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Subject: On the shelf but sold out rss

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LJ
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One of my favourite game stores has a (presumably new) way of handling online orders that are currently being held. They leave the games on the shelf with all the available titles. There is no separation or indication until you choose a game to buy and take it up to the cash. At that point, you could be told it is sold out. This weekend, I found 20 copies of a game I'd been looking for. I grabbed one and went to pay and was told that it wasn't available because it had already been purchased. "All 20 copies that are sitting on the shelf are sold out?" "Yes. They've been sold out for 3 weeks."

So I stopped browsing immediately because suddenly I was apparently gambling instead of shopping, with my time being the currency. I will likely still shop online but this kind of organization certainly discourages an in-person visit, which is too bad.

I have reservations about naming the store because they are nice people and I've had many positive experiences with them. Should I give me feedback to the management first? Or is this even worth mentioning to them? I know that two other big online/brick & mortar combined stores, local to this store, do not organize inventory like this.

To be clear, I am not talking about a situation where there's a timing issue such that someone bought the game online while I was browsing. I was also picking up an order at the time, with some items purchased as long ago as May, and my games were picked from the 'for sale' merchandise.

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Andy
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Did you tell them your problem at the time?
I'd discuss with the store first, explain your problem and give them a chance to rectify the situation.
If you don't get a satisfactory answer, then publicise your grievance.

IMO, anyway.

Edit: BTW, I do think it's a pretty poor way of doing business.
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Timothy Stiles
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That's...terrible.
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That's not like anything I've ever encountered.

All stores I frequent place reserved and pre-sales in a separate area (either storage or behind check-out). That includes FLGS and Barnes&Noble.

I would definitely complain about this practice with the store manager or owner (politely) and suggest that holds/pre-orders should be in a marked area, so people don't become disappointed. But if it's part of a larger chain, I'd send the critique in harsher language by email or customer survey because the discontent must be louder to get beyond a cursory read.
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Tom Harrod
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Maybe the store owners didn’t want to display empty or threadbare shelves (due to stock having been ‘bought’ or ‘reserved’). Or not wanting to appear like they don’t have ‘Hot Product X’ in stock.

I am, however, being generous opening with that line. Quite simply, having stock on the shop floor that is being held (from my previous experience working in retail) is a big, fat no-no.

a) It infuriates the buyer in the shop right now because common practise suggests if it’s on the shelf, it’s for general sale, right? The psychological impact it has on the potential buyer is going to be extremely negative, with them going from excitement to having their ideal product in their hands to being told “No. You can’t have it,” in the matter of seconds. You risk losing a customer for life.

b) And taking it from from a different perspective: if I’ve ordered/pre-bought a game, no offence to you other lovely shoppers, but I don’t want 20-30 people picking it up and touching it (might not seem like much, but it could get minor – or even major – shelf-wear this way). You also risk losing the customer’s trust this way.

c) Then there’s the nightmare scenario where an unwitting colleague (let’s say for argument’s sake a part-timer, maybe someone in their first week at the shop, or simply a break-down in communication between staff members) sells one of the pre-purchased copies that was on the shelf to someone else. Joe Bloggs then comes into the store two hours later all happy, ready to collect their game, only to find it’s been sold to… WHAT? You sold my game to someone else? Let’s not even get started with the repercussions of this one.

I agree with Val Ofiesh. If it’s a FLGS (and hey, maybe it’s your only local store for miles and miles and you can’t afford to break any ties there!) I’d voice my irritation in the store in a polite manner. No need to be aggressive about it. I’m sure they would get multiple complaints like this and be quick to change this structure, which is – let’s face it – bonkers!

The extreme is complaining on social media, which can be seen a bit of a cheap swipe, but it will definitely get the retailer’s attention. I would probably only consider this as an option if I was a victim of example c), mind you.
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I juggle cats.
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Sooooo...shoplifting it is...
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Kimberly
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I find this a very odd way of doing business. If sold out of an item they could put some kind of marker saying they they are sold out of named item and it is on order. I agree there should be a separate area for sold items. A separate area for sold items also makes things more efficient when people come in to pick up their item(s).

I would definitely let them know my grievance. If nobody complains they may not know there is a problem.
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LJ
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smellgoodgirl wrote:
I find this a very odd way of doing business. If sold out of an item they could put some kind of marker saying they they are sold out of named item and it is on order. I agree there should be a separate area for sold items. A separate area for sold items also makes things more efficient when people come in to pick up their item(s).

I would definitely let them know my grievance. If nobody complains they may not know there is a problem.


Speaking of efficiency, the pick up experience wasn't great either. It took a very long time for the lone staff member to get my 6 or so items, so much so that I offered for them to be shipped instead because I could tell he was getting frustrated. At that moment more staff arrived and the rest of my order was found.

I have sent an email to the owner. We'll see what his response is.
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Dave J
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I kind of feel bad for the store. Online is so competitive they need to "hold" orders to compete but probably don't have the back room space to store all their sold games.

We can partially blame ourselves.
 
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Chris
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Indeed, what an odd system. Although generally a business is within its rights to refuse to sell items, this seems to cause unnecessary friction.

At bare minimum, as shop owner, I would be putting a sticker with "SOLD" and the corresponding order # on each unavailable box. But I can't imagine not using some back corner of the store to stack these and get them off the retail shelves.
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LJ
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typo360 wrote:
I kind of feel bad for the store. Online is so competitive they need to "hold" orders to compete but probably don't have the back room space to store all their sold games.

We can partially blame ourselves.


I don't see it as a space issue because everything is there - sold and unsold. It's a matter of organization. They could mark off a section.
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Ygor
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For now, you have a place to visit. Wait one year and you will be able to buy a frozen yogurt there.
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LJ
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darthhugo wrote:
For now, you have a place to visit. Wait one year and you will be able to buy a frozen yogurt there.


I have no reason to visit at this point.
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Alain Houle
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Certain store I frequent has a policy kind of like what you mention. Except they house the vast majority of their games behind the counter in a warehouse type setting. They also mention every time I have been there that you may roam back there but be forewarned some may have been sold already as this is not the storefront. Still i always venture back there as it is bewildering to see all the games!
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Chris Willett
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That doesn't make any sense. Why would they have them out on the shelves if they are 'sold.'

If they don't want to sell you a copy, just steal it. (Don't actually do that) But what are they trying to accomplish by advertising an item they don't have or can't sell. Are they hoping I will text a friend saying "Hey! They have ____________ at this store! You could come get it now!" just to have someone come down there and then not be able to buy it.

Kind of shocked by this whole state of affairs. I just don't understand.
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Michael W.
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Weird...

I wouldn't shop in person there anymore...

ArrOOoo!
 
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Stephanie Prince
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Perhaps this is a primarily OLGS that finds it necessary to have a brick-and-mortar location in order to carry a certain publisher's titles?

Consider yourself benefited.

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LJ
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Hoolio wrote:
Certain store I frequent has a policy kind of like what you mention. Except they house the vast majority of their games behind the counter in a warehouse type setting. They also mention every time I have been there that you may roam back there but be forewarned some may have been sold already as this is not the storefront. Still i always venture back there as it is bewildering to see all the games!


If it's a 'shoppable' area then it should be just that. In the case of this store, it is most definitely a shoppable area.
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LJ
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slprince wrote:
Perhaps this is a primarily OLGS that finds it necessary to have a brick-and-mortar location in order to carry a certain publisher's titles?

Consider yourself benefited.



I am fine with that. Just organize so in-person shopping isn't a potentially frustrating experience.
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Jon Bowker
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johnweldy wrote:
Sooooo...shoplifting it is...

Is it shoplifting if it's already been purchased? sauron
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Jeff Rietveld
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Weird business practice.
I've had it before when an item sells online with 1 copy left in the store, and a customer literally already has it in his hands while browsing. In that case, the in-store customer always gets priority. If it is on the shelf with a price tag, it is for sale.
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Alain Houle
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Behind the counter and in warehouse is not shoppable IMO. That is not display as much as storage. I also check online stock amounts when perusing the back area.
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LJ
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Hoolio wrote:
Behind the counter and in warehouse is not shoppable IMO. That is not display as much as storage. I also check online stock amounts when perusing the back area.


Well I would say you shouldn't have it both ways then. Don't allow customers to shop through partially sold merchandise. But then that severely affects your in-store business, right? It just doesn't work. And it is absurd to think a customer would have to use their smartphone and their data to see if a game that's in their hand is in stock.
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Jeff Michaud
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LJplays wrote:
"Yes. They've been sold out for 3 weeks."

Quote:
So I stopped browsing immediately because suddenly I was apparently gambling instead of shopping

"apparently"? I'd say that may be more of an overstatement than fact... you didn't indicate which game you tried to buy that they were sold out of for 3 weeks... it sounds like it was/is a hot and maybe harder to find a copy of title? Unless this store is known for mostly selling such titles, and you only have one data point, doesn't sound like a big gamble to me. And given you are a BGG user you probably aren't buying games you don't already know about... (you did say it was a game you were looking for)

... on the other hand the most strangest thing about the situation is that you said they had 20 copies right there but they had also sold the last of those 20 copies 3 weeks ago... presumably by online or phone order? And also presumably being held for in store pickup (vs. shipping which I can't imagine them waiting 3 weeks to start shipping the sold copies out)??? That hot of a game that they sold 20+ copies but all those folks are waiting 3+ weeks to come and pick up their orders???

I do agree they should put a note on the stack of copies, if they are going to leave them on a shelf, indicating they are sold out... and maybe there was a note but it fell off or another customer removed it?

Lastly I understand why you said you didn't want to give the stores name... but by not naming the store that leaves a shadow on all Stoney Creek Ontario board game stores.....

Mancala Monk Board Game Cafe
EB Games
Black Knight Games
Board Games Central Inc
....
 
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Jeff Allen
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It's obvious the owner has no idea this practice is bad and just needs to be informed. He or she will either see the error and put the sold merchandise out of sight, or not and continue down the path of going out of business.

Sometimes business owners make blatant errors which seem obvious to everyone but them.
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