Being a proponent of technology and disciplines related to how organizations manage their own information to better meet their objectives, I was at a loss to explain to my 9 year old son why he was not able to purchase his much sought after Wii U Sunday. My youngest son had saved dutifully, even through the Christmas period, to gather together enough money to buy himself a Wii U. He even helped in early December with a yard sale, wrapped in a coat against the cold, he ‘manned’ his own table and sold off a range of his old, less played toys.
We searched the retail web sites Saturday for a Wii U that was close enough for me to take him to purchase. We tried local malls, even as far away as 30 minutes. Not a Wii U was found. Presumably retailers had managed their Xmas inventory so well they were now all out of stock. Then, to my great surprise, the local Toys R Us store seemed, at least on their web site, to have one in stock! It was the $299 bundle with a couple of games. My son’s eyes lit up at the thought. So we went to bed, all excited that Toys R Us would be our destination the next day.
The next day, Sunday, my son and I drove to the local store and dutifully looked around the games section. I saw Xbox’s and other fancy colored devices but no Wii U. I brought up the Retailers’ web app on my smart phone to check the online store inventory. There it was, one in stock! I looked around and waited 5 minutes for a staff member to help. No one came. Thankfully my son was temporarily engaged with the distractions of the other toys in front of him. But I knew that would not last long.
We had to get in line at the cash register. That seemed like the only way I was going to get served. I showed the somewhat pale young man (too many late nights playing Battlefield 4?) my phone screen, showing him that his store had the needed item. He shuffled off to the same area I had searched, and it was then that I got that ugly feeling. I watched as he then went towards the front office. I wish he had gone to the back store room. He came back to the cash register and reported, “Sorry we don’t have any in stock.” So I asked him what his company website was for? He shrugged his shoulders and he repeated his missive.
My sons’ face dropped and his eyes’ welled up. He had gotten the message that he was not going to get his game console. Worse, school was to start in 2 days, so time was almost up. As we walked back to the car, I started to think through the issues. I initially thought that the backend inventory system and front end web site were not up to date or synchronized. This is a logical conclusion. This issue has plagued retailers for years, and continues to be a bugbear. But how can something as simple as this come home to roost and actually impact me directly? But there could be other, related issues also.
Given that Xmas has just concluded, it was also likely that most retail inventories would be very low. Thus any discrepancies would be observed. This took me back to my manufacturing days: we always scheduled annual stock-takes (inventory count) at the year-end since inventory was often at its lowest. But $299 game consoles are not easily lost, stolen or pilfered, so how could such a large item get ‘lost’ or be unaccounted for?
Beats me. Anyway, whatever the issue, my son was disappointed. While he moped around the grocery store with me after the disappointment, my wife did some additional research and luckily enough found another Wii U unit at a Target store 30 minutes away. She ‘reserved’ it using the online feature and thankfully, did not get a message later saying, “inventory error – not available for store pick-up”. My son was playing his Wii U by 2pm. Yeah! I’ll go back to helping retailers (and other organizations) manage their information to help them meet their customer service objectives. Clearly I did not do enough in 2013. I had better step it up in 2014.