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Whole Foods: Everything wrong with Amazon in a store.

Posted in botch, business, shopping by commorancy on September 20, 2018

When Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, I wondered exactly what that meant for Whole Foods as a brand and as a store. In 2018, I have found out, and so have the store employees. It’s not exactly what you might have predicted. Let’s explore.

Drastic Changes on the Aisles

One thing is clear, Amazon isn’t keeping Whole Foods stagnant. No, sir. However… are the changes being made inside the stores great? In many cases, no.

At one time, Whole Foods had a huge aisle of bulk tea ingredients. Today, they have maybe 10-15 jars total. Most of the jars are of the caffeinated varieties. Other than loose Rooibos, there was very little in the way of herbal tea ingredients. Whole Foods was the only real place where you could go get bulk tea ingredients. I was sadly disappointed at the state of affairs in visiting Whole Foods this weekend. The sad handful of jars seemed off, but I guess that’s what Bezos wants. In fact, the whole store seemed a little off.

Another department that has undergone drastic remodeling is the health and beauty area. Where they once carried clothing, scarfs, plush toys, mounds of loose organic soaps and various other eclectic HBA goods, today the area is nearly barren with only tiny amounts of certain items. They’ve also decided to do away with the HBA counter and rebuild a new kiosk for Customer Service there, so they can put in more cash registers. As if they need more registers… they barely man the ones they already have.

One other area of HBA (and other products) is product reformulations. I had been using the Whole Foods house brand of 365 glycerin bar soaps. Recently, I purchased new bars only to find a new label. After opening one of the soap bars I noticed a change in the fragrance. Clearly, Amazon is trying to cut costs by changing manufacturing of some of their house brands to new manufacturers.

I’ve also found other brands of products which have now changed. Where once Whole Foods had carried specific brands for years, these are now gone, no where to be found.  Whole Foods was really the only place that stocked these brands. I can’t imagine what this has done to those brand sellers. Whole Foods was likely their lifeblood. Without Whole Foods, they’re dead in the water. Safeway has never considered ordering those brands and likely never will. Good luck trying to find those brands ever again as those manufacturers are likely out of business.

Also, Amazon has started adding in small lockup rollabouts stocking Echos, Fire Tablets and Kindles, among other electronic and gadgety things. This is a grocery store, not Best Buy.

Checkout Lanes

Another change is that the Express lanes were always open with at least 1 or 2 people manning them. In the last 2-4 months, this no longer is true. I’ve walked in in the morning or in the evening and the Express lanes are always closed. Now they are keeping a few regular registers open. Not sure what’s going on with this change, but it seems odd considering the majority of people unloading their carts had less than 10 items to buy. Express lanes make more sense.

Not All Changes Are Good

I never performed my whole house grocery shopping at Whole Foods. It was always too expensive for full cart shopping. I only visit Whole Foods for very specific items that I cannot find at Safeway or other supermarkets. Today, I do most of my grocery shopping at Target, to be honest. Since Target has fully built out a respectable grocery section, when combined with Cartwheel discounts and the extra 5% RedCard discount, it’s usually worth my while to grocery shop at Target. They may not be the cheapest at everything, but considering the amount of discounts I get there, it’s more than worth it in the end.

Why this diversion about Target? Because Amazon and Whole Foods are trying something similar, except they’re mostly failing at it. Certain sale items and items with blue cards give extra discounts if you’re an Amazon Prime member. Considering how few items actually end up on actually discounted with Prime, it’s really not worth it. If Amazon could see fit to offer something like Target’s 5% off the entire basket + extra discounts like with Cartwheel, it might be worth it. Even then, I still find Whole Foods prices to be well above where they should be and nowhere near competitive with Target.

Worse, while Amazon seems to have cut some quality products down in an attempt to make even more money, nearly all of the dry goods still suffer from what I call, “highender syndrome”. What that means is that these items are sold at prices that are intended to entice buyers of a certain affluence level or above and feel make them “special”. However, what I’ve personally found after trying these products is while the price is well above where it should be, these packaged foods when prepared are lackluster and mostly taste of cardboard. Anyone willing to shell out that kind of dough for cardboard food, I got a bridge to sell ya.

As this section began, not all changes are for the best. The changes that Amazon has been making to Whole Foods have been questionable and seemingly geared toward selling Amazon products in a retail store environment. Amazon, if you really want to open an Amazon store, then just open one. Don’t ruin Whole Foods to make it a platform for Amazon products.

Workers Seem Disenchanted

I spoke with one worker at Whole Foods recently who is just as disenchanted with Amazon’s changes as I am. One thing he mentioned was that before Amazon’s purchase, the store could restock individual items as necessary. This meant that items were almost never out of stock and aisles were always full. I certainly noticed this change recently. When I visited to buy my glycerin bars, I noticed the unscented bars were out of stock. I purchased a couple of the other bars to hold me over for a bit. I then visited a day later and they were still out of stock. I’d say all told, I visited the store about 3-4 times before I finally found them in stock.

This employee told me that after Amazon took over, Amazon’s changes stopped allowing individual item reorders. This leaves shelves bare of products until the next whole shipment arrives. This is one of the things I always liked about Whole Foods before Amazon. I could walk into the store and nearly be 100% certain that the item would be in stock. In fact, I can’t even remember a single time when I visited Whole Foods and those soap bars (or pretty much anything else.. especially house brand items) were out of stock before Amazon’s involvement.

Hot Food Bar Changes

At the hot food area, I spoke with another worker who was disenchanted to see the home cooked prepared meals area has disappeared. No longer can you find the hot foods like mashed potatoes, cooked lamb shanks, meat loaf, grilled veggies and other staple foods they carried there every day. Now they’re gone and have been replaced by a Pizza display area. If the food isn’t on the hot food buffet area, too bad, so sad. I always liked buying those mashed potatoes there. They were the best in the store. The mashed potatoes on the buffet bar were plain and flavorless, as is most of that hot food bar food. The home cooked food they made at the food counter was much, much tastier.

Shopping at Whole Foods

Amazon has made no efforts to reduce Whole Food’s overall prices. But, Amazon has done much to remove, change, reduce and limit availability of items. I’m uncertain of this chain’s longevity. One of the things about operating a higher end gourmet grocery store like Whole Foods is attention to customer service and attention to product detail. Amazon doesn’t get it. Draeger’s gets it. Piazza’s gets it. Bianchini’s gets it. I realize these are SF Bay Area high end gourmet markets, but I’m sure you have some like these in your area, too. Whole Foods used to get what it meant to be classed as a gourmet grocery store, but since Amazon, they don’t.

As for the store proper, the reduction in products, the change in brand formulations and removal of mainstay brands doesn’t say Amazon knows what Whole Foods is really about. You can’t just begin gutting the fundamentals that made this gourmet grocery store and expect it to survive. Amazon is playing with fire making these changes to Whole Foods this fast. So far, I still see a fair amount of people shopping here. With each and every product removal or switch, the store will lose more and more customers.  Those customers who once frequented looking for that specific item only available at Whole Foods will end up over at Draeger’s, Bianchini’s or Piazza’s (or any of a number of smaller high end markets).

I know I’m not the only person who stops shopping at places when they kill my favorite brands and products that I relied on. Amazon hasn’t yet fully killed my last remaining reasons to visit Whole Foods, but changing soap manufacturers doesn’t bode well for at least one of those products.  Let’s hope I can use the new formulation without skin problems. We’ll see. They’ve also changed their brand of unsweetened ketchup. Yes, they still carry it, but the new brand jar seems quite a bit smaller for the same price. So far, they still carry the Stevia liquid brand that I use and at a “reasonable” price.

Feedback and Thank You

If you’ve gotten this far into this article, I’d like to thank you for spending your time here reading Randocity articles. In this YouTube age with people putting their faces out there as hosts, I have also contemplated setting up a channel for Randocity. Each time I have considered this, I realize that writing this blog is what I enjoy about blogging. Vlogging has its own set of constraints, time sucks and technical problems that to me don’t seem very enjoyable, particularly buying all of the necessary equipment and spending hours editing videos together.

If your shopping experiences have changed as a result of Amazon’s purchase of and changes to Whole Foods stores, please leave a comment below explaining what problems you have encountered in your shopping experiences. I will consider extending this article to include quotes from various reader’s recent shopping experiences. I’m always interested in hearing reader feedback. If you work at Whole Foods and are willing to speak up, please leave a comment below.

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Shopping Frustration: When coupon codes don’t work

Posted in shopping by commorancy on September 4, 2012

Nothing is more frustrating during online shopping than when e-tailers send out a coupon code for a one day sale that doesn’t work.  I have to wonder, are these sites just stupid, clueless or technically inept?  Let’x explore.

Holiday Shopping Spree

If you’re like me, I tend to shop for things when people send me coupon codes.  Specifically, I shop when things are wearing out. I try to make sure these purchase times match up when coupon codes are available.  So, I like to wait for sale days like Memorial Day, President’s Day or, like today, Labor Day.  So, I’m happy when companies where I like to shop send me a 20% or 30% off coupon.  I generally like to take advantage of these deals because they don’t appear that frequently and I can shop for clothes that are wearing out.

Clickable Ad Banners in Email

Unfortunately, many of these e-tail sites are so inept or mismanaged that they email out the code but they forget to activate the code.  Sometimes they deactivate it too early.  Worse, they send an email with a big clickable banner ad describing this ‘Sale’ that, when you click, takes you to their home page and not to the sale items that apply to the code.  This action leaves you wondering what the heck is actually on sale?   One word comes to mind: inept.  Retailers, this is a seriously stupid practice.  If you send out an email that you’re having a 20% off sale, a click should immediately take you to the sales item(s).  Don’t make your customers guess what’s on sale.   In the case where I am taken to the front page, I close the browser, delete the email and move on.  Sorry, you’ve just lost a sale and I simply won’t shop there.  I know I’m not alone in this.  A lot of people fill their carts and either abandon the cart or clear it out because of stupid things like coupon codes that don’t work.

Coupon Codes that Don’t Work

I’ve had many times where some company sends me a coupon code that when you type it into the cart and click ‘Apply’, the message says ‘This coupon is not valid’ or ‘This coupon does not apply to the items in your cart’.  This goes back to the above issue.  If you’re planning to issue a coupon code and spend the time and effort to email your email list with this code, you damned well better test that code to make sure it works and you damned well better make sure the customers know to which items the code applies.  Don’t make your customers guess.  Additionally, for 24 hour sales, you should make also sure that code works until midnight.  And by this I mean, make sure it works until midnight of the customer’s timezone, not just your company’s timezone. That coupon should not expire at midnight your company’s timezone time as that could be midday in some locales. The code should expire at midnight wherever your shopper resides or better, expire it the following day sometime during the day to prevent expiration before the day is over for every customer and also lets late customers take advantage.  After all, isn’t the idea behind a coupon code to get people into your site to purchase?

Customers walking away

Making stupid moves like not activating coupons, deactivating them early or making your customers guess as to what merchandise the coupon applies is just a stupid practice.  You probably think I’m talking about small mom-and-pop shops here.  No, these are well known well respected companies that are making these most basic mistakes, like Jockey, Tommy Bahama and Zagg.

Nothing is more frustrating than filling up your cart with merchandise expecting to use a coupon code only to find that it doesn’t work.  Or, worse, not finding the merchandise to which the sale or coupon applies.  In these cases, I empty the cart, close the browser window and delete the email.  If these companies do this more than once,  I remove myself from their email list as it’s quite clear that these companies do not have their act together.  Which, if you think about it, is completely odd.  These are retailers in business to make money.  If you’re planning to offer a sale that uses a coupon code and that code doesn’t work, do you really think people are going to pay full price anyway?  No.  Selling your merchandise is your bread and butter and if you want people to buy your stuff, then you need to make sure your email ads reflect the reality of your site.  If it doesn’t work, then you have even more serious issues on your hands, not the least of which might be considered fraud.

Amazon Better?

I just don’t understand this practice.  This is why Amazon is kicking butt.  With Prime, you get 2 day shipping included and the best price without hassling with coupon codes.  Sure, you might be able to find it slightly cheaper at some mom-and-pop shop.  But, the hassle of setting up a new account and dealing with yet more email that can’t do it right outweighs the few pennies of savings you might get from that mom-and-pop shop.  So, I always find myself back at Amazon buying, at least for hassle-free purchasing.  I don’t want to deal with coupon codes that don’t work, sites that don’t specify what’s on sale or silly stupid problems like this.

For those sites that do this, fix your sites or lose the sale and be trampled by Amazon.  It’s quite simple.

Amazon Kindle: Buyer’s Security Warning

Posted in best practices, computers, family, security, shopping by commorancy on May 4, 2012

If you’re thinking of purchasing a Kindle or Kindle Fire, beware. Amazon ships the Kindle pre-registered to your account in advance while the item being shipped. What does that mean? It means that the device is ready to make purchases right from your account without being in your possession. Amazon does this to make it ‘easy’. Unfortunately, this is a huge security risk. You need to take some precautions before the Kindle arrives.

Why is this a risk?

If the package gets stolen, it becomes not only a hassle to get the device replaced, it means the thief can rack up purchases for that device from your Amazon account on your registered credit card without you being immediately aware. The bigger security problem, however, is that the Kindle does not require a login and password to purchase content. Once registered to your account, it means the device is already given consent to purchase without any further security. Because the Kindle does not require a password to purchase content, unlike the iPad which asks for a password to purchase, the Kindle can easily purchase content right on your credit card without any further prompts. You will only find out about the purchases after they have been made through email receipts. At this point, you will have to dispute the charges with Amazon and, likely, with your bank.

This is bad on many levels, but it’s especially bad while the item is in transit until you receive the device in the mail. If the device is stolen in transit, your account could end up being charged for content by the thief, as described above. Also, if you have a child that you would like to use the device, they can also make easy purchases because it’s registered and requires no additional passwords. They just click and you’ve bought.

What to do?

When you order a Kindle, you will want to find and de-register that Kindle (may take 24 hours before it appears) until it safely arrives into your possession and is working as you expect. You can find the Kindles registered to your account by clicking (from the front page while logged in) ‘Your Account->Manage Your Kindle‘  menu then click ‘Manage Your Devices‘ in the left side panel. From here, look for any Kindles you may have recently purchased and click ‘Deregister’. Follow through any prompts until they are unregistered. This will unregister that device. You can re-register the device when it arrives.

If you’re concerned that your child may make unauthorized purchases, either don’t let them use your Kindle or de-register the Kindle each time you give the device to your child. They can use the content that’s on the device, but they cannot make any further purchases unless you re-register the device.

Kindle as a Gift

Still a problem. Amazon doesn’t recognize gift purchases any differently. If you are buying a Kindle for a friend, co-worker or even as a giveaway for your company’s party, you will want to explicitly find the purchased Kindle in your account and de-register it. Otherwise, the person who receives the device could potentially rack up purchases on your account without you knowing.

Shame on Amazon

Amazon should stop this practice of pre-registering Kindles pronto. All Kindles should only register to the account after the device has arrived in the possession of the rightful owner. Then, and only then, should the device be registered to the consumer’s Amazon account as part of the setup process using an authorized Amazon login and password (or by doing it in the Manage devices section of the Amazon account). The consumer should be the sole responsible party to authorize all devices to their account. Amazon needs to stop pre-registering of devices before the item ships. This is a bad practice and a huge security risk to the holder of the Amazon account who purchased the Kindle. It also makes gifting Kindles extremely problematic. Amazon, it’s time to stop this bad security practice or place more security mechanisms on the Kindle before a purchase can be made.

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Online ordering: Some companies just don’t get it

Posted in shopping, technologies by commorancy on December 12, 2010

In the past week, I’ve run into two different companies that obviously haven’t the first clue about running their online presence.  I’ll bet that this is just the tip of the iceberg, but there it is.

Online ordering with store pickup

Fry Electronics doesn’t get it. The point to online ordering with store pickup is to save time.  Unfortunately, using Fry’s store pickup by ordering online saves you no time.  In fact, it takes more time than just buying directly in the store and leaves more questions than answers.

I found an item on Frys.com web site that I wanted to buy and noticed they now offered store pickup.  I thought, “Great”.  So, I proceeded to place the order online.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a profile with Frys.com, so I had to create one along with entering shipping and billing info, credit card number and various other information they required.  So, this usually takes about 5 minutes to complete.  Granted, it doesn’t take that long to enter this information, but you’ll soon see that this time was completely wasted.

So, I enter the information they require, choose my store for pickup and click ‘Place Order’ like you normally do on any e-commerce site.  So, the order is all placed, I have my receipt in hand and on the receipt it says to to remember to bring the card you used to the store.  I think, “No problem”.   I ordered after hours.  So, I knew that I would have to pick up the order the next day.

The next day I take my printed receipt with the order number to the store, like they request.  I walk into the store and ask where to pick up online orders.

First mistake

The door greeter tells me to get in line and pick up the online ordered item at any cashier in the front.  I thought, “Uh oh, this is not starting off well”.  No dedicated desk means the cashiers will be completely inexperienced in this process and, to my lack of surprise, they were inexperienced.  Anyway, I step up to the cashier and hand her the online receipt.  She proceeds to type something into the register, looks confused about something and then tells me to hold on while she goes and locates the order.

Second mistake

Twenty minutes later, after wandering around and disappearing, she finally comes back with the item in hand.  I could have wandered the store, found the item, visited a cashier and exited Fry’s in the time it took her to locate the item.

Third mistake

With item in hand, she proceeds to tell me that I need to finish paying for the order at her station.  I’m thinking, “What?”  I had thought I already paid on the Frys.com web site as I was given fully completed receipt for the order with a valid order number.  So, I attempt to validate this information and ask, “I have to pay again?  I thought I already paid on the web site”.  She proceeds to explain that it’s not actually an order but a ‘reservation’ for an item.  I asked, then why do I have to give fully detailed information (billing, shipping, credit card, CVV, etc) for a reservation?  Of course, she’s a non-native English speaker and plays dumb like she didn’t understand what I said.  So, I try to verify this again and she says that I won’t be double-charged (which is, of course, my first thought considering I had to provide my CC card info full and complete).

So, not only did they waste my time online asking for information they didn’t need to create a ‘reservation’, the cashier wasted 20 minutes trying to locate the item in the store which wasn’t picked and stored properly from my order.  Worse, after walking out of the store, I still have no idea if my card is to be charged twice.

I head home and call Frys.com to clarify what the hell went on.  I explained that what they are doing is less than clear and the whole process is time wasteful.  Every other online order with store pickup system I’ve used at other stores charges for the order online and then only requires identification to pickup at the store.  They might or might not even print a receipt.  But, you definitely don’t pay for the item in the store like Fry’s requires.

Fry’s made major mistakes in this process.  Wasting my time by making me enter all of that information, not properly picking the the item requiring the cashier to wander the store in search of the item, and then  requiring the consumer to pay at the register for an item that already appears to have been paid.  The additional mistake that Fry’s made was not having a dedicated pickup desk to handle online pickups.   There is no reason to require the consumer to stand in line for a cashier.  Online ordering with store pickup is supposed to save time.  In fact, I probably doubled the amount of time that was needed to get the item.  I would have been better off just heading to the store, finding the item and heading up to the cashiers to pay.  What a waste.

Out of stock ordering

Virgin Mobile doesn’t get it. This issue isn’t limited to Virgin mobile, it just happens to be the most recent example of this problem.  So, I decide want to buy one of Virgin Mobile’s MiFi 2200 devices.  I visit the site and try to place the item in my cart. Instead, I see a red error message that says ‘Sorry, that item is currently unavailable’.  It doesn’t say anything about being out of stock.  Just that it is unavailable (whatever that means).  Ok, here’s the issue.  If the item is ‘Out of Stock’, that’s fine.  Just tell us this.  No cryptic messages.

First Mistake

Even if the item is out of stock, but you know you’ll have more back in stock tomorrow, then take the order against the future stock.  The mistake here is that Virgin has lost a sale.  I may not come back tomorrow and purchase.  I want to purchase today.  I made the decision to purchase today.  Tomorrow I may change my mind and go with something else.  In fact, I may go with something else simply from the stupid fact that Virgin mobile wouldn’t sell it even when it’s ‘Out of Stock’.

Second Mistake

I called the sales line and the ‘sales rep’ proceeded to transfer me to the ‘Broadband help desk’.  Where they transferred my call is not an order line.  It’s a help desk / customer service portal.  No where on the line does it say ‘Press 1 for sales’.  In fact, it doesn’t mention sales anywhere on the line.  So, I press on and get through to an operator.  The first time I call, the representative on the ‘help desk’ tells me that there is web site trouble and I should order tomorrow (see Virgin Mobile first mistake above).  I call back and the second person says the item is ‘Out of Stock’ and they should have them in ‘tomorrow’.

So, I’m at a loss.  If you’re in a company selling online, an item is out of stock but you know it will be back in stock tomorrow, why would you want to prevent taking orders against that future stock?  I mean, seriously, this is stupid. Just tell the consumer when they should be back in stock.  The consumer can make the decision to wait or not.  If you prevent ordering altogether, you’re losing sales.

You would think companies the size of Fry’s and Virgin Mobile would have their act together, but they don’t.  Companies wonder why their sales suck, yet they don’t look at these convoluted processes that don’t work and that throw roadblocks in front of the buyer.  So, instead of the buyer buying, we walk away and don’t buy.

Retailers, wake up.  Just because you think a process is working for you, you need to reevaluate just how it impacts the consumer.

Shopping and haggling at the checkout lane

Posted in shopping by commorancy on May 10, 2010

While I know the economy is not in its best shape right now and people are looking to pinch every penny, there is one pet peeve of mine that I just have to write about here. That peeve is when someone gets to the checkout lane at a store and begins price haggling over every item in their cart. The thing that annoys me about this practice is that the checkout lane is not the place to haggle or argue about the price of a garment or item. I mention garments because it’s almost always a garment that’s in dispute. Worse, though, is that it’s not just a single item, it’s usually every item in the cart. So, those of us behind you are stuck waiting while you haggle and argue with the checker.

The checkout is not the place to shop

Once you get in line to check out, you need to have already decided what you will and won’t purchase. If there is something in your cart that you don’t need or want, then politely tell the cashier and they will take it from you. Don’t stand there and argue over the price (or lack thereof) of that item with the cashier. Don’t hem and haw and decide if you want it. The checkout is not the plate for making long decisions or doing additional shopping. The store is where you shop, the checkout is where you buy. It’s really a very simple concept.

Getting price checks

In most department stores today, it’s easy to find a price so long as it has a barcode. If so, locate a sales person on the floor or find a bar code scanner. Most stores today offer scanners around the store for just this purpose. However, should you find a garment or item without a barcode, don’t wait until you get to the check out line for for pricing and then decide if you want it. Go to Customer Service or ask a floor person to price the item. It will save you and everyone behind you lots of time at the checkout. You might even be able to derive the price by finding the rack of items and looking for a similar style, color or design. So, use your own resources to find something similar and decide if you really want it at that price. If you really can’t find the item on the floor or the price, take it to the Customer Service desk. They can always help find the price. In fact, Customer Service is probably more efficient at finding prices than just about anyone else in the store. Considering they do returns all day long, they have to have an easy way to locate prices. So, take it to Customer Service and ask them attach a price tag to the item before you get in line to check out.

Haggling

If you live and work in the US, then you know big box retailers don’t haggle. So, why do people try anyway? Seriously! I understand there are a lot of non-US citizens living in the US on visas or maybe they’re working towards a green card. And yes, many countries require haggling to get the best prices. But, not in the US. So, when you live in the US, you don’t go to Wal-Mart and try to haggle with the cashier. Not only does the cashier not have any power to haggle, it wastes your time, their time and everyone else’s time who is in line behind you. So, don’t haggle with the cashier. Once in line, you either want the item at the price that’s marked or you don’t. If feel the need to haggle on pricing, then go to stores that sell on commission or talk to the manager on duty. Granted, there are no big box department retailers that use commission sales, but car dealerships, furniture stores, appliance stores and even some electronics retailers are still on commissions. Some more expensive clothing stores may even be on commission, but never deep discounters like Wal-Mart or Target. If you really want to know if a store is using commissions to pay their employees, then ask. If they say yes, then feel free to haggle all you want. Other places you can haggle include swap meets, garage sales, flea markets and farmer’s markets. You may even be able to haggle pricing shopping in locally owned and operated stores.

But, once again, don’t haggle at Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, Whole Foods, Lucky, Albertson’s, Sears, JC Penney or any other well known big bix chain. And don’t even try to do it with the cashier. The only exception to this rule and only for Sears and JC Penney is the furniture department, appliances and possibly big ticket electronics. But, never on clothing at the stores and never with the cashier. Only haggle with someone working in the department prior to purchasing.

Time wasting practices

Once you get into line to check out, you need to have already decided what you want to buy. In fact, you should have decided what you are buying when you placed the item(s) into your cart. The other thing you need to do before getting into line is check for price tags or bar codes. If the item doesn’t have a bar code, take it to representative on the floor or the Customer Service desk and ask them to locate the price and price it. This not only saves you time checking out, it saves time for everyone behind you. It also shows you the price so you can decide long before you get in line if you want to pay that price.

Too many times I’ve seen someone bring up 10-20 garments to the checkout lane and hand them to the cashier for scanning. But, the items do not seem to have any bar codes. It’s not just one garment either. It’s like this person specifically searched for items that didn’t have bar codes (or somehow removed them all). I’m guessing they think that if the cashier can’t scan it, they can haggle for a price. This tactic doesn’t work. In many stores, garments or items where prices cannot be located will not be sold. That means you will have completely wasted your time and everyone else’s. In fact, I’d really prefer it if every store adopted a policy of not selling items where prices or bar codes cannot be located. Worse, though, is if the cashier decides to be nice and try to look up the price of the items. So, the cashier calls or radios for a price. That means someone on the floor has to go look for a similar item or stop by the checkout lane and pickup the item for reference.

When a cashier uses a floor runner to price an item usually takes 3-5 minutes. That’s 3-5 minutes that cashier is tied up doing nothing and everyone in line is caught waiting. So, get your items priced before you get in line.

If you feel the need to rip the price tags and bar codes off of items at Target, don’t. It’s not going to save you any money and will just cause you (and everyone else) to wait longer to check out (or possibly, you won’t purchase those items at all). If you don’t want to pay retail at places like Target or Wal-Mart, then go to Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Max or even Steinmart. If you want designer stuff, then visit outlet malls where you can find outlet stores for Coach, Tommy Bahama, Ralph Lauren and other name designers. You may even be able to haggle at an outlet store.

Ultimately, when you get in line, make sure your items have bar codes, don’t rip tags off hoping to get lower prices and don’t shop at the checkout. If you can’t find a price, ask at Customer Service. Make your decision to purchase before you get in line, not after. If there’s something you don’t want, then give it to the cashier who can send it back to the floor. If you forgot something, don’t hang the whole lane by running and getting it. Ask the cashier to suspend your transaction. Most stores can do this now. Then, go get your item(s) and get back in line (at the end of the line). The cashier can then bring up the suspended transaction with your new items and proceed checking you out. And most of all, think about all of the people behind you in line that you are making wait by not observing these most basic shopping courtesies.

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Malls and shopping

Posted in shopping by commorancy on July 11, 2009

I like shopping, for the most part.  But, I shop only for the things I need and I like to feel I’m getting my items at a good price.  However, more and more when shopping locally, I find myself visiting shops that are independant of malls.  Frankly, I don’t really like shopping in malls for several reasons.  The first reason is parking. In the ‘better’ malls, it can be difficult to find parking on the weekends or during other busy times (e.g., holiday shopping).  Rarely, however, do I find this difficulty when visiting stores in smaller venues or independent stores like Best Buy or Ikea.  The second reason I don’t like malls is that the retailers have to pad their prices to cover their overhead of being in a mall.  For me, I don’t need to buy their items bad enough to help them cover their mall rent.

Cookie Cutter

More and more, we have become a society of cookie cutter items.  Items that you can find at thousands of other stores.  This goes for just about every item imaginable… from clothing, to appliances, to food, to electronics, to computers.  There’s really very little made these days that is one-of-a-kind unique… with the exception of art.  Even music and movies are cookie-cutter items.  They may be unique to the content producer, but they want that material disseminated widely, so there are potentially millions of copies produced.

Gone are the days of items that are produced in small quantities.  Yes, occasionally items will be produced in limited editions.  But, the reality is, even these items while numbered and limited may not actually be limited.  The reason, the producer will turn around and repackage the item in a mass produced package that’s sold to millions.  So, the limited edition package is limited, the actual product isn’t.

Digital World

In our up-and-coming digital world, uniqueness will be a thing of the past.  Because digital items can be produced in mass quantities easily, there is effectively no way to produce a limited edition digital item.  Even if there were, how could you guarantee the authenticity or genuine uniqueness of the item?  You can’t. So our digital economy will move us more and more away from unique individual hand produced items.

Arts and Crafts

On the other hand, arts and crafts including individual tailored fashions will be where the unique one-of-a-kind items will be created.  You will need to commission an artist and pay the price in order to get unique items.  I mean, items that no one else has.  Fine artists also produce these items and will continue.  By fine art, I do not refer to such boilerplate artists like Thomas Kinkade.  I refer to actual artists who paint their own works, knit their own clothes or create their own pottery.  These are the unique items that make shopping unique and fun.  It means you have something that no one else in the world has.

Malls

Malls are frustrating, at best, to walk around in.  They are big and, at times, crowded.  As you walk around, the kiosk staff bombard you with silly offers of cleansing your face with goopy mixtures to dropping RC helicopters on your head to AT&T staff hawking their phones while you walk by.  And. these are in the ‘high class’ malls.  Is there any decorum left in these malls?  I’d rather go to a store like Target where the staff actually has shopping interferance rules.  For example, when was the last time you went to Target or Wal-Mart only to be harrassed by an employee to clean your face with some goop or hawking some latest thing?  It never happens.

On top of the markup overhead of a mall, the mall experience is simply annoying at best and frustrating at worst.  The stores do not provide unique items, yet charge high dollars for their non-unique items.  And yet, considering the cookie-cutter nature of a mall, it can still be difficult to find the right item, size or style.  Usually because what you want is not in vogue for that year, so no one actually has it.  Yet, last year they were everywhere.

Worse, the costs for a retailer to inhabit a mall is so high that you only find the most expensive chains in these malls. It’s rare that a smaller mom-and-pop sized store can afford to be in these malls just due to the square footage costs.  So, Malls themselves end up being cookie cutter by the stores they can afford to attract.  So, when you walk into the mall, you can pretty well expect only the most solvent and biggest chains will be there.  Gone are the smaller retailers and independants from these cookie-cutter outlets.

Shopping Experience

Over the years, the shopping experience has changed.  Malls used to be a reasonable fun place to visit.  There was a good mix of big chains and small mom-and-pops.  Today, it’s more about the Abercrombie and Fitchs’ of the world.  It’s less about unique items and more about bigger retailers and staying in business.  With the economy the way that it is, the mall is not the place to shop.  Yet, one visit to a mall and you will still see people there shopping and spending money getting their cookie-cutter items.  Frankly, I’d rather not deal with this hassle and, instead go to a smaller strip mall or an independent retailer and avoid that hassle.

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