So The Item You Need Is Out Of Stock…Or Is It?

I had an a-ha moment at Home Depot the other day, and it made me want to share the experience.

We have a window fan in our bedroom that works pretty well, but it occurred to me that we need a second one.  We have windows on two walls, and our room also heats up in the late afternoon and early evening as we get full sun.  I figured that adding a second fan would give us some cross breeze, which would help cool things off faster in the evening.

I looked around and found that the best option would be to get an identical fan like we already have.  It has two fans, which can be reversed independently of each other, and each has three speeds, which are also independent.  It’s pretty quiet and it does the trick.

It’s only available at Home Depot.

The other day, I decided that I’d make a quick stop on the way to work.  It’s only a couple of miles out of the way, so I figured I’d get there early and avoid the hustle and bustle.

Before going, I went online, looked up the item, and checked the availability at my local store.  It said there were 16 available.  Cool!

I got there about ten minutes later, was directed toward where they keep the fans, and found…..none.

Now, I knew darn well that they hadn’t sold 16 of these things at 6:30 in the morning in a ten minute spot.  So, I found someone, which by the way is very easy to do at that time of day, and asked for some help.

That person was really not all that helpful.  He basically shrugged his shoulders, said that they’re probably somewhere in the store but that they didn’t have any.

I wasn’t ready to give up.

I went up to the customer service desk, hoping for some, well, actual customer service, and found someone a little more helpful.

She looked up the item and confirmed that they also showed 16 in the store.  She called someone over from the department that handles those items and they looked around.  Then, they admitted that they couldn’t actually find them and that they were probably up the top of the rack or back in a storage room.  They were nice about it, but basically told me two options, neither of which appealed to me:

  1. They offered to see if any nearby stores had it in stock – I wasn’t keen on this idea at all for two reasons.  First, the next nearest store is quite a ways away.  Second, what’s to say that any other store wouldn’t mb-2014-12-5r2have the same discrepancy?
  2. They said I could call or come back another time – I didn’t like this idea too much because I didn’t have the time or inclination to keep calling back, nor did I want to miss out in the event that they found them, put them out, and actually sold out.

Then, I had my light bulb moment.  In fact, it was right there on my phone.  The very phone that I had used to show them that they did have it in the store.

I stood there at the customer service desk and ordered the product online and selected Store Pickup.  It took less than a minute and I was guaranteed that when they found the stock, I’d get one.

Sure enough, about three hours later, I got an e-mail letting me know that my fan was ready for pickup.

Yes, I had to go back to the store to pick it up, which I wasn’t all that thrilled about, but considering the other options, I was OK with that.

Plus, I felt like I’d come up with a pretty good idea.

If they had been jerks about it while I was there, I might have, out of principle, avoided giving them the sale, but save for the first person that was a bit disinterested, everybody was very nice.  The woman at the customer service desk was really cool about the whole thing.  She called three or four different people, kept trying other areas and you could tell really wanted to make it work.

I wonder how often that happens, where an item is technically within the four walls of the store, but isn’t available for the customer to pick it up.  Now, I get that things happen and that stores can’t be expected to keep every item stocked at every minute, but in this case, I was able to still get the item that I wanted with relatively little heartache.

I thought it was pretty cool.  Just like our bedroom will hopefully be once we get that cross breeze going!

Readers, have you ever checked whether a store had an item only to find it not there when you arrived?  What do you think of my method to deal with this? 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Amazon Must Limit Third Party Sellers

I had a pretty frustrating experience with Amazon recently.  By and large, I’m willing to forget about it for two specific reasons:

  • Amazon rocks more often than not.  They’ve built lots of goodwill points
  • It wasn’t technically Amazon’s fault

The Lost Fitbit Charger

It all started last November.  After we returned from our Disney World trip, I realized that I had left behind the charger for my Fitbit.  I have a Flex, and the charger is really quite simple.  It is about six inches long with one end holding a cradle for the Fitbit, and the other end a plug to a USB port.  It’s pretty small and I can see where it got overlooked during our packing.

I knew I’d probably rule out buying one directly from Fitbit, but decided to check anyway.  The charger was $19.95 and I was pretty sure that they would want to clip me for shipping, as well.

No stinking way.

So, of course my next stop was on Amazon.

I typed in Fitbit Flex charger and it turns out I was in luck!

I quickly looked and determined that I probably wanted a charger that was less common.  See, to do a reset of the Flex, you have to put it in the charger, and do the old ‘press a button with a paper clip’ trick.  This power cycles the
device and short of letting the power drain, it’s the only way to do so.  I have had to do it occasionally to resolve sync issues, so I determined that this was what I needed.  Many of the devices on Amazon did not have this feature, so I skipped past these listings.

I found a few listings, and found one that I really liked.  It offered the charger with the power reset button, and they offered a two pack.  Plus, it was $12 for the two pack, and it was Prime eligible.  It was sold by a third party seller, but fulfilled by Amazon.  Cool.  On top of that, they offered a one year replacement warranty.

Bingo!

So, I placed the order, and a couple of days later the new chargers arrived, just as advertised.  Prime is so awesome that it came before the battery even drained on my charger.  Pretty cool.

Good Thing I Bought Two

Everything went smoothly for a few months.  I loved the idea of having two chargers, as I kept one at home and one at work.  Typically, I charge at work a couple of times a week, but having the extra one at home was nice.

One day I dutifully charged it, and popped it out at the end of the day, only to find that it was dead the next morning. Uh-oh.  I checked, and sure enough, one of the chargers was no longer doing its job.

I was glad that I had the second charger as a backup and also glad that they offered a replacement option.

I went back through my order history, and from there clicked ‘Contact Seller’ and notified them that one of the Fitbit chargers had failed, and per their product page, could they please send a replacement?  They replied within 24 hours that they would.

Easy, right?

Well, it was a little too easy.

A couple of days later I glanced out on the porch and saw a package sitting there.  It was about the size of a shoebox.  I opened it up, not yet figuring out who it was from, only to discover that I was now in possession of a replacment Roomba charger.  And we’re talking the entire charging station that a typical Roomba would go put itself into at the end of a cleaning cycle.

It’s a pretty cool charger…except I have no use for it as we don’t have a Roomba!  Until recently, we had cats, and they would occasionally make messes (throw up) on the carpet, and the last thing I wanted was for the Roomba to dutifully spread around such mess, so we never had one.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I had this much larger charger.

The Run-Around

I contacted the company again, letting them know what had happened.  I once again contacted them from my order page, so I knew that they had the exact order information.

They replied back and pretty much said that it was impossible, and asked if I could send them a picture.

So, I sent them a picture of the box I had and the charger that I was looking for.

They replied back and asked for a picture of the shipping label.

So, I sent them a picture of the shipping label.

Then, they replied back and told me that I needed to contact Amazon since it was fulfilled by Amazon order.

Now, I was getting mad.  I haven’t mentioned that each e-mail took about 24 hours to reply, so we were working on a few days of back and forth.  All while I looked at this stupid charger sitting in the corner of my eye.

I explained (clearly but a little less politely) that although the *initial* order had been fulfilled by Amamb-2015-07-signzon, that the problem came with the replacement item, which was not sent by Amazon, but had been sent by them directly.

It took about 48 hours but they finally replied back and apologized for the misunderstanding.  They indicated that they would send me the correct Fitbit charger, refund my shipping fees, and also send me a UPS label to return the Roomba charger.

To their credit, they did send the correct Fitbit charger within a couple of days.  They did not refund the shipping costs…because there weren’t any that I’d paid since it was a Prime eligible purchase.  And to date, they still have not sent me any label or requested the incorrect item to be returned.

Now, just out of curiosity, I looked and the Roomba charger sells for $45, so I guess there’s a certain point where I could actually turn this into a money making deal for me.  You know, for my frustrations and all!

Why Amazon Should Limit Third Party Sellers

Now, this whole thing was a bit frustrating.  It was more amusing than anything else, but because it was a third-party seller issue, I really didn’t assign this as a referendum to Amazon.  Yes, I went to Amazon to buy the product, but in my mind, none of the issues that I had, whether it be from the product failure itself to the replacement process, really had anything to do with Amazon.  They were just the go-between.

Which is fine, so long as that type of transaction is the exception.

I looked through our purchase history and I’d estimate that less than 15% of our purchases came from third party sellers.  Most are sold directly by Amazon.  And, that’s the way I want to keep it.

So, I hope that Amazon realizes the value of keeping control over more of their transactions.  It’s easy to picture a situation where they could start farming out more and more transactions, or even partnering up with other sellers for entire lines of products.  This might make sense in a conference room somewhere where I’m sure the word ‘bottom line’ would be thrown about many a time, but the counter to that is that Amazon loses a little bit of control each time they do that, and it can be a slippery slope.

I think Amazon has worked and grown so well because they keep so much of that control.  By limiting the control over what others have access to ‘mess up’, so to speak, they can limit their risk of problems so long as they set and maintain their own processes.  And, to their credit, they do that very well.

I’ve even heard rumors that Amazon intends to set up their own delivery network, meaning that one additional piece that is handled outside of Amazon’s control, the carrier that brings the product to your door, could be brought within their control.  So, yes, you might very soon see an Amazon truck rolling up to your house, and an Amazon driver getting out and bringing the package to your door.

That tells me that Amazon seems to understand the value of keeping things in house.  Let’s hope they keep it that way!

Readers, have you ever had any problems with Amazon, and if so, was it an issue directly with Amazon or was it a third party seller?  What are your experiences with things like third party sellers, fulfilled by Amazon products, and other offerings?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Lesson Applied: Lower Prices Usually Return

Last year, my dad opened my eyes to a pretty simple theory about prices, and that a lower price will typically return.

Learning The Lesson

I learned the lesson last year when we were computer shopping.  My wife’s laptop was no longer working well for her online business, so we decided that it was time to get a new laptop.  My dad has always been very tech savvy and on top of the latest trends, as well as what is good pricing.

Don’t pull the trigger too soon!

I found a laptop that I liked and sent him the specifications and the pricing.  This was an advertised ‘one day deal’ site, so you had 24 hours to take advantage of the deal.

My dad and I spoke and while it was a good computer at a good price, he felt that it was not something that we had to necessarily jump at, as he thought that we would either find the deal to come back at the same or lower price, or that we’d find an even better machine at the same price.  As it turned out, he was right on both accounts.  The deal was actually extended past the 24 hour window, and within a few days, we found a much better equipped machine at a comparable price, and so far it has worked out very well.

Applying The Lesson

One of the things that has been moving up our list is to replace our wireless router.  We currently have two wireless networks running in our house, neither of which is meeting our level of satisfaction.  We have an older Linksys router, I’m talking 7-8 years old, that doesn’t have great range and seems to have gotten more and more flaky.  I’m concerned about security as Netgear has never released even a firmware update for it.  I’ve thought about getting rid of it altogether but there are a couple of devices which have seemed to work better on this network, so it’s always avoided the ax.

We also use the built in network offered by our cable company.  The range on it is terrible, but we do have a range extender, and it’s only compatible with this device.

Basically, it’s a patchwork situation, and both networks just don’t offer what we need.

We’ve been looking at a new router for awhile, and I had my mind settled on one in particular.

I’d been looking on Amazon, and it has been around $99.  I had budgeted $100 for a router, and that was the maximum I was willing to pay.  Now that Amazon charges sales tax, the $99 price would actually run us about $105 and change.

No good, especially since I used the Camelizer plugin on Chrome to show that it’s been as low as $85-90 before.

Since it wasn’t something we needed urgently, I decided to apply my dad’s principle, and to wait.

I checked every day and the price was roughly the same for about a two week period.  It was $99.87 or so most of the time, typically going down around a quarter.  I did miss one opportunity when I saw it for $91, but I was somewhere where I couldn’t take the time to finish the transaction, and by the time I looked the next day, it was back up to $99.

So I waited.

Finally, on Easter, I hit paydirt. It was $89!  This plus sales tax made it roughly $95.  So, instead of going $5 over my budget, which is what I could have done by not waiting, sitting back and waiting for the price to return actually left me with $5 extra.

That’s what I call a win any day!  Thanks, Dad!

Readers, have you ever used patience to make sure to get the price you wanted? When you see a ‘never to be repeated’ price, do you jump on it or have you found the pricing to be available again?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

12 Items We Always Have On Our Food Shelves

We don’t have a walk in pantry, but we do have some shelving downstairs at the bottom of the stairs that houses our stock-up items and overflow items.

I was taking a look and noticed that there are some things that we always have.  They either:

  • Are used in many planned meals we make
  • Can be used to throw something together

Here are twelve things that we always have on hand:

  1. Breakfast Cereal – We love eating cereal either for the breakfast meal or for kids snacks.  We usually have some combination of Chex, Cheerios, or Crispix.  Source: Costco, Meijer
  2. Oatmeal – This is another common breakfast around our house, and we have instant oats and regular oats.  Many times we’ll make some regular oats on the stove, and some instant oats in the microwave, and mix it together to provide food for everyone.  Source: Costco
  3. Pasta – We always have some boxes of pasta on hand as it’s a center of many meals or can just be used if we
    Not our pantry. I wish ours was this organized!
    Not our pantry. I wish ours was this organized!

    don’t have any other ideas. Source: Meijer

  4. Pasta Sauce – We always have some ‘red sauce’ on hand as well.  We got away from using the stuff loaded with sugar (e.g. Ragu, Prego) and instead typically stock up with Kirkland or Bertolli.  Source: Costco
  5. Canned Mushrooms – This always goes into our regular pasta dishes and we use them for other meals as well.  We often use fresh mushrooms, but if we don’t have any on hand, these are a good alternative.  Source: Aldi
  6. Canned Tomatoes – We love things like chili or lasagna or other items where tomatoes provide the base.  So we always stock up when we can on the various types of canned tomatoes for these recipes.  Source: Meijer, Aldi.
  7. Canned Beans – Again, we use a lot of recipes where beans are great to have on hand, so we’ll typically stock up on black beans, kidney beans, and other types that I can’t even remember, but always work well.  Source: Meijer, Aldi.
  8. Soup – When you don’t know what to have for lunch, a can of soup is always a good option, either by itself or along with something like a grilled cheese sandwich. When there are sales plus coupon opportunities, we will stock up regularly.  Source: Meijer
  9. Macaroni & cheese – Boxed mac & cheese is a favorite.  Our cat even used to love it!  It isn’t the healthiest thing so we don’t always eat it regularly, but it is nice to have some on hand for a quick meal or a side dish.  Source: Meijer, Kroger.
  10. Starchy sides – Our meals usually consist of a main dish, a vegetable and some sort of side.  We stock up on things like the aforementioned mac & cheese, but also things like rice, Rice-a-Roni, couscous, and other stuff that might be on sale.  Source: Meijer, Kroger, Aldi
  11. Chicken/Veggie Stock – Many meals start with some sort of stock, so we’ll often have liquid stock or a stock like Better than Bouillon to get things started.  Source: Costco, Meijer
  12. Snacks – We always have some sort of snack items for adults and kids.  Typically they vary between what’s on sale, what’s in season, and what we have a taste for, but we try to keep a few different things on hand.  Source: Costco, Meijer, Aldi, Kroger.

We usually have a variety of other things mixed in and the shelves can get full depending on how much we stock up, but chances are if you came at any time to do an inventory, you’re definitely going to find these twelve things.

Readers, what do you keep as ‘in-stock’ items at all times?

 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.