Online Shopping Head Scratcher

I like to shop online.

The convenience can't be beat sometimes. My camera, for instance, came from a major retailer's online division because they didn't offer the package I ultimately chose in their stores. Heck, the location nearby didn't even carry the D90 at all.

I'm a frequent shopper of Amazon, because we have ONE measly bookstore in this whole
town. It's a fact that bookstore likes to crow about when I shop there. I think I give them fits when I respond to this comment (which is an inducement to join their frequent shopper program) with things like "this doesn't reflect well on the literacy rates in our county," "but competition is good for the consumer, lack of it is only good for the retailer," "and it's a shame my favorites are no longer around." When given the choice of buying a CS5 Flash Professional book from the brick and mortar for 59.99 or the same new book from Amazon for 39.99 and free shipping, I'm going to choose the cheaper book. That twenty dollar difference can buy a bunch of food, thank you.

With the advent of the Internet and with everyone getting on the Information superhighway, retailers will make it possible to check the status of that order and the shipping companies can let you see that the camera is in Peoria or that book is in Jacksonville, awaiting a truck to bring it to me.

Part of this new mode of shopping is that you get an order number and you're free to use it whenever the urge comes upon you to find out whether you should start stalking the FedEx/UPS/Mail Carrier for your coveted item. If it's 2am and I'm wondering, I just cut and paste the order number out of the confirmation email and thirty seconds later, I've got the information I need, straight from the appropriate website.

Apparently, Target doesn't like this idea. We spent a week shopping around for new furniture for the lanai, because we typically don't dine out there, the chairs that are currently around that table are extremely uncomfortable to both me and Ed (most chairs hit my leg in tender places, so cushioning is a must) and we both like to sit outside in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine.

So, after looking around at about a dozen retailers, we settled upon a seating arrangement we liked in the Target store. We were less than thrilled with the in-store color (boring greige), but the little collection card in the grouping showed the set was available in another color. Ordering online meant free shipping, too. Sold.

Yesterday, I wanted to see the status of my order. I went to the Target website, entered the order number and my email address and had to wait for them to send me an email that would provide a URL for fifteen minutes only that would allow me to view my order. Gatekeeping the status of that which I spent a pile of money doesn't thrill me.

Apparently, every time I want to check on something, I have to go through the same process. Today, they sent me an email to inform me that one (or more) of the three items I ordered is now delayed-but I don't know which, because they don't provide the information when viewing the order. The only clue something is amiss is that my delivery date went from 3/29 to 4/1 to now 4/2 to 4/6.

They won't allow the option of switching the order to 'deliver what you have now' option, either, even though all three items come in separate boxes, thus it'll cost them the same amount of money to ship each one together or separately.

What gets me is, this is the first retailer I've encountered in my years of shopping online (Christmas shopping for preschoolers on WalMart, Toys R Us and Amazon's websites in 2001 was the easiest holiday ever) that requires you to request access every time you hit their site to check status. You'd think that this taxes their resources and bandwidth, plus has more potential for breakdown than if they'd just give you the code and let you have free reign to check when the urge strikes.

What about you? Have you experienced online businesses that use this model of requiring you to request access every time you want to check order status? Is this common, but just with retailers I don't normally use.

I'll tell you this much-it is the type of thing that might make me hesitate before shopping their web items again. If one plunks down a large sum of money, shouldn't the ability to see what's going on with that purchase be open to the purchaser, whenever he or she wishes?


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