Service of Why Offer What You Can’t Deliver?

February 1st, 2024

Categories: Customer Service, Over the Counter Meds, Shortages, Technology

This package takes up little room. How can a drugstore run out?

We had our share of shortages during the pandemic. It’s a puzzle why some still exist. It’s also a mystery why a company that promotes a service isn’t prepared to immediately repair an obstacle preventing its delivery.

Nothing to Sneeze At

I was baffled that I couldn’t find pocketsize tissues in any of the drugstores near me and had to order some online. Given the gargantuan size of the OTC cold and cough meds market–$11.11 billion anticipated in the U.S. for this year according to—you’d think the stores would be prepared for dripping noses.

Those empty shelves are not a question of tight inventory control. Smart shoppers who want a holiday-related item like cute Valentine’s or Halloween decorations grab them fast these days or go without because retailers–smartly–don’t want to be stuck with leftovers. However, once the height of flu and cold season is past, we segway into allergy-related sneeze fests that keep Kleenex shoppers coming back for more.

Don’t Pass the Popcorn

I decided that Saturday was a perfect one to rent from Fios a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing available on Demand. To navigate to Netflix on my Fios system I must first bypass Demand’s lively promotions for its movies for rent or purchase [see the photo below]. After countless attempts to download my choice and three quarters of an hour on the phone with Verizon I learned that the glitch had to be fixed internally. ETA of the repair? Monday at 9 PM. Three days?

I called Verizon when at 9 PM Monday I still got the “Oops.” I went through the rigamarole to finally reach a customer service person and was disconnected. My mood didn’t improve when I had to go through the entire thing again with no opportunity to skip the drill and type in the number of my ticket to get an update. The person I spoke with warned me not to call again until Friday to give them time to fix the glitch. It was repaired late Tuesday afternoon. I loved the movie which I watched Tuesday night: “The Holdovers.”

Are you surprised at what’s still missing from store shelves or how long it takes for a corporation to fix an error halting use of a revenue-generating service?


8 Responses to “Service of Why Offer What You Can’t Deliver?”

  1. BC Said:

    We live near so many grocery stores and big boxes, it is almost impossible to run out of an item. Even with toilet paper storage years ago, one was able to find it somewhere within a five mile radius.

    The joys of being a country bumpkin!

  2. Erica Said:

    I was in the Hallmark store a few weeks ago and noticed a shortage of cards. I was surprised to see that but I hear from working with my print production team that some types of card stock are scarce.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Real estate is so dear in NYC that the cost of storing things that don’t generate a significant profit makes a business rely on deliveries. Funny how we didn’t have these problems before. I’ve speculated that people will blame the pandemic on many things for years to come.

    It will be scary for those impacted by congestion pricing to see what happens to our wallets. Real estate values below 60th street may plummet and many businesses that depend on deliveries will close down as there are limits to what a business can charge for a quart of milk or loaf of bread. I’m not looking forward to this.

  4. ASK Said:

    No shortages that I‘ve found…but I am appalled at prices. I don’t live in Manhattan, but not THAT long ago, a pound of plain flour at the local Acme was $.99, at most, $1.29. It’s now $3.99. Good thing I rarely bake…!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The less expensive olive oil at Trader Joe’s jumped in one leap from $5.99 to $10.99 [$10 something. I was so shocked by the $10 that I forget]. I cook with it and eat a lot of salad using it as dressing….

    Terrifying really.

  6. Martha Takyama Said:

    Locked , often nearly empty shelves are common at all CVS in Brookline, MA’s center.
    Its’s impossible to buy many things especially beauty and cosmetics in the most central one without seeking help. Browsing is futile.
    Walgreens has closed 4 stores in Boston. leaving communities and neighborhoods without. access to retail and medical wants and needs and leaving big gaps in real estate that will have wide-ranging effects.
    There are no good explanations.
    My local supermarket is always without any number of brands or products and prices escalate so rapidly that it is dizzying.
    As for providing promised services, that is simply a fiction .Anyway, the amount of time and computer skills needed to manage so many offers is an incredible deterrent. Phone exchanges are generally either so convoluted or rude or inarticulate that they are exhausting. Certainly, none of these prevailing realities is for the benefit of any consumer!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As a person who loves to send and receive cards, and knowing how doing so is increasingly out of fashion, I worry about Hallmark and paper stores. Some of my favorites are out of business though in one case I understand it was because the store was poorly managed by the owner who had never been in retail before and treated it as a hobby pretty much.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I admire people who have enough confidence to take customer service jobs when they are pretty sure that the person on the other end of the line is 1) annoyed and 2) probably won’t understand them making them have to repeat what they’ve said countless times. I admit, however, that I breathe ten sighs of relief when an American answers the phone.

    Our drug store shelves are also locked up in Manhattan pretty much.

    And as I’ve written above, price shock happens almost every time I buy something.

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