Dumb Socks

So have you ever gone to the shoe store, but you forgot to wear socks. 


Well, this is what you get to try-on shoes.


These absolutely crappy, thin, brownish wades of disposable nylon socks. 


How completely unappealing–especially piled up like this and looking like they are getting reused again and again. 


The try-on socks look shitty, feel shitty, and don’t help you try-on anything, because they aren’t the same density or texture as regular socks. 


Talk about penny wise and dollar foolish–if the store won’t even invest in a proper pair of socks for their customers, then how much do they value their business? 


How about an intelligent shoe store with a little class that actually has some real pairs of socks for their customers, and when you’re done they send them out to the cleaners or maybe even let you keep the pair if you buy the shoes!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Transitioning To Virtual Ease And Triviality

Mail Order.jpeg

I took this photo a few weeks ago on the streets in Washington, D.C.

This was a huge box from eBay coming to someone.

In my building, they recently built an extra storeroom for all the deliveries that are coming everyday–there is no where to put all of them.

Jeff Bezos was recently names the 4th richest person in America, as the stock price of Amazon is up 45% in the last year alone. 

While today in the Wall Street Journal, even the revered retailer of Herald Square, Macy’s, had their stock price shed half it’s value in the last year, and other big box retailers are hurting just as bad. 

eCommerce is threatening the very survival of brick and mortal retailers, as they are seriously eating their lunch–and breakfast and dinner too!

But this is part of a much larger transition occurring from our physical to virtual worlds…

As we abandon department stores and the Mall for online shopping, 

movie theaters and playhouses for home theaters and video streaming, 

physical activities for gaming and virtual reality, 

and even factories and office work for telework and robots

soon we will have no real place to go and nothing to physically do. 

From the bed and couch to the computer and gym, like hamsters on the wheel of triviality, we might as well package ourselves up in the big eBay box and send ourselves to outer space–but only as long as we can get Internet access there. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Lowest Price Guaranteed!

Chair and Lush Carpet
So I bought a really comfy chair–everyone wants one of these. 



(Note: Pictured here is not the actual chair or store from my story today.)



Anyway, I was so happy thinking about how lush the sitting experience would be. 



Yes, the “retail price” seemed high, but I got the “Veterans Day discount” and then bargained some more. 



So I thought I probably did okay on the negotiation, especially since I was dealing with a major national brand.



Also, the contract/invoice had in writing a “lowest price guarantee“–so that if within 30 days, I found the chair for cheaper, the company “would gladly refund the difference in full”!



Sounds good, right?



But something wasn’t feeling right and when I went home I had trouble sleeping–something seemed off with this purchase and this merchant. 



So in the morning, I checked online and found the exact same chair for almost $300 less!



Well, I headed straight to the store with a printout of the lower price I had found and promptly presented it to the store manager for the refund of the difference as promised.



But instead of the glad refund, I got stonewalled and the dumbest look on the store manager’s face I have ever seen. 



He started the million excuses why he wouldn’t refund the difference in price as promised. 



First he said, oh, the chair I found was a different color–I showed him the chair online and the one in his showroom, and they were the identical color and everything. 



Then, he goes for a second attempt, saying, uh the price guarantee doesn’t apply to prices found at outlets, and I said where does the price I found say outlet anywhere? He couldn’t find anything like that. 



So he tries a third time to get rid of me, and says, the merchandise has to be advertised under “the same terms and conditions,” and it wasn’t.  I said what terms and conditions weren’t the same?  He said, well, they just weren’t the same. 



At which point, he told me plain and simple that he wasn’t going to refund the difference and that I should get out of the store. 



I won’t tell you all the (legal) details how, but let’s just say this guy was sorry for trying to do that…and I walked out with the price difference refunded. 



Buyer beware–lot’s of crooks out there trying to take your money and giving guarantees that are complete b.s. 



This is probably especially the case with many brick and mortar retailers who are having serious problems competing with their significantly lower overhead online brethren. 



Beware–Beware–Beware!!! 



I learned again today and taught my daughter to stand up for what is rightfully yours and don’t let anyone take advantage of you!  



You work for your money too and no one should cheat you out of it. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon Will Bury Walmart

Walmart_mess

I’ve never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart–and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart–shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let’s just say, I’m not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon–now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face “everyday low prices” image and we won’t let you forget it–instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs–that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they’ve hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out–Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site–which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon’s–Amazon is eating Walmart’s lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon’s online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart’s. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart’s 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales–they just can’t seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it’s high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline–it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around–and as for the matchup betweent them, it won’t even be close.  😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)