Useless Web sites and general corporate incompetence


A year or two back I took a piece of ceiling panel to our local Lowe's trying to find a match for it, but nobody could identify it. They said, "One of the reps. is here now. We can ask him." He looked at it and made a suggestion about the manufacturer (which I no longer recall, but I did not find it when I looked at that manufacturer's Web site).
I decided to put up with the few beat-up panels I had intended to replace.
Time passed, then I took down a panel and found a sticker on the back indicating that it was Armstrong #420. Armstrong's Web site showed that it is still manufactured and that it should be available at HD, Lowe's and Menard's (this last a Midwest chain). I knew from experience that Menard's Web site does not have an on-line catalog: all it does is show store locations and current ads and allows one to track special orders, so I checked out the HD and Lowe's Web sites, but no matter what I searched for I couldn't find this item, so I concluded that, no matter what Armstrong told me, HD and Lowe's did *not* sell this product.
Menard's was happy to do a special order for me and had it in a couple of weeks.
Yesterday at Lowe's I happened to walk down the aisle with the ceiling panels and saw a stack of packages of Armstrong #420 panels, so I went to the appropriate desk and told the guy what had happened. He told me that they had always stocked this item, so I asked how come I had not been able to find it on the Web site. He then looked at the Web site himself and said, "There's a whole bunch of stuff that we stock that doesn't show up on the Web site!" I suggested that he report the deficiency back up the line, but I wonder whether he will.
Maybe I'll find that HD actually has it on the shelf too.
I wonder how many sales these companies (and perhaps many others too) lose because people cannot discover that they actually sell particular items.
Perce
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wrote:

Many corporations (not just home improvement stores) have different inventories for local store and their only catalogs. Some companies almost treat the online business as a separate business.
Many times a local HD or Lowes will sell and item that is not listed on the website as well as the website having items not in the store. I realized this recently when I purchased a new lawn mower. What may have happened in this case is a rep for Armstrong spoke with a regional manager who agreed to carry the product, but the corporate office didn't want to stock it in all stores. Its possible that if you go to a lowes in California the product selection might be similar (in terms of products) but you will find some differences (in terms of brands). this is normal with most retail stores that are national chains.
john
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I've noticed that heavier items, where you probably wouldn't want to pay the freight, are not listed on the web sites.
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I don't. And I don't wonder how many of them actually care. I already know that answer.
Steve
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I hate companies that insist on having web-sites that are nothing but style and artistic pretty pictures with no real specifications of details on what they make/sell. The site in my mind is a total waste of time because I cannot find the information that will help me decide if I want to buy their products. So I don't buy their products and they loose. But they think they have a great web presence.

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Your unfortunately only one person. If a majority of people had your attitude then the only sites might improve. The shopping public just hasn't demanded more.
John
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Few retailers in existence before the Internet era (since about 1996) have really adapted to it by integrating their brick and mortar stores with their web sites. Even big companies with the resources to create top-notch web sites haven't done so. And of course it's circular: a mediocre web site generates mediocre sales, so management continues to treat it like a stepchild; online customers soon learn that the web site is useless, so they stop using it. The good online retail sites are children of the Internet age, like Amazon and Buy. And they mostly sell stuff whose price-to-weight ratio justifies the shipping costs.
So you've got two choices: you can shop online and have it delivered to you, or you can spend time driving and browsing store aisles. You want to shop online and then go pick it up? Forget it.
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Both HD and Lowes sites are close to useless. Anything that is large or heavy is not listed. Seems they only have some UPS shippable products. I've found it very difficult to find some plumbing supplies on their sites also. Yep, pure waste. The good news is, the last time I looked for an item, I did not found it and went to a local store and bought the item. Later, I did see the item in both stores at a higher price. Better the $20 stay in my pocket.
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On 03/23/07 02:33 pm Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

BUT, both HD and Lowe's Web sites have options to nominate a specific store as the one at which one shops, and they have an order-online-for-pickup-at-your-chosen-store option, so why shouldn't they show heavy items on their Web site? They do, for example, show household appliances and fencing panels (some at least), neither of which one is going to want to have shipped.
Perce
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On Fri, 23 Mar 2007 15:35:47 -0400, "Percival P. Cassidy"

You sound like an intelligent guy. So why are you wasting your time trying to 'fix' a wildly successful business with a market cap of 78.2 billion dollars?
You guys need to leave them alone. They are doing just fine.
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home depot customizes what they carry by region and neighborhood. a inner city store tends to have more older lighting and electrical replacemernt items. a suburban store wouldnt likely ever sell.
with the millions of items its probably impossible, and besides it leaves room for the small local hardware and suppliers.
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On Fri, 23 Mar 2007 12:04:27 -0400, "Percival P. Cassidy"

Both Lowes and HD websites profess to show what they have in the store. Especially HD.
But a couple years ago, I had just looked at one-handle kitchen faucets and wanted to review online what they had. Couldn't find a one at the lowes site, even though there are 10 different models at every store. I wrote them, but afaik it hasn't gotten better.
HD is so stupid. It has you put in your zip code and then tells you if the store nearest the center of your zipcode has what you want. It used to then ask for alternnative zipcodes, but I don't know the zipcodes that surround the other stores. I complained about this too, and by two years later, they now suggest alternate zipcodes that have stores. But that is not what people would want. I told them they should find the product and tell me where it is, and I'll drive there, if it is worth it. Instead of my having to go store by store to all 10 stores in my driving range. But they haven't changed that. And it wouldnt' help when they don't know they have kitchen faucets at every store.
They have an inventory file (or database as people seem to assume every file is.) so they have to know this information, but they don't come close to putting that info on the web. I hope it's not because they're waiting to get pictures of everything, because it has been years, and your item wouldn't look good in a picture anyhow.
RAdio Shack otoh lets you put in a zipcode and then it shows you all the stores in 10 miles (or maybe you can choose 2, 5, 10) that have the product. They can be wrong because they run a halfday behind and someone could buy the thing, or because even if they were not behind at all, it might take me severl hours or a couple days to get there, but at least their design is right. They also fail to say how many are in a package, which really matters if you are ordering them online. Sometimes one needs 3 of something, and the picture is of two but the description is of one, or vice versa. The clerk knew about this.
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I just ran into a similar issue. Was looking to replace the kitchen faucet and looked online while at work. I figured I could do a little homework before heading into the store. When the cheapest online on was something like $89.99, and that was a clearance price. I went into the store and and yes they did have that exact faucet for a couple dollars less than online. They also had other similar ones for anywhere from $10-$15 less than the cheapest online faucet available. Then as I pushed the sliding display I noticed a similar one for about 1/2 the cost of the online one (cost me 52 dollars with tax). Sure the quality is a bit less, but we are planning on redoing the kitchen in a year or two and only needed to make a replacement b/c there was a hole in the one we had. I'm just glad i didn't ask one of their sales people for help.
John
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On 23 Mar 2007 13:47:02 -0700, "runsrealfast"

BTW, I rarely write companies, but in this case I thought there was a specific bug they might find which would caused the faucets and 100's or 1000's of other things not to display. And if they fixed one thing, it make things work. Like maybe they were checking a code that shouldn't have been checked and deciding not to display things with this irrelevant property. Or failing to check one that mattered.
I used to be a computer programmer, and finding one item out of place most of the time pointed to a mistake that caused many more problems than just the one item.
Most programmers do their testing on a test system with test data, usually a lot less test data than in the production system, which may or may not adequately represent the real data. AFter the system goes into use, they depend on people finding bugs, and should be diligent in solving them.
Also, I don't think any software testers use dial-up, so they may be oblivious to the issues facing users who only have dial-up. Someone, a boss, should be on their tail to remember them, but they can end up writting a webpage that is too slow for the dial-up user.
Mouser Electronics is one of these. Everything is in pdf and to see anything from the catalog, you have to download an entire catalog page in pdf format. Even at the library with their high speed connectino this takes 3 or 4 seconds, and again if you move to the next page. AT home with dial up it is just impractical. Fortuntely they will send out a CD which doesn't depend on my internet connection.

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Not sure if you are familiar with the concept of MDM but I would hope that major companies like HD and Lowes are using a MDM system. But if the local stores bring something in and the data in the store is held outside the MDM system it may not make it to the website, which really is another issue. My guess is that the stores and the website are not properly linked together and thats where the disconnect is. But your correct, a programming change might be in order with those. It would be worth it to pay a small handling fee to be able to shop from my office and then stop on the way home for my stuff. Circut City has a system like this, although I don't shop for electronics enough to know if there is a disconnect with them.

their European stores with the North American Stores. I hate to say it but it looks like many retail stores (and in this case home improvement stores) could learn a lesson from Walmart
john
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

That's true. It's frustrating for me because often I'll need prices on small electrical conduit parts and stuff when I'm doing a bid for a customer. I ran into this recently when I needed prices for electrical boxes and fittings for a job and there was none listed on the HD site, luckily Lowe's had the parts listed so I could get the bid out without visiting the store first.
All I wanted was prices on 10' sticks of 1/2" EMT, and various fittings to go with it. It took a long time to search the Lowe's website for that. Since most of my jobs don't involve conduit I had to know what the actual cost was because $.89 fittings, boxes, couplers, and covers add up quick when multiplied 50 times.
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