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Buyers and Sellers - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Buyers and Sellers

That's what retail is all about, right? Bringing them together and meeting demand with supply- as quickly, conveniently and inexpensively as possible.  Today's tale is of two retailers who couldn't get more opposite to each other without the one coming round the back and bumping the other in the ass.

This morning brought Week Two of computer flyers in our Sunday paper, with the focus having shifted from tablets to a variety of smaller actual Windows-based laptops in the same price range.  Two stood out: an HP with touchscreen capability, a bit pricier; and a Toshiba without touchscreen, about $60 less. Eleanor suggested I try a different outlet of this chain this time than the one we both went to last week; she'd checked there originally, and found Rachel to be a better (and less belchy) salesperson than the dudes at the other one we'd gone to together.  So I did- and she did everything she could to send me home with what I wanted.

"Everything she could," unfortunately, did not bring either into this house- nor did it get an in-between HP model she also showed me. The Toshiba was in stock to sell, but they had no display to show me. The advertised HP had a display model, but none in stock she could sell. The in-betweener? Like the Toshiba- she could sell it but, initially, couldn't show it. (Her boss finally agreed to let her open one for me to try out, but by then I'd decided the $20 difference in price wasn't enough to cover the half-as-much memory, the much smaller hard drive or the lack of a VGA port.)

Just as bad? When it came to demoing the display model she did have, everything was painfully slow- because, she frankly admitted, the wifi in their stores "sucks."  This is the kind of bean-counting detail that gives me gigglefits: if you're selling products based on their online capabilities, why limit their apparent range by cheaping out on providing their ability to strut their stuff online just because a decent set of routers would be expensive?

In the end, I elected the higher-end HP, which was in stock at another of their stores barely a mile away, but I opted to wait the two days to buy it (and a protection plan) from her rather than a possibly belchy dude someplace else. Because unlike her employer, I pay attention to the significance of decisions affecting sales.


Then there's Wegmans, which is making the buyer-seller marriage so efficient you never even have to meet your spouse in person:

With click-and-collect, consumers make a digital grocery list, choosing what they want on a website or on their phones via a smartphone app, then drive to the grocery store and pick it all up at the curb.

....Wegmans is testing the service, which has a $10 flat fee, at its Pittsford store,....[T]here is an art and science to pulling it off. Wegmans tried a similar program in 2002 that it just couldn’t get off the ground.

This time around, aided by advances in technology, Wegmans has been more successful. It started with a pilot program limited to a test group of customers, and has now expanded to include all its Pittsford store customers.

Wegmans started in the fall with three “personal shoppers” trained to pick and pack customers’ online grocery orders and will soon have 20 people who can do the job.

“We’re adding people every day. We’re really ramping up very quickly,” said Heather Pawlowski, a vice president at Wegmans in charge of the program. “So far we’ve heard great feedback.”

At the Pittsford store, Wegmans has replaced its defunct video rental area with a bank of coolers and freezers, where orders are stored until customers arrive. Customers use the same grocery list generator available now on Wegmans.com and the Wegmans app, but when they’re done clicking the items they want, they submit it to the store with the date and time (at least four hours in advance) they want to pick everything up.

The "Pittsford store," in suburban Rochester, is the flagship of the chain, known to workers at their other locations as "the mother ship." It is the usual proving ground for most of their innovations- from a full-service adjacent restaurant to an in-the-plaza W-branded liquor store (the only one a Wegman can legally own in New York State), and it's not coincidental that Trader Joes chose the same plaza for its first Western New York location.

Not everything works despite the W-touch, and Danny and family do not hesitate to pull the plug on innovations that fail.  When IAMS and similar pet food brands refused to sell to grocery stores, the chain put separate-entranced W-PET "stores" into many of their locations; the concept died in barely a year.  In-store dry-cleaning was another Really Good Idea On Paper that didn't translate into effective use of the space and staff committed to it. That "defunct video area" is another vestige of the 80s and 90s now gone from every one of their locations, as they now sell little else than some clearance items and a few impulse-purchase new releases at the registers.  So there's generally room to try out new ideas; when Eleanor's store gets this, I'm pretty sure I know where the coolers and freezers will go, in the Formerly Known as W-PET alcove on the other side of Register 1.

As for the merits of the service itself? Both Eleanor, and the cashier I drew at one of their other stores today, seemed to agree that this "service" is pretty much something that the likely users of it are expecting company employees to do for them already, and for free. If it cuts down on the amount of time they have to spend actually interacting with their snootiness, so much the better for everybody.

And the integration with the app will solve my biggest problem with the other end of retail today- since, by definition, they will only allow customers to order, pick up and pay for merchandise that the store actually has in stock.

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