Black Friday – Rebates
Every year Ace Hardware promotes a big day after Thanksgiving sale. We call it the DATS. This year is no different. I enjoy these events. It is great to see all of the customers. It’s exciting to see long lines at the registers. And I am always happy when we have items that are a really good deal and are able to provide a service to our customers. Sometimes though, I wonder if we aren’t making a big mistake.
This year there are around 45 items in the sale. We had to order these things back in the mid summer. What we order then is it. We usually can’t get anymore. It is always such a gamble. Predicting six months in advance what the hot items are going to be is a guess at best. I am not sure it is even an educated guess. I wish that we could order enough of each item so that no matter what the demand is we would never run out. That just isn’t possible. One year we had a portable DVD player in the sale. What should we do? Would people come to a hardware store for electronics? We decided to gamble. We ordered around a hundred I think. They were gone by noon. The gamble paid off. You see, on sale items we rarely make anything. Maybe pennies. So if I order 100 items that cost around $100 I have invested $10,000. Now not all of the things on sale cost that much but it is easy to see that we could risk a serious amount of money. The next year we had MP3 players in the sale. I thought that since the DVD players had done well the MP3s would too. WRONG. We had dozens left over. That was a big loser. I think we ended up losing around $5000 on them. We just can’t do that on 45 items. In a small business like ours it doesn’t take many missteps to be fatal.
The Ace Hardware customer service department says that the vast number of customer complaints they get are about out of stock sale items. We are at heart retailers who want more than anything to have the products the customers want. It pains us to be out of something. We just can’t afford the risk to have huge quantities of everything. So on Friday when you brave the crowds realize that we are as frustrated as you with out of stocks. If we run out of things we will do our best to get more if possible and we sincerely regret it when we can’t.
This doesn’t apply just to us. It is a problem for the big stores too. I just hate to do anything that disappoints our customers and I am afraid that it is inevitable that is what happens during these sales. I also have nightmare remembrances of a fight at one of the local discount stores over a television that was on sale. So far we haven’t had that problem. It is a good thing that some people are able to get really good deals so maybe the good outweighs the bad.
I can honestly say that I hate rebates. I have had more rebate complaints at our store than all other issues combined.
The thing to keep in mind with rebates is that they are funded by the vendors. The more rebates redeemed the higher their costs. Companies are hired to handle and verify all of the rebate submissions to make sure that the rules are followed. And believe me, people try to cheat. A few years ago we had a rebate deal that was limited to one per household. I had a family (mother father and two children under five) all in line with one of the item. It was sort of funny looking. Obviously, when these rebate forms were submitted the computer saw the same address and rejected all but one of them. Rightly so. The problem is that sometimes the innocent are punished too. We have an assisted living center near our store. The residents are really good customers. They have a van that will bring them to shop from time to time and they buy items with rebates. Guess what. They all share the same mailing address. All but one of their rebate forms will be rejected in error. This is just wrong.
When you get ready to send in your rebate forms be really careful follow the instructions exactly. Make sure you conform to the date ranges for submission and send all items requested. If you have to send the original receipt make a copy for your records.
If you have a problem let the store know. I don’t have any way of knowing whose rebate forms are rejected if the customer doesn’t tell me. I know that I want to know if you have a problem and I bet most other stores do to. My greatest rebate fear is that one of our customers will be denied wrongly and we won’t have to chance to rectify the problem.
Happy Shopping Friday!