Dear Best Buy (and readers). On Friday evening, the hard drive on my laptop went bad. Bad Sectors, unreadable clusters, a repair that took 20 hours to get 20% through the repair process, a failed recovery, a dead laptop... Too bad for me, but is this an opportunity for someone else? I practically sleep with my laptop by my side. When given the opportunity to buy new or repair old, I am the consumate American; I buy new.
The advantage of a brick and mortar store is not lost in the online world. The one thing that Amazon.Com, TigerDirect.com, Dell.Com and the myriad of other online stores cannot deliver is the ability to take my hard earned cash from my hand and deliver the goods to me today, now, immediately.... So, until they can do this, my impulse purchases are pretty much relegated to going to Best Buy, CompUSA (so long, I hardly new ye!), Circuit City (should they ever decide to sell useful products instead of the cheap selection they carry instead), and other brick-and-mortar stores. So, off I went to Best Buy. There are two near where I live. I visited one and looked through their laptop selection. They had the perfect model for the perfect price...$999 for a latop with a 17" widescreen, 250GB HD space, Blu-Ray reader, 8400M GS graphics card, Intel Core 2 Duo (5450, but still...the price!). It was an Acer, a manufacturer that I have been happy with to date.
Unfortunately, the brick-and-mortar failed to deliver. They didn't have any in stock, and would not sell the display model. However, they claimed the other store had 2 of them in stock, and that I could go there. Hrmmm, I didn't appreciate the trip, but the other store was reasonably on the way home....off I went, cash literally in hand.
As I am not writing to you from a new laptop, you should have already guessed that I was failed by two separate Best Buys on that day. In fact, their computer showed that they had two of the model in stock, but they could not find them. The manager recalled having just sold one of the three he had, but had absolutely no idea where to find the other two. They told me that I could buy another model, but to meet my needs (mostly the graphics card selection), the closest model would be $1499, $500 more than I had expected to spend buying the one I wanted. They told me that I could order it, and they would have it delivered, but the magic of the moment was gone. If I'm going to order something, I might as well just order the parts needed to repair my old laptop; and that is exactly what I did when I got home. I ordered a faster and larger hard drive for my old laptop.
If brick and mortar stores are willing to give up their competitive advantage of landing a sale and delivering the product IMMEDIATELY to their customers, they don't deserve to stay in business. Perhaps I'm too discerning a customer for them. Perhaps my demands for a laptop whose graphics core didn't suck was too much for their expectations, with what's good enough for 80% of their audience being enough to pay the rent on their stores.
One of these days online retailers will figure out a way to meet the needs of the impulse buyer, and shoppers like me will flock to them instead of driving to the local stores. I can't wait, myself, and I'm still sitting on $1000 that I didn't spend at Best Buy that day.