With complaints about Kogan and a few others playing with ‘managed RRPs’ (to be kind) the following experience reveals more about what can lie behind our façade of e-commerce.
When shopping online, especially from companies with bricks and mortar presence that are ‘known businesses’, it is reasonable to expect products shown as ‘in stock’ are in stock, and that the shopping cart system is connected to a minimally competent inventory system.
Purchases can be made from the online store for delivery or for click and collect at a designated collection store. Inventory at the latter is reasonably subject to moment by moment inventory of the chosen collection store until the order is actually picked, usually an hour or two.
Back to the online store for delivery, most of us might expect that is a store in its own rights with inventory in one or more warehouses or locations, all connected to a competent inventory system. While the inventory system might fail from time to time it should usually not fail by more than a few customers, and accepting computer inventory numbers are not always 100% correct at the best of times.
That being written Spotlight’s e-commerce system melds the worst of the two concepts to deliver an unsatisfying customer experience. Their online sales for delivery are apparently drawn from and shipped by individual stores across the country so the inventory is subject to local sales prior to being fulfilled, just as with click and collect, excepting the hours to pick products can be days. The inventory system is loosely coupled at best and just probable/advisory at its norm.
To wit, an order for a sewing machine (on sale) and 5 lots of materials, all shown as in-stock on the day ordered, as low stock on the next, and out of stock on the next, had one lot of material shipping to Melbourne from NW WA and 4 from another store. It appears no sewing machine will be forthcoming because it went out of stock prior to being picked. Second guessing, walk in sales get product in hand, that affect click and collect sales, that affect online for delivery sales. Spotlight’s policy is if there is no stock for 5 days they cancel and refund orders, no rain checks or offers of a back order applies even if they know there is incoming stock in another few days.
Inventory problems happen; having a policy of automatically cancelling and refunding rather than offering a backorder shows a level of disrespect for their customers that will probably remain captive loyal as there are few competitors.
Previously they featured a particular yarn in their recent catalogue whereby we knew authoritatively there was no stock in Australia for the preceding 2 months, with the next shipment due 2 months hence at the time, yet it was a 50% off sale item in their catalogue with ‘no stock’; the phone staff did not see a problem.
Have others had similar experiences from other online merchants?