Your Call is Very Important…


There is a popular image of retail “customer service” as a call center in some faraway land filled with people you can’t understand, yet somehow their names are Chad or Stacy. (An image, I believe, that retailers don’t mind perpetuating if it keeps you from calling.) But, somehow people still use the telephone.

So how was their experience on Black Friday, one of the toughest shopping days of the year? The Consumerist reports on a survey:

The survey, conducted by the folks at STELLAService, looked at the 35 largest online retailers — most of which are websites for major bricks-and-mortar stores — to determine how these companies performed at responding to phone and online chat requests.

The results:

2012 Top 5:

JCPenney :22 sec, Office Max :30 sec, Amazon :59 sec, Target 1:05, Gap 1:33

2012 Bottom 5:

HSN 5:46, Dell 8:49, Walmart 11:20, TigerDirect 12:14, Costco 12:34

Read the article to see all the results. Did you call any customer service on Black Friday? How was your experience?

And, for the record, MindField Online uses home-grown customer service talent. If you can’t understand them, it’s just because they are from West Virginia! 😉  Have a great weekend!


Naming Names, Naughty and Nice

The watchdogs over at Consumer Reports have cracked open the suggestion box and put together their annual Naughty and Nice list for the holidays. The list includes input from CR staff and Facebook fans. There were 100 nominees, and CR narrowed it down to the 10 best and worst.

Companies were dinged for hidden or tricky fees, fine print, and unfriendly practices; others were lauded for generous and outstanding customer service.

And to keep it fair, the list looks specific policies and practices such as hidden fees, return policies, etc. “They’re jerks!” doesn’t make the cut!

Anyway, here are some of the more famous names on the list, with an eye toward holiday shopping:

Nice: Home Depot, Honda, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Red Wing Shoe Co.

Naughty: CompUSA, Forever 21, Abe’s of Maine, Vonage, Tiger Direct

There are many other examples of policies – good, bad and mindless – at the original article, so check it out!  Do you have any examples?

Speaking of nutty hidden fees, remember this post about RyanAir?

Vendredi Noir

That’s French for “Black Friday,” because I am sooo clever! Anyway, after you’ve done your combat shopping, please head over to the MindField Online Facebook page and give us a report of what you’ve seen. Big crowds? Craziness? Better or worse than you expected? Let us know…and have a great weekend!

(photo: the

Pre-Thanksgiving Brainstorm

By the time we meet again, you will be ignoring this space and engaging in hand-to-hand combat at the mall. So, to kick off your battle planning, here are some gift idea links from around the web:

CNBC has this year’s top gadget gifts

Good Housekeeping picks this year’s best toys

Consumer Reports likes these electronic gifts

Help for Parents has a Top 10 gifts for kids list

Digital Crave picks the 5 best cell phones

Ask Men has a top 10 for her (relax, it was written by a woman!)

And also a Top 25 for him

And hey, who’s hungry? Planning your Thanksgiving Day feast?

Consumer Reports names the best stuffing mixes

Epicurious picks the best frozen pumpkin pies

Here are the top 5 cranberry sauce recipes (from 2010, but hey)

Hope this helps! Have a great Thanksgiving Day. Remember to actually, you know, give thanks. And be careful on Black Friday- I don’t want to see you in a riot on YouTube!


Holiday Price Check!

The holiday season is all “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” and whatnot. But that feel good junk doesn’t fly in the world of retail – especially not  between Amazon and Wal-Mart! Earlier this year, Wally dumped Amazon’s e-readers (Kindle, etc.) Why sell a device that gives you access to the competition’s online store?

Well, success is the best revenge, as they say. And a Bloomberg analysis tells the tale of the tape regarding toy prices this season – toys being the most popular item that accounts for the most spending.

In a comparison of 125 randomly selected toys conducted on Nov. 8, Amazon had lower prices than Wal-Mart on 44 percent of the items, while Wal-Mart had the advantage on 13 percent. The remaining had the same price tag. Wal-Mart beat Target, Kmart and Toys “R” Us on more than 80 percent of the toys.

Wal-Mart and Amazon basically swapped the #1 and #2 slots from last year.

The study says that, in general, retailers will have better inventory than last year. Right now, Amazon is fully stocked on those 125 items, while Wally was out of about 3%. But don’t get complacent! Last year, on December 21, Amazon was out of stock on 1% of the items, while Wal-Mart and the rest were down by 40%.

So, how about you? Have you bought your toys and electronics (the other big draw) online in past years? Will you start this year? Let us know!

Thanksgiving and Late for Work

“Watch for Falling Prices – and Flying iPads!”

Have you seen that nightmare YouTube video of the redneck Wal-Mart warehouse guys “playing catch” with your iPad, laughing with glee when it smashes on the ground? Go on, Google it (but NOT at work.)

Anyway, those three ding-dongs got fired (because they posted the video online, durr.) But thousands of Wal-Mart and Target employees remain, and they all have to work on Thanksgiving. Are they mad enough to destroy your merchandise? Probably not, but I wouldn’t count on any surplus of smiles.

Imagine you’re at mom’s, packing away the turkey and giblets, watching Dallas and Detroit and generally having a good time. Then at 8pm, you have to head to work for the next 16 hours.  “But I’m still full of turkey – and resentment!”

Last year, a Target employee gathered 200,000 signatures on a petition to stop the retailer from opening at 11pm Thanksgiving night. If you read the Target guy’s statement, he is careful to say that he LIKES Target. They give back to the community, support charities, etc. He just thinks they’re going a little nutty with the Black Friday business.

Target responded, “You’re right, 11pm is dumb. Let’s open at 9pm instead!”  Meanwhile, in a touching show of solidarity, Wal-Mart will open at 8pm.

Sign of the times, I guess. There will always be retailers looking for an advantage, employees willing to work and shoppers looking for that big score. If that’s you, here is a guide to Black Friday opening times, if your conscience can stand it (it can.) Happy hunting!

Yes, it Comes in Pink

“It’s a Car – a PRETTY One!” (brochure copy)

Ladies, be warned. Marketers have cracked the Girl Code. Millions of dollars have been spent to discover the secret of reaching women. You ready? Here it is: Color it pink and play on your insecurities.

We’ll let that sink in for a moment, like a moisturizing cream that erases fine lines and age spots.

One of the big-name ink pen companies has a For Her line. If you’re an Ellen fan, you know how that went over.

Said one reviewer: “For once, I don’t have to grip a giant, man-sized pen just to sign receipts at Saks. And the ink just hits the paper so smoothly, not at all like the rough, gritty man ink in normal pens.”

Meanwhile, Honda has a version of the Fit subcompact called “She’s.” Its lady-centric approach? It’s pink, its AC won’t dry your skin and its anti-UV glass will help prevent wrinkles.

The review is in: “Stupid name, awful color, everyone needs protection from the sun’s rays, and if they want to market to women, they need to think leg to pedal ratio, especially clutch, so you don’t have to scoot the seat all the way up to the steering wheel.”

I guess the point is that pink is nice, but that can’t be the only selling point.

Final example: I used to do marketing for a handgun company.

Now we’re talkin’!

They had a line of handguns For Her, in pink and lavender. But they weren’t JUST cute; they were smaller, lighter and with slightly less firepower so that – get this – women could actually USE them. We didn’t ignore Pink, we just turned it around: “Why is it pink? So your husband won’t want to borrow it!” Now THAT’S marketing to women!

Here are a couple of articles on the topic, from Today Show online: Here and Here. Check ’em out, have a great weekend and always remember to ask if it comes in pink!

(photos: and

November’s Best Buys!

Of course, Black Friday draws near – the big bargain day for combat shoppers. But the rest of November is no slouch, as retailers try to grab your attention in the days leading up to the madness.

Here, from, is a list of some of your best November buys:

  • Cookware: Good prices, typically through December and January. But November is best.
  • Tools and Hardware: “Sets” are big, such as a 50-piece socket set. Hint hint.
  • Apple stuff: Apple often has 5 to 10% discounts on Black Friday, and retailers often make further cuts.
  • This season’s clothes
  • Wedding dresses: They’re just not on a woman’s radar this time of year, so it could be a chance for you to grab a bargain from a hungry retailer.
  • Halloween candy! Natch. (The author suggests you stuff some in your purse for Black Friday!)
  • Budget Laptops: Some as low as $200!
  • Turkey: Many stores give a bird away if you spend a certain amount. Don’t overspend just to get the bird, though.

Those are just some highlights of good buys. What’s NOT an especially great buy in November – or, not really any better than other times? Tablets. Turns out Amazon and others are basically giving them away already, selling them at cost, and making their money on the digital media you buy.

Lots more useful info at the original article, so check it out!

Superstorm Sandy Consumer Roundup!

Here is a roundup of articles from around the web highlighting consumer scams, helpful recovery tips, ways businesses are trying help…and ways they aren’t!

For a lot of folks, life won’t be returning to normal for a while. Hopefully tips like these will help.

(photo: NASA)