Here’s something annoying. At some point, Amazon.com decided to offer its services to other companies. If you go to Borders.com, you really get redirected to a page on Amazon.com. Same thing for Waldenbooks.com (which is a sister company of Borders). Another site which is really powered by Amazon is Target.com though, for some reason, it retains the “target.com” in the URL.
Now this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for one thing – it makes the site basically useless. You’re not buying your items from Target or Borders, you’re buying them from Amazon.com. On the surface it makes sense, Amazon.com stocks a lot of the same things as these stores, and in fact a lot more of them. Barnes & Noble sells a lot more stuff on their website than their store can carry, so it sort of makes sense that Target.com carries more than a Target store can carry.
The thing is, it’s something of a crapshoot. Target.com is the worst. There’s some sort of venn diagram out there of what items are available in Target stores, what items are available at Target stores but not for the same price, and what items are only on the website. So when you go to Target and you look for something you saw on Target.com, you likely won’t find it. And if you do find it, it will likely be for a different price than what you found online. And not just because the website will discount it, there’s different base prices entirely.
So Target.com isn’t really a website for Target. It’s just another front for Amazon.com only the people who run Target thought of it. When you go to the Target store and you find something you found on Target.com and it’s for a different price, when you ask someone there the person just shrugs and says “the website has nothing to do with what’s in the store”. Like I said, this makes the company’s website useless.
Moe once recieved a Target “e-giftcard” for a birthday. She then proceeded to Target.com and bought DVD’s twice, each time failing to actually use the giftcard. The reason was because even though she got the gift card through the Internet and tried to buy something through the Internet, the particular “e-giftcard” won’t work through the Internet. As I follow it, it only works if she actually printed out and took it to a brick-and-mortar Target – where I’d be willing to bet the cashiers then tried to tell her it only worked online. Plus, I’d be willing to bet that the website she had to check her balance on was hosted at Target.com.
For the most part there’s two big chains for video games – GameStop and Electronics Boutique. They both have pretty good websites – their websites’ inventory is more akin to what you’d find in one of their stores, their gift cards work at both online and brick-and-mortar stores, and their prices usually match between the store and the website. However, of the two for the longest time I found myself going to GameStop stores instead of EB stores. Part of the reason was because the closest GameStop was in a strip mall (ironically next to a Target) and the closest EB is in the middle of Stonebriar Centre which is a fantastic mall but a total bitch to get in and out of. But the other really big reason was the fact that GameStop.com has inventory lookup. You can search a 200-mile radius of a zip code and see which stores in your area have the thing you’re looking for. If you’re looking for Halo 2 then every GameStop has it. If you’re looking for the DOOM 3 expansion then you need to make sure the GameStop you’re headed to over lunch actually carries PC games (some are console-only). But if you’re looking for an old, out of print GBA cart, the inventory lookup is a godsend. Heck, you can even look up weird-ass old titles and see if you can find them locally. Apparently EB figured this out finally and put their inventory online.
The day I went to go find the GBA port of DOOM I had to travel out to an obscure GameStop location in Lewisville to find it. It was in a strip mall, so instead of mall locations where people flow in and out all day, a strip mall location has a more “apprehensive” feel to it. What I mean is, if you’re feeling antisocial then don’t go there since they say hello to you and ask what you’re looking for. Since I actually had something to look for I said I was looking for the GBA port of DOOM.
“Oooh… not sure if we have it”
“Well the website says you do”
“Well the website is usually wrong…”
By this point I’ve started scouring over the used GBA carts which are sitting under a glass display case like they’re watches in a jewelry store. I’m ignoring the person at this point since he’s already defending the store and demonizing the website. I was thinking “well, so long as I took the effort to come out here couldn’t we just go ahead and look for the stupid thing instead of making excuses?” but I didn’t say it. And sure enough the game was there. But it just killed me that the first thing the guy did was try and belittle the reason I came there in the first place. Sure, I’ve been in his shoes – sometimes customers get pissed when you tell them the thing they came there for isn’t there. Usually it involves a wrestling game. You start bullshitting excuses like “yeah the game got delayed because…” or the now ever popular “we only got four copies and they were all pre-ordered” (the latter of which is supposed to guilt them into preordering, which is in all actuality a method of ensuring that absolutely everybody in the world who didn’t preorder gets the game before you do).
But I think what was also going on there was a little apprehension abouit the website. Back when I worked for a Babbage’s (now a GameStop) they were putting these huge demands on how much we were supposed to be selling – then telling us to hang these signs saying to go to this website named something different and go buy the game there instead. But we didn’t get it – people were already in the store. They weren’t going to then go and leave the store and buy the game online, and be hit with waiting for it and paying for shipping (and tax too in this case since the Babbage’s was in Texas as was GameStop.com, which is in Grapevine).
GameStop has an incredibly useful website in that it compliments the stores, not tries to replace them. It doesn’t matter if B&N.com has a book for $11.99 if the store carries it for the full $19.99. If I want to buy the book online I’ll do it at Amazon.com. Yes, Amazon has won that little race, with their first-mover advantage. B&N.com might be cheaper when it comes to being able to use my Reader’s Advantage card (or whatever it’s called) but something about the fact that they almost expect me to go home, order, and wait irks me. I know they don’t really expect me to do it, but I never think to go to B&N.com. I think to go to Amazon.com.
Ironically this is something the Borders.com/Amazon.com gets right – you can check on Borders inventory, and even buy it online to pick it up in the store. Of course you pay full price for the book this way. It’s funny – they want to pass on a savings on a physical, shipped product – but if you buy a computer game like Half-Life 2 or Galactic Civilizations online, you’re expected to pay full price, since they don’t want to piss off the retailers.
So I guess I’m annoyed either way.