The decline of brick and mortar shops has been going on for a few years now, and everyone is blaming Amazon.  While Amazon is an obvious contributing factor, what if I told you there was another factor?  And what if I told you it’s something that shops are bringing on themselves?

Total.  Crap.  Customer.  Service.

First example.  Ever since Wal-Mart embraced a policy to check customer receipts on the way out the door, bad customer service has been festering under my skin.  The practice of checking receipts is not unusual at Costco and Sam’s Club, but that’s part of your membership agreement, so that’s ok.  It’s annoying but ok.  However, you do not have a membership agreement at Wal-Mart, so what gives?  No, you cannot look at my receipt.  I have somewhere to be.  Stop wasting my time.

Know why Amazon is awesome?  Price is one amazing benefit.  Let’s be honest though.  If you think about it, you use Amazon because it’s convenient.

  • No getting ready.
  • No getting in the car.
  • No dealing with traffic.
  • No dealing with people.

No dealing with people?  Am I Scrooge?  Not quite.  I’m referring to time-wasting people.

Home Depot is what pushed me over the edge.  I have a small cabin project that I’m working on.  In what is becoming my semi-regular visits to Home Depot, I had to buy some insulation.  On this trip, I also had to return an item.

Let the inconvenience begin.

Upon returning the item, I was asked to provide ID.  Not unusual, except I provided a receipt and was still asked to show ID.  I can understand why ID is asked for if there’s no receipt, but I had a receipt.  I asked why an ID was needed and was told that it’s because the receipt shows the item that I was returning was paid for with a gift card.  Ok, I get it… I guess.  But the majority of the purchase wasn’t paid by a gift card.  The item I was returning was $5, and the receipt showed that a whopping $70 out of a $1200 purchase was paid for by a gift card.  By far, the majority of the purchase was not paid for with a gift card.

The most frustrating part?  No one can tell you where your ID goes after it’s scanned.

  • What info from your ID is saved?
  • Where is it stored?
  • How securely is it stored?
  • How long is it stored?

I complete the return and hit the aisles to buy my insulation.  A lot of insulation.  Thousands of $$$ worth of insulation later I’m checking out at the cash register.  Guess what?  I have to show ID to make a purchase, too.  Use your credit card?  Plan on showing your ID… again.

I complete the purchase, and now I have three full carts.  The cashier asks if I need help loading it.  I accept the offer for help.  After waiting a few minutes with no help in sight, I walk out and start loading on my own.

Because the insulation is piled high on the carts, I can only take one at a time.  I head to my SUV and trailer and unload the first cart.  As I return to get the next cart, there is still no help in sight.  Considering it is 39 degrees and pouring rain, I’m not going to sit around and wait.  I unload the second cart.

On the way back to get the next cart, I see a gentleman heading my way with my third cart.  As I tuck away my empty second cart, I see him drop a bag of supplies that I bought onto the ground into a puddle.  Well, whatever.

I walk over and greet him and point him to where I’m at.  Guess what he does?  He asks for my receipt.  Are you kidding me?  He shows up 10 minutes late to the party and asks for my receipt while standing in near-freezing temperatures while pouring rain?  Had help arrived on time he would have been there with me waiting at the cash register.  Seems redundant considering they were paged by the cashier that checked me out, whom obviously knows I paid.

The help was no help at all.

I gave him the receipt and guess what he did next.  He scanned it… and scanned it… and looked at it more.  Then some more.  Meanwhile, I finished unloading the third cart before he was done reviewing the receipt.  He did nothing at all other than get my bag of supplies wet.  They had one job, to help me, and that opportunity was lost because all they want to do is waste time due to store policy.

Retailers shouldn’t inconvenience their patrons due to their delays and mistakes.

I’m still not quite sure what he was looking for.   I had a ton of insulation and the receipt showed likewise.  I didn’t sneak back into the store unseen with three carts full of insulation, tuck away a secret, special $9000 hidden product and walk out unnoticed.

This same concept is what is frustrating about Wal-Mart and other receipt-checking retailers.  The doorman, just 10 feet away, will often watch you pay with their own eyes and your receipt is still asked for; as if you channeled Houdini during that short 10-foot walk, eyes locked with the doorman, disappeared back into the store without the doorman noticing and shoved a year’s worth of goods into your pockets, all without the product noticeably protruding from your body.

Why physical retail locations are dying.

  • Guess how many times you have had to show your ID to make an online purchase?  None.
  • Guess how many online stores ask you to email or scan a copy of your receipt 15 seconds after you just finished the purchase to prove that you made the purchase? None.
  • Guess how many times you’ve had to show your ID to Amazon to make a return?  Zilch.
  • Forget Amazon.  Guess how many online stores of any kind you have had to show your ID to make a return? Zero.
  • If you ever have to return a product, guess how many times you feel like online stores think you might have stolen the goods and you’re trying to return it for a free ride?  Never.

All of these “store policies” that brick and mortar retailers are enacting to try and minimize turnover is doing the opposite.  Physical retailers are losing customer patience and trust.  Brick and mortar retailers, you’re contributing to your demise.

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