Warning, this is just me whinging about something fairly insignificant — but then what else is on the internet?
I have a bit of a handicap which makes it hard for me to shop at a brick and mortar store. Luckily this is not so much a problem in the internet age as it would have been at any other point in human existence and I was pleased to see that Sams Club offered a laptop which I wanted to purchase for my wife for Christmas. Great!
I have never done the Black Friday thing before, but I figured I would give it a try and I dutifully opened the product page and refreshed it until the sale went live and immediately put the item in my cart once it became available. I then went directly through the checkout process only to find that the item was marked as sold out by the time I was done entering the credit card info. OK, this is annoying, and of course entirely unnecessary when you can code things so that an out of stock item can’t be put in a cart. Sure, you don’t have to let people sit on a purchase forever, but you can be reasonable about it when they are on the checkout pages. And certainly no one would do business with a non-internet store which would allow them to put something in their cart and then take it out when they try to check out, but this is an annoyance we have all experienced at one time or another I guess. It is one of the few ways internet shopping is inferior to the real thing.
So I wrote a review for the product which mainly focused on the checkout experience. They of course took it down in a couple of minutes so I know they read it almost immediately. All of that is fine since some sites only want product reviews and not reviews of the whole purchasing (or non-purchasing) experience. That is completely fair, and at least I accomplished my purpose in having someone read it.
Then a few minutes later I received an e-mail containing links to three colors of the very product I had wanted to buy. “Great,” I thought to myself. They are really on the ball and went the extra mile to help me out. But of course when I clicked on the links the item was still sold out. Either someone sent that e-mail specifically to me as a troll job, or it was part of a blast to everyone who had been interested in that product — and it was still a troll job because by that time there was no product for them to buy. Either way it made for a poor customer experience so I am telling on them in a public forum where they can’t take it down.
It is all small potatoes, but being the son of a man who ran a business for 50 years, and having run my own for 20 years I can say that when a customer has this sort of experience they will remember it and it will far outweigh that of the (very) few people who actually got a few bucks off on the product. You don’t rub people’s noses in your own failures and draw attention to them like that. You can’t always give the level of service you would want, but you can damn well not taunt your customers over it. At least you can if everything isn’t run by algorithms and your employees aren’t assholes.
I would say this product was a loss leader for them, but I don’t know how that would work on the internet since you aren’t really getting people in your store.