No, we can’t ship you that item, Mr. Yossarian…

Maj. Major: Sergeant, from now on, I don’t want anyone to come in and see me while I’m in my office. Is that clear?
First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir? What do I say to people who want to come in and see you while you’re gone?
Maj. Major: Tell them I’m in and ask them to wait.
First Sgt. Towser: For how long?
Maj. Major: Until I’ve left.
First Sgt. Towser: And then what do I do with them?
Maj. Major: I don’t care.
First Sgt. Towser: May I send people in to see you after you’ve left?
Maj. Major: Yes.
First Sgt. Towser: You won’t be here then, will you?
Maj. Major: No.
First Sgt. Towser: I see, sir. Will that be all?
— Catch-22

To begin with, I tried to do it the old-fashioned way. I asked my Dad if he’d like to ride out to Harbison with me, and he said sure, so I picked him up in the truck and we went out there. We went into the store with me clutching the ad that showed the item on sale. After my usual thing — wandering about the store looking for it without asking for help — didn’t work, my Dad asked someone.

This led, indirectly (I’m giving you the short version here) to someone going to the back and searching for about 20 minutes before informing me that they were out of the item. They offered to order one for me, but I said, don’t bother, I’ll order it online from home. I thought I’d read that shipping was free, and I figured I’d save myself another trip to the store.

So I got home, and I went online, and there was the item, so I put one in my cart, and went to check out. Where I found that instead of $69.99, it would cost me $111.40. Turns out I would have to order another 40 bucks worth of merchandise from that store to get the free shipping.

OK, so I clicked on the “store pickup” radio button, and presto!, the shipping charges disappeared. Seemed fair enough to me… they put it on a truck that would be going there anyway, and I drive a few miles out of my way, and I pick up the item. Fine.

One more step, though: I had to click on the link that said “select a store.” Fine. I went there, and filled in my zip code, and was shown the two stores in my area.

Then came trouble: I couldn’t click on either store. They were grayed out, because the item was “Out of stock (or not carried) at this store.”

Well, duh. Otherwise I would not be placing an order from it and opting for “store pickup.”

Well, obviously there was a malfunction in the software, so I called the store to go back to Option A, which was to get them to order it for me.

I just needed to deal with a human being, thereby placing me back in the land of sweet reason.

So I called, and after listening to some singularly bad muzak (it was country, and I think it was intended to be patriotic, but it was extremely off-putting), a man came on the line.

Of course, sir, I’ll be happy to help you sir. What’s the item you were trying to order? I give him the stock number, and he keeps me waiting a brief while before politely informing me that they couldn’t order that particular item for me, because it wasn’t in the store already. If it were in the store, I could have store pickup, but not if it wasn’t already in stock.

But… they had offered to order it from me when I was there, I insisted, my voice rising a bit.

They must have meant they would order it for home delivery, he said, beginning to sound a bit put out with me.

But… if we did that, the cost of the item to me would almost double.

Yes, sir. Unfortunately, however, the store could not place the order for me unless the store already had it. Unless I’d like to have it delivered to my house for $50 more, a transaction I could easily have managed without involving him at all.

I was beginning to feel a bit panicky, like Yossarian in the nose of his B-26, surrounded by glass, with flak exploding around him so thick it looked like you could walk on it…

And as he sensed my disorder, the man tried to placate me a bit by admitting that yes, perhaps, the way it is worded, as “store pickup,” implying an item being ordered from elsewhere when it was already there, was a bit misleading, nevertheless…

Fortunately, I calmed down enough to ask him whether… by any chance… this item, which had just been advertised as being at his store today… might be coming in on a subsequent shipment without my having to place an order.

He said that was possible. And he had a truck coming in tonight. Perhaps, if I called first thing in the morning, the item would be there and I could place my order.

So I resolved to do that. But I must confess, there’s this paranoid little voice at the back of my head that tells me that by that time tomorrow morning, Colonel Cathcart will have raised the number of missions on me once again…

Yossarian, screaming: "But why would they have to ship you one if you already HAVE one?!?!"

14 thoughts on “No, we can’t ship you that item, Mr. Yossarian…

  1. Steven Davis

    Speaking of problems, am I the only person having trouble accessing your website? For the past week or so, I’m lucky to get on one out of every four tries.

  2. Mark Stewart

    There is of course the completely “sane” approach of simply ordering enough stuff to meet the free shipping threshold and then returning the excess to a store whenever it suits your schedule.

    It’s as reasonable as a store trying to facilitate an internet purchase of in-store stock without the option of having a special order delivered from a distribution center to that particular store.

  3. Brad

    Sounds like an idea, Mark. Could I play with the toy before I send it back?

    Burl, that’s just a surcharge imposed on you by ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, because he’s jealous of you living in Hawaii.

    And Steven, it’s happening to everybody. I’m told it’s a problem across the southeast having something to do with internet service by Time Warner and Comcast. Affecting lots of servers. It comes and it goes…

  4. Brad

    I’m very glad that Burl and Mark saw the madness in this. I was worried I was going to end up worse than Yossarian, more like Mr. Douglas on Green Acres, with everybody telling me this was normal.

  5. Brad

    OK, here’s how this ended up (I think, I hope — I haven’t picked it up yet).

    So I called first thing this morning. The line was busy, and I had to go into a meeting, so I called again later. After a really, really long wait with more bad “hold” music (did you know Sinatra sang a really forgettable cover of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”?), a pleasant young woman came on the line. I explained the situation, leaving out the more absurd parts, simply asking her to check whether the item had come in on last night’s truck.

    She came back on the line and said no, they didn’t have it. So I said “thank you,” and thought for about a second and a half before saying, “Do you think one might come in later?” But she had already hung up.

    Then, I had another bright idea. I’d try again to do “store pickup,” except I would widen my search area of stores to 40 miles, and see if another store had it.

    So I did. And as it turned out, there were no additional stores within that radius.

    But… and this is the real cherry on top… the store I had been dealing with NOW HAD THE ITEM!

    So, sometime later, after dealing with some web pages that didn’t load until I’d tried two or three times, I FINALLY managed to order the item for store pickup.

    I’ll go get it tonight. I hope.

  6. Greg

    My wife worked for a national toy chain many many years ago, before Al Gore invented the internet. Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch dolls were the hottest toys going. Store employees would tell customers, “We’re getting a shipment of five tonight, so come back in the morning.” Come morning there would be people waiting outside for the dolls. Unfortunately, the employees would have purchased all the stock before the store opened. Mad customers, but stupid customers. Next time an employee said a shipment was coming they’d be waiting at the door again….usually to be disappointed.
    Good luck with your item. I predict they will never get it at your store, and even if you order the extra $100, they will backorder the item you want. Sorry.

  7. Steven Davis

    Brad, as someone in IT, I seriously doubt it’s affecting everyone. I hit several regional websites and yours is the only one I’m seeing this problem with. Just today I’ve probably tried to hit your site at different times probably 6-7 times, I’ve gotten onto it twice. This has been going on for over a week, if it were my site that I was paying for, I’d be looking into it. With redundancy a commercially provided site should not be “down” more than it’s up.

  8. Brad

    But don’t despair, Milo Minderbinder can sell you some at 2 cents apiece. He bought them at 3 cents apiece, and yet is making a profit — or would, if ex-PFC Wintergreen would stop undercutting him on price…

  9. Brad

    Oh, boy. I just got this email, which I’m saving for tonight when I have PLENTY of time to respond…

    Dear Brad,

    Recently, you contacted our online customer service group for assistance. We are conducting a study that will help us evaluate and improve our levels of customer service, and would like to include your opinions. The survey will only take a few minutes, and will help ensure that our customers receive the best possible service.

    Please take a moment to tell us about your experience. You can be assured that your responses will be used only for research purposes, and will be held in strict confidence.

    We value your input, and thank you in advance for your participation.

    Click here to take our survey

    Toys”R”Us / Babies”R”Us!


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