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Online Shopping with Spotlight

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?

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I had something similar with SuperCheap Auto. I wanted to order a replacement hose for a pressure cleaner that was advertised, only to find the on line store and my local store were out of stock. I really wanted this hose, so I persevered in an ever-increasing footprint only to find that not one store within 100km had stock.

I periodically re-check, and now months later, the hose is still advertised, and still there is no stock.

As a gross generalisation, I think that Australian bricks and mortar retailers still do not take on-line purchasing seriously and hence do not connect it to stock and inverntory management systems. Then they complain that we are buying so much in from overseas.

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Yes, Bunnings is another example where online they will say that a particular product is in stock (inc. low stock), but when one gets their there is none. We have had this experience with buying a hedger where online our nearest store said it had them…but when arriving at the store, store personnel indicated that they couldn’t find the stock and it wasn’t the first time they had tried to find it. Had to get it shipped from another Bunning store and suffered the inconvenience of having to drive 80km round trip to specially pick it up.

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I have made about 6 on-line purchases with spotlight and have found them to punctual and in one case when I ordered a quantity of one product, they were supplied from WA, Wollongong, and Melbourne, all arriving less than a week apart.

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A postscript, on day 5 we received a shipping notice :slight_smile:

That reflects our fabric - the different lots came from ‘everywhere’ yet Spotlight only charges shipping once to their credit. Doing that must be a drag on their bottom line though, as it multiplies their own shipping costs but on balance might offset on warehousing.

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Ooh yes, BigWarehouse Spares in NSW. I think they are one of the crowd who make big sweeping claims on their website:

“We have stock”…in fact their fine print gives them 60 days to stuff you about
“Guaranteed dispatch” …what does that mean?
“Helping customers”…not me they didn’t

but I found them to be a stone wall of unresponsiveness, after they immediately took the money.

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Same with Coles/Woolies - when ordering online products may or may not be available at that point in time, and when the order is completed by the personal shopper, similarly the products may or may not be available at that point in time, all of which can be annoying. They do tend to substitute though which lessens the annoyance.

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For some items it may be acceptable. Substituting a different brand or size for an another would seem a sure fire way to upset the customer. Not all, products are equal, by quality, price, brand ownership, or country of origin.

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My wife’s nephew loved using Woollies online when they lived outside Cairns.

One reason was that if Woolies was out of stock of an ordered item, they would substitute it with the larger size, if available, at no extra cost.

I joked with him that I would go to the store first to check what items were out of stock and then order them all online.

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I ordered 3 different-sized curtains from Spotlight. All were the same type and colour for the one room. All were (apparently) in stock, and the order confirmed. Two days after making payment, an email was received, advising that one was out of stock, but 2 were still ready to be sent. I was to be charged only for the 2 (same standard postage amount).

I attempted to reply email, however it was a “no-reply” MailBox. I went on-line to find a number or any other email address. I could not find a single phone number for them, only an email addresses. I replied to the email within minutes and cancelled the order, advising that I no longer required any of the items as they were for the one room and needed to be the same. The next day, I received an email, advising that the order had been shipped. I again emailed, with a copy of my original email. I received a reply 8 days later, advising that as the goods had already been despatched, I could return them to any store for a refund (minus the shipping costs).

This was my first and is my last purchase from Spotlight. 9 days to reply to an email? Not including a telephone number on their web-site?

Oh, as for the shipping, they were shipped to the nearest Australia Post warehouse a few suburbs away for me to collect. The nearest Spotlight store was closer.

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Was there any contact information in the emails from Spotlight?

Is there an online chat when logged in to Spotlight?

I also agree that one needs all curtains from the same manufacturing batch as material can vary slightly between batches.

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The only contact information was clicking on a “contact us” button, which took me a dialogue box to enter my enquiry, from which I received a “Thanks for your enquiry” email from a proper email address, but no phone number in the email.

There was no on-line chat.

It’s so disappointing as I am a VERY loyal customer when I receive good service.

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I’ll confirm @Fantana’s experience is how it is. There is no contact information on their web site beyond the email form, and on receipts just an email address and an address in South Melbourne, for online sales.

Using store search, one might try (03) 9682 0866 that is a Spotlight store at the same address as that listed on an online purchase receipt. Although the online receipt shows level 6 it might be the same space.

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