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An Un-comforter-able Shopping (and Shipping) Experience
19 July 2011
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eCommerce Shopping ExperienceMany, many months ago, I was shopping at Kmart for some necessities, and as is usually the drill with me, I started to browse other departments—for all kinds of stuff that I really didn’t need and wasn’t shopping for in the first place.

That’s when “the” comforter caught my eye. In all of its silvery, shimmery style, it beckoned me. I didn’t really NEED a comforter, but this one was beautiful, machine washable (a must for me, as I don’t believe in paying dry-cleaning costs for things that I should be able to launder right at home sweet home), and on clearance! (FYI: I can’t resist a good clearance item.)

After getting into a debate with myself, I decided: You don’t need it. Leave it!

But as the months went by, I’d brood about that silvery, shimmery clearance comforter. So when the brooding got to be too much, I started looking for it online, to see if anyone out there had one to sell me.

Lo and behold, not only did I find it online and in the size I needed, but it was still being sold by Kmart, so I was sure I’d get a deal!

Although the comforter that was marked at a clearance price of about $40 eight months ago was now on sale for $59.99, I once again debated with myself and decided that although I never spend a lot for a comforter (and 60 bucks is a lot by my budget), the sale price was still much better than the original price of $99.99.

That’s when I made up my mind: I’m getting that comforter.

So when I added it to my cart and started the checkout process (with a gleam in my eyes), I assumed that it was mission accomplished. But then . . . bam!

Because it was an “oversized item,” the shipping would cost either $90 for standard or $179 for expedited. Yes . . . the lowest shipping price as quoted was nearly double the price of the item. My $59.99 sale comforter just became $149.99. Seriously? I thought this must surely be an error, and the system is simply placing an irrational shipping price on my order by default. I was certain I just needed to contact someone at Kmart to get it all straightened out.

So I emailed the customer service team with the following:

Hi,

I’m trying to find the “Jaclyn Smith Today Euphoria Comforter Set” in size King.

I see it on the site, but the shipping is coming up as either $90 or $179, which, needless to say, is preposterous.

Can you please tell me if this item is available at a reasonable or free shipping rate, or if it is available within 30 miles of ZIP code 18702?

Here’s the response I received:

Thank you for contacting Kmart.com regarding the shipping charge of item “Jaclyn Smith Today Euphoria Comforter Set.”

We appreciate your interest in the item “Jaclyn Smith Today Euphoria Comforter Set.” Please be advised that this item is for oversized delivery and hence the standard shipping charge is $90 and the expedited shipping charge is $179. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this matter has caused you.

We are here for you! Please reply should you have any further questions. You can contact us through online chat support or contact us at 1-866-562-7848. We look forward to fulfilling your future online shopping needs.

We’re here to make everything easier. Take our survey to tell us how we’re doing.

Look for great bargains throughout the store and find Kmart exclusive brands like Thalia Sodi, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Jaclyn Smith. Make sure you are registered at kmart.com for emails, so we can stay in touch!

Not only was the response mostly canned, but it didn’t even answer my question about whether a store near me had the item. I was dumbfounded.

So still being determined, I visited one of two Kmart stores that are within a 5-mile drive from my house. Voila! There it was, in all its glory . . . and I didn’t even need to sell my bed to cover the most expensive shipping charges ever.

My chase for the comforter had come to an end!

Just for fun . . . and because I’m stubborn and needed to prove a point to myself that Kmart was the crazy one in this relationship, I took the comforter to my local post office and asked for estimated shipping costs as if I was going to send it clear across the country from northeastern Pennsylvania to ZIP code 90210 in California. The costs ranged from $20 to $35, with the most expensive delivered within 3 days, Priority Mail.

So what business lessons can we learn from this experience?

  1. Don’t charge excessive shipping costs. If you don’t ship items at reasonable prices, your customers will find another business that does.

  2. Don’t call it “customer service” if you’re only going to provide a cookie-cutter response. You might as well just send a note that reads, “Good riddance. Try Walmart.”

And the best part? After all was said and done and the beautiful $59.99 comforter was in my bedroom, I received the following message:

Customer Service Email Message

Did I leave an item in my shopping cart, Kmart remarketing? I wonder why. . . .


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