A MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT STAFFER was shopping for boots online in early December and found a pair she liked at L.L. Bean. Uh, oh — out of stock. So she tried the next closest size. No go. She then selected another style of boots from the outdoor gear and apparel cataloger, checked both sizes, but the boots were backordered. A third boot style (in both sizes) was also unavailable. Just for kicks, the staffer checked all the sizes, and found they were backordered until late January; some styles were backordered until late February. The staffer really wanted the first boots she found, so she ordered them and resigned herself to waiting until January for them. To her surprise, the boots arrived Dec. 18. It’s always better to exceed customer expectations, but Bean probably could have sold a lot more boots if it had better intelligence on its inventory. How many people didn’t order because they wanted the boots by Christmas?