mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What is the logic behind in-store pickup?

Last week, a good deal on usb flash drives was posted on one of the deal sites I read - Staples had an Edge 8 gig USB drive for $19.99 with a $20 rebate, and a 1 gig drive for $7.99 with a $10 rebate. They were only available online, not available in-store.

I used to get free shipping from Staples on any purchase, because I was a Premier Staples Rewards member, meaning I had spent over $1000 with them in a year. Last year, I missed the mark by a hundred bucks or so, but they gave me another year as a courtesy. This year I was nowhere near it and got dropped. So shipping would have been $10 - killing the deal. I could get free shipping if I added enough to my order to hit $50, but I didn't see anything I needed to buy as filler.

But Staples recently added another option - free ship-to-store. Order online, and Staples will ship to the store of your choice, and you pick it up there. Since there is a Staples practically around the corner from Casa De Mad I figured I'd give it a try.

So a day or two after ordering, I get a call that part of my order was in. I ask if I can wait until the other half comes in to pick it up, and they say yes. A week or so later, I get a call that the other half had come in.

So I go to Staples after my usual work/gym routine, and go up to the customer service counter - where they tell me that I have to go to the copy center to pick it up. So I did. The clerk pulls out a binder - there were a few other orders in it awaiting pickup - and eventually finds two packages for me in a small pile - one in an envelope, the other in it's own Staples box complete with air packing. For a flash drive. I show my license, she copies down information, and I leave with my drives.

I don't really understand the whole ship-to-store idea. It only makes sense for a very limited number of products - items that are available only online, that are less than the threshold for free shipping, that are really good deals. I'd much rather come home to find what I ordered sitting on my doorstep than have to drag my ass to the store to pick it up. I would imagine other people feel the same way, and won't order something for in-store pickup unless it's a screaming deal. I bet by not having free shipping, Staples is losing sales to people who don't want to be bothered driving to the store - especially orders from people who didn't buy their house based on it's proximity to a mall like I did.

I can think of only two advantages to Staples - it probably costs slightly less to ship to the store than to a residence, since places like UPS charge more for residential delivery. Also, some items are delivered by "Staples courier" -presumably their own delivery people - who probably have to deliver to the store anyway (one of my two drives was shipped this way). I guess if most of their stuff ships this way it's cost-effective, but they still had to package and label both packages. The other thing I can think of is that Staples figures if it gets people into their stores, maybe they will buy other stuff while they are there. In my case, I didn't - I rummaged through the clearance section and didn't see anything I wanted. I did turn in two ink cartridges, though.

I guess Staples probably figures it doesn't cost much to offer in-store pickup, and it might lead to a few sales that would otherwise be missed. Still, I bet free - or cheaper - shipping - would probably result in way more sales.


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