When an Online Discount Leads to Offline Savings

For the next week, we have the honor of having our roommate’s brother staying with us. Yes, it is possible to do even in a junior two bedroom apartment (where the second bedroom is more implied by the ability to cut the second bedroom out of space that is available in the living and dining room.) The only issue was a bed, or lack therein. We were pleasantly surprised when an air mattress was located online for a mere twelve dollars.

My wife and roommate dashed off to the store to grab it only to find that in the store, it was retailing for twenty-two dollars. They thought perhaps the price tag was wrong, and so they took it to a scanner — it confirmed that the price was twenty-two dollars. Perhaps they saw it incorrectly online? One of them looked up the price on the web site and it was, indeed, twelve dollars.

They therefore did the most reasonable thing a person could do in that circumstance — they ordered it online and marked it for in store pickup. They then walked a few blocks away to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and had a treat — kosher coffee and a donut, naturally! (Note — I would have been opposed to such a purchase had I been there, but I was not…) By the time they got back to the store, the air mattress was ready for pickup and since it had been purchased online there was no need for them to queue and wait and wait and wait… Sunday crowds can be downright infuriating when you’re in midtown Manhattan.

They walked out of the store, having paid the price they were promised online but which was not delivered in person — until they used the company’s own web site to mete out a sort of justice.

A similar thing happened to me when I went to pick up the second season of the HBO television program Girls from the Target near me in Queens. I had seen on their app that the store and online price was eighteen dollars for the Blu-ray / DVD / digital download combination pack. When I got to the store, it rang up as twenty-four.

I was told to go to the customer service counter, where the person showed me their newspaper advertisement that had it at the higher price. She sent me back up with it. When I got up to the electronics department, I realized that I had left my debit card at the customer service desk, and so I started to head down and the cashier told me not to accept the higher price, and to ask for a manager.

I did so, and when I showed him the lower price on the app he asked both me and the customer service agent, “So what’s the problem? Ring it up for the lower price if it says that on the app!” The person was about to argue with him but decided not to do so.

Rather curious how the online world has influenced the offline world so much! One last little tale — my wife was waiting in line for someone to make a pick at a Redbox machine. If you don’t know, Redbox looks like a snack vending machine, only it takes your credit card and charges you one dollar per day to rent DVDs and a little bit more to rent Blu-ray discs. She was getting impatient and so she pulled up the Redbox app on her phone and reserved the movie she wanted from the machine. She then noticed that the person ahead of her in line get annoyed as by some happenstance, that was the movie she had wanted to rent as well…


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