THE SECRET SHOPPER

April showers bring May flowers…though at Catalog Age, we prefer our flowers to come from catalogers. With that in mind, The Secret Shopper sent e-mails to eight catalogers asking what would happen to a flower or plant delivery if the recipient were not home to receive the package.

With just two exceptions — Gifts.com and Martha by Mail — the marketers replied within 24 hours. Mrs. Fields (better known for cookies than for floral arrangements) replied within an impressive four minutes! As editors, we couldn’t help but notice that one reply contained a misspelling (Calyx & Corolla), and we were slightly appalled at the fragment sentences in the pleasant but convoluted message from Smith & Hawken. By the way, for the most part, whether the delivery is left on the recipient’s doorstep or put back on the truck is usually up to the carrier, unless the customer specifies ahead of time.

CATALOGER E-MAIL SENT REPLY RECEIVED TIME LAPSED
Mrs. Fields April 2, 3:20 p.m. April 2, 3:24 p.m. 4 minutes
Calyx & Corolla April 2, 11:46 a.m. April 2, 1:50 p.m. 2 hours, 4 minutes
1-800-Flowers.com April 2, 11:26 a.m. April 2, 4:14 p.m. 4 hours, 48 minutes
Jackson & Perkins April 2, 11:29 a.m. April 2, 4:28 p.m. 4 hours, 49 minutes
Smith & Hawken April 2, 12:01 p.m. April 2, 6:30 p.m. 6 hours, 29 minutes
Red Envelope April 2, 11:49 a.m. April 2, 9:30 p.m. 9 hours, 41 minutes
Gifts.com April 2, 12:27 p.m. April 3, 1:45 p.m. 25 hours, 18 minutes
Martha by Mail April 2, 11:43 a.m. April 3, 5:00 p.m. 29 hours, 17 minutes

The Secret Shopper

Even if you’ve never been anywhere near a polo mallet (or a horse, for that matter), polo shirts are reported to be the hot fashion item for spring/summer. This month Catalog Age’s Secret Shopper investigated the going rate for a men’s polo shirt by mail order, calling catalogers to check stock, shipping costs, and estimated delivery time via standard shipping on a men’s white cotton short-sleeve polo shirt, size large.

Catalog

Price

In stock?

S&H

Standard delivery time

Eddie Bauer

$22.00

Y

$2.95

Within a week

J. Crew

$28.00

Y

$6.95

2-5 business days

Jos. A Bank

$42.50

N

$6.95

Lands’ End

$24.00

Y

$3.95

3-5 business days

L.L. Bean Traveler

$40.00

Y

$5.95

About a week

Nordstrom Men’s Ed.

$29.50

Y

$6.95

3-6 business days

Paul Fredrick

$32.50

Y*

$5.50

3-5 days

TravelSmith

$36.00

Y

$4.99

4-5 business days

* “We have 98 left.”

THE SECRET SHOPPER

The Game Plan: Super Bowl Party Products To make this year’s Super Bowl party really, well, super, the Secret Shopper hit the catalogs about a week before kickoff time looking for products ranging from TVs and snack foods to team jerseys and decorations. Of the 13 catalog companies contacted, eight said they could deliver the in-stock goods before the Jan. 28 game; two could not check stock on the items until the Shopper placed an order; one company said it could “probably” deliver the order on time; another said “probably not”; and one cataloger said “definitely not,” because the item was a TV, and the company does not offer expedited delivery on that product.

THE SECRET SHOPPER

To make this year’s Super Bowl party really, well, super, the Secret Shopper hit the catalogs about a week before kickoff time looking for products ranging from TVs and snack foods to team jerseys and decorations. Of the 13 catalog companies contacted, eight said they could deliver the in-stock goods before the Jan. 28 game; two could not check stock on the items until the Shopper placed an order; one company said it could “probably” deliver the order on time; another said “probably not”; and one cataloger said “definitely not,” because the item was a TV, and the company does not offer expedited delivery on that product.

CATALOG DATE
CALLED
WAIT TIME ITEMS REQUESTED/
ITEMS IN STOCK
DELIVERY
BEFORE 1/28?
Crutchfield 1/19 40 seconds 2/2 Yes
Fingerhut 1/19 1 minute Could not check stock
without placing an order
Hammacher Schlemmer 1/24 None 2/2 Yes*
Hickory Farms 1/22 3 minutes 3/1 Yes**
Lifestyle Facination 1/23 None 1/1 No***
NFL.com 1/23 1 ring 1/1 Yes
Spiegel 1/19 2 rings 1/1 “Probably”
Star Struck 1/22 1 minute 2/2 Yes
Stew Leonard’s 1/22 none 3/1 Yes
Things You Never Knew Existed 1/23 3 minutes 1/1 “Probably not”
Wolferman’s 1/23 1 ring Could not check stock
without placing an order
Wyoming Buffalo Co. 1/23 1 ring 3/3 Yes
Zingerman’s 1/23 15 seconds 3/3 Yes****
* Rep could not confirm fees for expedited delivery because call was placed after midnight, and customer service was not available.
** Additional charges for expedited delivery would be 25% of order value — not including standard delivery charges.
*** Company does not offer expedited delivery on television sets.
**** Could also opt for Saturday delivery for giant deli sandwich for an additional $20.

The Secret Shopper

Scooters, singing fish, robotic pets, and Palm Pilots were reported to be hot gifts for holiday 2000. Below, a comparison of prices, stock status as of early December, and delivery charges and times for these items.