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The Internet vs. Brick-and-Morter (or The Times They Are A Changin’)

Posted by Todd

I continually hear businesses complain about how Internet companies are stealing their business--that it just isn't cost-effective to do business any more. Boo Hoo!

Here's a story for you. As an amateur photographer, I am constantly in the market for equipment upgrades and accessories to maximize and optimize my photographs and experience. I have window-shopped several of the local establishments here in Denver, both their new and used departments. I like to patronize the local shops for several reasons. First of all being convenience, then because they ARE local and I like to see businesses succeed.

The other day on impulse, I bought a used lens from one of the local Denver shops at a reasonable price. It wasn't a steal, I could've gotten it cheaper elsewhere ( in particular), but they insisted on the price and they were offering a six-month warranty. Cool, I couldn't really quibble over $25 for a $850 purchase! Especially when there's lag-time and shipping costs involved from an Internet company.

The next morning, dork that I am, I got cold feet as I need to sell a few things before I can truly fund a hobby purchase of this nature (fellow photographers understand what I mean) so I attempted to return my recent acquisition not even 24 hours later. That's when things got ugly.

In attempting to make a return to this local establishment, I was presented with a statement on the bottom of my own receipt: store credit only on returned items over $100 in value. Right--who reads their receipt? And at that point it's too late! Besides, what can you buy in a camera store for less-than $100? Then I was presented with a 15% restocking fee (about $120). Unacceptable. I negotiated the fees down to about $40--they had to be compensated for the Visa fees--still feeling that was too much. I ended up getting a check from them, negotiating the fees down to $20.73 to compensate them for one-way Visa charges. It was a MAJOR hassle in my opinion.

Now if I'd bought the lens from one of the reputable photo dealers on the Internet,,, or, I would have had at the very least a 7-day no-quibble return window. But also would've been out return shipping. However, I wouldn't be hassled over why I was returning it--whether it was a problem with the equipment or not, etc. Neither would I be presented with a restocking fee nor would I have to quibble over Visa fees!

It is interesting to note that ALL of the fore-mentioned companies have a brick-and-mortar presence. I'm sure they still pay Visa fees. And I'm sure people purchase items to shoot an event or stuff around the house then return them.

So I ask you... do you think I'll be returning to patronize that particular local camera store? Do you think I'm being unfair? I think businesses need to catch up with the times and consider that local stores CAN compete when they offer truly great customer service, convenience and friendliness. This business offers very little, if any, of that. Bummer.

As far as I'm concerned, if you want to stay in business now days, you need to pay attention to what's going on, how you fit into that, and what unique benefits you provide--focus on those, providing even more of what you're good at.  Or you can be stingy, focused on lack, and go out of business.