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.  I learned that an out of stock item might not be all that it seems.

Need: A Second Window Fan

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.

An Easy Purchase, Right?

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.

How I Got My Supposedly Out Of Stock Item

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.  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 avoided giving them the sale.  But they weren’t.  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.

Do Your Homework

I wonder how often an item is technically within the four walls of the store, but isn’t where it should be.  Now, I get that things happen.  You can’t expect stores to keep every item stocked at every minute.  Still, I was delighted that 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? 

14 thoughts on “So The Item You Need Is Out Of Stock…Or Is It?”

    • True, but I stopped by on the way home from the gym and it was less than five extra minutes. Going to another store or calling back over and over (their suggestions) certainly would have taken much longer.

  1. That’s a great story. It reminds me of a time when I needed to rent a car at the San Francisco airport. For reasons I can’t remember, we didn’t have a reservation in advance and showed up at the car rental desks looking for a car.

    There were none available. Turns out some convention had completely depleted the stock. I kept trying different counters and kept getting rejected. Finally, one agency had an available car but they wanted something like $300 a day. For a moment, I weighed the decision but eventually left the line feeling like I couldn’t justify the expense.

    Sitting in the waiting area, I came up with the brilliant idea to see if I could book a car online for a reservation to start immediately. Sure enough, I found a car from a company that was “sold out” for $60 a day and booked it with a reservation time starting right then.

    After making the car reservation, I walked back up to the same person I had spoken to 30 minutes ago, and said, “I have a reservation under Mr. Jackson.” Their response? “Why yes you do Mr. Jackson, I see that reservation right here. Let me show you to your car.”

    Sometimes the system is stupid!

    • That actually reminds me of a similar story. My friend and I were flying down to see a buddy, but we were on different flights. We split a ride to the airport and he decided to check if he could get on the earlier flight for which I was already booked. The line was huge so he took a page out of your book and called. Not only did he get on the flight, but they gave him a free bump to first class. To this day, the fact that HE rode on first class mildly enrages me, and this happened probably almost 20 years ago!

  2. Similar thing happened to my wife and I in the San Francisco airport. Got off the air-train, heading toward the Dollar rental car kiosk where we had our reservation.

    The line at Dollar was 30 people long when we arrived…..and all other kiosks were completely empty.

    We got in line, my wife whipped out her phone, and made a reservation at Budget. Turns out this reservation was actually cheaper than what we’d planned to pay at Dollar.

    We left the line at Dollar, walked 25 feet over to Budget, and drove off with a cheaper car in no more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the line at Dollar had barely moved.

  3. My experience at Home Depot has always been hit or miss too. Often times the item is high up, but usually we can get someone to bring one of those tall ladders over and get it for us! We’ve always used to online store pickup and it’s awesome:P Don’t have to wander round looking for every item, let them do the work and maybe save more money with online coupon codes or cashback.

    Good way to work around the system:P And bonus points for cooling down your house efficiently with money savings and no ac!

  4. That’s kind of crazy! I feel like we’ll have more trips to places like Home Depot in our future after we get our house purchased finished and become home-owners, so we’ll have to keep this in mind.

    • The store pickup option works great, and in your case, it might work to save you time looking, though you have to know exactly what you need and not have any extras pop up. Both of those are pretty hard to get right every time when you’re working on those ‘move-in’ type projects.

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