Archive for the ‘E-Commerce’ Category

Service of Traditional Retailers Shooing People Online

Monday, September 11th, 2023

I wonder what the future will be—and the strategy is–for the traditional retailers that force customers to buy from them online.

For example, I tried to buy orchid and violet fertilizer from several stores that sell these plants, and none carried the products. I found them online.

I wanted to buy a gift card for a friend from a restaurant she likes. My only option was to buy an e-gift card that was only good for online orders. She doesn’t make online orders. And I didn’t want to complicate her life. She’d have to figure out how to retrieve something she wasn’t interested in using in the first place. I bought nothing from them.

Walking through the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Avenue below Grand Central Terminal–called Grand Central Madison–that opened in January I wondered about the attractive hallways ready to welcome 25,000 square feet of retail business. The station is still bereft of takeout places, restaurants and clothing shops. I only saw a few kiosks selling coffee, soft drinks and snacks.

Losing in person business isn’t always the fault of a vendor. Changing trends continue to have their impact.

I see no takers at a shoeshine operation with four chairs in Grand Central when I pass by. I don’t think it is solely the fault of the impact of people working remotely. In NYC fewer people are wearing leather shoes—sneakers being the footwear of choice. Increasingly wedding parties wear them too and department stores devote a large percentage of their shoe real estate to them. A smart brand like Hoka recommends styles for running, walking, hiking, gym/fitness and all-day comfort.

Have you found yourself buying more things online not only for convenience but because you are forced to? Do you empathize, as I do, with businesses that may still be essential for some but that have become increasingly difficult to sustain due to changing trends?

Vivid images waiting for stores to replace them at Grand Central Madison–the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Ave below Grand Central Terminal

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 Internet Shopping 2021 Style

Monday, September 13th, 2021


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Because most of my favorite haunts are out of business or their Manhattan branches don’t measure up to the quality I was used to in their upstate stores, much of my shopping has moved online.

Here are a few things that e-commerce vendors might easily change and should consider doing.

Don’t ask stupid questions

I didn’t want to lug home a large package of paper towels so I bought one online. Next I was asked to review my recent purchase. Paper towels? Really?

Know when to stop knocking on my door

A woman’s clothing store sends daily emails about intros or discounts, sometimes multiple times a day. At end-of-season sales time they up their emails. Eventually, the prices were so favorable and thinking ahead to next summer I bit, ordering a few gifts too. The next day they sent an email saying that one of the items is no longer available as there were too many orders for it. Note: They clearly show you which sizes are in stock when you make your selections.

OK, those are the breaks. However, two weeks later I get one of the remaining three items ordered with an invoice that indicates that two were oversold so you won’t get them. I was irritated as I might have found similar on sale elsewhere and wonder why the inventory department can’t communicate more efficiently with the website but worse, I’m still getting notices about that sale.

Get rid of the crooks

And what did I see again on Facebook? The sponsored rip-off promo that I fell for early in summer and I wrote about in “Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link.” The first comment was written by someone who declared it a scam. I may have gotten off easy from the looks of it. But Facebook should remove creeps like this from its site so as not to entrap other suckers.

When a mistake causes customers too much work

I ordered one item from a topnotch vendor but never got a confirmation email for the online purchase. Thinking I had again ordered from a fake site I called. There was no record of my purchase so I bought one from the customer service rep. Next I checked my credit card and there were two entries for the item so I called again and got the same customer service rep who promised to cancel one order. But I received two of the same item in separate packages. I called and was promised not to be charged for returning the duplicate as it was their mistake. I’m sure I’ll eventually be credited for the full amount but I wasted a lot of time turning things right.

I appreciate the convenience of ordering things at any time of day or night but miss walking into a store, choosing just what I want and walking out with it. I suspect under-staffing is the cause of most of the problems I’ve encountered.

Have your internet purchases been seamless? Are there some irritations that could easily be remedied?



Image by Gerd Altmann 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 Thanking Before Dining is Over

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

Last weekend I sat outdoors at a restaurant in the Village. The only way to get food was by downloading the menu, signing in to their website, ordering online and paying by credit card. No smartphone, no luck.

As with any restaurant credit card purchase there was the TIPS line which I filled in. I know, I know, I should have left a cash tip. But I didn’t. Next time.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. My mind was spinning from the unusual–for me–ordering process. After I clicked our choices, my first attempt didn’t go through; it took me forever to find ice tea–only coffee choices were evident. Intensifying by the second were my feelings of being a super all thumbs Luddite klutz which slowed me even further.

So I wrote in a generous tip–the percentage I would calculate at a standard restaurant. In retrospect all the wait staff did was to deliver the order and clear the plates. Turned out that they were forgetful in delivering our standard requests. We were sharing a giant luncheon salad and asked for a second plate. We had to ask two waitresses a few times. With temperature in the 90s, the water in a bottle left on the table, soaking up the sun as were we, warmed quickly. We asked for ice–several times too.

I’ll be better prepared the next time, with reading glasses at the ready, immediately locating the SEARCH icon [which is how I found iced tea as it wasn’t one of the upfront choices]. And I’ll have cash–which I don’t carry in significant amounts–on hand.

I suspect the do-it-yourself ordering process is in our futures at less expensive watering holes especially if the staffing shortage persists. It’s not a new concept. I have belonged to clubs at which the member wrote the food and drink order in the casual venues. It seemed easier.

Have you been tripped up by technology? Do you feel foolish when it happens? Have you, too, encountered such an ordering process at a restaurant? Is this a welcome trend?

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

 

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?

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