Why Brick And Mortar Stores Are Failing–And Why We Shop Online

Customer service is dead.

Two weeks ago we shopped at Best Buy on Madison’s West Side where we bought a dishwasher. The salesperson and I had a nice conversation about the local economy and the impact of tariffs on monthly and year-to-year sales.  He told me that August has been very lean for sales–one of the worst months he can recall.

On Tuesday the company who delivers the product called to confirm that on Wednesday, between the hours of noon and 2 P.M., the item would arrive at our home.

At 2 P.M Wednesday I called the free Best Buy phone service where I chatted with a truly nice lady in Kentucky who told me the dishwasher was on its way and would arrive by 6 P.M.  As she told me about the nice weather in the Bluegrass State she told me she was glad there was no accident with the driver, things were just slower and I was soon to have my dishwasher.

I wished her a nice day and hung up.

At 5:45 P.M. with a gut feeling that all was not right with the universe I phoned the West Side business which had happily sold me a nearly $700 machine.  Might they be able to make the trains run on time?

About 30 minutes later a supervisor called to inform me that there was no dishwasher on a truck for our home.  The item I had bought was on back-order.   They had received a notice about the matter on Tuesday.

So, why had no one called me Tuesday to alert me?  Why had a computer-generated call been placed to confirm delivery?  And why had a woman from a border state in the Civil War told me to just wait a few more hours for delivery?  Why was I the one needing to reach out and chase down an answer to a problem not of my creation?

And on top of that what was I to do about the man doing the installation Thursday morning?

This morning I dealt with the matter in one phone call.

First, I asked for the entire sale to be undone and all money transferred back to a credit card.  “But, sir, we can still have the item delivered when it comes in”.

I informed the person I can order online from another vendor, and have it delivered with no charges to my door.  And much sooner! There was consternation from the other end of the line that I chose the internet path.

I then asked the person on the other end of the phone if he wanted to help me write my Yelp review.

I hear from some local merchants who feel they are being left behind in the internet economy.  They express their dismay with being overtaken by the ease customers have with shopping online.  They wonder what they can do to make a better impression on keeping local customers shopping brick and mortar establishments.

Yes, I wonder what business people can do?

For the past many years most of the items we purchase in this home come from the internet.  With a very small trunk, we even purchase our detergents and cleaning agents via Amazon and make a large box weighing 98 pounds, with free delivery, show up on our front stoop.  It is not as if we do not try to shop local, but almost every encounter runs short of not only expectations but also common sense.

Local businesses can bluster and pout, but they have only themselves to blame.

And so it goes.