Today, a friend of mine called me to tell me that Fry’s had a 17″ Powerbook (refurbished) on sale for $2599 if you bought it in-store, and that they had a limited supply available. He’d read it in the newspaper advertisement, so I quickly grabbed my newspaper and looked for the ad. I found it, and sure enough, they were selling last month’s 17″ Powerbooks (refurbished) for $2599. It sounded like a great deal, as I’ve recently been in the market for a new Powerbook, but I was looking at the 15″ models because the 17″ models were too expensive and I really didn’t need that big of a monitor…
So, I called the local Fry’s to see if they had any in-stock. While I waited on hold for the better part of 10 minutes, I decided to check around on what a refurbished 1GHz 17″ Powerbook was going for elsewhere. I checked the Apple Store’s Hot Deals section and found the same Fry’s advertised refurbished 17″ machine for $2,499 instead of Fry’s price of $2,599. “Hmmm, that’s stupid,” I thought. “Why would I spend $100 more for the same machine?”
So, I checked Frys.com (which is really Outpost.com if you want to shop online (I wondered where the hell Outpost.com went)) and guess what I found? The same refurbished 17″ Powerbook for $2,499 with free shipping. “That’s totally fucked up” was my next thought.
So, I’m still on hold, waiting for someone that can help me to answer the phone, and I’m thinking how stupid this is, and that I should look up the number of the closest CompUSA to see if they have a new 1.25GHz 15″ Powerbook in-stock, as a backup for the call to Fry’s. You see, Fry’s has a lowest-price guarantee, and I figured if they’d sell the $2,599 machine for $2,499, I’d go buy one, because it’d be sweet to have a 17″ machine, even if that meant it was just a little slower than the new 15″ model.
So, the Fry’s ‘computer department’ sales guy answers the phone, finally. I asked him if they had any of the 17″ refurbs in-stock, and sure enough they did. Then I asked him if they’d honor the $2,499 price from their website, and he said “No, the web prices are always lower than the store prices.” I asked him why that was and he said “man, that’s way above my pay-grade.” I chuckled… and then spent a few minutes testing him for possibly breakage in his pricing powers, and he didn’t have any flexiblity.
So, I called CompUSA and had them put their last new 15″ Powerbooks on hold so I could pick it up later in the evening. They said ‘no problem’ and took my name and held a machine for me (which the wife is picking up right now).
So, how did Fry’s loose my business? By not selling the same machine they were selling online for the same price. Any you know what the worst part is? I’ve only been to Fry’s once, and wasn’t impressed the first time. I am a consumer that likes instant gratification, prefering to buy offline than online most of the time, unless price is truly an issue, or convenience is the same (like buying e-tickets for an airplane trip). I wanted a Powerbook today and was willing to drive to Fry’s to buy it, but they screwed the pooch. They had the chance to get me back into one of their massive stores (which was like visiting the zoo last time I went) to impress me again with the large “find every high-tech electronic you want” store-type again, and to turn me into a life-long Fry’s customer because they were selling something in the store for $100 more than it was worth. Fuck Fry’s. I’ll never even think of them as place that I might buy anything at again, unless of course the offer a loss-leader that entice’s me to visit their store.
And you know what the funny thing is? I’m also shopping (just shopping) for a large flat-screen TV that I’d like to purchase some-time in the coming 12-24 months… and I won’t shop at Fry’s for it. I might buy it from Fry’s if they’re the cheapest in town, but I won’t shop for it there… because they had a stupid online/offline pricing policy.
The web is another channel for the the same products, not it’s own channel for different products than are available through stores or catalogs. Company’s that have the same prices across all channels are more likely to earn more per customer than those that price things differently, as that Fry’s online customer will never shop at the store (because he knows he can get it cheaper online), and the guy that shops in the store is there because he likes to pay more for his shit (dumbass). If Fry’s goal is to expand their ‘foot-print’ across the US, then they’re shooting themselves in the foot by offering something online for less than they offer it in a store…
I don’t know what their overall business goal is, but I do know this. I’ll never shop at a Fry’s by choice.
I won, and Apple won this scenario, and so did CompUSA. I just bought a new 15″ Powerbook!