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That’s a Lot of Overhead, Buster!

What a total RIP OFF!!! I’d gone shopping with my friend and we decided to go to the bookstore—a major, well-known retailer. I decided to buy the soundtrack to Memoirs of a Geisha and the second season DVD’s for Xena (I know…corny). I looked at the price on the Xena box: $79.99. I thought, yeah, that’s kind of expensive, but I want it, so I’m gonna get it. The Memoirs soundtrack was $18 and change…not too bad—I expect that kind of price from a CD. So I gave the cashier my credit card and didn’t really blink an eye, though I really should have. The total came to about $90, but I had a $10 gift certificate, so it was $80-something.

But then I got home and really started to think about it: "Did I really want to pay that much??" I thought, "I wonder if it’s much cheaper online?" When I finally did check, Amazon listed Xena on sale for $29-something and the CD was less than $14. PLUS the two items qualified for their free shipping…I’d just have to wait a few days more. All in all, I paid about $44! That’s HALF what I paid at the book store!

So I jumped in my car and went back to return the items. The cashier asked me if there was anything wrong with them. I said, "Yeah, they’re too expensive here!" I told her how they had priced the Xena $50 more than Amazon and how amazed I was that retailers could charge such wildly varying prices for the same item! She started spouting something about overhead and the fact that people can get things cheaper on the Internet which is why they charge more. I told her, "That’s a LOT of overhead!! It’s highway robbery!!" I mean, you’d think that if this store wanted to stay competitive in digital media, they’d charge more competitive prices…not jack their prices up two and a half times more than others! With that kind of logic, I’m surprised they’re still doing such strong business. Amazon sells all the same things and a lot more, but for WAY less money. So why are people still going to the bookstore instead of shopping online? I don’t get it!

Now, if the store clerk had offered me a $25 gift certificate, or even a small discount or something like that, I might not have been quite so upset. But she didn’t—and on top of that, she seemed very blasé about the whole thing. She didn’t seem to care that I’m a customer who could spend quite a lot of money in their store, but because of this, I’ve decided to boycott their company altogether. She never expressed any concern that I was so upset about having to pay so much more than I thought was reasonable. She didn’t even call the manager to try to reason with me. And now sadly, they’ve lost my business forever. I refuse to be suckered by them anymore.

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  1. I will start by saying I have never worked in retail nor am I biased to retail stores as I do a ton of shopping online. I think your comment is very unreasonable about boycotting the retailer. There are a lot of things cheaper online and it is certainly your right to buy them, but to suggest that the person at the counter who does not set the price, make store decisions or did not make you buy the item in the first place should do something for you because you found the item a lot cheaper somewhere else is way out of bounds in my opinion. How about those vending machines that charge $1 for a candy bar. Do you boycott all vending machines because you can get a candy bar for $.44 at Wal-Mart. This is simply supply and demand. While it’s your right not to buy from the retailer it should be noted that your original thought was the price was high. Whether you like it or not there is a price for convenience and if you can wait the two or three days then it’s normailly the best bet.

    Posted by: Torrez Greenwood | November 14, 2006
  2. While I agree that the $50.00 price difference is extreme, I thought I’d point out that book stores (and many other brick and mortar retailers) do need to charge a premium to cover substantially higher overhead costs that internet retailers don’t face. It’s pretty cheap to have a website and a warehouse full of stuff. It’s entirely different to have premium commercial real estate, a welcoming storefront, helpful staff available to answer all your questions, and a deep inventory on limited shelf space.
    While I’m sure you can see why brick and mortar retailers need to charge higher prices, smart retailers can justify them by adding value that internet sites just can’t. By creating an excellent environment (like a coffe shop and comfy couches or discussion groups in the case of book sellers) and providing top-notch customer service, brick and mortar retailers can give you a great reason to justify that premium. Not to mention the difference between “on demand” and waiting for your delivery to arrive.
    It sounds like your bookstore didn’t go the extra mile in this case. Just don’t forget that many small retailers do everything they can to make themselves unique and give you a relaxing place to go to browse and read a book. I think Amazon is a great way to buy books. I’d just hate to loose the opportunity to sit at my local book store when I want to because they’ve gone under while I was busy trying to save a buck online.

    Posted by: Brian | November 14, 2006
  3. Torrez, in response to your comment, I _have_ worked in retail and while I understand that prices will be less online because of less overhead, the clerk certainly had the power to express concern over my being upset. She certainly had the power to call a manager to try to work things out to make me a more happy customer. When I worked in retail, even though I wasn’t a manager, I would always bend over backward to try to make the customer happy. And I was rewarded for it with continued business from those customers who would express their gratefulness that I would go that extra mile. Regardless of the extra $50 they were charging, this was the least they could have done, but didn’t and that was my point.
    Brian, in response to your comment, I do understand that brick-and-mortar retailers have more overhead and have to charge more. I just think $50 is exorbitant. And this wasn’t a small retailer. This was a major bookstore that is nationwide–a household name. However, in the interest of politics, I won’t mention who they are.

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 15, 2006
  4. I’m with you, Amy. Personally, I can’t stand big-box retailers of any kind. My mind simply shuts down as I am overwhelmed by the lights, the size, the inventory, the standees and ads. I don’t shop much online, either, though. Small, quiet stores for me, please! (These being harder and harder to find these days. When was the last time you went to a corner grocer? A small fruit market? A small bookshop?)

    Posted by: Biff Shankley | November 15, 2006
  5. In response to the comment by Brian, Amy’s main point was surrounding the customer service. It wasn’t top notch in this case. I also find it hard to sympathize with stores that are trying to differentiate from online retail by pointing out the customer service aspect, when in fact, that was the very reason they upset me. I am willing to pay extra for the person-to-person contact I get by walking into a store, but they better make sure its their number one goal or you can bet I am walking back out!

    Posted by: Kristen | November 15, 2006
  6. I miss the days of little boutiques and corner stores. When I am in a small store where people genuinely like their jobs and want to help the customer, I dont mind paying more money. I want to support places like that. However, when it comes to big chain retailers who’s only form of customer service is a price scanner or a kiosk set up down aisle 32, I usually just browse and then spend my money elsewhere.
    I agree that the mark-up of $50 was too high. Since there basically aren’t any other options for purchasing books besides online or the HUGE bookstore giants out there. I’ll take online anyday. You dont get good service at the big bookstores, the coffee shop is over priced in them, and there are never enought comfy chairs to sit in and I end up on the floor anyways.
    I also have to mention that there is always your local library. Mine is really modern and has a great selection. Plus I always get help and best of all, it’s free!

    Posted by: Sheri Kowalski | November 15, 2006
  7. I agree with Sheri (hey girl!) and Kristen–it IS all about the customer service. I also don’t mind paying a little extra if it means you get higher-quality service. But if you can’t even get that, I’m outta there!

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 15, 2006
  8. I’m all in with Biff. I prefer to patronize the “little guy” whenver I can. Like the shoe repair place in Ann Arbor on 4th Street, run the lady with the dog. That place RULES! I used to take shoes there to get fixed that I didn’t even care about, just to give her business. There is also an awesome family run vegetable market near me called Randazzo’s. I never shop for fruit and vegetables anywhere else!

    Posted by: Clayton | November 15, 2006
  9. I agree it’s good to give the business to “the little guy.” But for me, no matter what business I patronize, so long as I have a good experience, I’ll keep going back. And if I have an exceptional experience, I’ll be a loyal customer for life! Plus, I’ll sing praises to friends and family. There’s no marketing more powerful than word-of-mouth advertising!

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 15, 2006
  10. I think we will all agree that customer service is very important when it comes to where we spend our money. However, many people writing these comments already have formed opinions about these retailers before they go in there. Many times when this is done consumers look for any little thing to complain about just to validate their opinion. The whole premise of this story was that someone felt overcharged, but I think we as conumers have to take some responsibility over our actions. If I buy something and find it cheaper somewhere else, what more should I be asking but that the original store take it back without any problems and refund my money. I don’t see why one would expect a manager to get involved especially with such a huge price difference for the same product.

    Posted by: Torrez Greenwood | November 15, 2006
  11. Torrez, I disagree. I think the manager _should_ have gotten involved. If you don’t pay attention to what your customers are complaining about, you’ll never be able to improve your service. Now, whether or not they could have changed the price on the DVD I was buying is not the point. The point is that they should have at least TRIED to make me happy in order to retain my patronage. If it had, in fact, been a small retailer, you can bet they would have tried. One lost customer for a small retailer means a bigger profit loss than for a bigger company. Size aside, if you consistently don’t care to change what’s upsetting your customers, that’s more business (and profit) lost.

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 15, 2006
  12. Amy, are these two businesses related? You mention that it’s a “well-known” retailer… I’m assuming that you’re referring to the brick-n-mortar version of Amazon.com. If so, *absolutely* a $50 difference is too much!
    Let’s break this down: In the store, it’s $79.99. Online it’s $29.99. Less than half the price!! Yeah, they’re taking advantage of all those leather chairs.
    I guess it’s just the price of walking in that store???
    This is one that I *personally* would never choose to do again, but I certainly understand _why_ they do it. It just feels too much like taking advantage of that convenience.
    Could it be that the larger issue is how the employee handled your feedback? After all, it does come down to that personal interaction that you’re paying an additional $50 for!

    Posted by: Kerry Black | November 15, 2006
  13. Kerry, again, I can’t really say who the brick-and-mortar business is. And yes, the larger issue _is_ how the employee handled the situation (or rather how they didn’t handle it). I also think that $50 is too much to ask/charge for walking into the store.

    Posted by: Amy Prior | November 15, 2006

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Friday, January 19, 2018