3 Lessons from the Ineptitude of Toys 'r Us

3 Lessons from the Ineptitude of Toys 'r Us

written by Derek Weber

Most of live in a world where the lines between our online and offline lives have become so blurred that they have really become one in the same.  We fully expect every picture our friends take of us to show up on Facebook within a day or two…ok, probably a minute or two.  No longer do we sit around tables debating what movies actors were in, when a band first hit it big, or try to name the World Series Champions during our lifetimes…we just pull out our phone and ask almighty Google, and if that isn’t fast enough, we just open our IMDB, Wikipedia, ESPN, or Google apps on our iPhones.  Although, my good friend Ryan Bedingfield and I still manage to work our way back through WS Champs w/o the use to technology…I guess we are just old school baseball dorks.  The point being, technology has become so integrated in our lives, we almost take it for granted…that is until we come across a time when online and offline don’t come together, and it really ticks us off.

Case in point, my wife Bonnie and I were shopping a couple weeks ago for a Christmas present my 3 year old nephew Ayden really wanted this year; some marble race toy ONLY offered at Toys ‘r Us.

Offline Marketing vs Online Marketing

We stroll into Toys ‘r Us in and witness the madness that you can expect on a Saturday afternoon during the height of the Christmas season.  Kids running around everywhere, some elated by being surrounded by rows and rows of Chinese-made toys, others crying about who knows what, while a handful are having complete melt-downs because of apparent “Well, if you are good, Santa might just bring this for you”s gone wrong…hell, even Geoffrey the Giraffe was there for photo opps at the front of the store.

So, we knew off the bat there was no way we were going to be able to find this toy on our own and maintain our sanity, so we immediately found a worker and asked for help.  Now, I’m not here to rant on the lack of good of service because I know they have to hire on seasonal help, who don’t really know the ins and outs, but after nearly 15 minutes of searching to no avail, I turned to the ol’ trusty Google machine.  I typed in “marble race toys r us” which to no surprise gave me a picture of the toy along with this link to the Imaginarium 100-Piece Deluxe Marble Race.

Perfect!  Now, we’ve got an item#, picture, price, and everything, should be easy to find right?  Nope, they still couldn’t find it on the floor, so we had to wait for someone to pull it from the back room for us.  So, almost 45 minutes after we walked into this mad house, knowing exactly what we wanted, we were finally ready to pay for the damned thing.

Imaginarium 100-Piece Deluxe Marble RaceSo, after seeing this page on the site, I’m fully expecting to pay $24.99 + tax, but much to my chagrin, it shows up as $39.99 on the register…”Whoa, whoa, whoa.” I said. “That price isn’t right. It says it’s only $24.99 on the website.” as I extend my phone screen out towards the worker.  She responded with  “Oh, well, that price is actually only good if you order it online.”  My obvious response, well, then we’ll just ordered it from the website.  I know we’ve now wasted almost an hour of our life, but this is some BS….oh, wait look again at the picture. “Out of stock for shipping”.  Oh, wait, it’s “Eligible for Store Pickup”, awesome I’ve got it!  So, I retorted, “Well, we’ll just order it online and pick it up here from the store.” I’m feeling good, now, they almost got me, but I worked my way around it…”Sorry sir, the Missouri Toys ‘r Us stores are not eligible for in store pick up.  Would you like to complete your transaction?” Damn…yeah, I guess so.

So, needless to say we did.  But as we were walking out, I look to Bonnie and say, “This is a perfect example of a big corporation being completely out of touch with reality.”  It really wasn’t even as much the fact that we had to pay an extra $15 more than we expected (although that did annoy me) as much as it was the principle of the whole situation.  Toys ‘r Us sees their online (website) and offline (stores) as two completely different silos that may at times cross over, when in this integrated world we live in, they are one in the same in the eyes of consumers, which should be the only eyes that matter.

So, I hope you take 3 lessons from this diatribe:

  1. Don’t write checks online that you can’t cash offline.
  2. Your online presence should be an extension of who you are in the real world, not a split personality.
  3. Avoid the temptation to go straight for your phone, and enjoy the healthy act of debate over a cold beer with your friends.
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