This post is longer than my average, so bear with me.
The media monitors the rise and fall of retail especially during the holiday season as a huge part of total retail sales occur at this time of year. As predicted, e-sales increased as a percentage of total sales, and despite the delivery snafus, are likely to continue to do so. However, those e-sales are also likely to go to e-only websites as the brick and mortar crowd continues to shoot themselves in at least the foot.
My position continues to be that most, if not all, e-only sites should not actually exist. The brick and mortar businesses could have easily prevented it, if they took the consumer seriously. Amazon.com was an online book store for goodness sake. What kept Barnes and Noble or Borders from doing it themselves only better? Bad management.
While Best Buy is attempting this year to combine the best of brick and mortar and e-commerce, too many traditional retailers are reminding us that online might be easier and better. My recent examples are as follows:
My wife won a $350 gift card to REI from her company for her “wellness” efforts. Among the things she bought with the gift card was a $100 Fitbit. Unfortunately, it failed after about 10 days. Fitbit was great in responding promptly to her and quickly determined the device was likely “broken.” They suggested she take it back to the retailer for a quick replacement. They clearly don’t understand REI (neither do I actually).
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She had not kept her receipt. When we went back to REI all we wanted and expected was a swap. It was my belief (more on this coming up) that if you did not have your receipt, you were limited to a swap or store credit. Not at REI. First question from the customer service rep was “Are you a member?” Answer: No.;
“Do you have your receipt?” Answer: No, but we know when we bought it with a gift card. “Do you have the gift card?’ Answer: No, we used it up.
Well too bad then we cannot help you. If you are not a member and do not have a receipt we will do nothing for you. “Have a nice day.”
Seriously, who teaches customer service people to say “Have a nice day” after they just told you to go pound sand? A simple “I’m sorry” would have been more sincere.
She left REI, contacted Fitbit and they are sending her a new tracker. No hassle and no request for the old one to be returned. (In fact they asked her to put in an electronics recycling program.) Well done Fitbit. And REI, be assured we will NEVER become members of your “entity.”
We got a Keurig coffee maker for a gift. Great product and great choice. We had just bought the same one about a month ago. No gift receipt, but we assumed it was likely bought at Target and we knew Target carried the product and that we could likely find other things at Target to buy with the store credit we assumed we would be getting with the return in pristine packaging, but without a receipt.
At Target the customer service person was quite cheerful, and advised that without a receipt she could only offer a $70 maximum store credit. However she noted the item was $99 so she could not offer a store credit at all. I asked if we “ate” the $30 could she give us a store credit. She said no. Our only option was to spend $100 in the small appliance department and return the coffee maker at the same time. Nothing outside small appliances counted and it had to be $100 or more. Nothing in that department was interesting to us, so we left.
I then realized we had bought the one we had from Amazon.com, perhaps we could return this one (which was identical) to Amazon for credit. I went online and since Amazon has a record of everything you bought they issued a return authorization and will be refunding the money we spent. It is a hassle to pack it up and ship it back, and it will cost something to do that, but at least we can return it. So now the last vestige of easier, which was returns, is over for brick and mortar.
As e-sales increase and brick and mortar sales decrease, people will continue to decry the “unfair” advantage of the e-sellers. Well at least one of them, Amazon.com, remembers that it’s about the consumer. Too bad several retailers do not.
And meanwhile I have purchased a laptop, camera and a few other items from Amazon knowing full well they will allow returns without “membership” or other hassles. Brick and mortar, like too many businesses, shoot themselves and then wonder what happened.