laughs)—

DB: You didn't change first?

CH: No. In my head I was like, 'the only thing that's here is like Martin's clothes,' like we were at his apartment, I probably could've changed into some of his stuff but then like 'what's weirder, for me to walk around in boy's basketball shorts or this horrible dress?' And then as soon as I got outside in the sunlight it was like 'this dress, this dress is worse.' But it didn't matter, it was too late.

DB: What do you feel thinking back to that night?

CH: (laughs) Really, it was really fun and amazing. I mostly remember the cleaning up aspect (laughs) because it was so horrific, but like that night was great. The whole day of, I actually made all the canapes for the event so I made like 200 little like bites and my sister had to like throw me in the shower because it was like 6 o'clock and I was still like filling these canape things that I had made all day for my own marriage party. So I showed up with like 200 canapes, we had to get one of those old lady carts, grocery carts and throw all the wine in there and bring it over in like 4 different trips.

DB: Have your wine tastes changed at all?

CH: They have. I'm a lot fancier now, probably more just because more money and being more of a foodie and stuff but I don't think I ever would've like had wine as a choice, like I'm very much like a beer and whiskey person, but Pinot Grigio is still probably my favorite white wine because that is the wine that I always drank from Trader Joe's like cause it was a little bit sweeter but not as sweet as a Riesling. I didn't drink Chardonnay for years because the Charles Shaw Chardonnay is not that great and now I drink it more often. But yeah I used to drink, I only, I don't even want to know how much Pinot Grigio and Charles Shaw Merlot like those two, I always had bottles in my house, like oh my God.

DB: If you could do your wedding the same way you did it in 2012, would you still have 2 Buck Chuck there?

CH: I definitely would, I'm a very nostalgic person, it's good, there's no reason not to drink it so I would do it the exact same way, yeah.

DB: Thank you so much.

CH: Yeah, thanks.


DB: Has a brand played an important role in a moment in your life. Tell us your product misplacement story. You can record it straight into your phone and then email, or you can call 7313-BRANDs and leave a voicemail with your story.

And if you missed it, and want to know more about the famous wine at Caitlin's wedding reception? Check out our episode about the real Charles Shaw behind Two Buck Chuck. Scroll back for the "No buck chuck" episode in your Household Name feed.

And while you're at it, we encourage you to give a listen to some of our other episodes you may have missed. We have conspiracy theories about Mattress Firm, an investigation into Starbucks' basic pumpkin spice latte, and a trip to one of the last Blockbusters in the US. Oh, and don't forget to hit subscribe and leave a five star review.

This episode was produced by Amy Pedulla, Anna Mazarakis and me with Sarah Wyman.

Our editor is Gianna Palmer.

Sound design and original music by Casey Holford and John DeLore.

The executive producers of Household Name are Chris Bannon, Laura Meyer, Jenny Radelet and me.

Special thanks to Caitlin Foster, Clancy Morgan, Jenn Nguyen, Rich Feloni, Corey Protin, Lauren Thompson, and CNBC.

Household Name is a production of Insider Audio.