Babies R Us shadey pricing practices between online and in-store
This past August, Heather and I decided we wanted to get a play yard fence to use to wrap around the TV and upstairs in the office to keep Melanie from accessing particular parts of the rooms. We decided on the Superyard XT. The price was $59.99. This was perfect because it was also that price at Amazon.com. Amazon.com has free shipping, so even though the local Babies R Us is cheaper, it would mean that I would still be paying tax on the item at the store, making my purchase somewhere near $67, but I don’t mind paying the sales tax as long as my purchases support the local economy. While at Babies r Us’ website I used the “Find it In Stores” option and found that the item was in stock at my local Babies R Us store. I did see the note at the top of the page “Pricing, promotions and styles may differ between online and store locations”, but I assumed that the note was there for Babies R Us locations in places such as Alaska or Hawaii where pricing is commonly slightly higher.
So that afternoon, Thursday, August 27, 2009 I packed Melanie in her baby car seat and headed over to the Babies R Us on Sawmill Road. When I got there, I grabbed one of the many Superyard XT they had in stock, grabbed a few other things that caught my attention, then checked out. That’s where Babies R Us started to fail in the customer service. First the cashier gave me a hard time off the bat that online pricing is never the price in the store. So I put the one item aside and just paid for the other items. I then proceeded to load up my iPhone to see if I could just purchase the item online then pick it up at the store. (You could do this in the early months Wal-Mart started their site-to-store feature, though now they are pretty strict with you waiting a few days before picking the item up) While I was on my phone the cashier had her manager visit me at the front of the store. The manager was very persistent, unwilling to just drop the price from $69.99 to $59.99. I even told her that I had a coupon for 15% off a purchase that expired yesterday and I have another 15% coupon that started tomorrow (see picture below). Her option was for her to put the item aside for me so I could come back tomorrow to use the coupon. Nice option, make me wait 16 hours to sell me the item cheaper. Smart, it gets me in the store again, increasing the chance that I buying more side isle items.
The manager at Babies R Us used Kohls as an example of a store that has lower online pricing that in-store pricing. I know Wal-mart does this, and it pisses me off. I wouldn’t expect a specialty store such as Babies R us or Kohls to do the same thing. I think this practice is shady and intentionally miss-leading. What bothers me even more, is the web sites could just as easily include the store pricing, but they don’t. Why? Because I’m sure the decision was made at a board meeting after the thought came up that ‘Customers may just show up at the store and buy other crap while they’re there’, let alone pay the extra $5-20 to have the product right then. Now I can’t prove that this is the reason, but the latter would make more sense had a decision been made to include the different store pricing on the web to make sure ‘customer satisfaction is exceeded’. Some stores make decisions based on customer satisfaction and experience, obviously Babies R Us didn’t design their pricing online and in-store based on customer satisfaction and experience.
If Babies R Us has the special on-line pricing to compete with other online stores, then why don’t they re-brand the online store as www.babiesrus-online.com and then taret the original www.babiesrus.com site for pricing and products that are only available at the local stores. Mixing the two just proves one of two things, they value online shoppers and in-store customers the same (which doesn’t make the different pricing in-store and online make any sense), or they value online shoppers differently than in-store shoppers, giving online shoppers benefits that in-store shoppers are unaware of.
Now lets turn this around, what if you could go to your local Babies R us and see the price if you buy it now and the price if you order it and wait a couple days for it to arrive. It would be only fair if they implemented this. Oh wait, technology has already caught up with that, I can look up pricing just by scanning the bar code with my Google Android G1 phone and see what local and online stores have the lowest price. Perhaps the Babies R Us board has no clue how us customers shop, and that explains why they don’t offer matching in-store and online pricing. Either way, they’re idiots.
Lets look at some on-line stores that do online and in-store pricing right. Lowes and Home Depot complete with each other, which may explain why they have taken steps to make it clear what the pricing is of items at their particular locations you pick on their web sites. They both do a good job with tying their online experience with their local stores. If your a board member of a large department store, take note of what they are doing right. Bestbuy.com also does a decent job of providing notes that the pricing is ‘online only’. Though I would give Bestbuy’s online experience a C for other reasons.
One other item that bothers me is when I got home from my bad experience, I tweeted @BabiesRUS and expected a response back saying ‘we apologize and we’re looking at the pricing difference’ or some cookie cutter response indicating they will get back to me. They ignored my tweet, which is another indication that they don’t have a customer service policy but a marketing policy when it comes to their on-line presence. Board members should take note of this as well, Twitter is a communication tool for customer service as much as , if not more so, than a marketing tool.
As for the expiring coupon on Wednesday and the new coupon starting on Friday, I have no clue what Babies R Us was thinking here. What is so special with marked up pricing on Thursday? I know in other businesses, Thursday is the 4th and sometimes 3rd busiest shopping day of the week. Is the timing of these coupons to target those folks who just happen to go shopping on that day? Did someone in upper management at Babies R Us see some statistics that showed Thursday is the most likely day you can get someone to over pay for an item, is that why they did this? I’m being sarcastic here, but for real though, what’s the reason? Maybe the graphic designer made a mistake, but it looks like their graphic designer makes this mistake often looking back at previous coupons.
That Thursday evening I ordered a Superyard XT from Amazon.com for $59.99 and we got it the following Monday with their free super saver shipping. That Sunday Heather and I decided we could use a second Superyard, so we returned to the Babies R Us on Sawmill Road with our 15% off coupon and purchased another Superyard XT at $59.49+ tax.
As for further purchases at Babies R Us online or in-store, there aren’t going to be any anytime soon. We’re doing the rest of our baby shopping at other local stores and online.
As for the Superyard XT fences, they’re great! Now North States (makers of the Superyard XT) need to sell ends that can be fastened to the wall so you can quickly connect/disconnect the fence to walls. At the moment I’m using velcro straps from Lowes screwed into the wall at designated spots to strap around the ends of the fencing. I’ll post a separate blog post about how we’re using the Superyards next week.