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 asĀ  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, increasingĀ  the chance that I buying more side isle items.

Babies R Us Ads for August
Babies R Us Ads for August

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.

Columbus June Tweetup – Lots of Fun!

At the last minute I was able to free my schedule and go to the June Columbus Tweetup. What a lot of fun!

The Tweetup was organized by @JenniferLaycock. You can learn more about today’s meetup at Jennifer’s Small Business Answers web site.

Check out the pictures: http://www.flickr.com/groups/792807@N23/pool/

Columbus PHP Meetup tonight – The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL

If you’ve been following my Twitter (@AngeloMandato) lately, you may have herd me mention previous Columbus PHP Meetups. These meetups are great for meeting fellow PHP programmers in the Columbus area and a great way to learn about different libraries, techniques and frameworks that are available.

Columbus PHP Meetup web site: http://php.meetup.com/93/

Tonights meetup topic is “The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL” presented by Jay Pipes from MySQL. I can’t wait to attend this meetup and gain some insightful knowledge how to tune MySQL. Ever since I started my career, I’ve encountered many issues either with server loads and/or time due to poorly written queries. I think I’ve done a decent job deploying indexes, grouping like queries together, etc… but I know there is more to learn.

The past two Columbus PHP Meetups covered the Zend Framework and CakePHP. Both were great presentations.

The Zend Framework presentation from February was very informative. The Zend Framework was written in a way that the developer can decide how much he/she wants to use from the framework. This makes it possible to easily add the Zend Framework to an existing project. I think the word framework may not be the best word to describe it though, perhaps it should be called library and framework. Many parts of the Zend Framework are really just libraries to help with things like email, XML-RPC, OpenID, Flickr, Amazon, etc… I now plan on using parts of the Zend Framework in some of my projects.

I learned a lot from the CakePHP presentation from March as well. CakePHP is definitely a “framework” with all of the University taught thinking of object oriented programming and separating presentation with logic integrated. What I found interesting is CakePHP took somewhat of a Ruby on Rails like approach in managing your SQL queries. I think this type of development is fine for small to medium size projects but anything where you need full control of the queries or presentation you may find yourself feeling restricted. The presentation side of things reminds me of Smarty Template Engine, which my past experience with Smarty started out great but ended with frustration that I couldn’t add the logic I wanted at the presentation level.

I would like to learn more about CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is the application framework that Joe used for developing the registration system for PodCamp Ohio.

PHP 5 Study GuideRelated news, I purchased a copy of the Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide. I own a copy of the Zend PHP 4 Certification Study Guide and loved the book till the pages started falling out. It is not just for those who want to be certified in PHP, the content is perfect for a developer who already knows how to program but just wants something to reference for the language. You should already have some background in C/C++/Java/PHP before you read this book though. I’m very pleased with this addition as well as the first one. I think I may order the Guide to Programming with Zend Framework next.

So are you attending PHP meetups in your area? If so, what sorts of things are you learning?

Columbus Social Media Cafe – Central Ohio Bloggers, Podcasters and Social Networking

Anyone in the Central Ohio area who is a blogger, podcaster or social networking enthusiast/expert should be aware that there is a potential meetup group organizing called the Columbus Social Media Cafe. Yesterday was the 4th SMC meetup and I gathered that they are just now working on defining what the goals are of the group and plan on forming a mission statement. You can read more about the last meetup at Elephants on Bicycles and This Woman’s Work blogs.

When I arrived, I found myself briefly explaining what PodCamp and PodCamp Ohio is. I was not prepared to make any sort of presentation at the meetup but I did my best. This was a learning experience for myself, as I found myself speaking to a crowd of bloggers who are aware that podcasting should be included in their space but don’t exactly have a grasp on what exactly podcasting is. I also mentioned briefly some of the viral networking techniques that PodCamp Ohio is using in order to market the event to bloggers, podcasters and social networking enthusiasts.

I learned a lot from the meetup. What I found the most interesting was what they are envisioning; a social networking web site that pulls in feeds of blogs and podcasts and provides social networking features such as tags and comments. The group would be the perfect customer for the RawVoice Generator, which does pretty much what they want. One of the organizers mentioned someone who is in the process of developing such a tool that the group could use, so I didn’t quite feel comfortable mentioning that my company already has such a product on the market for more than 2 years now. The process they are undertaking made me feel vindicated that the past 3 years of my life that I’ve spent developing such tools is of real importance, not just globally but also for the local community. There is real potential for blogging and podcasting to connect with its local communities, and I for sure want to be involved in helping that happen here in Central Ohio.

I hope they can create a brand/logo soon and put in place a scheduled meeting time using not just meeting spaces in the public but also utilizing those social media tools that are so important such as TalkShoe/BlogTalkRadio for on-line recorded phone meetings and Google Group public mailing lists. At the moment the only way anyone can participate is by attending the public meetings, which may limit the audience size of participants. The more opportunity to let someone be herd, the more opportunities that will be used by those with the means. I’m pretty confident they will pick up on these other tools soon.

I am a little concerned that some of the founders organizing the Columbus SMC group found PodCamp Ohio somewhat threatening. I hope they did not get that impression cause it is definitely not something meant to compete with other groups with similar goals. PodCamp is a social event with the primary goal to bring bloggers and podcasters together to share knowledge and network with each other. I hope the Columbus SMC organizers don’t feel threatened by the event, that’s certainly not the events goal and I am confident that’s not what Chris Brogan or Christopher Penn intended when they created PodCamp.

Movie Juno and band Rose Hips

Two topics to talk about, the movie Juno and the rock band Rose Hips.

Juno

Last night Heather and I saw a screening for the movie Juno. I’m not going to talk about the plot of the movie, if you want to learn more, go to the IMDB page. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467406/

If you’re a Nirvana/Grunge generation child like myself, you will appreciate a lot of the dialog in the movie. Older folks will not get many of the jokes unless they’ve kept up with the current lingo and music. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good movie for anyone to watch.

Rose Hips

On the way home from the movie, I turned on the FM instead of listening to a podcast, listening into CD101 (modern rock station in Columbus). I found myself listening to a song that had the same kind of sound as Hum. I was utterly surprised near the end of the song to hear a woman’s voice. Today I checked out their myspace page, listend to 4 of their songs and sure enough, they sound a lot like Hum.

Site: http://www.myspace.com/rosehipsgirls

I wonder if they’re influenced by Hum and other 90’s modern rock or if they stumbled upon the sound on their own. Either way, I’m a fan now.