Seeing Purchases

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2004-10-22 Print this article Print

Another of customers key issues with online purchases is the inability to see a product before making a final decision. After all, an item might look a lot bigger—or smaller—in person than it does in a Web image and description. Best Buy is allowing customers to inspect the purchase when they arrive at the Web purchase pickup desk and to instantly turn it down—for a full cash credit. "If they change their mind, they change their mind," Taylor said. To read about e-commerce retail pioneers and which ones have the best ideas, click here.
Thats another area of confusion. In fact, a customer calling Best Buys customer-service department would be told that a rejected purchase can be returned only by waiting on hold with customer service. On Friday morning, a customer-service rep told an reporter that store personnel cannot cancel an online order "because we cannot access their system and they cannot access ours," and that not even a visit to the Web site would do the trick. No, she said, it must be done on the phone.
Another rep agreed, but added that the best approach would be to complete the purchase at the store and then take the product to another line in the store and return it in the standard way. Best Buy spokesman Jay Musolf said the customer-service representatives had out-of-date information. "Our systems have been upgraded and its been recent. Some representatives may not be fully aware yet," Musolf said, adding that he believes customers can indeed cancel a purchase. But after Musolfs comments, contacted two Best Buy stores and spoke with personnel who staff the Web purchase pickup desk, and they told a somewhat different story. One staffer—who asked that her name not be used—said, "If someone at corporate thinks it can be canceled here, let them come over and show me the key to hit. My screen only has the option to process or to return after its been processed. Its not giving me a cancel option." She said the systems cannot help and that she would simply phone customer service and do the cancellation that way. It saves the customer the bother, but its not indicative of an integrated online/offline system. Are store managers frustrated enough to use kiosks to spite corporate CRM? To find out, click here. Another Best Buy store agreed with the first rep—that they cannot cancel a purchase made online—but he suggested a different workaround. If the customer simply leaves the products and walks out, the product purchase will cancel on its own after several days. But wouldnt that foul up the inventory system and have that rejected item display as "sold" for a week when its actually available for purchase? Yes, he said, but they could do a system workaround to trick the inventory system into understanding that the item is indeed available. When Taylor spoke of multichannel, he was referring to four distinct channels: the stores, the Web, the phone and in-home services (such as Best Buys partnership with the Geek Squad.) Arguing that the system integrations are essential, he said multichannel customers are the most profitable and loyal customers. Others have said one reason for the profitability is that customers often will make additional in-store purchases when they arrive to pick up their online-selected merchandise. But not all Best Buy programs support that idea. Best Buys frequent-buyer program is called Reward Zone, and it excludes from consideration any online purchase, suggesting that the company is not quite channel-agnostic yet. Best Buys Musolf conceded that the program excludes online purchases and said that would be changed soon, but wouldnt specify a time frame. "That is coming," he said. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis of this vital industry.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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