Tag Archives: Retailers

Still Waiting For Your Rebate Check From Eagle Technologies For Products Purchased At Micro Center ? Don’t Hold Your Breath !

WARNING TO CONSUMERS

WE RECOMMEND AGAINST PURCHASING PRODUCTS SOLD OR MARKETED BY THIS COMPANY

THEY HAVE A HISTORY OF DENYING VALID REBATE SUBMISSIONS AND/OR NOT PAYING VALID REBATE CLAIMS IN A TIMELY MANNER

We’ve written previously about the Micro Center chain of computer stores. We’ve also written about companies who play games with consumers when they try to claim a rebate. We like shopping at Micro Center because of their competitive prices and great selection, but we don’t like getting screwed when we try to get a rebate check for something we’ve purchased there. Micro Center needs to stop doing business with manufacturers who make it difficult or impossible to submit and receive rebates for products purchased at Micro Center. We consider a retailer’s advertisement of a product rebate to be a non-revocable contract with the purchaser, and we believe the courts will have the same opinion. Just as you expect to pay the advertised price, you expect to receive the advertised rebate in a reasonable amount of time and without unnecessary hassles.

Back in December 2007, we purchased two different Eagle Tech (Eagle Technologies) products at Micro Center, both of which offered rebates. We should have been suspicious, because the rebate offers had the most complicated and time consuming set of terms we’ve ever seen. To make matters worse, it’s pretty obvious that the people at Eagle Technologies do not have an impressive command of the English language, because the rebate form was full of grammatical errors and obviously writen by someone whose first language was probably Chinese. There are a lot of people in California. Couldn’t they find a native English speaker to proofread their rebate offer?

Here’s a verbatim example of what I’m speaking about…

We are not responsibility for any of non received check, Lost mail, Expired rebate check, Forgot deposit check issues. [sic], [sic], [sic], [sic] and [sic]” !!!

For those who have no idea what all the [sic]s mean, check out this article from Wikipedia.

Eagle Technologies / Eagle Tech is located in City of Industry, California. It’s an unusual place with an unusual name. (As an aside, if you visit the McDonald’s in City of Industry, you won’t be able to get a Big Mac or a Happy Meal. Here’s why!)

Eagle Tech requires you to first file your rebate claim online, then print out a form and mail it using an envelope that you paste their address label and barcode onto. Then you wait for several months while they “age” your claim (like it was a piece of cheese, I suppose), go thru several phases, including “submitted”, “received”, “approved”, “check printed”, etc. Are they joking? Is this a contest or a rebate offer?

Our rule of thumb is that the longer you have to wait, the more hoops you have to jump thru, and the more conditions in a rebate offer, the less likely it is to be legitimate, and the less likely you are to ever see a rebate check. We would certainly advise you not to make he same mistake we made, and to avoid Eagle Tech products, which include their CONSUS, ARION (or maybe it’s ORION), VOLTAS, FORTE, DRAGON and NEPTOR lines of computer products. Certainly don’t buy any of their products if you are depending on a hassle-free rebate experience.

It’s unfortunate that some retailers and manufacturers have to resort to these games. Certainly, there are many ethical companies that offer rebates that are easy to submit, and which are processed promptly. Sadly, Eagle Technologies does not appear to be one of them. So we wait… and hope. Will our rebates eventually arrive, or will Eagle Technologies declare bankruptcy first, as many companies that never fulfill rebates have done in the past, leaving their customers screwed and without recourse.

Here’s another Eagle Technologies customer’s horror story about their rebate experience. And here’s a forum string containing comments from customers who haven’t seen their Eagle Tech rebate checks.

And talk about long waits, that’s exactly what Eagle Technologies will have if they expect us to purchase any of their products again.

File this article under…

Eagle Tech Rebate Rebates

Eagle Tech Computer Rebate Rebates

Eagle Technology Rebate Rebates

Eagle Technologies Rebate Rebates

Micro Center Rebate Rebates

Rebate Fraud

Rebate Scams

Rebate Games

Deceptive Rebate Tactics

Rebate Hell

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Filed under Business, China, Consumerism, Free Stuff, Life, Money, Personal, Personal Tidbits, Rebates, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Shopping, Technology, Your Money

Bad Day At Black Rock – The Axe Falls At CBS Flagship Radio Station WCBS 880 AM In New York City

…And we’re not referring to the 1955 John Sturges movie by the same name, starring Spencer Tracy.

We’ve written here recently that it seems to us that the vast majority of the advertising on radio stations lately is for products best described as snake oil, and services of questionable efficacy, almost always targeted at individuals in some sort of trouble. Advertising for legitimate, mainstream products and services seems to have all but disappeared. In our mind, this is direct evidence of the faltering economy in the United States, as well as a result of the impact the Internet has had on manufacturer’s and retailer’s advertising habits. We doubt that a radio station enjoys the same type of advertising revenue from a commercial for some brand of snake oil, as it would for an ad from an automobile manufacturer, airline, bank or any other “real” advertiser. And when you hear the same snake oil spot being broadcast every few minutes, day-in and day-out, we think it’s a good bet that they are buying the airtime dirt-cheap. Tough economic times always breed a bumper crop of hucksters, snake oil salesmen and get-rich-quick schemes. We guess P.T. Barnum was right.

It came as no surprise then, when we learned that there was a round of layoffs this week at CBS radio stations, including at WCBS-AM (880 kHz) in New York City. There are reports that nearly 200 CBS radio employees lost their jobs this week. According to this posting, it’s Crystal clear that the bloodletting included WCBS jettisoning their Program Director, Crys Quimby. You can still (at least at this writing) read about Crys on her page at WCBS880.com. She had been with CBS for more than 20 years! You know things are bad when people with that much service are shown the door. We guess that means there will be no gold watch.

The day after I blogged this story, this article appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger. A statement released by CBS Radio included the following explanation…

“With these actions, we continue to build on our strategy of deploying our assets to best grow our ratings and monetize the results”

Now, if that isn’t a piece of tortured doublespeak, penned by some corporate spinmaster, we don’t know what is. In fact, we’re not even sure it’s written in English. We parsed it using our Captain Midnight secret decoder ring. It translated into “The Internet has killed our audience. Between that and the failing economy, our advertising revenue has dried up like a lake bed in a drought. We’re running out of money”.

What’s next? Hooking WCBS 880’s traffic reporter Tom Kaminski up to a bunch of helium balloons instead of having him report from “Chopper 880”? Maybe they’ll have chopper pilot Christopher LaCasse manning the helium tank. We would love to have Tom take a few hits of helium just before he goes on the air. His traffic reports would sound like this (please don’t try this, since it could be dangerous, and there’s always the chance you could sound like one of the Munchkins permanently). The Wizard Of Oz has always been our favorite movie. As a child, we would cry every time we watched it, afraid that Dorothy and Toto wouldn’t get back to Kansas. By the way, here’s why helium does funny things to your voice.

…But we digress.

About the only advice we can offer to the employees at WCBS-AM and other CBS stations who are now unemployed, is to not bother applying for jobs at Macy’s. But WCBS could enter Tom Kaminski as the newest float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s, one of America’s oldest and best known retailers, just announced they are cutting 2,300 jobs (read about it here). No big surprise here either, since retailers are really hurting in this economy. But hey, Wal-Mart is still hiring. As we have previously written, don’t expect the $600 income tax rebate checks Americans will be getting thanks to the U.S. Economic Stimulus Plan to be much help. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Macy’s ends their more than 80 year sponsorship of the annual Thanksgiving day parade in New York City. In that case, you could say that the axe fell on the turkey, too. The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show, which has dazzled New York City for over 30 years might also fizzle.

Of course, it’s not just CBS Radio or radio and TV broadcasters in general who are feeling the pinch. Newspapers are folding (pun intended) under the weight of a failing economy, coupled with the exodus of advertising dollars to the Internet, cellphones, and other electronic venues. Take The New York Times, one of America’s most venerable and respected newspapers, for example. The print edition of The New York Times is a shadow of it’s former self. Over the last year or so, entire sections of the Sunday New York Times have disappeared, while the newsstand price has climbed to $4.00. That alone, I am sure has contributed to much of the decrease in circulation that they have seen. For a long time, they didn’t even bother to renumber the remaining sections. For instance, when they killed section 10 (Help Wanted) and section 13 (Television), they simply sold the Sunday newspaper with those section numbers missing for about a year. I would imagine that prompted a lot of complaints from readers that their copy was missing some sections. Then recently, they decided to drop the section numbers altogether, simply using the remaining sections’ names only (Sports, Real Estate, etc.). I took this as an omnious sign that they expect to discontinue even more sections of their Sunday edition. We were particularly upset when the Technology section (formerly the Computers section) that appeared one (weekday) per week, shrunk and shrunk until all that remains today is one or two pages a week inside the Times’ Business section. Even the physical size of their pages has been reduced. We guess that means the Times is shrinking literally AND figuratively.

We’re not the only ones thinking that The New York Times is in big trouble. Internet pioneer Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, has begun his “New York Times deathwatch” (see this CNN article).

So I guess we will be getting most of our news off of the Internet from now on. Too bad, because we were starting to find all those radio commercials for snake oil to be quite entertaining.

– RoutingByRumor

P.S. – Ever wonder why WCBS-AM, which used to go by the moniker “Newsradio 88” adopted the “880” identity? They’re still at the same spot on the AM dial, 880 kHz (or 0.880 mHz). When radios, especially car radios, had analog tuning dials, it was the norm to drop the last digit of frequencies below 1 megahertz. Hence, 530 kHz was shown as “53” or “53“, and 880 kHz was shown as “88” or “88” (to avoid clutter, only a few frequencies would usually be shown on the tuning dial. You would have to guesstimate the position of the other stations). Some listeners would scratch a mark into the face of the radio to mark the position of their favorite stations. We would put little dots of “white-out” on the face of the dial. With the move to digital displays on modern radios, 880 kHz is usually shown as “880”. WCBS, as well as other AM stations, simply wanted to keep things in sync, and have what you see displayed match their announced frequency.

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Filed under Business, CBS Radio, Employment, Jobs, Journalism, Labor, News, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shrinking Products, Technology, The Economy, WCBS-AM

Bloomingdale’s Warehouse Fur Sale – Proof That Even Luxury Goods Retailers Are Hurting ?

You are more likely to find us at a PETA meeting than in the fur salon at Bloomingdale’s, and we usually don’t pay much attention to advertising for fur coats. Besides, who needs fur, when you already have, well… fur! (see our picktur). But with everyone’s preoccupation these days with the economy, and the fears of a prolonged economic recession, I guess we have fine tuned our radar to keep an eye on advertising and retail trends.

We just heard a radio commercial advertising Bloomingdale’s warehouse fur sale. Now perhaps they have this sale every year, but I can’t recall hearing or seeing this in the past. If this is a new marketing gimmick by retailers of high-end products, we think it is confirmation that the economic slump has finally reached the luxury goods market.

RoutingByRumor’s economic rule of thumb # 1: You know it’s really a recession when the luxury goods market is hurting, or when you can’t unload your mansion at any price. What’s next? Buy-one-get-one-free deals from Rolls Royce? A De Beers warehouse sale? Buy one Learjet, get the second one for half-price?

Now don’t go running out to your nearest Bloomingdale’s store. The advertisement indicated that the sale is taking place at their fur warehouse, which is actually the Danish furrier Birger Christensen’s warehouse. Birger Christensen / BC International Group (BCIG) appears to be the largest fur retailer in the United States. (As an aside, I stumbled across some interesting info about an action that BCIG brought against another retailer to gain control of the Internet domain “maximilian.com”.)

We’ve read that Bloomingdales is not Birger’s customer, but rather it’s landlord. Birger Christensen leases space in Bloomingdale’s stores and operates the fur departments with their own employees. This, coupled with the fact that the “warehouse sale” is taking place at BC’s warehouse, tells us that it is not Bloomingdale’s holding the warehouse sale, but Birger. It would be our guess that the inventory is owned by Birger, and not by Bloomingdales (or by any of the other retailers where they operate their fur salons).

With BC’s purchase of Evan’s, Inc. almost ten years ago (see this article about Evans’ history), they operate the fur salons in Bloomingdale’s, Carson Pirie Scott, Dayton’s, Filene’s Basement, Goldsmith’s, Hudson’s, Lazarus, Macy’s, Marshall Field’s, Rich’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue stores (see related article, circa 1999, so this list may have changed somewhat). We don’t know if any other retailers use warehouse sales to move luxury product inventory. Our guess is that even if they haven’t in the past, you might start seeing them doing so now, as the economy continues it’s downward spiral. See this New York Times article about a disappointing holiday season for the nation’s retailers.

As the downturn of the U.S. economy continues, we think you’ll see indications that more and more retailers are in trouble, across the board. As we wrote yesterday, we doubt the U.S. economic stimulus plan that was announced yesterday will do much to stem the tide.

If the IRS hurries up with those tax rebate checks, perhaps you’ll get yours in time to run down to the “Bloomingdale’s” warehouse fur sale and do your part to stimulate the U.S. economy. You’ll look stunning in that new chinchilla.

– RoutingByRumor

chinchilla.gif

Chinchilla

Aw, he’s sooooooooooo cute. Maybe we’ll get a faux fur coat instead.

 

2/26/2008 Update – Here’s more proof that high-end retailers are feeling the squeeze… This article from CNN indicates that Nordstrom’s sales were down almost 9% in the last quarter.

 

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Stimulus, Schmimulus ! Why The U.S. Economic Stimulus Plan Won’t Have Much Effect

They are saying that the President’s economic stimulus package might be agreed upon today. Woo Hoo. Happy days are here again.

But wait a minute… I can still hear that “giant sucking sound”,  and it’s getting louder (oh, how I wish I could have found a clip on youtube of Ross Perot coining that wonderful phrase). What will the U.S. economic stimulus plan actually accomplish? Will it lower the U.S. trade deficit or increase it? Will it lower the unemployment rate? Will it have any effect on the crumbling real estate market? We believe that the proposed U.S. economic stimulus plan will not work. It is an attempt at a quick fix. It is an ill-conceived band-aid approach to what ails the U.S. economy, proposed by an administration that does not seem to grasp the root causes responsible for the American economy being in deep, deep trouble.

What the United States needs now is something along the lines of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which put Americans to work and helped pull the country out of the Great Depression. The WPA existed between 1935 and 1943. A chicken in every pot, and two hybrid (or electric) cars in every garage wouldn’t be a bad idea either. (We’ve copyrighted that new twist on an old campaign phrase, so if Rudy, Hillary, Barack or John want to talk, you know how to reach us.) It’s quite likely that many of the government buildings and infrastructure projects in the American city or town where you live today were constructed by the WPA during that period. The WPA was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal programs.

Taking the money the U.S. government is proposing to distribute as tax rebates, and putting it into a massive infrastructure improvement program would have several benefits, both immediate and long-lasting. It would…

– Provide long-term employment for millions of Americans

– Stimulate spending by reducing the unemployment rate, and giving the currently-employed higher incomes

– Repair or replace our crumbling infrastructure, particularly bridges

– Provide an infrastructure that will facilitate future economic growth

– Keep the money in America rather than giving the recipients of the rebate checks the ability to buy even more imported goods, a major reason we’re in this mess to begin with

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that every taxpayer in the United States gets a check for $1,000 (although it looks like many, if not most Americans will receive far less). Let’s say that Americans will spend every one of those checks rather than putting the money in the bank. Where will that money go?

If you’re about to loose your home to foreclosure, chances are good that that rebate check wouldn’t even allow you to make a single mortgage payment. Even if it does, that’s just postponing the inevitable for a few more weeks.

Perhaps you will take that rebate check and go on a shopping spree at Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Target. Wal-Mart is already America’s largest retailer and largest employer, but bigger is always better. If Wal-Mart grows, that means more low wage jobs for Americans. It means more Americans with little or no healthcare coverage. It means paving over more open land for new parking lots and big-box stores. It means more tough times for the few American manufacturers left, who are already being squeezed by the way Wal-Mart deals with their vendors.

About the only place you can spend that rebate check where the majority of the products are made in USA is at the grocery store. Unfortunately, for most Americans, eating is not a discretionary activity, and the amount of money you spend at the grocery checkout is unlikely to be influenced to any measurable extent by your rebate check.

Ben Bernanke will probably tell you that buying goods is exactly what you should do with your new found windfall. But wait a minute. As I’ve pointed out in this blog, and what you already know, unless you’ve been in a coma for the past few years, is that the vast majority of consumer goods you’ll find on retailer’s shelves are imported, overwhelmingly from China. In fact, we think that China will be the real winner if Americans go on a shopping spree. If you doubt this, just wait a few months and look at how our trade deficit with China increases as a result of this plan. Go to the mall and try to find clothing, shoes, toys, hardware or housewares made in USA. You won’t.

How is buying foreign goods supposed to help the U.S. economy? The U.S. national debt is being increased substantially by the stimulus plan in the first place. Buying foreign goods will only increase the trade deficit. Few American jobs will be created by this plan. That’s because we manufacture few products here any more, with the notable exception of food products, and even those are increasingly being imported.

With the cost of heating your home and filling your gas tank becoming an unaffordable luxury for many Americans, perhaps all of us should use our rebate checks to buy fuel oil or gasoline. The oil producing countries would love that more than oil itself. The American oil companies would support that too. Despite the fact that the oil companies have been raking in record profits, you can never be too rich, or too thin. On second thought, I think we will just cash our rebate check and ask the teller to give it to us in one dollar bills only. Then we’ll take the cash home, and use it as kindling in our fireplace. That’s one way to stay warm this winter, and it should reduce our heating bill slightly. Is it illegal to burn money?

About the smartest use we think you could put that rebate check to would be as a down payment on a hybrid or other low-emission or zero-emission vehicle. That would reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, while helping the environment at the same time. The only problem is that very few low-emission vehicles, and almost no zero-emission vehicles are being manufactured today. And chances are good that your next car will be a foreign make that might not even be assembled in America anyway. So much for stimulating employment.

The biggest reason that the economic stimulus plan will not have any significant or long-lasting effect on the U.S. economy, is that it does nothing to address the two underlying causes of our economic problems; loss of jobs (particularly loss of good paying jobs) and the U.S. trade deficit. Until those issues are addressed, the administration can throw all the money they want at the problem, but it won’t go away. The deepening economic recession will turn into a depression, as sure as Winter will be followed by Spring.

I just came across a posting on the AFL-CIO’s website outlining their views regarding what a U.S. economic stimulus plan should include. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple of their suggestions which were originally announced by the President as being part of the package, have been eliminated in the final draft. Although I have never belonged to a labor union, I was struck by how many of their ideas match my thinking on the subject.

Maybe those rebate checks should come with the stipulation that they are not to be spent on food, imported goods or foreign oil, gas-guzzling vehicles, and may not be burned.

– RoutingByRumor

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Filed under Automobile Manufacturers, Business, Cars, China, Consumerism, Employment, Energy Conservation, Environment, Jobs, Labor, Money, Politics, Retail, Retailers, Shopping, Stock Markets, The Economy, Walmart, Your Money

The Rise And Fall Of Circuit City Stores

Another one bites the dust ?

Well, we don’t want to bury the dearly departed before they take their last breath, so let’s just say “Another One Looks Like They’re About To Bite The Dust”. I’m hearing that song from “Queen” more and more often lately. I think you can say a trend is developing.

Based on news reports over the past year, and a syndicated Associated Press column I just read about Circuit City, it looks to us like the end is near. The health of the U.S. electronics retailer “Circuit City” has been in a precipitous decline, and the patient is being wheeled into the ICU. Unfortunately, just like Circuit City, the hospital they’re in fired most of their experienced employees, and replaced them with people earning little more than minimum wage. Talk about poetic justice. Patient care took a dive, but hey, look at all the money they’re saving. Smart. Real smart. Now, the vultures are circling, and it looks like they’ll be calling in the Tibetan monks, to conduct a “sky burial” pretty soon (also see Sky Burial on Wikipedia or this NY Times article on the subject). What a pity. First Computer City, then CompUSA, now Circuit City.

The beginning of the end for Circuit City, in our opinion, was in March of last year, when Circuit City’s CEO, Philip J. Schoonover, decided to fire almost 3,500 experienced employees immediately, and replace them with employees earning little more than minimum wage. This is “employment at will” at it’s very best. No advance notice. No buyouts. No severence. No decency. It’s little wonder that most employees these days, especially in the retail sector, have no dedication or loyalty. It’s every man for themselves.

Sadly, I doubt there is much of anything that the management of Circuit City can do to mitigate the damage done to it’s reputation, either in the eyes of their former customers, or in the eyes of their former and current employees. If I was one of the 3,500 employees who were summarily dismissed in favor of cheaper help, I wouldn’t return to Circuit City under any circumstances. To paraphrase the usual wisdom, fire me once, shame on you; if I give you the chance to fire me twice, shame on me.

I was a customer of Circuit City. I could usually find very knowledgeable employees there to help me make purchasing decisions. When I heard what they had done to their most experienced sales people, I vowed that I would never again set foot in a Circuit City store. I have kept that promise.  RIP.  Hasta la vista.  Good riddance.

riddance

noun

  1. The act of getting rid of something useless or used up: disposal, dumping, elimination, jettison. See “Circuit City”.

  1. The act or process of eliminating: clearance, elimination, eradication, liquidation, purge, removal. See “Circuit City”.

Our decision to never again be a Circuit City customer was not so much a result of our concern that they no longer have experienced salespeople. Rather, we were disgusted by the fact that a company we had patronized would do this to their employees. Apparently, many other former Circuit City customers feel the same way we do. Since their decision to fire their most experienced and knowledgeable employees, their sales have dropped substantially. And in the 10 months since Circuit City (NYSE: CC) made this incredibly smart decision, their stock price has plummeted from $22.00 a share to $3.50 a share, an almost 85% loss in value. Their stockholders must be so pleased. In comparison, during this same time period, the major stock indices (Dow Jones, NASDAQ, and the S&P 500) have remained flat, which while not great, is a lot better than shares of Circuit City have done.

Interestingly, Mr. Schoonover came to Circuit City from competitor Best Buy, four years ago, and in two years time he was promoted to CEO. No doubt he and Circuit City’s Board feel he is doing a great job. However, from where we are sitting, it looks like he has done more for Best Buy’s bottom line than for Circuit City’s, since becoming CEO.

For the fiscal year ended February, 2007, Mr. Schoonover received total compensation valued at nearly $7 million. We find that incredible. The 3,500 Circuit City employees who lost their jobs in March probably think that was about $7 million too much. Mr. Schoonover no doubt believes his decisions have been in the best interest of the company and it’s stockholders. RoutingByRumor asks this question; Could the decisions made by the management of Circuit City over the past year have been any worse?

How does the ship’s Captain rationalize it when he is being richly rewarded at the same time his crew is made to “walk the plank”? Mr. Schoonover’s ship has hit the rocks and it’s sinking fast. Will he follow maritime tradition, and go down with his ship, or will he jump ship? Or will the Board of Directors of Circuit City have him follow in the footsteps of his employees by walking the plank?

Aye, Matey. All ashore that’s going ashore.

– RoutingByRumor

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CompUSA Goes Belly Up

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As Queen elequently put it, Another One Bites The Dust (watch the youtube video)

… and now, we can report that CompUSA bytes the dust.

Gee Whiz, I must be psychic or something. Just a few days ago, I posted a comment on this blog that CompUSA, a chain of computer stores in the United States, would soon bite the dust.I just stumbled across this article on Reuters and this article on cbsnews that confirms that CompUSA is on it’s way out. According to Reuters, the chain has been sold to the liquidation outfit Gordon Brothers. They will be closing the remaining 103 CompUSA stores in early 2008. No surprise, actually, since CompUSA closed most of it’s stores earlier this year. In recent years, CompUSA was controlled by Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu, reportedly the richest person on the planet, even wealthier than Bill Gates or Warren Buffet (see this Fortune article on Carlos Slim).

Have you ever seen a tree that was pruned to death? After a certain amount of pruning, the death of the tree is inevitable, because it can’t absorb enough sunlight to survive. So too with computer retailers (or any business, I suspect). I was quite certain that it was simply a matter of time before CompUSA was history. That time appears to be at hand.

I don’t have an MBA. I’m not an accountant or a retail executive. I’m a computer geek. But I know mismanagement when I see it, and CompUSA was a poster child for piss-poor management. I can’t tell you how many times I went into one of several local CompUSA stores to purchase sale items and came up empty-handed. So, I would walk over to one of the computer terminals that the sales staff used, and I would enter the SKU of the item I was looking for. Nine times out of ten, the computer showed that the store had stock on hand, sometimes a large quantity, but it was nowhere to be found. A few times, when I would pester one of the salespeople to go check the stockroom, they would usually find the item in the back, and bring one out for me. Sometimes, they wouldn’t want to bother because they did not have any confidence in the inventory quantities shown in the computer. Maybe that was just an excuse because they were lazy, or maybe their inventory tracking really was inaccurate. Sometimes they would say it was in the store somewhere, but they didn’t know where.

What a joke. I mean, if you go through the trouble of ordering inventory, printing up a sale circular, and shipping the item to your stores, but you don’t follow through and put the stuff out on your sales floor so it will sell, you don’t belong in business. This wasn’t a rare occurance. It was the status quo at CompUSA. I am confident that if you put me in charge of CompUSA, I could have done a better job. Who knows, maybe I could have saved them. I think part of the problem was that the chain had changed ownership years ago. When any business gets sold, especially if the new owners are investors and/or absentee owners who don’t know the business, look out. With some very rare exceptions, nobody will do as good a job running the business as the person or people that founded it. They don’t have the same passion. If the business fails, they’ll just move on to something else. There’s little devotion or emotional attachment, because it’s not their baby.

The sales people at CompUSA were rarely motivated. I suppose they didn’t earn enough to get real excited about their jobs. The store management was pitiful. There were a couple of employees at the CompUSA I frequented the most who did work hard, and I felt very badly for them losing their jobs when that store closed.

I recently posted this article about rebate scams. I had more than my share of problems with rebates on items I purchased at CompUSA. I complained a number of times, both to the CompUSA store where I purchased the items, and to their customer service phone number. There were many rebates on items I purchased at CompUSA that I got cheated out of, and never received.

You know, to be honest, CompUSA was never my favorite computer store anyway. I preferred the Computer City chain, which closed circa 1998 or 1999, if memory serves me correctly. Computer City was purchased by CompUSA. They closed some Computer City stores and turned the rest into CompUSA stores. Egghead Software was also pretty good, although they operated much smaller stores and did not carry a lot of hardware. Today, Egghead is strictly an online retailer. The newest chain to open in my neck of the woods is Micro Center, which started out in Ohio, and has expanded to almost two dozen stores. Micro Center is a pretty cool store. It looks like there are a lot more good deals to be had there, and they claim that they have prices as good as you’ll find on the web. They sell brand name (Dell, IBM, Compaq, etc.) brown-box “refurbished” computer systems alongside their big selection of new systems. They cater to system builders and gamers and have a pretty large Apple department. They also have a nice computer book and magazine section, nearly as large as you’ll find at Barnes & Noble or Borders Books. On several occasions I’ve picked up some bargain-priced (not-current edition) but otherwise new books for under five bucks each. They even have free Internet access kiosks, so you can comparison shop without leaving the store! There’s little in the way of computer hardware that they don’t carry. If there’s a Micro Center near you, you have little reason left to buy stuff online.

Life goes on. Other computer retailers will come and go, to be sure. Perhaps my opinion of CompUSA will mellow as the memories fade to black.

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eBay – A Buyer’s Market or a Seller’s Market?

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I love eBay. I hate eBay. I’ve used eBay since 1999.

If you are looking for a hard to find, vintage, used, discontinued or rare item, eBay is the first place to look. If you want to find the latest tech gadget at less than retail, check eBay first. A lot of people won’t even consider buying something online or at a “brick-and-mortar” local retailer without checking the price on eBay first.

With all those “Get Rich Selling On eBay” books and seminars out there, you would think everybody could quit their day job and watch the money pour in when they become an eBay seller. Don’t bet on it. Most eBay sellers hardly make enough to make it worthwhile. When you factor in the amount of time you have to invest to set up an auction, respond to buyer’s questions, deal with deadbeat bidders, and pack & ship the item, and the cost of eBay’s and PayPal’s fees, it’s hard to make a profit. Meg Whitman, eBay’s CEO, and eBay’s stockholders have made fortunes on eBay. If you want to make money on eBay, buy some eBay stock rather than trying to sell on eBay.

eBay has incrementally introduced new features over time that makes it a more secure and useful platform, but eBay has also devolved into an uneven playing field that benefits few but eBay itself. In category after category, you have sellers selling items for pennies, but charging outrageous amounts for “shipping”. Even the majority of sellers who aren’t selling through “Buy-It-Now” auctions for $0.01 are still inflating their shipping charges to try and make some money. This is especially true with sellers from countries like Chins, which have become a larger and larger presence on eBay.

I’ve seen it over and over again… For example, very small items selling for a few pennies, but with a $29.00 shipping fee. Shipping that will cost the seller anywhere from a first-class postage stamp to perhaps a dollar or two. Few buyers or sellers seem to care much about the practice, and eBay is certainly not complaining. There is so much competition between sellers that they all have to resort to this tactic. eBay actually helps sellers inflate their shipping fees by allowing them to build their margin into eBay’s auction shipping charge calculator.

Why is this happening? eBay does not charge a commission (final-value fee) for shipping charges assessed by a seller, so sellers shift all or most of an item’s cost to the shipping fee. eBay appears to have made no serious attempt to curb this practice. Why? I think it’s because eBay also owns PayPal, the bank thru which the vast majority of eBay transactions are paid for. If eBay doesn’t get their cut thru auction fees, it will still earn it’s money through PayPal fees.

If you’re looking for a bargain on the latest high-tech gadget, I doubt you’ll find a bargain on eBay. Items that are in demand usually sell for prices close to retail, especially when you add in the “shipping” charge. Most eBay sellers will not accept returns or issue refunds. Many manufacturers will not honor rebates or warranties on items purchased thru online auctions. While most sellers do a good job of describing an item and it’s condition, some do not. Some are deceptive.

For items like used or out-of-print books or DVDs, eBay is great, and there are many bargains available. I think eBay has done more for the environment by keeping stuff out of landfills than any recycling program has ever done. If you want to get rid of it, don’t throw it out. Put it on eBay.

One of eBay’s strengths is it’s feedback system. I like the very democratic rating system, where buyers get to rate and comment on sellers and vice versa. It encourages people to treat other eBayers they deal with fairly. It also holds you hostage to some extent. You have to avoid giving negative feedback to someone you’ve dealt with, even if it is justified, for fear of receiving retaliatory negative feedback. The feedback system is a double-edged sword.

…When I continue, I’ll discuss some of the issues I’ve touched on in greater detail.

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