Featured, Management, Strategy

On Common Sense

common senseRecently, my wife wanted to buy an item for her photography studio.  This particular item is something that you’d never think belonged in a studio…but photographers are creative people and they find many uses for all sorts of things.

This item is a cat scratcher that looks similar to the item in the photo below. We don’t own cats so it didn’t make a lot of sense to me to need to purchase this device but after she showed me how this scratcher is turned into ‘prop’ for newborn photography, I was amazed.

Basically, what a photographer can do is take this scratcher and wrap it in twine or rope and then use it to place a baby in…the resulting photography is quite good (an example here).786306494353CS1

Who would have thought of buying a cat scratcher to make a prop? Like I said…photographers are creative people.

My wife wanted to buy one and started looking around the web to find them.  They seemed to average about $20 to $25 on various online sites but Wal-Mart had one listed on their website for $14.99.   We aren’t fans of Wal-Mart but saving money on business props is a necessary consideration.

We decided to run down to Wal-Mart to take a look at them and pick one up if it looked OK.  We went to Wal-Mart, found the pet section and noticed the scratch was $19.99 in-store. We confirmed the exact item was $14.99 online and were a bit perplexed but the price difference. My assumption was that the local store just hadn’t changed the price of the in-store item.

We grabbed the item and make our way to the customer service desk to inquire about the price difference.

Here’s where the “common sense” (or lack thereof) comes into play.

The customer service rep’s answer was “it is $19.99 in store…if you want the $14.99 price, you can order it on-line and have it delivered or pick it up in-store”.   When I heard that, I cringed at the backwards thinking that was at work.

What kind of company institutes a policy that provides lower prices online and then when a customer wants to purchase that item in their store, won’t match the online price? They’ll price match competitors prices…why not their own price?

Now, if it were up to me, I would have bought it from another store. In fact, I would have done so right then and there while standing in front of the Wal-Mart associate….but it wasn’t up to me.  My wife stood there and ordered the item from Wal-Mart’s online store and selected “pick up in store”, which is a free service offered by Wal-Mart.   We left the store and the following day she received an email that the item was ‘ready for pick up”.

Now…common sense would tell me (and hopefully you), that the right thing to do would have been to sell that item for the online price right then and there without issue. But no…that’s not what happened. Instead, Wal-Mart incurred some additional costs to take the online order, route it to the right store and have someone in that store go pick an item, bring it to the ‘in store pick up’ location and prepare the item for pick-up.

Does that make sense to do?  Why incur additional costs, however small they may be, when the buyer was in-store ready to buy?  It would have taken a few seconds for the associate to ring us up at the internet price and send us on our way with no incremental costs to Wal-Mart. Yet another reason to not shop at Wal-Mart.

Common sense..apparently isn’t that common.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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