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What to Consider When Shopping from Big Box Retailers

This year some of our clients asked us to procure and ship items they had chosen from specified retail sources to make their lives easier when install day came. These clients had worked with us before, so they knew that as specialists in optimal senior living, we understand the importance of convenient packaging and clear labeling. So, we of course said yes, but had no idea how much we would learn about how the retail world works. Below is a list of the challenges that we faced this year with big-box retailers (BBR’s) and how we learned to overcome them.

Drop Shipping Is Messy

Believe it or not, not everything on a BBR’s site is sitting in one big warehouse that they control. Often they are just taking your order and money, and then sending that order along to another vendor who ships out your product. This would be fine if everything on your order and specifications from the BBR matched what actually got shipped out.

Here’s what we have seen happen:

  • When ordering multiple of the same item, they may have to come from several different warehouses in order to fulfill your total quantity. For example, we ordered 12 drinking glasses that came from 4 different locations (a box of 2, a box of 4, and 2 boxes of 3). Not only was it tough to keep up with receiving 4 different packages for 1 line item, it was a lot of unnecessary packaging.

  • The drop ship vendor does not always include any identifying information on who the item was originally ordered from. This is problematic because the warehouse can’t match up the product to the vendor you placed the order with.

  • The BBR may have privately labeled your product, and the original manufacturer information isn’t always on the product when it arrives along with there being no packing slip in sight. This one is a killer. How is a warehouse supposed to figure out what something is that has ZERO identifying qualities? We had this happen with 6 different rugs for some model apartments. 2 of them had packing slips, the other 4 did not. They were all the same size, and the item numbers and names did not match any information included in our order summary. We then had to open each one in order to identify them, to also find that one of them was the completely wrong product. We only knew this was the case because we have people on staff who are REALLY good at looking at details.

How do you avoid this confusion? Send your warehouse a spec sheet with detailed images. That way they have a secondary way to identify rogue orders. Also, check in with the warehouse a couple of weeks before the install to ensure they have all of the items picked for your project and that they aren’t lost.

How You Enter Your Address Matters

Some BBR’s are pretty consistent with including all address lines for shipping. But we have found that sometimes they leave out address line 2, which is often where we put a PO number or project name. So what do you do instead? Include any and all pertinent information in the name fields. We started putting my name in the ‘first name’ field and the project name as the ‘last name,’ plus the project or PO number.

This way, the warehouse at least has something to line up with a project they should be storing, and a contact name if they have questions.

Delivery Times are a Giant Question Mark

Covid had a lot to do with things being delayed this year. As a result, we received a pretty high level of customer service from some BBR’s and a complete lack of it from others. Many of us on the team can tell you about our 4+ hour hold times tracking down products this summer.

We ordered this product for a late November install and the BBR sent us an email that it would be on time. Then 3 days later, this:

Then, not 24 hours later, this:

In this case, the error was in our favor. But in other instances, we had to do lots of reselects because items weren’t going to make install dates. We tried to stick with items that said ‘in stock and ready to ship’ and to avoid anything with a future restock date.

If You Need It Quickly, Stay Away from Items That Are Non-Refundable

We got burned on a couple of these. You have to look very carefully to see if any items are ‘made to order,’ or any verbiage stating the item is non-refundable once ordered. This happens a lot with pillows that are, you guessed it, drop shipped from the vendor. Some ‘made to order’ pillows are currently sitting in our warehouse because they showed up 4 weeks late. We had to purchase additional pillows so the client had a completed project on time.

If The Vendor Has a Designer Customer Service Line, Call it Exclusively

Vendors tend to value people who spend a lot of money and are repeat customers vs. someone who buys a set of towels and never comes back. Utilize these designer lines to get quicker service and more detailed information.

Don’t Be Afraid to Call Customer Service Multiple Times

Rebeca and Danielle on our team will tell you how they would call once and get one unsatisfactory answer, then call again and get someone who was more willing to help. This happened a lot if we needed to change shipping addresses when items weren’t going to make the warehouse install and we had to ship direct. The first response was, ‘no we can’t change the shipping address.’ The second was, ‘of course we can!’ I know it’s frustrating, but sometimes you have to play the game.

Simplify Shipping with The Simple Home

Though it may seem that the big box retailers would all have found ways to make shipping easy by now, that isn’t always the case. At The Simple Home we have found dependable sources in our vendors, providing thoughtfully curated products that make senior living communities sparkle. When you order from us, we always have a selection of items in stock within the warehouse and have full control over how your items are packaged and labeled.

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