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Patriotism, Wasted Time, and Free Shipping, A Few Random Thoughts

April 27, 2012
Lately, our trade mags are all abuzz with headlines announcing this factory or that vendor is moving part or all of its operations back into the States. Most are doing so because of the cost savings. Some because they realize “Made in America” is gaining traction with buyers. Keith Guidry of Percy Guidry’s Hearth and Patio and I were on the phone the other day, and this topic came up. Keith told me about two things he is doing in his store that I thought were cool. With his permission, I want to share them with you.

First, he purchased a big map of the United States which he mounted near the entrance of his store. Then he placed pins with manufacturer’s logos showing where, in this country, their facilities are located. He told me this great visual resonates with his customers.

But wait, there’s more. He went out and bought some small hand-held American flags that he proudly displays on every set that is made in the U. S. A. (By the way, he was very particular and wouldn’t buy flags that weren’t made here) He is not knocking his clients over the head with the “Made in America” thing. Zealous patriotism can be deadly. Instead, he is making clear with subtle hints why his products are better than those in big box stores and warehouse clubs. Kudos to Keith.

Did you hear that CBS Consumer Products is going to put “The Good Wife” name on furniture and home decor lines? Is this a great idea or a gigantic waste of time? Honestly, what credibility could a television series that is usually rated third in its time slot add to a product? And, by the way, is the American public still so brand conscious that they are clamoring for “The Good Wife” products? Whatever happened to good design, perceived value, and durability as a manufacturer’s goal? If a chair ain’t comfortable, it won’t sell no matter who’s name is on it!

Day before yesterday, I needed a small electric kitchen appliance. I went to several local stores to buy it. I regret to say that none had the most recent model on their shelves. I ended up buying the product from Amazon.com. There is nothing too remarkable about this - - - yet. Just trust me and hang on for a few more sentences. As I was making the purchase, I noticed that Amazon has something called Amazon Prime Membership. For $79/year, members get expedited two day shipping for free on almost anything they order. While not all items qualify for this; lots do. Okay, here comes the remarkable part. As I was checking out, the site offered me the option of joining the program for a thirty day free trial. If I did join, my kitchen appliance order would qualify for the expedited shipping program. It would have cost me over $30 to get that kind of shipping on this product. So, my mother having not raised a fool, I joined the program.

Of course, nothing free is really free these days.  I had to agree that after the thirty day trial period, they could charge the $79 fee to my credit card on file. To their credit, I do have a reasonable amount of time in which to make that decision. Let’s face it, though, I bet I forget to cancel my membership in the allotted time.

I mention this program to show how competitive the Internet is becoming with us brick and mortar retailers. There is nothing new about free delivery.Some sites have been giving free delivery for years. Few, however, give free expedited shipping. I thought Amazon could do this because they built the cost of shipping into their price. Nope! Their price was as low as any I saw on Internet sites of brick and mortar stores. You may be saying to yourself, “Bruce, this might happen with small items; but, we’ll never see it for furniture.” Gosh, Buddy, I hate to burst your bubble but go to the Brown Jordan site where they offer “Free shipping and installation on all online furniture orders 1. 24-hour notification, 2. Unpacking, 3.Delivery to Patio or Deck, and 4. Packaging and Debris Removal.“ While it is not expedited free delivery it is free White Glove delivery? Who else does that?

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce