Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

January is usually the time when I post about how much I hate the cold, or about how much I hate how midwesterners drive in the cold. Today I thought I'd do something a little different. Below is a picture that accurately sums up the midwest experience for me:

For those of you who can't read the sign, it says "Free Mullet Removal." And yes, this huge sign was posted roadside here in Minnesota within the last few years. Because in Minnesota, the mullet is still an acceptable hair style, 25 years after it's 15 minutes of fame.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bah Humbug-er's

Ah, the Christmas season. A time filled with decorations, parties, friends and family...

And shopping. Lots and lots of shopping.

I am a diehard Black Friday shopper. I've been doing it for years. There is nothing like the feeling of excitement that comes when one starts eargerly anticipating the arrival of the Thanksgiving paper and the included Black Friday ads.

I am a sucker for doorbusters, jewelry in particular. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the only morning of the year when I will voluntarily get up well before the crack of dawn to score $15 pearls or $10 earrings.

Each year the stores are opening earlier and earlier, and many of the major department stores find themselves competing with each other for customers. Both JCPenney's and Kohl's, stores that I routinely hit on Black Friday, opened at the 4AM this year. Herberger's, a midwest department store, opened at 3AM. All had excellent sales on jewelry, which presented a quandry for me.

For those of you who do Black Friday shopping, you know that many of the high profile door buster items are cleaned out within the first five minutes of the store opening. Picking which store to go to first is the equivalent of deciding which doorbuster you want the most. But many of the stores solved that problem for you this year by offering online shopping.

Herberger's was one store that offered customers the option to buy selected doorbusters online on Thanksgiving. Even though it was the only store opening at this time, it was a welcome discovery for me, becauase a) Herberger's is always obnoxiously crowded on Black Friday, b) I wasn't real excited about the 3AM opening, because c) it's freakishly cold in Minnesota at 3AM on the last Friday in November.

So, decked out in my comfy jammies and in the warmth of my own house, I solved my Herberger's dilemma on Thanksgiving by ordering all of the doorbuster merchandise I wanted online.

I received a confirmation email immediately, listing all of the merchandise I had just ordered. I then went to go get ready for Thanksgiving, quite proud of my shopping accomplishment.

The e-mail confirmation stated that my order would ship in 7-10 days. Sure enough, about a week later, a box from Herberger's appeared at our doorstep. However, it did not contain the full order. I received an email saying the rest of the items would be shipped shortly.

I waited another week, eagerly checking the mailbox each night to see if a package had arrived. When that week had passed, and still nothing had arrived, I began to get a little nervous. I had originally purchased all these items for gift exchanges we would be part of or as gifts for other people, and Christmas was rapidly approaching. I called the customer service number on the order confirmation to check the status of my order. I waited...and waited...and waited...and then decided that I could watch a little TV with one ear and keep the other ear open for the promised representative that was supposed to be with me shortly. I watched an entire half hour TV sitcom while waiting for that stupid representative before deciding the situation was ridiculous, and I would call back from work tomorrow when I could at least put the call on speaker phone so I could work while waiting for a human to pick up the phone.

The next day at work I made the call, put it on speaker phone, and waited another 20 minutes for a representative, only to find out that the remainder of the items I had ordered were not in stock. Now, this initially wasn't that big of a deal to me. I figured that the items were backordered, and, while we might not have them in time for Christmas, they would at least arrive sometime thereafter. A late present is better than no present at all.

But the items had not been backordered. Instead of trying to fill the rest of my order, Herberger's canceled it. THEY CANCELED IT. I was told by the poor person on the other end of the line who was in no way responsible for my situation but was having to deal with my wrath because of it that I should have received an e-mail notifying me of the cancelation.

I received no email. There was never any correspondence indicating that the order had been canceled. I received only two e-mails from Herberger's: the order confirmation and the shipping notice, wherein they said the rest of the items would be sent shortly.

Not only am I down several gifts I was counting on having days before Christmas, but I am down doorbuster jewelry items. These were not items we would purchase as gifts at regular price. Days before Christmas, there is no way we were going to find gifts of the same quality at the same price as the jewelry I had ordered. Furthermore, the entire problem could have been avoided if I had just done the shopping in-store the day after Thanksgiving; I could have left the store with the actual items in hand. But I didn't, because I thought I had finished all of my shopping online.

There was no indication on the Web site when I ordered that these items were not in stock. Apparently the people at Herberger's have never heard the old addage "If it's not for sale, don't put it in the window."

And there is one ad I will not be looking at when I make my 2010 Black Friday shopping list.