Archive for February, 2008

Expected delivery dates

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

I prefer shopping on the internet over shopping in physical stores. I find it much more convenient to sit in front of my computer, browse the web for the products I want, compare specifications between alternatives, and finding the best price. Of course, not everything is as convenient to buy on the web, such as food and clothing, but most of everything else I need, I buy in web shops. Now, everything in life has drawbacks, and online shopping is no different. Recently, I’ve experienced one of these drawbacks quite a lot. When you walk into a physical store, you can look around to see if they have what you want. If you can’t find it, you can ask an employee, and he might find it for you, or tell you that they don’t have it in stock. When you shop online, the bit about having something in stock is a bit more difficult. Most web shops show how many items are in stock, or at least if an item is in stock or not. The problem arises when something is not in stock. Then what? Stores have different policies when it comes to items not in stock. Some display an expected delivery date, and some just say “not in stock”. The ones that don’t display an expected delivery date often lets you type in you email address to be notified when the item is in stock. Now, you’d think that this is all good. Either you know what date to come back to the store and order your stuff, because of the expected delivery date, or you can wait for an email saying something is in stock. Problem is, most stores let you order items that are not in stock, even if they have no idea when they’ll get it in stock. This is what happens, because very often, the expected delivery date is just rubbish. Let me take a few examples.

Last summer, I had promised my mother to build her a couple of media center computers with Linux and MythTV. One for the TV in the living room, and one for her bedroom, streaming TV from the server in the living room. I was short on time, and made sure to order hardware that was in stock. Except for one item. The power supply for the bedroom computer. I wanted this to be quiet, and it needn’t have as much power as the one for the server, so i chose a low power one, with no fans. It was the only one, and it wasn’t in stock, but the expected delivery date was in just a couple of days. To be sure, I chose to have everything in stock delivered right away, so I was only waiting for the one power supply. After all, I had to start by building and setting up the server anyway, so the bedroom client could wait a few days longer. Problem was, when the date of expected delivery arrived, no power supplies were in stock, and the date was pushed for a week. When this happened again a week later, I canceled it, and ordered an other one, with a quiet fan instead. Out of curiosity, I kept checking the status of this power supply. Every week for a long time, the date was pushed another week. After a while, I stopped bothering to check. I don’t know if they ever got back in stock.

Now, for a more recent example. I’m currently trying to set up a 5.1 surround sound system in my living room. I have bought a receiver, lots of cable, and wall mounts for the satellite speakers. Now I’m only waiting for the speakers. Problem is, only one shop has the set I want, and it’s not in stock. The expected delivery date is in only 5 days, and it has been for over a month. Every day, since I started checking, the day is pushed one day. Meaning it’s always 5 days until it will be in stock. That’s ridiculous! When I try emailing them to ask when they’ll get it in stock, the reply is just that they don’t know when it will be in stock, and that they will update the date when they know. But they update it every day! while(!in_stock) {date++; sleep(60*60*24);} end. After a while, I got so frustrated, I sent an email to the Norwegian division of the producer of the speaker set. They informed me that there had been troubles during transport, and that they expect the set to arrive at the end of next week. Well, fingers crossed then. I’m just wondering how hard it could be for the web shop to acquire this information.

Last example: I ordered a headset and a bunch of DVDs from a web shop with a different policy on items not in stock. Usually, they remove the “buy” button, and replace it with a “get email when in stock” button. Everything I ordered had a “buy” button, so I figured everything was in stock. But they sent me everything but the headset, which I’m still waiting for. It’s been a week since I ordered now, and during this week, the “buy” button has been replaced with an “order” button and a new expected delivery date has been displayed. I didn’t even know that they used this strategy at all! It has been switched back to a “buy” button, and back again to an “order” button. So, if they’re information is correct, they should have had the item in stock twice since I ordered, but I still haven’t received anything. Next expected delivery date is Monday, and that is the same as they told me in an email when I asked. They probably just looked up the same date I did, without actually checking with their provider. So, my request to all the web shops out there: don’t just display random expected delivery dates! If you don’t know, print that you don’t know! And if you do know, print the correct date. And at least try to get some extra information when a customer asks why a product is so delayed! Now I’ll go back to running my script that checks the delivery date for the speaker set…