you ever tried to buy a new washing machine, with part of the
process being going to two or more local businesses in an attempt
to compare models and prices?
about a new mattress?
impossible, isnít it?
store doesnít carry this brand while carrying that one, and the
next store carries this brand without carrying that one.
they do carry the same brand name, one store will stock the Nautilus
line in one and UltraComfort line for the other, and the next
store has the Atlantis line and SleepWell line. Nautilus and Atlantis?
Same company. Amazingly different set of options and offerings.
I walked into a store with a friend to buy a new computer. We
had a few things we were looking to involve, but were open to
everything from an all-in-one to a laptop, just a tower to a complete
tower-to-monitor PC package. (Ready for the fun result? OkÖ)
walked into the area of the store featuring computers. I counted.
Seventeen different displays set up. Six all-in-one units, five
PCs, and six laptops. A representative greeted us and we explained
our needs to him. Out of the seventeen on display, eleven met
our specifications. Of those, only one was in stock so that we
could buy it and walk out of the store with it at that very moment.
kidding. From all seventeen displays, it turned out only five
were available to purchase immediately then and there.
left, went home, ordered a new computer online and it was literally
delivered to the front door in less than seventeen hours. (Clicked
to complete the order just after 6pm and it was being retrieved
from the front steps the next morning at 11am.)
am stunned by how difficult shopping has become.
get me wrong. The idea of comparison shopping has been impossible
for many items for decades. As noted to kick off this essay, one
home improvement store will carry a completely different line
for its snow blowers than the next one. It goes deeper. When you
begin looking over the availability of replacement parts, you
find that even the national chains donít carry the same selection
from season to season (even when they are the ones that sold you
the darn gas grill to begin with).
now, weíve seen a new twist come into play. Seems as though floor
space and on-hand inventory can be difficult to manage. So, the
floor space has little rhyme or reason that you can sort out unless
you have a map, a guide dog, three days of supplies and a compass
app on your phone. And then, even once youíve selected the product
you want, the odds of it being in stock for you might be better
if you just flipped a coin.
enough to make you wish for the sanity and calm of haggling over
a new car price.
that car thing is a joke. (Ha ha.) But the weird thing is, itís
not that far off the mark.
have been changing so fast that we went from wondering about air
conditioning and rear window defrost as options into cassette
and CD players as standard issue, then blasted past USB ports
everywhere and arrived at rear view cameras with dashboard display
being added. Our cars have more Bluetooth features than any of
us can possibly use, and the result of all this automatic convenience
and more is that most people stand around their cars just long
enough after exiting them that the remotes in their pockets unlock
the doors as they walk away.
many of you have backed up computer files and pictures and more
onto discs? Want to guess your odds of finding a new computer
that has any kind of physical drive? (Hereís a hint: Itís not
be willing to be itís easier to set up my washing machine to send
me a text when the current load is finished than it is to find
the spot where I would add bleach when I use it.
may laugh at that washing machine and bleach joke, but years ago
I used to start filling up my washing machine with water before
adding the clothes. That way I could put in the detergent and
bleach and such and give it a chance to mix in instead of hitting
the clothes full-force and undiluted. Recently, a friend of mine
told me her washing machine refused to let her start a load. She
was trying to run in some water first so she could add an additional
color-safe bleach alternative without just pouring it directly
on the clothes. Machine had a water-saving sensor and kept telling
her to add clothes. In the most basic of ways, she was having
an argument with a machine because she wanted to fill her washer
with some water but the washer was telling her to add clothes
a really strange evolution. In my youth, and during the early
days of buying things for living on my own, you were encouraged
to make purchases before leaving the store. After all, the major
items were ones youíd find it difficult to compare against those
of the next store anyway. And today, itís difficult because not
only do you have to consider the brand available and whether or
not the store will be able to help you service them by having
the parts in a year or more, there are times when the store wonít
even have the products to sell you in stock. Itís like some weird
twist on holiday shopping, where quantities donít last very long,
and even when they do you might not find that they do what you
was going to wrap this up with some philosophical investigation
into how even as the world is getting smaller, and some information
more readily accessible, the less we understand and have available.
But thatís not true. Instead, itís closer to the truth to say
that people are not only changing the hurdles you need to overcome,
theyíre also swapping them out with completely different obstacles.
like the terminology is all wrong. That somehow a confused consumer
is the best customer, which is absolutely not true. Iím not ready
to toss my hands in the air and blame it on the offerings of todayís
world passing me by just yet. Instead, Iím just wondering if itís
the same old shell game being played, not as an outright fraud,
but just enough to keep us off-balance.