Goods AND Services –> AMAZON

Repair
Really like what I read yesterday…Amazon is expanding from selling goods to also adding services.

 
Amazon is the #1 stop for just about any daily purchase (except things like cars and houses, which I think Amazon will eventually consider for an acquisition in the future as well). 
 
With their nearly effortless shopping experience, free shipping (for “Prime” customers), and easy returns, it is eCommerce as it was meant to be!
 
Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is adding local service providers from plumbers to electricians.
 
The cross-selling possibilities are luring–so that as you purchase a household item, up pops local services providers for someone to install or service the item–it’s all integrated.
 
Moreover, Amazon will do background checks on these service partners, determine if they have liability insurance, and offer a money-back guarantee on the services rendered (Oy vey to Craigslist and Angie’s List).
 
Amazon is a brilliant retailer, once they have holodeck like virtual reality experience where you can simulate actually being next the goods to look at them, feel them, even try them (on), then we will achieve shopping nirvana and will never have to enter a Best Buy or other then useless and obsolete bricks and mortar retailer again. 😉
 
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Yo Mostro)

Sears Couldn’t Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

Sears Couldn't Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

So I was amazed at the depths to which Sears will go to try to save their horrible brand.

The Wall Street Journal (21 July 2013) described how Sears online has started a marketplace where they are now hosting the selling of high-end goods at their low-end department store site.

Sears which normally sells kitchen appliances, tools, and crappy clothing is now trying to market $33,000 Rolex watches and $4,400 Chanel handbags.

Good luck to that after their failed 2005 merger of Sears and Kmart–as if combining two lousy companies make one good one.

Since 2005, the company revenue has steadily declined about 25% from $53 billion to $39.9 billion and they lost $4 billion in 2011-2012. Yeah, that today’s Sears!

My own horrible experience with Sears:

I went online to order a range, and Sears botched the order over and over again and kept me holding endlessly throughout the miserable process and at each stage asking for my feedback and apparently doing nothing with it.

Problem #1: It started out pretty simply–I asked for some guidance comparing a couple of models, chose one, and they entered my order. However, when I looked over the order, they had entered the incorrect delivery date–when I wasn’t available. So I contacted Sears back to correct the mistake, but they couldn’t get their system to reflect the correct date–it would only show the original incorrect date–and this is a multi-billion dollar company? But I shut an eye when a supervisor finally assures me that it will arrive on the correct date.

Problem #2: The next day or so, I get a call from a Sears customer service representative who asks me whether I am the Andy located in XYZ (some G-d forsaken location)–ah, no! Well, they explain that’s where they have my order shipping to. They can’t explain how that happened, but promise Sears will fix it.

Problem #3: This time, I get a call from the Sear’s installation company. They are demanding that they will not come out to do the install unless I pay them a required inspection fee. But I explain that my order from Sear expressly states that shipping and installation are FREE. Sorry, they tell me free is not free, and if I have a problem, here’s a number to their national whatever line.

Three strikes, Sears is out–I contact them to review what had happened and to cancel this order. They refuse to cancel it–again, I think to myself this is a multi-billion dollar company? Over and over again this goes on, until finally they agree to cancel the order and refund my money.

All this nonsense literally wasted hours of my time.

Sears is no longer that brilliant mail order catalog of the early 20th century; now they are a dumpster diving junk company trying to sell brand stuff, but they are laggards to the brilliant Amazon and eBay retailers–and soon Sears will be out of business headed to the big retail trash bin of history.

The Rolex watches and Chanel bags are just another Sears circus sideshow. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What’s In That Container?

Container-ship

Ever since 9-11, there has been acute concern about preventing “the next” big attack on our nation.

 

Will it be a suitcase bomb, anthrax in the mail, an attack on our mass transit systems, or perhaps a nuclear device smuggled into one of our ports–all very frightening scenarios!

 

The last one though has been of particular fascination and concern given the amount of commerce that passes through our ports–more than 95% of our international trade–and hence the damage that could be done to our economy should these ports be hit as well as the challenges in being able adequately screen all the containers coming through–a massive undertaking.

 

Wired Magazine (November 2011) did a feature story on this topic in an article called “Mystery Box.”

 

The article highlights the unbelievable damage that could occur if a dirty bomb (“a radiological dispersion device”) were to get through in one of the millions of 20 foot long by 8 foot wide shipping containers out there–aside from the risk to lives, “it would result in a major national freak-out…cause billions and billions of dollars in economic damage…dirty bombs are weapons of mass disruption.”

 

While 99% of shipping containers are scanned when they arrive in the U.S., DHS is supposedly challenged in implementing a bill requiring scanning every container before they enter the U.S.–“some 66,000 [containers] a day.

 

Instead “100 percent screening” is being pursued where, shipping information is checked before arrival–including vessel, people, and cargo, origination, and destination–and when an anomaly or cause for concern is detected–if there is a U.S. Customs Officer at the origination port, they can check it there already.

 

However, there are still at least four major issues affecting our port security today:

 

1) Most containers are still checked only once they actually get onshore.
2) The scanners are too easily foiled–“most detectors are set to ignore low radiation levels. [And] basic shielding would be enough to mask all but the strongest sources.”
3) Thoroughly scanning every container is consideredtoo time-consuming using current processes and technology and therefore, would adversely affect our commerce and economy.
4) Around the world “Customs tends not focus on containers being transshipped [those moving from ship to ship]. Their attitude is ‘It’s not my container, it’s just passing through.'”

 

This is a perfect example of technology desperately needed to address a very serious issue.

 

Certainly, we cannot bring our economy to a standstilleither by unnecessarily checking every “widget” that comes over or by risking the catastrophic effects of a WMD attack.

 

So for now, we are in a catch-22, darned if we do check everything as well as if we don’t.

 

This is where continued research and development, technological innovation, and business process reengineering must be directed–to secure our country sooner than later.

 

The risks are being managed best we can for now, but we must overcome the current obstacles to screening bybreaking the paradigm that we are boxed into today.

 

(Source Photo: here)