Friday, October 26, 2012

Hell-R-Us

I can't believe I've made it this far into my career as a mommy without blogging about Toys-R-Us or "Hell-R-Us" as I dubbed it many moons ago.

It's not all that bad.  At least I don't think so.  A toy store can't be inherently evil, can it? If it hasn't been done already somebody could make a boatload of a cash with that horror movie plot.  I expect residuals.

Anyway, I really have never been able to put my finger on why I hate going there.  Maybe it's because, as a toy store, and the stuff my dreams were made of when I was a kid, it should be a uniquely magical experience every time I step through the front doors.  It should smell like cotton candy.  The floors should shine like glitter and I should hear angels singing on high. I guess, on some level, I resent that it's not anything like that. Maybe it's because it's just not as fun as it should be. Maybe it's because I'm ultimately selfish and I'm when I am there, I'm not shopping for myself.

But honestly, I don't think it's any of those things.

I think it's that I pride myself on being an efficient and effective shopper and Hell-R-Us is just a huge TIME SUCK.  I walk in there with a purpose and either walk out 3 hours later empty-handed or having spent $3,000 when I was planning to buy batteries.  Somehow I lose time and not in the good "I had waaaay too much fun last night" way.

I also think it's that the service isn't great. It's not exactly bad, just not great. There are many little things that simply don't add up to spectacular customer service. I went in earlier today to return a gift with a gift receipt. The young lady behind the counter told me to go find the replacement and come back. To make a long story short, the gift reciept wasn't for that item and the item wasn't even purchased there.  Not her fault.  Either it was totally my fault for mixing up receipts or the person who gave us the gift gave us the wrong receipt  but either way, she could've saved me endless wandering and searching if she'd simply checked the item when I walked in the door. 

Everyone is always eager to help me when I'm in there, which is wonderful. However, none of the employees seems to know much more about the store or any of the products therein than I do.  This is what happened today:

  • Eager Employee: "Hello, miss can I help you?"
  • Me: "Yes, please.  I'm looking for Thunder Tumblers."
  • Eager Employee: "Oh, sure! I've actually never heard of them but I'd be happy to wander the aisles aimlessly with you and search.  Also, I've never used a computer so I couldn't possibly check to see if we have now or ever carried such a product."  (I am paraphrasing but you get the gist.)
That's pretty much how all of my interactions with Hell-R-Us employees seem to go.  Here is one from last year.
  • Me: "Can you help me?  I'm looking for Lite Sprites."
  • Eager Employee: "Oh, do you mean Light Bright?"
  • Me: "No.  I used to have a Light Bright when I was a kid.  Not Light Bright.  Lite Sprites.  They are light up fairy dolls."
  • Eager Employee: "Yeah.  No.  I've never heard of them.  I don't think we carry them."
  • Me: "You do.  I checked the website.  I just can't find them in the store."
  • Eager Employee: "Ok, hang on." (picks up the phone to call someone)
    "Hi.  I have a customer here looking for Lite Sprites... no, not Light Bright... Lite Sprites... uh-huh... ok." (hangs up)
    "She says they are by the bikes."
  • Me: "I don't think that is right.  They aren't a bike accessory."
  • Eager Employee:  "Yeah, I know, weird.  Let's go look by the bikes."
I won't bore you with the details but this went on like this for what felt like about 11 hours.  I don't remember if I bought any Lite Sprites, or Light Brights, or Bike Lights for that matter. I think I blacked out again.

So, we can agree that although the effort is there, the customer service is missing something.  (Yes. By reading I assume that you are in agreement and don't care to know otherwise.) I can't put my finger on what is missing. Is it knowledge? Is it forethought? Is it training?  What ever it is, something needs tweaking for sure. I certainly don't think I'd be any better at it.  It's tough to be an expert when there are LITERALLY a gazillion products to know. Which brings me to the next thing that makes the whole Hell-R-Us experience less-than magical for me.

It's the store layout.  There are, in fact, a gazillion products in there.  Don't argue. I counted. When I go there, I never know where to find anything.  If I'm looking for a toy from the movie "Cars," is it in the Disney section, the section with Cars or with the Fisher Price toys because that's who makes it? What if (shudder) it is an OUTDOOR Cars toy? Then where, I ask you, WHERE? One finds themselves zig-zagging all over the store. I'm usually on my lunch hour, therefore pressed-for-time, hungry and wearing heels. This makes me cranky. I could ask someone where to find said toy, but, as I've already illustrated, the employees would be eagerly wandering all over the place with me.  I don't need that kind of help.  I can wander aimlessly all by myself.  I'm quite good at it.

Plus it's hot as balls in there for no apparent reason.  Keeping the toys warm, I guess.

So, why go there?  Sometimes it's because there's a better price but, for me, that is rarely the reason. I'd rather pay a bit more online and save myself the aggravation.  Half the time the "sale" at Hell-R-Us is never what I expect it to be and I end up spending more anyway.

Sometimes going there is unavoidable.  My kids receive Gift Cards from people. Or gifts that need to be exchanged.  Stupid Geoffrey the Giraffe sends them a $3 Gift Card for their birthday. I tell my kids I'll pay them twice that as long as I don't have to go there and try to find a toy for $3 or less.  I hate that giraffe.  Spelling Geoffrey with a "G" is a douchey thing to do anyway - and if your name is Geoffrey with a "G, I'm sorry.  Not sorry I wrote it but sorry your parents suck.

Finally, sometimes, Hell-R-Us is simply the only game in town.  Amazon has an amazing selection and super-fast shipping but sometimes they don't have that very specific accessory or action figure for your child's collection and when it comes to my kids, I will endure Hell or Hell-R-Us, as the case may be, to see them smile.

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