Archive for the ‘E-tailing’ Category

Service of Product Marketing that Sends Customers Out of the Store and Onto the Web

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

I visited a favorite discount haunt, TJ Maxx, on West 57th Street in Manhattan, where I saw the most extraordinary number of suitcases in all sizes and shapes, colors and materials. They took up a substantial amount of real estate on all the three floors.

Some offered the weight: usually in the 7-pound range.

What was missing?  

The size of the suitcases, which, to avoid additional airline fees, should be 62 inches or less. I studied umpteen tags and asked a sales associate who looked at a few and shrugged saying he thought he’d seen one that indicated the height somewhere, waving vaguely towards other suitcases.

I was perplexed that all range of brands were there, some I’d heard of, yet none indicated height.

So where’s a girl to get the right size suitcase given a store with plenty of merchandise but without knowledgeable sales help? Short of carrying a measuring tape as though you’re buying furniture or kitchen appliances to fit in small spaces it looks like the best is to buy online where the specs are.

At TJ Maxx’s checkout my cashier asked if I’d found everything I needed. Hearing my complaint he said I could borrow a measuring tape but it was too late. I was done shopping.

Have you noticed such a deficit of crucial information in other product lines?

Service of Backorders

Monday, November 21st, 2022

This old Hamilton Beach iron served me well

I’ve not needed a fridge or kitchen cabinet or car, so I’ve not been impacted by typical pandemic backorders—until now. Guess what? The Wall Street Journal published a story last Thursday “Fading Supply Chain Problems Signal Holiday Season of Stocked Shelves, Lower Prices.” I hate being the exception to the rule.

My trusty steam iron bit the dust in a most responsible way on Saturday night. It started to beep at me and then I saw smoke–not steam. It was entitled to retire. It has served me splendidly for years.

Was I surprised when I tried to order one for same day pickup in a Manhattan store. I couldn’t find one at two likely suspects and many irons were out of stock even for shipping. The wait time for delivery for the available ones ranged from six to nine days. I found one at a third vendor that was to arrive three days later—on Tuesday. But I received a notice from the vendor on Monday night that the delivery date moved a week. An aside: This iron had better be as good and long-lasting as the Hamilton Beach I bought at a long defunct discount store. For one thing, I paid 3x more for it.

Here’s one reason for the delay in my receiving the iron: It took some journey to get to Manhattan! It left Chandler, Ariz. and stopped in Phoenix, then Tucamcri, N.M., next Phillipsburg, Mo., on to Quaker City, Ohio, and Keasbey, N.J. and was sited at a warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y.

In another surprising example, I knew that the flannel shirt—from an iconic brand for such things– I bought days ago was backordered a few weeks until November 18. Then the delivery date was moved to December 6. And it’s holiday time!

I shared frivolous examples as they surprised me. What about the shortage of meds for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [A.D.H.D] patients who depend on Adderall that New York Times reporter Dani Blum wrote about? Without their daily dose they “face withdrawal and despair.” She reported that the issue should be resolved within the next month or two according to the FDA. “Rates of Adderall use in the United States have been rising for 20 years. The use of prescription stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. doubled from 2006 to 2016.”

Have you experienced delays or disappointment lately for items you needed or wanted? Were you surprised?


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Service of Disappointment

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

The saying “less is more,” may apply to interior design but I’m finding that more and more we get less for our money.

What Happened to “Neither Rain nor Snow….”

There is a postbox about four blocks from my apartment in a commercial neighborhood with pickups three times a day, the last at 5 p.m. When I went there this week the times had changed: Now its once a day at 11:00 a.m. not only there but in all the boxes I checked nearby. That early in the day might be a good time for postal workers perhaps but not so hot for customers.

Yes then No

A friend was scheduled for surgery which entailed three days in the hospital and a week at a rehab facility. She knew the drill from a previous operation and all was approved. The day before hospital discharge she learned that her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of rehab. She lives alone. Don’t you love how insurance companies–not doctors–determine how we are treated?

Poor Training

I tried to buy a gift online and the system wouldn’t work so I called the 800 number and placed the order. I opted to pick up the item at the store, a short walk from home because its feather weight and tiny size didn’t warrant the $6.99 shipping fee. The customer service rep said they’d send it home, as it was easier, [not sure for whom], and he’d remove the shipping fee. Long story short, when I was charged the fee I called and customer service told me I had to work it out with my credit card company. This didn’t set well so I contacted headquarters and eventually it was sorted. No more online purchases for me from these folks. Customer care operators should be trained not to turn off customers.

Have you been disappointed by a service lately?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link

Thursday, August 12th, 2021



Image by Julien Tromeur from Pixabay

The kind of experiences I’m about to describe can’t be good for social media platform ad sales because it’s hard to tell the difference between the real ones and the scams. And if the brand is new to you, best check it out before buying so much as a toothpick.

I just found out that an order I’d placed with a reputable brand posting an ad on Facebook went, instead, to a thief as did my money. I was fooled by how the posting, models and clothes resembled the real thing and I didn’t take the step of getting off social media and on the Internet to find the website and order there. Credit card company notified–check–card cancelled–check–and lesson learned. I’ll never again attempt to buy anything from a commercial enterprise from a link on Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter or elsewhere.

At about the same time I checked out a product that interested me but did some research first. I found a Facebook entry from a burned customer which generated similar comments from countless others.

The man ordered fly strips for $21. He got a call from a woman saying the order didn’t go through asking again for his credit card number. She was aggressive in trying to sell him $79 worth of product and tossing all sorts of discounts at him.  He told her to cancel the entire order–he didn’t want anything.  By the next morning his PayPal account was nevertheless charged $101 and she’d put him on a recurring order plan.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Others responding to his comment warned that they never received anything from the company after months. One spent $300.

The PayPal rep told the writer to never give your phone number when placing an online order because it is usually linked to your bank account. I don’t know about that but I do know his first mistake was doing what I did: He bought product from a Facebook posting and in his case from an unknown vendor.

I am irritated at myself–as I am usually so careful–and hope that my bank catches the scoundrels. No wonder banks charge so much interest for their credit cards. It must cost a fortune to cover the money returned to their clients in the many instances they don’t catch and receive compensation from the culprits.

As I was about to publish this a young medical tech assistant told me his Apple pay digital wallet account was charged $8,000. He’d not spent a penny. Predators are out to get even the most savvy and wary.

Can you tell if a sponsored posting on a social media platform is real and/or if the company posting is reputable?


Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay
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Service of Because I Say So: When is a Hope a Lie?

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

I ordered something on the Internet and tracked its whereabouts a day after receiving an email stating “your order has shipped.” Someone had printed a label. Would you call that “shipped?”

I’ve largely represented consumer products, organizations and events in my  career–no politicians or controversial issues. I’ve counseled clients when I thought they might word a description in a different way–a pattern featuring a green leaf is not “unique”–or suggested they drop an unsuitable element from their special event. Sometimes clients agree, sometimes not. I resigned one account run by a person whose inappropriate behavior and demands would have rubbed off on my reputation.

Nobody can counsel the president. I wonder if any try. He discourages me when he raises false hope and makes inaccurate declarations. The headline on Berkeley Lovelace’s article on cnbc.com, “Trump says U.S. may have coronavirus vaccine ‘far in advance’ of end of the year,” quotes the president from his August 3rd news briefing. He didn’t soften it with “I wish,” or “I hope” –which we all do. He declared it.

We want to believe it. Maybe he knows something we don’t know. But it doesn’t seem that way.

Vaccinologist and physician Gregory Poland, MD, of the Mayo Clinic predicted in an interview on WOR 710 Radio yesterday morning that the soonest we can expect a vaccine approved for emergency use would be early in 2021 though March/April for full use would be more likely. Even then, there wouldn’t be enough vaccine for everybody and essential workers would be inoculated first.

Is false hope a successful strategy if expectations are consistently dashed? Should a leader treat citizens as some adults do children declaring regardless of what it’s about–audience size,  state of the economy, vaccine readiness– “it’s true because I say so”?

Service of Late Night Shopping Online

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Erica Martell suggested this post after buying a vacuum cleaner late one night that, she wrote, she’d been thinking about for some time. A few days later, I fell for a drastic discount on a Marimekko jumpsuit. Martell continued: “People have some interesting late-night shopping habits.”

Mary-Ann Russon, BBC News business reporter wrote “New data from the John Lewis Partnership Card shows that one in 15 purchases are now made between the hours of midnight and 06:00.

“The research shows that the number of purchases made in this period rose by 23% in 2018, compared with 2017.

“Retail analyst Chris Field told the BBC that technology improvements have prompted this new trend.

“‘It’s partly to do with the more recent generations of mobile phones, and the retailers are becoming much more sophisticated,’ he says.”

We’re not speaking peanuts. According to optinmonster.com: ” Online shopping is growing so fast that the global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020. And in the US alone, we’re expecting to have 300 million online shoppers in 2023. That’s 91% of the entire country’s population!”

In the infancy of QVC, a colleague bought drawers full of jewelry. I missed that temptation. There’s something else about looking at fashions on my phone during a boring TV show or commercial. The compelling photos and ease in buying are part of the attraction.

At what time of day do you buy online? Should you stay away from websites that sell items that might be tempting to you when you’re tired?

Service of Caveat Emptor: Amazon Shoppers, Watch Out for the Splash of Dumpster Divers!

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

I love bargains but after reading Khadeeja Safdar, Shane Shifflett and Denise Blostein’s Wall Street Journal article “You Might Be Buying Trash on Amazon—Literally,” my instinct to be choosey and on alert about where I find good deals set off alarms.

The reporters wrote: “Just about anyone can open a store on Amazon.com and sell just about anything. Just ask the dumpster divers.”

And I know dumpster divers exist because when I had a garage sale a few years ago I offered wonderful things, chucking stuff not appropriate for sale in a dumpster that was near the garage. I found several people in that dumpster sorting through my garbage!

Back to the topic. Safdar and colleagues reported: “They are an elusive lot. Many The Wall Street Journal contacted wouldn’t give details about their listings, said they stopped selling dumpster finds or no longer listed them as new, didn’t respond to inquiries or stopped communicating. Some said they feared Amazon would close their stores.”

The reporters found “a stencil set, scrapbook paper and a sealed jar of Trader Joe’s lemon curd” with expiration date of May 2020 in dumpsters in New Jersey and set up a store, DJ Co. “’Sellers are responsible for meeting Amazon’s high bar for product quality,’ an Amazon spokeswoman said. Examples the Journal presented to Amazon of dumpster-sourced listings ‘are isolated incidents,’ she said. ‘We are investigating and will take appropriate action against the bad actors involved.’” No comment re. the Journal’s store. When Journal staff submitted items for their store they weren’t asked about sell-by dates or origins.

“After a later dumpster dive, the Journal was able to go through almost all of the listing process with salvaged breath mints, sunflower seeds, marmalade, crispbread, fig fruit butter, olives, a headband and a Halloween mask—stopping just short of shipping them to the Amazon warehouse, which is required for an item to appear for purchase on the site.” And “To list a sunscreen lotion, Amazon asked for a safety-data sheet. Attempts to list a protein powder, a pea-powder dietary supplement and a face sheet mask—all from the dive—elicited a request from Amazon for proof of purchase.”

Amazon recently changed its policy: No items taken from the trash could be sold nor could items a manufacturer, vendor, retailer or supplier identified as unsalable. The company says it’s not responsible for what’s sold. A former employee who oversaw the department that handled logistics for third-party sellers until 2013 told the reporters: “We had an internal saying: Unless the product’s on fire when we receive it, we would accept anything. Ultimately consumers are the police of the platform.” Amazon denied this and said “it requires sellers to provide government-issued identification and uses a “system that analyzes hundreds of unique data points to identify potential risk” and “we proactively block suspicious businesses.”

One of Amazon’s online merchants fills his Amazon and Ebay stores with clearance items, stuff abandoned in storage units and dumpsters. He cleans blemishes so the stuff looks new and gets the shipping packaging from the trash.

One Amazon merchant said he wouldn’t sell salvaged food but “Amazon’s not going to ask ‘Where’d you get it from? Did you get it from a dumpster?’ ” A Connecticut merchant who sells his items as “used” trolls bins behind GameStop, Michaels and the town dump for videogames, toys, electronics and trinkets.

A former [until 2017] quality assurance inspector based in Florida said he ignored broken things “more often than not.” Staffers were asked to scan hundreds of items in one hour. Productivity over precision was required. So as to avoid a complicated process to dispose an item some inspectors changed expiration dates.

“To see if Amazon customers shared such concerns” [about dumpster items], “the Journal analyzed about 45,000 comments posted on Amazon in 2018 and 2019. It found nearly 8,400 comments on 4,300 listings for foods, makeup and over-the-counter medications with keywords suggesting they were unsealed, expired, moldy, unnaturally sticky or problematic in some other way.”

The reporters continued: “About 544 of the 4,300 products were promoted as Amazon’s Choice, which many consumers take to be the company’s endorsement. Amazon’s website says the label reflects a combination of factors such as ratings, pricing and shipping time.”

Have you bought food or cosmetics from stores on Amazon? Are you surprised about the dumpster allegations?

Service of Swindlers You Invite Into Your Life

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

I’ve frequently covered scams that bombard us all. Just called DHL to report an email scam. Customer service confirmed that it was and that the company never sends attachments in emails. Good to know.

I keep getting an email supposedly from USAA in collaboration with the credit reporting service Experian telling me to click for a report. The USAA logo was out of register–a tip. Friends have turned off their phones they are so tired of robo calls that are up to no good. Fake Con Edison and Nielson have a crush on my home phone.

More chilling are the scams we reach out to. I’m so paranoid that I’m hesitant to download an online calendar. Once viruses galore infected my computer when I downloaded a faux AVG program–ironic as the real AVG attacks viruses!

Yuka Hayashi wrote “Scammers Find More Opportunities on Internet Marketplaces–Craigslist, eBay and social-media platforms are more lucrative than robocalls for fraudsters, study finds.”

According to Hayashi: “The study, conducted jointly by the consumer-education arms of Better Business Bureau and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority along with the Stanford Center on Longevity, was based on interviews of 1,408 consumers in 2018 who filed a fraud tip or report to the BBB between 2015 and 2018.” She reported: “Consumers filed 372,000 fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission reporting a total loss of $1.5 billion in 2018, with the number of complaints up 34% from 2017, according to tallies by the report’s authors.”

In addition, “On social media, 91% of the respondents said they initially failed to recognize fraudulent advertisements as scams and proceeded to engage, and 53% eventually lost money. On websites, 81% of respondents engaged and 50% lost money.”

Most are “online purchase” scams, Hayashi reported from Craigslist or eBay. Sellers get fake checks and then the scammer asks for a refund of an overpayment or the con either never sends goods or produces products of poor quality.

“Nearly half, or 47%, of the people who reported encountering online purchase scams lost money, compared with other prevalent types of schemes like “tech support” scams, where 32% reported losing money, and sweepstakes/lottery scams, where 15% became victims.”

One woman in the article lost $16,400 for a Tahoe deck boat that never came. She should have been suspicious, she told Hayashi, because she ignored the signs. While the consignment website she found through Craigslist was sophisticated, “a wire transfer that initially failed to go through and the lack of listing on yelp” were clear warnings. The website no longer exists.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before crooks invaded these businesses. The sites become so big policing them is impossible. Ebay claims it does. Craigslist didn’t respond to Hayashi.

When you identify a swindle, do you report it to the company or to the Better Business Bureau? Have you fallen for one you reached out to or clicked on? Have you thought twice recently before buying anything on sites such as Craigslist and eBay? Do you think it will eventually impact this way of doing business to benefit traditional retail and offline sales vehicles?

 

Service of Untrained Staff and Insufficient Inventory Messing Up Food Orders

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

When you order food and don’t get what you want it can be hard to tell if it’s due to a lack of staff training or insufficient inventory. This is nothing new even though the millions who order all sorts of food online these days may think it is.

I ran into untrained staff causing stress when buying a bunch of sandwiches for office colleagues at a then novel Au Bon Pain years ago. It was so bad I eventually no longer asked “Can I get someone anything at Au Bon Pain?” when leaving the office to pick up lunch for myself. The takeout offered a choice of bread, meat and cheese for freshly made sandwiches. Inevitably I’d return with ham and brie on a roll when my colleague wanted ham and Swiss on a baguette as one example. Of some five orders three would be wrong. Drove me nuts. It happened because the staff didn’t know the difference between cheeses and breads and clearly the choices weren’t well marked and/or the staff wasn’t trained to ID the options.

Heather Haddon’s Wall Street Journal article rang bells. “Amazon to Whole Foods Online Delivery Customers: We’re Out of Celery, How’s Kale? Companies offering online grocery ordering and delivery struggle with services’ logistics” described customer experience with the online grocery and delivery system for select Amazon Prime members.

She wrote about what happened to Kelly Hills. The Massachusetts-based bioethicist  “ordered a sourdough loaf from Whole Foods recently but was offered a jalapeño cheese bread instead. Her so-called ‘shopper’—either a contract worker employed by Amazon or a Whole Foods staff member tasked with compiling delivery orders—had opted to put decaf coffee in her bag instead of whole roasted coffee beans, celery instead of celery root and a single seltzer flavor rather than a variety. ‘The substitutions are downright bizarre. It’s frustrating,'” Think of all the time wasted to return this stuff or the money lost to accept what you won’t use.

Haddon added that problems “are often amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.”

Have you been impacted by poorly trained staff, insufficient inventory or other issues when buying food–or anything else–either in person or online? Why do you think the glitches happen? Do you usually accept the mistakes or do you take time to return or report them?

Service of Where’s the Milk? Confusion When Grocery Stores Move Things Around

Monday, October 8th, 2018

If you routinely visit a grocery store that’s being remodeled, you know your shopping expedition will take longer than usual while you search for the milk, favorite cookies or pasta. One of my favorite stores also keeps switching things in the meat department even though its renovations are over. There must be a good reason, other than to hope I become tempted by other items while looking for what’s on my list.

Expecting to pick up a bag of M&Ms at the checkout counter at a grocery chain? Soon some will have freezer cases placed in front instead. Heather Haddon wrote about the motivation behind major product location shuffles as stores prepare for increased orders placed online for in-store customer pickup. They hope these customers, as they wait for their order in the front of the store, will add a few major items–an ice cream cake, a few frozen dinners or bags of fries and veggies–rather than a pack of gum or a candy bar. She wrote about the displacement of impulse items and other anticipated changes in her Wall Street Journal article “E-Commerce Reshapes Grocery Stores.”

Americans spend $800 billion a year on food and drink, she reported, and supermarket chains don’t want too big a chunk going to Amazon and other giants. Haddon wrote: “E-commerce represents less than 5% of U.S. grocery sales currently, but food and beverage sales are growing far faster online than in traditional supermarkets. Forrester Analytics predicts that by 2022, the U.S. online grocery market will total $36.5 billion, up from an estimated $26.7 billion this year.”

According to Haddon, Walmart and Kroger are “spending tens of millions of dollars to acquire digital-ordering technologies, implement home-delivery systems and build thousands of store pickup points for online orders. Kroger, the U.S.’s largest supermarket chain, has hired or assigned nearly 19,000 workers to run an estimated 1,400 pickup sites for online orders, covering roughly half of the company’s stores.”

Haddon identified risks for the chains from the enormous upfront investment to irritating traditional customers who compete for goods whisked off shelves to fulfill online orders. Currently, supermarkets don’t have warehouses as Amazon does, though they may in future.

Meanwhile, “Clerks fulfilling online orders can clog aisles and checkout lanes or pick over the best produce, customers and grocery consultants say.” Haddon concluded “Through it all, grocers are struggling to find a balance between encouraging customers to place orders online and drawing customers into their stores.”

Do you shop for your groceries online? Are you tempted? It must be a time-saver to simply show up at a store and drive away minutes later with packages of groceries. Does the concept work for cities where people don’t usually own cars? Would you miss seeing what’s new in categories such as ice cream, frozen food, bakery and yogurt? Do you ever pass an aisle, see something like mustard or strawberry jam which reminds you you’re about to run out? How will internet ordering gain such purchases without irritating customers with popup suggestions?

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