Dear CEOs of Reputable Yet Frustrating Companies to Be Named Below:
Listen. I work in marketing. I KNOW that urgency and scarcity are Big Motivators. That’s why you can only use your Banana Republic 20% off coupon for four days. That’s why when you pick a pair of shoes at Zappos, they are often the only! pair! left!
I get it.
However. There is a difference between using these tactics… and just out and out lying.
Case in Point #1: Remember how I said I really want to buy the Reebok EasyTone shoes? Well, those little effers are hard to track down. I haven’t been trying THAT hard, but you know, I did look online at a couple of places… and then I went to a couple of stores at the mall with no luck. (Although those Sketchers Shape Ups are EVERYWHERE. If they weren’t such ginormous clod hoppers, I might just buy they out of sheer laziness.)
Anyway. When I was Back East at the in-laws’ for Christmas, my husband, sister-in-law, and father-in-law all went to the mall on December 26. Shockingly, it was OVERCROWDED and about eight thousand degrees. My sister-in-law had a bunch of crap to return, but all I wanted to do was go to Lady Foot Locker and buy those Reeboks.
My husband and I approached the Lady Foot Locker and I may have squealed. Because! Out in front of the store was a huge stand-up sandwich-board sign that said something like “Your search is over! We have Reebok EasyTone shoes inside!”
We went inside. Where one of the two salespeople was laughing it up with a couple who were holding shoes but not trying them on or moving anywhere near the cash register. The other salesperson was behind the cash rap when we walked in, but quickly disappeared. (You will quite possibly be shocked right out of your boots to learn that one of my pet peeves is poor customer service.)
So Husband and I shoved past the twenty nine million people who were milling about the Lady Foot Locker, craning our necks to find the elusive EasyTones. We couldn’t see them anywhere. So after about ten minutes of this, I stood within eye shot of Mr. Chatty Sales Guy until he glanced in my direction, at which point I asked where I could find the shoes.
“Oh, yeah, we’re out of those. We haven’t had any since a few days before Christmas.”
Does this not make YOUR blood boil with fury? Because I am sure that it wasn’t just the tropical heat wave going on in the mall that made me steamy.
You see, one of the salespeople had to make a conscious decision that morning to put the EasyTone sign out in the hall in front of the Lady Foot Locker. Despite the fact that they had not had a single EasyTone shoe in the entire store for DAYS.
What the eff?
But that is a mere blip on the irritation scale.
Case in Point #2: I desperately need a new computer. Every day that my monitor does not fall off of the keyboard part of my laptop is a day I count myself lucky. Also, it takes 30 minutes to turn on. And I no longer have recognizable S, N, M, E, or A keys on my keyboard because the letters have been worn off. That’s what 8 to 11 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week, for four years will do to a laptop, people. BE WARNED.
So my husband and I went to Best Buy, where we found a nice little Sony VAIO that fit all my requirements (Light. Silver. Not heavy. Decent size memory. No bells and whistles to speak of. Under $1,000.). Then, because this is how my husband operates, we went home and he researched the computer thoroughly. He read reviews. He compared it to other similar computers. He looked at various retailers that sell that model.
In the end, we he decided that our best bet was to head back to Best Buy to get the computer. (He had his reasons, I’m sure!) So we went back. The computer was still there. The price was still right. I noodled around on it to prevent my husband from postponing the purchase and doing more research make sure it “felt good.”
Then we stood around for 15 minutes while we looked for a Best Buy salesperson to help us. (This pisses me off. Because the worst thing you can do – as a marketer/businessperson/salesperson – is to give your customer time to think about NOT buying. I am not a fan of clingy salespeople. I like my salespeople to get in there, ask if I need help, and then to lurk somewhere out of eyesight and earshot until I leave or need assistance. And they need to KNOW that I need assistance. It’s not hard. I will be looking confused, or craning my neck to try to find a salesperson, or standing for a very long time in one spot. )
So here I am, ready to make a Big Purchase, and getting more irritated and less inclined to make my Big Purchase at Best Buy. Once again, I had to go and interrupt the Lone Salesperson on the floor and tell him that I WANTED TO BUY SOMETHING please can you find someone to take my money?
The extra salesperson came scurrying up (Where was he? On a lunch break? Flirting with the Returns Girl? Playing Snood on his iPhone?) and I told him I wanted to buy this computer. I pointed it out. And he said, “Oh, I’m not sure we have any here in the store.”
Blink. Blink. Crickets.
“Okay,” I said, in my Being Pleasant And Not Cranky voice. I even purposely smiled at him. To combat my Inner Bitch. Because clearly – not his fault that the computer isn’t in the store, nor that he apparently doesn’t know what the next logical step in the sales process is. “Is it possible to order one?”
“Sure,” he said. We marched over to the Geek Squad section where he asked for my name, address, and various other personal information and did lots of things on his computer while my husband and I studied the warranty information.
(Brief Tangent: The reason my husband decided that we should order from Best Buy was because they have those great warrantees. However, when he discovered that the warranty would cost about a third of the price of the computer, he kind of… decided it wasn’t worth it. Which… what the hell?! I could have gotten the computer from the Sony website WEEKS AGO. I love you honey.)
So. After what seemed like another 15 minutes of clickety-clackety… the Best Buy Guy informed me that Best Buy no longer carries that specific model of laptop. And they don’t have any in the warehouse. Nor can he find any of that model in ANY BEST BUY IN THE COUNTRY.
He was very polite. But he did not offer up a suggestion for a comparable model. Which would have made sense.
And my blood pressure is rising as I type this – by which I mean Warning: Ranting and lots of gratuitous capitalization ahead! – because I cannot adequately convey how freaking infuriating it was. To go to a store. And look at a FLOOR MODEL of something that the store CLAIMS TO HAVE IN STOCK and find out that not only is it NOT IN STOCK, but the store NO LONGER CARRIES IT AT ALL.
Yes I know, this is not the end of the world. But I’m frustrated. (STILL. Clearly.) And not about the computer. I can find a different computer model. It’s not like this particular version was the be-all and end-all of Sony laptops. It’s not even about the price.
It’s about the whole freaking principle of the thing. Where you go to a store and try to spend money there and they don’t let you because they are stupid.
Listen, I normally really hate people with an overblown sense of entitlement. I do not think I am entitled to get the product that I want. I do not think that my willingness to spend money at a restaurant or store entitles me to special treatment or extra attention. I would never be openly rude to someone – despite the tone of this post. But I do not think it is unreasonable to think that – if a store claims it has something – they might actually have it. Or be able to get it.
This deeply offends my marketing sensibilities, Internet.
So, my dear Lady Foot Locker and Best Buy execs (who I am SURE read this blog every day, har har har), let’s establish a couple of simple ground rules here:
A) Don’t advertise that you have a product UNLESS YOU HAVE IT. (It’s fine to say “Limited Supply” or something. Scarcity and urgency – I GET IT.)
B) If you don’t have something your customer is ready to BUY, offer them something else that they may BUY INSTEAD.
C) Have every single employee be kind and helpful to every single person who walks into your establishment. Every customer has a problem, and the employee who learns what that problem is and does everything possible to solve it is an employee who will win a loyal customer for life.
Making the retail world a much better place one freak out at a time.