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General myths and "urban legends" on product quality

Messages
12,471
Location
Germany
This is still an interesting topic to me, because until today, my impressions never changed. And I (and my father) got some experience of many years.

Short story:
Thirty years ago (31), my father and me practically started into let's say "entertainment electronics" and other tech stuff.

We never experienced all of this "quality problems" or "declining quality", la la la, as so much people were always talking and moaning about, in daily life.

BUT, the point is, me and my father bought at least 80% or even 85% of all the stuff in the street stores, not from mail order business. We never had noteworthy to complain.

My actual experiences are again confirming my previous.

And that's, why I'm still coming to the one (unconfirmed) conclusion, after all these years, especially when you do research in the big online players:

The stuff in the classic street (chain) stores must have been "extra-checked" by their operators.
That would be the only plausible explanation to me, why it worked so well for me and my father over so many years and why there is this enormous discrepancy to the mail order business and it's customers experiences.

So anyone here from the street (chain) store business? Do they extra-check/pre-filter their tech stuff??
 
Messages
11,910
Location
Southern California
With electronics, in my experience it's not so much where they're sold but how they're handled between "the factory" and those stores. If, say, Sony ships their televisions on their own trucks, the expectation is that their drivers will handle the products more carefully because that's part of their responsibility to the company. But local courier drivers like mail, UPS, FedEx, and so on, just don't seem to care--they're pressured to make more and more of their deliveries every day, and the courier companies don't put much emphasis on delivering those products safely until they have to pay to replace those goods that were damaged by one (or more) of their employees. I've personally watched UPS and FedEx drivers throw packages from the loading dock onto their trucks because they have to get to the next stop to do the same thing. Now, if they're transporting clothes or volleyballs that's maybe not such an issue, but electronics? You can be sure they won't be in working order by the time someone pays for them at the Best Buy sales counter.
 
Messages
10,600
Location
My mother's basement
^^^^^^
I had worked in the shipping business (they often call it “logistics” these days) and can confirm much of the above.

So much of the ”final mile” stuff is handled by contractors, and subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors, and maybe even sub-sub-subcontractors. Some of those in the latter categories may not be bonded or insured. (Back in my day many weren’t.)

I have more faith in USPS and UPS than in FedEx. Even trucks in FedEx livery are generally operated by contractors.

Businesses use contractors because it saves them having to pay FICA match and whatever other benefits might be due an employee. It’s essentially pushing all those expenses off on the workers. This suits some of those contract workers, who are generally young and don’t feel the need for health insurance, say, and are so far removed from retirement age that whatever they might eventually get in a Social Security retirement benefit is of far less concern than what they’ll do with their girlfriends this evening.

It isn’t just the logistics business that operates this way. It almost hurts to recall my experience with the delivery and installation of an appliance I ordered from Lowe’s. The subcontractor missed the four-hour “window” twice, without calling to let me know, and when he did eventually show up it was in an aged, open-top, banged-up pickup truck. Hardly confidence inspiring.
 
Last edited:
Messages
12,471
Location
Germany
@tonyb

That's an interesting point, I didn't think about at first!
Yeah, maybe street (chain) stores have a more direct supply chain system with any specific shipping quality control, that only the A-stuff is shipped in the stores.

Last gadget, I bought, was a cheap benzine pocket heater. 15 bucks brand. Total opposite of what I expected! Works without any problem. So this can't be a B-stock or reject.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,779
Location
London, UK
Say what you will about Amazon, there’s no denying they have forced others to either up their game or get out of the business altogether.

Agreed. I have issues with Bezo's operation, but you can't argue with either their affordability, the speed or the availability. I can generally get things faster on Prime now than I can find the time to go into town to seek them out - and the majority of what I'm after these days just isn't available *at all* in bricks and mortar, so it's often not even a case of the price saving being relevant. A lot of the big bookstore chains here in the UK have been extremely critical of online suppliers undercutting them on price, but then I well recall those same chain bookstore back in the early 90s campaigned successfully to end the Net Book Price arrangement, allowing them to drive the smaller independents out in so many cases, so.... limited sympathy there. FWIW, In over two decades I've only once had a bit of an issue with Amazon's customer service when something was listed by their delivery service as delivered but was never received.
 
Messages
10,600
Location
My mother's basement
^^^^^^^^
Many years ago, when online commerce was still something of a novelty, Malcolm Gladwell had a piece in The New Yorker titled “Clicks and Mortar.” He opened with an account of a device dating from about a century prior called the King Road Drag, a simple implement that made for easier grading of dirt roads. It left the dirt roads with a crown, which made for better water runoff which made the roads more passable in wet weather, which in turn made mail order commerce to rural areas a more feasible business proposition.

His underlying point was that for e-commerce to work lotsa infrastructure must first be in place. These days, besides the roads and ships and airports and all, we have digital communications technologies. For Amazon (and all other online retailing) to work, all that stuff, and more, has to be nailed down.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,779
Location
London, UK
^^^^^^^^
Many years ago, when online commerce was still something of a novelty, Malcolm Gladwell had a piece in The New Yorker titled “Clicks and Mortar.” He opened with an account of a device dating from about a century prior called the King Road Drag, a simple implement that made for easier grading of dirt roads. It left the dirt roads with a crown, which made for better water runoff which made the roads more passable in wet weather, which in turn made mail order commerce to rural areas a more feasible business proposition.

His underlying point was that for e-commerce to work lotsa infrastructure must first be in place. These days, besides the roads and ships and airports and all, we have digital communications technologies. For Amazon (and all other online retailing) to work, all that stuff, and more, has to be nailed down.

All part of the business ecosystem.

Interestingly, we seem to be in Central London seeing the beginnings of what people predicted ecommerce and fast broadband with WFH would do years ago, but the game changer as much as anything was covid and lockdown running long enough to change habits.
 
Messages
10,600
Location
My mother's basement
As to the availability of stuff on Amazon …

A friend who doesn’t buy stuff online isn’t a Luddite so much as she’s unreasonably risk averse. She fears her meager accounts will be drained should she enter a card number with an online retailer.

She is a two-time cancer survivor and is very particular about what she’ll consume. Some of the foods and such she wants aren’t always in stock at the supermarket or even the specialty food stores. But it’s almost always available online. So we, the lovely missus and I, buy it for her.
 

Cuvier

One of the Regulars
Messages
174
Location
Texas
As to the availability of stuff on Amazon …

A friend who doesn’t buy stuff online isn’t a Luddite so much as she’s unreasonably risk averse. She fears her meager accounts will be drained should she enter a card number with an online retailer.

She is a two-time cancer survivor and is very particular about what she’ll consume. Some of the foods and such she wants aren’t always in stock at the supermarket or even the specialty food stores. But it’s almost always available online. So we, the lovely missus and I, buy it for her.
You could advise that she puts a set amount into a use-anywhere gift card and make purchases that way. Or even have a separate "spending" account that is only used for online purchases that gets manually fed enough money to keep it active and to cover the purchase.
 
Messages
12,471
Location
Germany
I think, the good thing is, that ongoing general market saturation will be dangerous for e-commerce and e-commerce 2.0, in the next years.

I totally think, the winners will be the good old street stores. They just don't have to transact this enormous amount of goods. And in the bigger cities, they are still "just around the corner". And as long they hold on not trying to sell B-stock, all the more. :)
 
Messages
10,600
Location
My mother's basement
^^^^^^
I had ordered groceries online a few times during the early stages of the pandemic.

While grocery shopping remains not among my favorite activities, I prefer it to the alternatives available to me, a person of modest means. I wish to see the perishable foods before I buy them. For that, a trip to the supermarket is necessary.
 
Messages
10,388
Location
vancouver, canada
I use Canada Post and USPS for all my shipments....in and out, even from Europe and Asia. Knock on wood but never have an issue. I can't say the same for FedEx as I have had too many 'lost' items. My last shipment from the US came FedEx as I had no choice....it sat in customs for a full month. With Canada Post it sits in customs for a day at most...often just a few hours. I had a shipment recently that had an incorrect address but the postie that delivers to me recognized my name and delivered it in spite of the wrong address.


^^^^^^
I had worked in the shipping business (they often call it “logistics” these days) and can confirm much of the above.

So much of the ”final mile” stuff is handled by contractors, and subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors, and maybe even sub-sub-subcontractors. Some of those in the latter categories may not be bonded or insured. (Back in my day many weren’t.)

I have more faith in USPS and UPS than in FedEx. Even trucks in FedEx livery are generally operated by contractors.

Businesses use contractors because it saves them having to pay FICA match and whatever other benefits might be due an employee. It’s essentially pushing all those expenses off on the workers. This suits some of those contract workers, who are generally young and don’t feel the need for health insurance, say, and are so far removed from retirement age that whatever they might eventually get in a Social Security retirement benefit is of far less concern than what they’ll do with their girlfriends this evening.

It isn’t just the logistics business that operates this way. It almost hurts to recall my experience with the delivery and installation of an appliance I ordered from Lowe’s. The subcontractor missed the four-hour “window” twice, without calling to let me know, and when he did eventually show up it was in an aged, open-top, banged-up pickup truck. Hardly confidence inspiring.
 
Messages
10,600
Location
My mother's basement
And …

A shipment from Portugal was quarantined by US Fish & Wildlife for a few weeks. I can’t recall which vendor the shipper used, but I’m left to conclude that because the goods were of animal origin, the concern was for whatever other life forms might be tagging along.

When I worked in the high priority shipping business, lo those many years ago, I learned to be very careful with the wording on bills of lading and customs forms and all that, lest the shipments by held up by the authorities. Some of that stuff had to arrive at its destination within a tight window lest it be useless by the time it got there. We’re talking human tissue, organs for transplant, other biological matter. That the sometimes fly-by-night outfit I worked with was entrusted with such things left me unsurprised by collosal eff-ups (”intelligence failures,” etc.) in this world.
 

Fifty150

One Too Many
Messages
1,847
Location
The Barbary Coast
trucks in FedEx livery are generally operated by contractors

FedEx has an interesting program of selling their routes. Sort of like a franchise experience. You buy the route, and get paid for each delivery. You hire employees, who are on your payroll. Sometimes you hire only yourself, as the sole employee. You buy the uniforms from FedEx. FedEx will lease the truck to you. FedEx will provide fleet service maintenance, which is charged back to you. Etc. Et Cetera.

After you pay them for the privilege of making their deliveries........ you have to pay them for everything else to make those deliveries possible....... and plenty of people are willing to buy multiple routes, employ their own teams of drivers, and capture whatever the small percentage is.

I'm told that you really can't make any money by buying one route, and operating it yourself. I've heard that if you operate six or more routes, then that small margin of profit adds up.

Say what you will about Amazon

Amazon has a program similar to FedEx. Instead of hiring employees to drive their trucks, they also sell off the delivery routes. The driver making your delivery works for the route owner, who leases the truck from Amazon.

the winners will be the good old street stores

Brick and mortar stores will not go away. Their business is hurt by e-commerce. But they won't shut down. Pricing and availability is where the balance is. You can find almost everything online, and it's sold at a lower price. But it's not available. It's 3 - 5 days away. If you need it right there and then, you pay whatever the prevailing price the market will bear.

A local supplier will always win out for on demand items. And those local vendors are competing with each other price wise, and service wise. The auto parts business is a good example. You can order from an online source..... if you don't need your car to work immediately. But if you need your car to work, you will pay whatever price to have that water pump, alternator, battery, or whatever. Auto repair shops will pay a premium for a distributor to deliver those parts immediately, so that they can fix your brakes, replace your radiator hose, or whatever. Oftentimes, the repair shop pays more for the part, because it's immediately delivered, then they pass the higher cost onto the customer. The customer has to pay, or his car doesn't work.

Think of food. Amazon is not going to bring you a meal. Even if you are using some online delivery application, there has to be a local restaurant to cook the food.

Amazon will never be able to compete in certain areas. If your pipe is leaking, you will go to your local store, and get whatever you need to fix the leak. You will not source the parts on Amazon, then let your pipes leak for a week. Unless you are the type to buy 20 light bulbs at a time, you will not wait a week to change a light bulb. The local butcher did not go out of business with mail order meat, and will not lose his livelihood to Amazon.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,779
Location
London, UK
It'll find its own, new equilibrium of course. The real upside of ecommerce, imo, is that it allows for specialist businesses that otherwise as bricks and mortar affairs wouldn't have the reach to survive on physical custom alone, but online with access to a global market...
 

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