The annoyance of ‘out of stock’ (Best Buy, Future Shop, Staples)

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As technologists, we love getting our hands on new gadgets and equipment. While we all know the advantages of shopping online, there’s still something to be said about being able to go into a brick & mortar store and walking out with something new and exciting. Except, well, when the store is ‘out of stock’.

As you know, my business provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Generally, I’m ordering technology online. Whether it be wireless access points, desktops or laptops, I normally head to the internet to place my orders. There are numerous reasons for this, primarily cost, but also selection. I live in a smaller city in a more remote area, so we simply don’t have the amount of selection as a bigger metropolitan area. None the less, we do have big box retail stores and we can buy a lot of things locally, if need be. The whole point of a brick & mortar store is to be able to purchase ‘right now’, on the spot.

So you can imagine how frustrating it can be to ask a sales person to grab something for you, only to be told “ummmm, well, we’re out of stock on that one actually”. This happens all the damn time. Staples and Best Buy are the biggest culprits. I obviously have bad luck with printers and monitors, because every single time I go into Staples looking for either of those, they never have any of the ones I want. In all seriousness, no joking, last week when I went to pick up a monitor for a client, I tried to buy FOUR different models. Each one I tried to buy had a demo on the sales shelf running, with a price tag underneath it. Each time I said “OK, I’ll take that one”, the sales person went to go check stock and came back to tell me the bad news. Am I the only one that wonders why, if something isn’t in stock, they don’t put a sign up that says “temporarily out of stock” ? Or pull the demo off the sales shelf until new stock comes in ? I got so frustrated that I finally asked why they don’t do any of those things (you know, the things that might be considered customer-friendly), and I was told that corporate policy is not to remove anything off the sales floor, whether it’s in stock or not. I was however given an offer to order the item and it would show up at the store within 10 to 14 business days.

This is why brick & mortar stores are dying out. The only real reason these physical stores are still around is because of impulsive buying and face to face customer service. Being able to buy something RIGHT NOW and have it in your hands minutes later. Being able to deal with a real physical person if there’s an issue. If I can’t buy a stupid computer monitor without having to wait 10 to 14 business days, then why wouldn’t I just shop online ? B&H, NCIX, Memory Express, all of these are awesome online vendors that I do a lot of business with. I just get increasingly frustrated with brick & mortar stores that never seem to have anything I need in stock. It’s no wonder e-commerce keeps growing year after year.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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  1. Randy Stalding July 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    The problem you are describing is common to many types of businesses.

    I owned a retail hobby shop for about 18 years. When we first opened the business we carried radio controlled airplanes and cars. The complete R/C airplane starter package would set you back about $650 and the R/C car about $350. The margin on these products was about 10%. Lets’ say that you bought one of each for a total of $1,000. My profit would be about $100. I I were to sell another customer about $200 worth of rockets and engines, I would make about $100. At this point I have $200 in my hand and I want to reinvest this in more products to sell. Which products do you think should I buy? Well, the $200 is not enough to buy any R/C products, but I could buy Rockets that I could sell for about $400.

    Computers an related electronics have margins more closely related to the R/C products in the example. The profits are in the ink cartridges and other small products. Now, online sales do not have the costs associated with brick & mortar stores, so they do well with the lower margins. They make their profits from volume sales. Brick & mortar stores have limited sales volumes, no mater how much of the low margin products are on their shelves. They need to focus on low volume high margin products in order to pay the bills. That’s just business.

  2. Martin Lehner July 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Yep, I understand the cost of inventory and carrying it, I used to manage a cellular retail store. None the less, the statement that “that’s just business” is true, if you look at brick & mortar of the past. In today’s day and age, brick & mortar needs to compete with internet retail, and the bottom line is, a little customer service would go a long way. Put a sign up that says you’re out of something, or that it’s ‘by order only’. This is more the frustration that I, and others, are experiencing, not necessarily just the fact that the items aren’t in stock.

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