Stores are working hard to prevent showrooming, where a customer goes into the store to touch and feel a product and then returns home to buy it cheaper online. Some retailers are price matching online prices hoping you’ll buy in the store rather than online. While it hurts local business owners when you buy online, I find it’s hard to avoid. Recently, two in-store experiences left me no choice but to purchase the products I wanted from online retailers.
My husband and I are taking a vacation to New Zealand this spring, and we need hiking boots. I’m not used to hiking boots so I wanted to try them out for fit and comfort. I walked into Dick’s Sporting Goods, and found just a few options. Of the three I liked, the store didn’t have any in my size. So, I took a picture and went home to search online.
I waited to purchase the boots until my husband was ready. A few weeks later, my husband and I went to the same sporting goods store in another town. This store had even fewer choices. There was only one boot that fit my needs, and once again it wasn’t in my size.
My husband tried two pairs, and again neither one was in his size.
Why bother driving to a store to try on shoes? They obviously don’t have a good selection of inventory. Dick’s Sporting Goods even offers free shipping and returns on its shoes. There is no incentive to go into the store anymore.
Buying shoes online is tricky if there’s not free shipping both ways. You have to weigh the costs and benefits just in case that shoe doesn’t fit properly. Many retailers are beginning to offer free return shipping including Amazon on certain Prime purchases that are fulfilled through Amazon. If you are looking for a specific shoe, it may not fit these specifications for free returns. I recently bought a pair of boots that did not have free return shipping, and it cost me $15 in postage to send them back. I still saved $55 buying through Amazon compared to other e-retailers, so sometimes it’s worth the cost of return shipping to buy online.
I had a similar experience with electronics. We needed two phones, and only one was in stock in the store. We went to the store thinking it would be easier than online since we had to port our phone numbers and open an account with a new cell phone carrier. It was another wasted trip. The store was no help, and couldn’t even place our order online for us.
We went home and ordered the items we needed. With this, I will admit the online systems was not perfect. The online ordering system told us we could only ship the smartphones to a nearby store (not the one we visited). I placed the order, and then got an email ten minutes later telling me the items were not available and we needed to call customer service. It took two more calls to customer service before they found the phones we needed. The option of home shipment wasn’t available previously, but the second customer service got it to work.
It took a few phone calls, but it still took less time than it would to drive to the store. Plus, I didn’t have to pay for gas.
I try to find reasons to shop in stores knowing local owners are dependent on my business. However, without adequate inventory and customer service it’s hard to argue with the ease of online shopping.
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