business news in context, analysis with attitude

One MNB user had the following thoughts about Walmart’s online strategies and tactics:

The other issue Walmart will need deal with in getting customers to order online and pick up at the store is that most online consumers shop online for the convenience of having the item delivered to their door.  From my husband’s experience with picking up an item ordered online at Walmart and then picked up from the store, .the experience was anything but pleasant. 

First he had to discover where to pick up online orders (the "Greeter" had no idea).  Then he had to walk to the furthest point in the back of the building - which is of course closest to their store room - then wait for an employee to show up...who then had difficulty locating the item, all the while not clearly not really wanting to be there.  Basically, trying to pick up the item from the online order took longer than buying it from the store to begin with.

To be successful, they will need to bring online orders to the front of the store, to a dedicated pickup window or counter staffed by an employee with a smile who will actually be there.  The cost savings have to be significant for him to order this way again.

I hear from various sources that there is an enormous disconnect between Walmart’s brick-and-mortar business and its online business - that manufacturers, for example, that want to run a promotion on both platforms often find themselves having to run parallel promotions instead of one cross-platform effort.

Not only does Walmart have to address this issue, but every retailer with both a brick-and-mortar and online presence needs to consider how to best break down the walls internally, culturally, and in the shopper’s eyes. Because shoppers don’t care about organizational issues. They just want their product. Retailers either have to find a way to make the experience compelling and seamless, or face the fact that the shopper will find a retailer that can and will and does.

MNB took note the other day of a USA Today story saying that retailers including Target, Costco, Sears and Kmart “are hawking freshly cut Christmas trees delivered door to door anywhere in the 48 contiguous states ... online tree sales — which at Sears costs as much as $189.99 for a 9-foot fraser fir tree from North Carolina— are becoming a lucrative business for some big chains. Some retailer sites cajole shoppers to purchase a tree even as folks sign on to just to purchase ornaments.”

The story quotedLisa Mastny, a spokeswoman for the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit group that encourages a less product-focused seasonal celebration, as saying this about the online tree buying trend: "It's a sad reflection of where American society is going.”

My comment was that this “strikes me as just so silly.

“There’s no intrinsic and objective moral value to buying a tree locally as opposed to buying one online, just as there is no intrinsic objective moral value to cutting down a Christmas tree yourself. Subjective value, sure - because one chooses to acquire a Christmas tree (and everything else that one buys) in a way that suits their lifestyles and personal preferences.

In the case of Christmas trees, it seems to me that what is more important is having a spirit of love and compassion and good will, and sharing those feelings with the people around you. How one buys a Christmas tree is, in the end, objectively irrelevant.

And people who try to assign objective values to such things are operating with blinders on, trying to assign their own subjective values to other people, insisting that everybody else see the world the way they do.”

MNB user Richard Thorpe wrote:

There are quite a few charities here in Idaho that sell Xmas trees. Those on-line, door to door, I don't have to leave my house sales certainly reduce and may (probably will) eventually eliminate the profitability of charity lot sales due to decreased volume.

Perhaps how one buys a Christmas tree does reflect one's Christmas spirit just as what one buys, where one buys and to whom one gives does reflect who they are and how they view Christmas.  I agree that what we as a country have done to Christmas and consumerism in general is a sad reflection on our society. However, our profiteering on war and the public's lack of caring about it, among other special traits,  is a much much sadder situation.

We will buy our tree from a charitable organization and hope that Santa brings all the children in our lives a great Christmas and hope that those celebrating Christmas are as blessed as we are. We will do our best to not judge the actions of other unless those actions are harmful to children and adults.

Technology continues to bring with it both good things and bad. Let us all hope that the good eventually outweighs the bad!

I actually got a number of emails pointing out that every tree bought online could be taking money away from charities that desperately need it. Which is a reasonable observation, except that I wonder how many people who buy from trees from such charities would choose to shop online instead.

My point is simple, and I’m sticking to it. These buying decisions are subjective, made on the basis of people’s individual priorities. They are not intrinsically or objectively right or wrong, good or evil.

One MNB user wrote:

Your “KC’s View” comments about some trying to characterize their subjective values as objective and impose them on others goes to the heart of today’s politically engineered cultural divide. Sharing a spirit of love, compassion and good will, as you so aptly put it, would shed light on the statistical fact that we are all more alike in our attitudes and beliefs than we are different.

Nice piece, thanks.

My pleasure.
KC's View: