No Excuses for Expired POS Sale Signage

Stein Mart has ranked high on shopper’s “favorite”  lists for years. Personally, I think it’s a better men’s store than women’s, which is why my husband and I typically shop there for him. (always together; alas, he is color-blind)

Recently, we were on a golf mission trip, starting at Dicks. Despite the BOGO sale on shirts, we left with only a desire to check out the more stylish shirt selection at Stein Mart.

The golf section was alive with prominent, but expired Sale signage, with extra 20% off coupons laid out on nicely stacked tables of new merchandise. Twenty minutes later we’re at the checkout line, only to be told the sale was over, and that the tiny print on the coupon said the 20% didn’t apply to the “fabulous finds” shirt we selected from the table with coupons placed directly next the shirt.

The register clerk said they hadn’t had time to remove all the POS. Nor had they posted any coupon-exempt “fabulous finds” signs on the golf shirts. But, clearly they had taken time to refold and re-stack all the table displays, given how neat the department was.

Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!
Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!

Is refusal to honor posted deals the first sin of retail?  Misleading the customer and not honoring all posted offer is, IMHO, the number one mistake in customer experience.  And the “we’re too busy or short-staffed” chatter at the register about outdated POS is not an acceptable excuse.

We bought the merchandise and promptly asked to see the store manager. I introduced myself and asked her to walk through my shopping experience with me, pointing out the mis-cues and lack of pertinent information I might have used to figure out that I’d be paying full price. I positioned myself as the giver of “free expert advice” on how to eliminate a misleading experience for her shoppers.  When she too gave me the short-staffed excuse, I pressed for a reason she was in the back room (unpacking new merchandise) instead of removing old the POS herself.

She wanted me to leave the store happy, and insisted  on giving us a refund of $16.00 ( 20% off). I let her know that what would make me happy enough to come back was for her to take immediate action to remove the misleading and outdated signage. I’d have gladly donated the $16.00 to cover her time.

The big mess at Macy’s shakes my faith.

Shopping is a visceral and emotional experience, fulfilling deep-set gathering and social needs. So returning a gift and choosing another should be at least somewhat satisfying, right?

Not so much. Last week at a big Macy’s store at upscale Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan, my deep-seated sense of the pleasure from the art of shopping in real life got a big fat negative jolt. Now I realize things get busy and therefore messy in retail at the holidays, but never have I seen store departments look like they looked on this trip.

My friend and I browsed the crowded store on December 29th.  In coats, one entire wall of jackets was blocked by hundreds of returned coats piled on the floor. I asked why, was told “no room in the back” to put them. Really? The pile was up to my knees.  My visceral nerves were on edge already.

Then we cruised quickly through kids apparel, and although we are both grandmothers, we quickly decided the crowds and very messy fixtures were a huge deterrent to the joy we might have in finding something adorable for our precious ones.  This decision prompted an emotional response of resentment of the mess, since I’ve loved shopping baby clothes bargains for 16 months now. When pleasure shopping is spoiled, resentment will linger on.

The most appalling mess was in pajamas and intimates,  The piles of returns on the floors were bad enough, but the associates were engulfed by merchandise strewn all over the counters. Other fixtures laden with new inventory looked as if the department had been recently ransacked. By now, I was really on edge, but was stuck in a long line as my friend was buying something.

Macys3 Macys Messmacys2

 

I know retailers have procedures and processes for managing the future status of returned merchandise, and this does take time, but never in my shopping life have I seen this kind of poor handling of returned merchandise. Or should I say mishandling of the shopper. I felt that I didn’t want to touch one thing in this department. These images will be seen by my mind’s eye for a long time, and while it will be a while before I visit another Macy’s, one thing I did learn is this:

If you don’t know what your loved one really wants for Christmas, go with a gift card. Then perhaps post-holiday shopping can return to a bit less chaos.

Falling out of like with online shopping

DEAR OVERSTOCK.COM

Two weeks ago, I ordered an outdoor rug for my back deck from you.  I was so pleased to find the selection you offerred, and did a bit of exploring on your site to determine the size and style I wanted. I love that my chosen rug was a good price, the shipping date was very reasonable, and in less than three days the rug was on the deck, under the new table. Imagine how happy I was to have my neighbors over for dinner, collecting compliments on my style of outdoor entertaining.

So, why oh why, Overstock, do you continue to show up in my Facebook feed as a sponsored post with views and ads of all the other rugs I looked at but did not order???

Come on now, you know I bought one of the 5 styles I was looking at. Why do you now haunt (read as annoy) me with the other 4?

This the is most shopper-annoying part of technology.

It makes me want to delete my Overstock.com account. Instead of helping me, you are interrupting my life while I am trying to enjoy what I bought from you already.

WHEN WILL YOU LISTEN??

I;m falling out of like with you.

 

A Tramp Stamp on the Tomato!

I can’t wait to see if there will be a “tramp stamp” on my store-bought tomatoes one day soon. Change is coming to the produce industry.  Tattoos may soon replace those annoying but helpful little stickers you find on most fruits and veggies. 

There’s a secret trick to deciphering number codes on produce stickers – those leading with the number 9 are organic food, and those that lead with 4 are just plain food, grown however the farmer chooses.  Remember this: nine is fine and four is a bore.

I wonder if the tattoos will be tiny and hard to see like the stickers are now or big and artistic like a full sleeve? I wonder if shoppers will find the tattoos offensive or perceive them to be dangerous to eat?

This trend is beginning in Europe. Can you guess which U. S. retailer will lead the way with tattooed produce? Flip a coin on Whole Foods or Walmart. Sustainability is key to them both, and that’s what’s behind the tattoo movement.

I like the idea of tattoos on produce. I look forward to the day that I will no longer have to stick the labels from the veggies all over my hand when I’m prepping the organic goodies for the juicer.

 

The Full Sleeve

 

 

Publix rethinks the ubiquitous Retail Endcap

Yes, it’s true. I took a dozen in-store pictures in a grocery store while on vacation. But, it’s rare for @ShopperAnnie to get a chance to shop in a brand spanking new major grocery store. Overall, I’d rate this newly constructed Publix store a ten!

What impressed me the most? The front of store endcaps, which were clearly designed with plenty of shopper logic. If you’re in the shopper business, you might remember that traditionally, grocers want to draw shoppers to the back endcaps, to get them down more aisles.

Shoppers, however, want easy and fast access to the items they want most often, seeking to shorten the time they spend in the store, especially as trips change to more quick-trips and less time-consuming stock-up trips.

The best example of new thinking in endcap display is shown below  in what I’ll call the breakfast bar. Note the cooler with an areas for eggs, yogurt, meats and juice. Starbucks gets a great spot on the upper right and Qia – a new gluten-free superfood cereal from Nature’s Path is featured on the left.

Breakfast_Publix_April2013

Near the end of our trip, a co-traveler went to the Publix store at 7am to get a newspaper,  saw the butcher stocking a rolling  refrigerated case set at the front door with fresh cut pork chops surrounded by fresh broccoli and seasonal fruit. Over breakfast at the condo, he made the suggestion that we stop by Publix later to pick up that fresh pork for dinner. When we arrived at 4:00PM, the meat was being restocked and we were told the fresh chops had been cut only minutes before we arrived.

A Penny Less is Not Less

Really? Come on Walmart algorithms.

I’m not one to bash retailers that compete with Amazon. I say this because it’s really about experience, not price.  But retailers believe that for most shoppers,  it’s about price, so being a shopper marketing consultant, I play the game.

That said, I’ve installed this app called Invisible Hand, which tells me, when I’m browsing online, where I can find what I’m looking at cheaper. Note the yellow bar at the top of the “screen capture” below.

 

png_ Price compare

 

This morning I get an e-mail from Barnes & Noble about new books. I’m looking at Bobby Deen’s just-released today cookbook. He’s taken his Mams Paula Deen’s recipes and slashed the fat and calories, but not the flavor.

I jump over to Amazon (without clicking on B&N site, sorry) and check out the Kindle version, then the paperback version. Then the yellow bar pops up and tells me I can get this book for $0.01 cheaper at Walmart.com.

As I said, I’n not a retail basher at heart. I truly believe that some algorithm somewhere in cyberland did this to me today.

I want to declare to the technology bot that “A Penny Less is NOT Less.” If the bot tells its human programmer, that’s good. but it probably won’t, because it’s probably not listening to the human reaction I had.

With that behind me, I can now experience the experience Amazon has perfected, the one-click order button. I’ll be testing recipes on Thursday.

The Grabbing Power of Visual Icons

During a recent visit to Target in search of new earbuds to replace a pair that got stepped on, I found myself standing at the electronics counter making a purchase. While I am in fact a shopper that notices many things, clutter around a retail counter rarely gets any attention. Mainly I think its annoying and in the way.

But, in the midst of paying, SOMETHING ICONIC caught my eye. It was on a typical rack of gift cards –  a sea of clutter that’s hard to read and impossible to shop, in my humble opinion.

But these babies jumped out at me big time. Why?

These icons spell “pleasure” to the brain!!

 

Because my brain is patterned to recognize the two images as associated with pleasure. So, while out of context in a store versus on a screen, they break through the clutter and get noticed.

Nice work, Apple.  I almost gifted myself on the spot. Almost.

Peeking into Retail Windows

What ever happened to retail windows that could cause a shopper to pause and ponder?

These windows did just that.

Thank you, Louis Vuitton, for your design point of view – worth taking a moment to appreciate. Amidst the crowd on King St. in Charleston, you managed to not only bemuse, but also to reflect the scene on the street itself.

 

Louis Vuitton retail window – Charleston, SC

 

We Dig the Pig

We travel to the Carolina’s three or four times a year, have been doing so for years. Our relationship with the Pig, (a.k.a. Piggly Wiggly grocery chain) began on Hilton Head Island.

We got the loyalty card the first year we all (7 family families) took the kids down for Easter break. When you have to feed 26 kids and 16 adults for a week, you get the card…and buy the shirts.  Believe me, when one cousin comes home from a trip to the grocery with this shirt on, the other 25 start begging……

P. S. – the same thing happens at The Salty Dog restaurant on Sea Pines Plantation. Sigh.

But times have changed and now my kids are all grown up. This week, we’re all at the beach again, this time it’s Folly Beach,  just south of Charleston, SC.

The ubiquitous “I Dig the Pig” shirts are still at the entrance of the store. But the world has changed, my kids have “been there, done that, got the shirt” and even the grocer itself lives in a post-modern world.

The good news…the Pig still has a sense of whimsy!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Retail Fitness? Off the scale……

My son, 23, can not afford a fancy gym membership, but he does pay for a basic workout membership at a local franchised Planet Fitness.

In the club, there’s a separate area with tanning beds, massage tables… you know…the spa side. It’s usually not very busy.

So, when he inquired about the option for a per-use visit fee, seeking to book a massage, he was told that basic members cannot buy services in the mostly empty spa side on a one-off basis.

Why?

“Because it’s too confusing for the employees.”

You tell me why “retail” is so unfit today!