Editor’s Notebook: Black Friday and the Parkin’ is Easy

FullSizeRenderI never thought I’d go to one mall and one shopping center with a major discount store on Black Friday and not have to deal with horrific traffic, angry mobs, and find a parking spot.

Maybe people avoided the crowds and shopped online? Maybe they chose to buy online and pick up in store, like I did? Or maybe timing is everything: I did see a line of traffic coming in to Westfield Trumbull (which will always be “Trumbull Shopping Park” to me) as I was leaving around 5:30 p.m. EST. And to be fair, I only went to Target, and did not take time to wander the mall… But more on that later.

But more on that later: Here’s how my Big Fat Omnichannel Black Friday in Connecticut went down…

[RELATED CONTENT: Black Friday Roundup: Online Sales Were Up]

My game plan was to work Friday morning from my sister-in-law’s dining room table (you know, to keep Multichannel Merchant’s readers informed on Thanksgiving sales results), then clean the floors and do some laundry at my parents’ house (anyone looking for a 4 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath in Fairfield, CT?), then pick up some items that I would by online via my iPhone 6.

And then grief set in… But more on that later. Let’s talk buy online pick up in store, shall we?

Kmart With the Win… And the Loss… And the Win…

kmartYou probably read about my Thanksgiving Day Kmart experience by now (if not, read “Editor’s Notebook: My Big Fat Omnichannel Thanksgiving Shopping Day“). Well, I figured I still had to pick up the order I placed on Thanksgiving Day, so why not place another order with Kmart for pick up?

And with that, I ordered a fake down vest… for the second year in a row (I ordered one last year for curbside pick up at a Sears store last Black Friday weekend… and it came to my car with the security tag still attached…).

The transaction made on the Kmart app was seamless (paying with PayPal was very easy)… and then I had to wait… and wait… and wait… Until finally, I went to Kmart, grabbed the same vest, and paid for it myself.

Why was the item never picked? There was a communication breakdown. My order was never pinged for the Southbury, CT Kmart store to fulfill.

Now here’s where it got cool. The clerk at the customer service desk and the manager on duty were both extremely nice about it (as everyone in that particular Kmart store is). I never asked for a manager’s help, but the clerk called the manager over to offer assistance. I gave the manager the order number, the manager showed me his gun, and we discovered that the order number on my iPhoine was nowhere near the sequence of the order numbers on his gun.

But could they cancel the order on their end? Probably not, the manager said. I would have to call the customer service number provided by the Kmart app. Which i figured was fine. I picked up my Thursday order, and a few other items (See? BOPIS CAN get customers to buy more in store!), and went on my way.

So later in the evening, I was surprised to get an email notification that the order for the vest had been cancelled… But I never called the… Wait a minute… The manager had white hair… And he was jolly… Do you think that, maybe… Nah… [jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle…]

Good Grief, I Need a Little Christmas…

Christmas music turns me into Buddy the Elf (What’s your favorite color?). BTW, nothing mashes up more perfectly than Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath The Tree” and The Carlton:

IMG_6907So, anyway, on my ride to my parents’ house, I was thrilled to hear 2 radio stations had already started non-stop holiday classics. But suddenly, as i was listening, I started crying… And I couldn’t stop…

You see, I was on my way to my parents’ house, which was no longer my parents’ home. It was now a shell of a house, completely emptied out and on the market. My mother died in May 2013 at the age of 83. My father passed away in April, two days after his 86th birthday.

All I could think of was how my Dad wanted to keep doing Christmas Eve dinner for the family. In 2013, he went solo. And he felt he failed because he didn’t have the right ingredients he needed to make dinner the way my Mom used to. But he was proud of all the gifts he bought from the catalogs my Mom never, ever, ever, ever let him touch (we soon found out he was a binge catalog shopper lol).

But, though we didn’t know it at the time, last year was THE last Christmas. My friend, Sheryl, helped him prepare the Christmas Eve feast, the gifts were… well… a little more practical, and for what was the last time ever, the Fairfield crew – which included me and my late brother’s sons, Matt and Jeff, my wife, Ursula, and my son, William – would celebrate Christmas with our patriarch.

In March, my Dad was in a nursing home, and his outdoor Christmas decorations still hadn’t been taken down. Part of that was due to the brutal winter we had, and part of that was due to timing. But some prankster decided to take matters into his or her own hands and tie one end of his Christmas lights to a car, and drive away, destroying the Christmas lights, but fortunately nothing else.

When I told my Dad, he was upset, and told me, “Throw out all the Christmas decorations – I want all new ones next year!” I ignored his command, but they were either sold in the estate sale in September, or they were thrown in the Dumpster.

IMG_6911So I gave you the long story to set up the short story: The cure my Christmas blues, and to make the shell of a house come to life again, I did what my Dad wanted to do anyway. I bought some new Christmas decorations for his house, only I did BOPIS with The Home Depot app.

And The Home Depot’s app may have been the best one I’ve used so far this season. The inventory was completely visible at my store of choice, the location map seemed to be completely up to date, so hypothetically I could have driven to the Home Depot in Fairfield, CT, and picked the items up instead of having someone fulfill the order for me.

But I was time-poor, which is why people do BOPIS in the first place.

Despite the awesome ease of use of the app, my order was not ready for pick up by the time I had to leave Fairfield. But it was fulfilled fairly quickly for a Black Friday (3 hours, 5 minutes), considering the number of items I purchased.

So on Monday, I will pick up my order at The Home Depot, and Tuesday, maybe, I will be decking the halls…

Target… BAM! Odrer’s Ready!…

targetAnd the lightning-fast BOPIS turnaround award goes to Target, which somehow managed to have my Ugly Christmas Hat I ordered via the app ready to pick up at the Trumbull West store about a minute after I placed the order.

Un-Freakin-Believable!

Even more un-freakin-believable though: I had no problem finding a parking place at about 5:15 p.m. on Black Friday… And it seemed like certain big ticket doorbusters like HDTVs were still there for the taking.

IMG_6894But it seemed like the Target employees may have been under-appreciated by its customers all day.

I thanked the customer service woman for taking care of me, and explained to her that I’d been having slow reaction times to in-store pick up all day with other retailers.

“We’re trying our best, that’s all I can tell you, sir,” she said to me, and she turned her head to help the next person in line.

Maybe no one had thanked them all day. Maybe Black Friday shoppers are miserable by nature and this had become a knee-jerk kind of reaction. Maybe if more people (at least in Fairfield County) treated retail associates with the respect they deserve instead of frowning down at their existence…

It appears Target has been getting slammed with BOPIS orders so far this season: Before 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the number of orders placed for in-store pick up increased by 35% as compared to 2014.

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