Kmart – “Ship My Pants” – One Week Later :-P

Ittttttttttttt’s been, one week since “Ship Your Pants”, went online and got Kmart cheers and rants!!!  LOL.  😀  Okay.  Enough trying to parody that old Barenaked Ladies song.  😛

One week ago, Kmart posted this new ad of theirs that uses a clever play on words (as well as something a lot of us used to do to get out of having our mouths cleaned out with soap as little kids) to advertise a new ship-from-store service where if something’s not available in-store they’ll order it online and ship it to the customer’s house for free.  I first found out about it a few days afterwards and wrote a nice little blog entry on it.  😀  Now as of this writing, the video has received over 11.5 million views on YouTube and pretty much quadrupled Kmart’s YouTube subscribers from 2000-something to just under 8000-something, with the remaining ones to get to 8-triple-0 probably en route as the ad continues to generate buzz of all types.

It’s important to note that this ad is basically being test-marketed online and might make its way onto TV later on (I imagine they’ll probably add some background music to the TV version if it’s not already on the air).  If by chance prudes block it from TV because they utterly hate the idea of shipping their pants, it’ll certainly have been successful at generating online buzz.  😀

I hope it provides much-needed buzz locally.  The Kmart out here near Sticksville (a.k.a. a decent drive away from the woods I call home lol) is often so quiet and empty that when the associates aren’t blasting loud music over the PA, people into Zen meditation could go there to relax.  Last time I went there the folks in the store were blaring the music over the PA with a decent chunk of bass too such that I was wondering if their PA speakers would make fiberglass bits fall out of the drop ceiling tiles.  😀  Kmart has come a long way in the wrong direction from their heydays back in the 80s, which makes me wonder if this edgy ad is something like a “eh we have nothing to lose – let’s go for it and try to get some customers back” type thing.  Hmmm….  Wonder if other financially-challenged chains will start doing stuff like this.  😀

Either way, once the “haw haw” effect of their little gag wears off, the real challenge will be what Kmart does when this ad drives people to their stores in terms of selection, service, whether stuff’s in stock, etc.  At the very least though, it has certainly gotten people talking, including major media outlets who’ve been covering the ad at least online if not on TV as well (just type it into Google News).  🙂

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Blunder-Mifflin – I Should Smash My Easy Button :-P

Last year at the end of the year I mentioned how Staples was one of my premier disappointments in 2012.  Now with about a quarter of 2013 in the history books, things haven’t changed.  Wall Street was pretty happy with the office supply retailer restructuring itself, but now weak retail sales have sent the stock sliding again, and then we have this popping up in the “related news” headline lists when checking the ticker on Google Finance.

http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1145741/limitless-paper-in-a-paperless-world

This, in my utterly oh so humble opinion, represents everything that is wrong with this recently embattled New England business success story.  To recap from earlier, I keep a close eye on the Easy Button folks because red state hecklers from other parts of the country like to go on about how nothing good business-wise can ever come out of the Northeast, and New England is too tax-and-spend for any businesses to amount to anything here, yet here came Staples out of “Taxachusetts” back in the 80s practically creating its own industry and proceeding to dominate said-industry for years afterwards.  These days though, Big S is synonymous with “delusional” and “stuck in a time warp” according to most folks whose articles I read that think that this company along with its entire industry is about to get Netflixed because they don’t seem to realize what year it is, or even what century it is.

It really says it all when a company’s namesake as well as much of what they’re known for in terms of what they sell (office supplies and related equipment) are in a state of permanent decline due to our increasingly-paperless world yet what’s the hot item they get themselves in the non-stock-related news and get a bunch of PR with?  Paper.  😛  This whole Dunder-Mifflin doodad began in late 2011 when Staples subsidiary Quill gained all the required okeedokees from rights holders to bring the fictional paper company from The Office into the real world.

Wall Street Journal – Great Scott! Dunder Mifflin Morphs Into Real-Life Brand of Copy Paper

I’ve never been a fan of The Office.  I’ve been anti-bureaucracy in business settings for years, and the show pretty much represents everything that repulses me about that kind of work.  However, from what I’ve read regarding this Dunder-Mifflin thing with Staples, the show (now in its farewell season) was slipping in ratings and viewership a bit when this paper first went to market in late 2011.  However, it’s not like the show and retailer haven’t crossed paths before.  I happen to remember a certain bit of guerrilla marketing for the Staples Mailmate shredder back in the day which constituted the only time I’ve ever seen someone use a paper shredder of all things to make a salad.  😛

Still though, this is the year 2013, in case the folks in Framingham didn’t get the e-mail (because “getting the memo” is sooooo last century).  Paper, and everything related to it, remains in a state of permanent decline as other methods of communication take off and the business world’s response to paper ranges from necessary evil to an all-out witch hunt in the case of pro-Obamacare politicians calling on the medical industry to stop being so paper-dependent this far into the 21st Century.  This means not only paper and things like pencils, pens, staples (haw haw), paper clips, push pins, etc. (also known as office supplies), but also devices like printers, fax machines, copiers, MFCs, etc. (a.k.a. office machines), which places two of Staples’ main product categories that they’re known for into the fires of change, along with part of one of the in-store services they offer (Copy & Print).  The remainder of Copy & Print can keep making things like business cards, posters, large signs, etc.  The other remaining categories include furniture, which should continue doing okay so long as people continue actually needing desks in their offices (:-D) and tech, which is what analysts say Staples should be focusing on, yet I see struggle after struggle after struggle with them when it comes to technology.

Technology isn’t a cure-all for Big S’ recent woes though, as PCs are also in a state of permanent decline as they share more and more of the stage with alternative computing devices.  Ultimately, I think EasyTech will eventually go the way of the dodo if the services aren’t expanded to include other electronic devices besides PCs.  Sales and support on the other hand remain both an opportunity and a challenge for Big S.  That leaves…. janitorial and breakroom supplies as the last remaining category?  Even that might suffer if America’s war against this country’s obesity epidemic causes folks to not want to ingest as much junk food while on the job.  😛

What frustrates me the most about this company is that everything they need to get out of their current mess is right there in front of them, yet we keep seeing stuff like Blunder-Mifflin in the news.  Staples has done notably better at developing an online presence than other Brick And Mortar Dinostores, and is now currently the second largest eTailer in the world behind only Amazon, yet despite their site deserving a “most improved” award in my book for having gone over the course of the past several years from me having to babysit orders just to make sure they get delivered to me preferring Staples.com over Newegg for some things (which is wildly unusual for a geek like me) I still cannot recommend either Staples’ site or their stores as a serious source of technology over something like Newegg or TigerDirect.  Their website is clunky to use, even when shopping for the basics such as flash memory cards, prices often aren’t competitive with sites like Newegg, and some of their marketing stuff is an insult to any geek trying to buy stuff on their site (like when something says I can “pay as little as” X amount of dollars for an SD card if I pay regular price for the smallest card they have that might not be big enough for what I need it for :-P).  Ultimately, the existence of NeweggBusiness.com is the ultimate evidence that Staples.com isn’t living up to its full potential.  When Newegg is able to successfully expand from tech into office supplies and B2B accounts while Staples struggles to go the other way from that sort of stuff into being taken seriously for technology, something is dreadfully wrong.  =(

I also shouldn’t be seeing articles like this in the news.  =(

http://www.forbes.com/sites/benzingainsights/2012/11/07/amazons-lockers-coming-to-staples/

Seriously?  This company is doggedly trying to be taken seriously online and then they do something like this?  What’s next?  Pickup points in Target for orders placed on Walmart.com?  Sure Office Depot and OfficeMax may be supposedly merging, but the office supply sector needs to get out of its fishbowl.  Staples’ main competitor is not going to be the Frankenstore combination of Office Depot and OfficeMax, it’ll be Amazon, or perhaps NeweggBusiness later on, so any remaining pleasantries like pickup lockers should probably be ditched in the coming years.  Staples has recognition among business people, which means it would have value as another Circuit City type former store chain if the company were taken private and revamped to eliminate the stores, but I think the stores can stick around wherever the customer traffic makes them feasible, maybe even with lockers of their own for .com orders instead of letting Amazon steal the show.

Ultimately, the only way I can imagine Big S sticking around for the long haul at this point is if the term “Office Superstore” is utterly ditched in that company, despite the nostalgia it may evoke among some people there.  Brick and mortar stores are in a change-or-die situation right now.  Even Walmart is playing around with some ideas to make their stores into a little more than stores these days.  Staples’ future depends upon how well they can be what they are according to their own numbers and results – an eTailer with stores on the side using its brand recognition from its Office Superstore days to beat Amazon at its own game and run sites like NeweggBusiness out of business forcing Newegg to stick with its tech stuff roots instead of encroaching upon Big S’ territory like that.  😛

Perhaps that’ll make cynical analysts and bloggers change their tunes and we can stop seeing articles like this popping up.  😛

http://blogs.marketwatch.com/cody/2012/09/25/staples-is-doomed/

In the meantime, let’s end this entry on a more positive note with Staples’ Copy Cat commercial, probably the cutest commercial I’ve ever seen them air.  😛

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWisZKWRUOY

Of course, this would be a lot easier if WordPress’ YouTube embed feature wasn’t so unreliable.  Regular links without the embedded video just look…ugly.  But that’s another discussion for another day.  😛

Kmart – “Ship My Pants” – BAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!! :-D

Good one Kmart.  Way to bounce back from Sears Holdings making it into the WCIA this year and having been a company I’d have voted for in at least the first round or two.  😛

This is sheer genius, and a bit of a shocker considering how much “old school retailers” like Sears Holdings and JC Penney have hit snags over the past few years.  I’m expecting this commercial to go the same route as some of Staples’ more infamous zingers like the “WOW!!!  THAT’S A LOW PRICE!!!!” guy, whose infamous commercials inspired numerous fans of Staples to go into Staples or other stores like Walmart and “re-enact” the commercial.  😀

…and to not leave a bad Easy-Button-flavored taste in folks’ mouths, here one of my favorites from the folks at Big S over the years.  😛

I’m sure the whole “ship my pants” thing will do the same thing for Kmart in terms of “commercial re-enactors”, but at least it won’t have people screaming and hollering in the store.  😀  It’s funny because as a kid I remember myself and other bratty little kids going around saying “ship” instead of…. that other word…  and getting yelled at, “WATCH YOUR MOUTH!!!” at which point we’d say, “But I said SHIP!!!!”  Some people of course would mess up and say, “But I said ship, not…” … LOL.  😀

Not to say retailers should start a huge advertising war to get people acting as juvenile and immature as possible, but there’s a special charm in this type of ad lol.  I might actually take a trip to Kmart next time I’m near one just for the heck of it because of this ad, or save the $4/gallon gas and give their website a try and see how they fare in the “Brick And Mortar Dinostores” phenomenon where B&M retailers struggle trying to go online versus the Amazons, Neweggs, and Monoprices of the world.  😛

…but enough talk for now, if you’re ever feeling like shipping your pants, Kmart will be glad to help out.  😀

Brick And Mortar Dinobanks Too?

So I tried going to the bank earlier, and I can’t believe banks are getting just as bad as sleazy big box retailers.  These people were already on my bad side but now they’ve just made the situation worse.  😛

I’ve already seriously considered switching banks because of the crap my bank pushes these days.  First, when you go to do anything during their ridiculously limited branch office “banker’s hours,” you’re told to swipe your ATM card and enter your PIN, just like you’ve gone to an ATM.  Seriously?  Doing anything in a branch office is like using an ATM except with the potential for human error because you still have an actual human bank teller doing all the work?  Ridiculous.  Then on top of that I’ve been getting nagged whenever I had an actual person handle the transaction.  “Oh you know our ATMs do all this stuff nowadays right?  Matter of fact it’s easier to use the ATM than come in here.”  Wow.  What kind of special snowflake managers are these places hiring who are telling the probably poorly-paid tellers to essentially try to encourage the elimination of their jobs day-in and day-out?  Have these clowns ever considered that I’d rather not stand out on a street corner messing with their vintage Windows XP-powered ATM with the half-broken early-2000s CRT touch screen when I can simply walk into the building?  Some banks are smart enough to have your card unlock a door to an ATM room so you’re not out on the street getting money, but this one isn’t one of them.  😛

So, on top of all of that, now I go to simply deposit a check and get some cash back and suddenly the teller’s all big box sales staff on me because the bank’s pushing a credit card so an otherwise simple bank transaction already made too complex by the ATMesque card-swiping and PIN-entering now has to include some nagging to get this credit card.  It was totally on par with a big box retailer trying to sell me an extended warranty or GameStop trying to sell me a preorder or magazine subscription.  Wow.  Is there any physical business left besides Walmart anymore where I can just show up, get stuff done, and come home without someone nagging me all over the place?  I may just start using the ATM all the time after that little incident.

The worst part about all of this is that while doing this brick and mortar businesses will then cry about how eTailers are crushing them, when one of the very simple differences between the two types of businesses is that when I shop at a Newegg or an Amazon I don’t have naggy sales staff twisting my arm about everything.  😛

Dear Radio Shack and Best Buy – If Folks Like You They Will Come…

Well now.  I’ve managed to combine consumer electronics brick and mortar dinostores and a Field Of Dreams reference.  What could I possibly be up to…..  🙂

I’ve recently been following the woes of Best Buy in the news, but now Radio Shack apparently is in trouble too:

NASDAQ – Can Dinosaur Radioshack Evolve?

Radio Shack?  A dinosaur?  Since when?  If I recall one of Best Buy’s proposed early solutions to their woes that I heard about earlier was to try some smaller store formats to reduce overhead, a.k.a. try being like Radio Shack.  I’m guessing that didn’t work out?  😛

Quite frankly, what these two companies have in common as far as I’m concerned is bluh service.  I don’t know what this NASDAQ article’s talking about with Radio Shack supposedly having “impeccable customer service.”  If they’re really that good I have yet to see any of it around here.  Same with Best Buy.

For example, I’ve always been able to count on Best Buy over the years for miserable service, and things haven’t gotten any better over the years.  They were responsible for selling me the first and worst computer I’ve ever owned that drove me to get into PC hardware and build my first homebrew machine halfway through college when the PC they sold me kicked the bucket then they blew me off when I tried to invoke the service plan we bought for it.  Several years later, my Dad wound up in the same boat.  I haven’t been in one of their stores in years and am in no rush to ever return of course.

Radio Shack, on the other hand, has at least tried to provide decent service once in a blue moon, but for the most part I can usually count on Radio Shack to be quite consistent with things such as taking cheap parts and cranking up the price on them, being out of stock on something I’m looking for, or just plain not having very good stuff in stock to begin with.  During the “You’ve Got Questions – We’ve Got Answers” days I jokingly went around saying, “You’ve Got Projects – We’ve Got Stockouts” because that’s usually how it went with them.  I’d need something and oopsie-doopsie, the local Shack didn’t have it.  😛  Not a good thing when I was working as an in-house tech guy in some local warehouses at the time and was picking up some warehousing knowledge on the side, such as the idea of “stockout” being a swear word to logistics and supply chain folks.  😉

Radio Shack also has the dubious honor of having sold me the worst keyboard I’ve ever had.  Back in the mid-1990s I had picked up an interest in playing keyboards so my folks got me a Radio Shack Concertmate 575 with reduced-size keys in case that turned out to be a phase I went through.  It wasn’t, so they got me a Concertmate 1100 with normal-size keys for Christmas that year, and by the following Christmas, we had to replace the whole thing because keys kept snapping under normal use.  My folks got me a Casio WK-1250 for Christmas that year, and I still have it to this day.  🙂  Here’s a YouTube video I did about it.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPiX3FSepE8

Nowadays, it’s kind of hit and miss with them.  I usually go there as my “nerd convenience store” of course for geek supplies, but last time I tried going there for electronics stuff I walked in and the store clerk was being hassled by some rude customer who couldn’t get her smartphone working properly.  Yeah sure the customer was annoying and by the time I went to check out the clerk had to step away from her for a bit to ring everything up, but the clerk gave me a bad attitude even though I wasn’t the one being snotty.  =(  Not too good to take out their frustration on other customers.

All this is beside the point though.  What’s missing from these two companies is decent service and a desire to treat their customers like something other than mindless sheep.  I know a lot of B&Ms like to point at eTailers as a perennial scapegoat for not doing well, but is price really everything, or does service matter?  The worst service I’ve received over the past few years in almost all cases has had one thing in common – brick and mortar stores.  Sure there’s bad service online too, but for the most part it’s offline stores where I run into the most service shenanigans.  Gee.  You think that could possibly be influencing where I want to buy things from?  😉

These two companies shouldn’t disappear – especially Radio Shack, but what they need to do is focus on getting local customers to actually like them again.  Sure some people buy things exclusively based on sticker price, but service still counts for something these days.  That’s why I buy electronics from various eTailers.  I used to play the price games with lists like Pricewatch.com back in the day, but after barely keeping myself from getting swindled on a sound card purchase by an unethical eTailer in Ohio who now thankfully appears to have gone out of business, I started finding good eTailers and sticking to them.  I’d do that with good B&Ms too if there were any around here, but I find most of them around here to leave me feeling neutral/average/ho-hum in terms of service.  It’s the Neweggs, B&H Photo Videos, Monoprices, etc., whose service makes me enthusiastically want to go back even if they’re not the cheapest pricewise.

Hmmm….  Getting people to like you.  Where does that fit in amidst the various quantifiable business metrics out there these days….?  :-\

Ye Olde Pricing Rollercoasters

I’m guessing February TV Sweeps is going to make for some really juicy headlines this month.  I mentioned the three back-to-back investigative journalism stories on local Connecticut TV stations, but The Consumerist caught one from out in California.

The Consumerist – Is Kohl’s Marking Up Prices Before It Puts Items On Sale?

It’s funny, or maybe it’s not, because I used to have a joke as a kid that went, “Buy One Get One Free Sale Going On!  (Prices Doubled).”  Quite frankly, I don’t buy the official Kohl’s explanation of the rising cost of cotton being the reason why some of the inventory shown in the video was marked up.  I think that’s just maximizing profits as usual if you have something you buy for price A but doesn’t sell then the price goes up so you reticket it to sell for Price B even though you got it for Price A some time ago.  😛

I know full well that Kohl’s is not the only retailer who does things like this.  This kind of behavior assuming it’s going on in the first place is a symptom but not the problem.  Once again, the Internet is the big wildcard here.  Sales that aren’t really sales may have worked in the days before people could hop on Google to see if a sale price was worth it, but not anymore, especially when smart shopper smartphone apps are bridging the gap between the two setups bringing some of eTailing’s accountability to the brick and mortar world.  eTailers could never get away with this kind of stuff since with today’s tabbed browsers and search engines in the address bar all someone needs to do is flip through index tabs to see if a sale was really a sale, and it’s good to see mobile technology bringing this to the B&M stores as well.

Whether brick and mortar or anything else, one thing these companies in these older business models need to accept is that the “good old days” are over and everyone has to deal with change.  The question is, how will these organizations adapt?

The 90s Have Finally Arrived At Lowe’s :-P

Well, it looks like I won’t be linking to anything on Lowes’ website anytime soon.  😛

Ars Technica – A License To Link?  Lowe’s Has One

In a day and age where Web 2.0 and internet culture are well established and mainstream and eTailing is not only profitable but gives traditional stores a run for their money it’s nice to see that 1995 has finally arrived at Lowe’s.  Now if I want to link to them even if I don’t use their logo I’ll have to print out and fill out a paper application then fax it back to them to apply to get permission to link to their page.  😛

Yeah right.  I’ll pass on the outdated bureaucratic nonsense and just never ever link to them.  😛  You know, most web page operators want as much traffic as possible, but not them apparently.  Wonder if they’ll try to enforce that in any way shape or form.  😛

What’s next?  An animated GIF joyously proclaiming that the site’s Y2K-compliant?  :o)