Sunday, November 27, 2016

Too Bad, Toys R Us

I get that the competition is fierce out there in Black Friday world. I really do; I run an e-commerce site as part of my job and make decisions about policies, promotions, and discounts on a daily basis. But one thing that I focus on both personally and professionally is customer experience, and Toys R Us just gave me a bad one.

Baby Bear's birthday is coming up, as is Christmas (in case you hadn't noticed?) so my mother-in-law and I went to Toys R Us to pick up some presents today. I checked the Toys R Us website before we headed out to make sure that the specific item I wanted was in stock there, and happily noticed that it was both in stock and on sale. I checked the website's price match policy to make sure that the online price would be honored in store, and saw that it was. We got there, picked up what I wanted as well as a cart full of other presents, and headed to the checkout.

At the register, the cashier confirmed that the store would match the listed price on their website. And he was able to do so for the first item he rang up. But the second item, the one I'd come for, he couldn't make the computer match it. So he called over a manager, who said that Toys R Us would not be price matching their own website this weekend, due to all the Black Friday sales. He said there was a sign near the front of the store that said so (which I never did see, though I looked for it when we left). I showed him the price matching policy on the Toys R Us website, which had no such disclaimer on it, but he shrugged and said there was nothing he could do.

Obviously, front-line retail employees have no ability to influence the corporate decisions that are made regarding things like this, and often no ability to force the computer to make an exception to a dumb rule that's been handed down. But come on, Toys R Us. It is not that difficult to update a page on your website when you make a major policy change like that, even when it's temporary. It's reasonable to expect that customers will look at your policy online while they are shopping in the store, rather than for a notice tacked to a random bulletin board near the door. Frankly, I think the policy change is a stupid one overall - if your P&L for a promotion only works if you force weird restrictions on it, plan a different promotion. The extra stupid thing is that if I had ordered and paid online but requested in-store pickup, the price would have been honored but the employees would have had to do even more work than if I went and got stuff off the shelves myself.

I kind of wish I'd thought of this option and bought the items through the website while I was standing at the cash register, but in the end we made a decision I feel even better about - I canceled the entire transaction and I bought the item I wanted from a different retailer. I don't do business with companies that create policies and promotions that don't have the customer experience first and foremost. The short-sighted decisions to temporarily invalidate the price matching policy AND to not appropriately notify customers of it wound up costing Toys R Us way more than the sale price of the item I was looking for - they lost today's entire sale and any future sales they might have made to me. Next time I need to buy a kids' present, guess where I won't be going?

And as a bonus to this story, when we got home and related this story to my siblings-in-law, we had a great discussion about consumerism in general and decided to scale back our overall gifting within the family. Now the little kids will get presents from Grandma and Grandpa (and Santa) but not aunts and uncles, which means that I don't even need to do any more shopping to replace the cart full of stuff that I didn't buy today. So...I won't even miss you, Toys R Us!

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