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Sears Black Friday Confirmation Snafu: Just Check Inventory, OK?

Written by Frank Hayes
December 6th, 2012

Didn’t we learn this lesson last year with Best Buy? On Black Friday morning, a Houston-area couple got up at 2:00 AM to order thousands of dollars’ worth of appliances from Sears. They got their order confirmation E-mail, went back to bed—and woke up to find another E-mail telling them their order had been canceled. Then the appliances were delivered, but charged at the regular prices thousands of dollars higher. It took a local TV station’s cage-rattling to get Sears to honor the Black Friday prices.

Sears’ explanation—the system sent confirmations before checking inventory but sent the cancellation E-mail almost immediately—misses the point. It’s 2012, not the dawn of E-Commerce. Inventory is online. Customers don’t need to be reminded that they just placed an order, only notified that their order will be honored. There’s no reason for two E-mails, nor is there any excuse for confirming an order by E-mail before checking inventory. That will take an extra 30 seconds? Five minutes? It’s E-mail. Nobody expects sub-second response times, not even customers. They do expect a “confirmation E-mail” to confirm they’ve made a purchase—and it’s long past time for retailers to get that message.


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5 Comments | Read Sears Black Friday Confirmation Snafu: Just Check Inventory, OK?

  1. Ann Grackin Says:

    Basic business processes are clearly missing here:
    1. Realtime inventory locating across the warehouses and stores;
    2. Before you offer a promotion you forecast the expected demand. And just like the police when going into tough situations, they call for backup! On hand inventory to support a special deal or integration to suppliers to check for additional stock if you run out.
    3. Don’t commit to what you can’t deliver–period!
    4. Then save everyone money and honour your commitments, and drop ship the merchandize to the customer!

  2. Evan Schuman Says:

    For some of these special campaigns, you also get into what should be a less tricky situation (but often isn’t), namely that it might be that you are only permitting a small subset of your stock of a product to go at the super-low Black Friday price. In theory, that should be even easier to track, but it’s often not.

  3. steve w Says:

    Yes Kohls has the same issue on Black Friday the last week or so their facebook page is filled with complaints on orders being cancelled. Kohls also made a huge policy change on Kohls cash purchases returned will have NO CREDIT to the customers.

  4. Ann Grackin Says:

    Ah, the trail of the fine point! Complex pricing methods, policies and fine print! Customers nor employees nor IT systems, it seems, can keep track of all this. Listen up retailers (or any other business): Why do things your customers HATE YOU FOR?

  5. Evan Schuman Says:

    Ann, to answer your question (“”Why do things your customers hate you for?”): Tradition.

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