Saturday, July 18, 2015

The mountains win again...

No, not the mountains Blues Traveler sang about, but a different mountain.

Proving that once again, our  (a general "our") society has to use the world wide web as their means of purchasing, I went to Amazon this morning to order some LPs. What a difference an online business can do!

(This is going to become quite the comparison study at the end of this post!... AKA "Always do your research, and don't let my findings slow you down".)

I had originally gone into a local bookseller (Barnes & Noble) to pick up the David Bowie Nothing has changed LP. Yes, I still listen to vinyl records. Not lately though, but it is nice to be able to say "I have that and can play it for you" to someone. It just sucks that there's no "proper" record store / general music store anymore. Goes to show you how things are progressing...

What's my point?

Barnes and Noble is retailing the album for $39.99. With Florida state tax, that leads to $42.39. Trust me, I stupidly bought it this morning. Amazon, however, is currently retailing it for $24.99...

Outside of looking for something that's an additional $10.01 to get free shipping (from Amazon [which I did]), the price difference is amazing. The difference is a full $15 more at the green and white store. Even on the B&N website, the album is listing at $35.14 (a 5% price reduction from its $36.99 original price); and it slays me because the store I went to, added to that cost by selling it for $4.85 more. Don't bother asking for the online price, as I've been researching this all day. The physical B&N store has nothing to do with their online store. Two separate entities sharing the same name. One of the reasons is because the warehouse has less overhead (I must note that this is becoming a commonly threaded answer from a lot of physical stores. Trust me, I have had it happen in other places).

So what?

Based on my interaction with the sales associate at B&N this morning, as well as research through out the day, the store website has nothing to do with the physical store's sales.

Proof in point: I had originally went into the bookseller to purchase 'hours...' and they didn't have it in stock. I could have done one of two things at this point. A) Order it through the guy at the counter, pay the thirty something dollars and have it shipped to my house for free, or (B), go online and pay a little more than five dollars less and end up having to pay shipping and have it mailed to me (according to his screen).

At first glance as I write this, the retailer's website does not list the album; only the American "Collector's Edition" CD and the Japanese import CD is listed. Although, upon clicking the option for the American CD, I happened to find the Dutch Import listing for the vinyl. It's selling for $37.04 qualifying me for free shipping. This is not what I was told in the store.

On the other hand, Amazon has it for $2.05 less, but doesn't say what country it's importing from.

The same premise goes for my second question to the sales person: Heathen is dropping next month to wax. Not only is it the first time as an LP, it's a "Limited Edition" as well. The sales person gave me the same situation. Pay the thirty something dollars for pre-order now, have free ship to home processing, or go online and pay less but have to pay shipping.

I don't know what the difference is between the sites, but the B&N is already listing it for $38.94 (a 5% reduction from $40.99) versus Amazon retailing it at $29.99. Again, quite the noticeable difference in price! The noted exception is the $29.99 one is being touted as "180 Gram Audiophile Blue Vinyl / Tri-fold Cover / Limited Edition". The more expensive one doesn't mention any of that.

One of the other options (maybe the third?) that was suggested, was to invest $25 into their rewards program. The membership would help me make my mind up even more, as I seriously debated paying so much extra money for what seemed like a simple purchase. I was having issues trying to justify paying so much money in store, when the online sites are a between 5 and 20 dollars cheaper. It seems that every time I get the "you should sign up" lecture, I feel compelled to explain why I'm not a member. It boils down to me not going into the store enough to warrant the (yearly) expense. One would have to spend (roughly) $250 for the year, to make up for the original 25 dollar loss. I'm lucky if I can get over to the store twice a year; I sure as hell am not spending $125 each time I'm there (today's [mis]adventure aside). The response the guy told me was "it's not always in the form of 10% off books. We also offer frequent coupons for other items, and you can use it in our cafe. Most of our customers use it more during the holidays". That's good to know, however, it's still not going to get me into the store more. I told him that I don't shop a lot during the holidays for family, and I definitely don't shop at this store when I do. He kept nodding his head and saying he understood, so the conversation was dropped.

I ended up paying the $42.39 and went home, to find the other two albums I wanted on Amazon, plus another album. Not only did I have some gift card balance that I had forgotten about, I ended up returning Nothing to B&N as I added the $24.99 one to my online order. 15 dollars spent can also be 15 dollars saved!

I know there are stores upon stores and sites upon sites where you can find items at a "better bargain" because everyone is always "looking for a deal". However, price does matter and money does talk. When you go into a store and tell the cashier that their own store's website has the product for less, wouldn't you think the store would want to offer that? Sure, they can't do that all the time, but savvy enough customers that mention it, might be that lucky. Stores would want to retain a loyal customer base, right?

I actually ran into a similar situation with Kmart. I had been searching for sewing machines and found a reasonably priced on on the blue light's webpage. Because the store is a five minute drive from me, I decided to take a ride over. It didn't hurt to go in, or so I thought. When I found the machine I was looking for, the sticker price was close to ten dollars more. When I brought the machine up to customer service and told them the situation, they said their hands were tied, as they have no control over the online selling and offering it in store. "It comes from corporate", I was told. One would think that "Corporate" would allow the use of their website retail pricing to be okay'd in the physical retail store. It wasn't like I was going to another giant and wanting a price match. I was staying within the company. But no, I had two choices: buy the marked up machine in store, or go online and pay the reduced price. The saving grace of all of this was the customer service person went to the site for me on their terminal. I was able to order the product for the online price plus get free shipping and have it sent to my house. Why not offer that in the beginning? Same thing happened in Staples, but it was mainly because they didn't offer a certain brand of DVD-Rs in the store, but did on their site. Although these are just two examples of "good" service, odds are going to be that you run into the "our hands are tied, nothing we can do" situation more often then not.

I guess, that in conclusion, it pays to do research. I did look at a third bookseller's price listing for the same albums, but I didn't make the attempt to contact them, as I knew the gas/mileage would outweigh the fact that they wouldn't have the albums in stock anyway (last time I checked their site for something completely different, they ended up not having it in the store, so). I'd have to order online anyway.