Taking Stock – We Have Your Money


Right after I placed my order online I received this emailed order confirmation. Ho ho ho.

Verily we just had a veritable festive holiday season. All across this great nation currency (and credit) was exchanged for consumer goods, primarily cheaply made shit from China. It was truly a touching and traditional way to honor the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. (Even though historians tell us he was more likely born on July 22nd.)

How well did we honor Him?

  • Web visits to online retailers were up for the second year in a row.
  • Thanksgiving saw a 6% increase.
  • Black Friday was up 7%.
  • Cyber Monday was up 11%.
  • Christmas was up a whopping 27%.
  • The day after Christmas was only up 1% but it still counts.

Halleluja! He is risen along with the economy!

That’s a lot of online orders. But, alas, no stats released yet on how many of those last-minute shoppers were told their coveted items were “out of stock.” That’s the internet’s dirty little secret. Discussion about that peculiar aspect of online shopping would be a real bummer, wouldn’t it?

My research shows that 87% of online retailers make no effort to show real-time inventory status.

in-stockWay back on Oct. 29, 2010, I revealed the secret truth behind online retailing.

Q. How can you tell when an online store is lying about inventory status?
A. The product is described as “in stock.”

Trust me on this. It works every time. The logic is simple: Get the customer’s money by any means necessary. That particular phrase is the capitalism equivalent of “you are authorized to fire the weapon.” Yes, of course, it means a seller can lie to get your money. But it also means they can kill, if “necessary.” All that matters is the funds. Remember that next time you click.

The goal is to get grubby hands on the money. Only after that moment comes The Big Reveal. Oops. We don’t actually have the product we listed as “in stock.” Too bad, so sad. In the meantime, though, why not chit chat with the biggest asshole in the universe who will try to cross-sell you to something that really is in stock, primarily because no one else wants it. It is important to remember at no time does the customer’s actual needs or desires enter the equation. It’s all about what’s best for the company.

At ecommerce job #2 the boss used to stride up and down the halls shouting, “Never give them their money back!” That’s the philosophy in a nutshell.

I recently wanted to buy the Widget 3000. It’s smaller, thinner, more powerful and sexier than the Widget 2000 which is so yesterday’s news. It also has less substances known to cause cancer in the state of California.

Unlike most of the shopping world, I used Google instead of Amazon to start my search. I also compared the results in Bing. I found a bunch of sellers clustered around the same price. This was most likely the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) for the product. MAP is enforced by product manufacturers to prop prices artificially high. Since they can’t legally “price fix” they do the next best thing: They blacklist anyone who dares to sell at prices lower than their mandatory MAP pricing. Bloody hell. That sure feels like price fixing to me.

So there were a bunch of sellers all playing by the so-called rules and honoring the manufacturer’s MAP price. But there was one store that was noticeably lower that stood apart. This seller caught my eye. I clicked the link and viewed the product on their website.

in-stockNo shit! It was listed as “in stock.” What are the odds of that?

Thanks to my Shouts From The Abyss training, however, I didn’t fall for it. I opened up a few more browser tabs and researched further. I found a few places where customers reviewed that particular store.

The reviews were not good.

There were many complaints about poor communication after orders had been placed and money changed hands. And there were many complaints about false advertising regarding products being “in stock.”

Oh, really?

Some of them were classic goodness. “I placed my order because you said the Widget 3000 was in stock. Then you told me it would take a few weeks. I needed it for Christmas! Now my credit card is maxed out so I can’t buy the product anywhere else and you’re not returning my calls.”

There were lots more, all variations on a theme.

This may have been a banner year for online retailers but there is one story the official numbers don’t tell: Most of them are liars.

Luckily for me my hunt for the Widget 3000 was illuminating. It goes without saying I did not place an order. If you ever get the opportunity to see your own greed in the mirror it should give you pause. But it probably won’t. I was one of the lucky ones. The reviews had shaken me out of my desire for the Widget 3000 and I decided I could live my life without it.

I opted out. It was another miraculous free market win-win and everyone was better off and the world was a better place.

How about you? Did you get caught in any false “in stock” scenarios? Please share your story with us and help prove my theory that 87% of online shopping is a lie.

6 responses

  1. Think I’ll stick to just purchasing books online.


    1. I’ve gotten a bunch of good ones from Amazon.com for free. And they’ve never been out of stock. 🙂


  2. I have to say that consumerism is making me sick…I’ve started to hate “stuff”.
    Not having TV helps tremendously, I have to say, to unhook oneself from the buy-buy-buy propaganda.


    1. I’ve been on a quest to shed my physically possessions and get down to the bare minimum. It’s called Voluntary Simplicity. I’ve had limited success. It’s been very slow going. I did give away tons of books but then, weirdest thing, I wanted to read a bunch of them again.

      I guess you only want what you can’t have?

      We watch very minimal TV. I hate being exposed to commercial advertising. Primarily we watch Netflix and the occasional movie rental. Currently I’m watching something called Zeitgeist: Moving Forward and I’m finding it to be very interesting. It has a rather unique and dim view of the buy-buy-buy propaganda of which you speak.


      1. Sounds interesting. I honestly think that many people are ensnared in the merry-go-around of consumption without waking up, gradually and eventually they become more and more unhappy and detached from themselves. I think consumerism is a disease.


  3. I did some limited online purchasing this year- for gifts for others. Like you, I have a tendency to dig a little further to check out customer reviews before I click. If anything looks “hinky”, I click out.
    I’ve also begun the voluntary simplicity process. I’m slowly but surely getting rid of the clutter. It’s hard, though, when others seem to have a stronger nostalgic connection to me having whatever widget, than I have to it. If I get rid of the widget, are they going to be pissed/hurt?

    But I’m paring down, anyway. Cause “getting the hell out of dodge” is a lot harder when you’re weighed down with a lot of stuff.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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