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The year was 2016, My daughter was very clear that she only wanted one toy this year. In fact, if she were granted this one request, she would never ask for anything again. The toy she wanted was called a "hatchimal". I brushed it off as it was mid November and I was too busy with work to really worry about a toy.

 

Fast forward to Black Friday 2016, my daughter by now had made it clear that not only did she want a "hatchimal" but she had done her research and knew the exact one she wanted. I logged it in my mind and figured I would go out and grab this toy and have one less thing on my list. And that is when this horrible adventure started .....

 

It became clear pretty quickly that I was not going to go out and find this toy. The toy was sold out everywhere, and worse than that, there was no ETA on when more would be in stock.

 

Luckily I found one, although not the exact one my daughter wanted but still a hatchimal. I ordered it online and that was the end of that, so I thought. It was early December now, and I moved on to the other things on my list. The hatchimal toy ordered previously was scheduled to arrive in a few days and I was oblivious to the fact that my trust in this box store would ruin my Christmas.  

 

The first sign of trouble came a few days after ordering. There is a delay in your shipment the e-mail read. No big cause for concern, Christmas was weeks away, and shipping delays occurred all the time. Now, keep in mind this is 2016, before Covid; before shortages, there was no reason to think anything was out of the ordinary. The second sign of trouble came in another e-mail, this one more troublesome than the first; we can not provide an ETA for your shipment, the message read.

 

I thought to myself, a big box retailer with stores worldwide should be able to predict when my shipment would arrive. No worries, Christmas was still two weeks ago, and I had a confirmed order number and everything.

 

Approximately six days before Christmas, the heart-dropping message appeared. "We're sorry, all the items you ordered are out of stock so we had to cancel your order. You won't be charged for these items". The message hit me like a pound of rocks falling from a cliff. My heart sank. This couldn't be true, I thought to myself. I quickly jumped on the phone and after going through all the prompts, I spoke to a live agent, "Steven," who had a distinct Indian accent. He was extremely apologetic for all the stress this issue had caused me. He had a unique skill of being very helpful without being helpful at all. He apologized time and time again, but it was made clear that he had no power actually to fix my problem.

 

My daughter at the time had no clue that I was not able to get the one toy she requested. In fact, she was fixated on an item under the tree that she assumed was a hatchimal. She would shake it, glance at me with a smirk like she knew exactly what it was. I wasn't sure what it was, but I was for sure what it was not. It was not a hatchimal, Dad had trusted a big box store, and the big box store had let us down.

 

I was mad, not so much at the big box store but at myself for trusting them. I couldn't believe that I had waited for weeks for a sure thing that wasn't sure at all, I had put my daughter's joy in someone else's hand, and the worse part is now I was running out of time.

 

My next option was eBay. I quickly jumped on there and tried to find the seller closest to me so that the hatchimal would arrive soon. I found someone who was located about 150 miles away. I was told it would arrive in 2-3 days via priority mail. I paid about triple the price as from the big box store but at this point, I was desperate and money was not an object.

 

I placed the order and waited for a tracking number and I kept waiting. It never came, I e-mailed daily with no response. On the third day, I went back to eBay to contact the seller, and a strange message appeared. "This member is no longer a registered member of eBay". I began to try to reach eBay on the phone, which was not possible. I ended up communicating via e-mail with eBay who directed me to Paypal. About two hours later, I spoke to PayPal who informed me I did not have to worry the money was being returned to my account. I didn't want the money I tried to explain I wanted the product. Again, the agent apologized profusely, she informed me that it was an eBay issue and that PayPal was refunding the money since eBay had blocked the user.

 

I felt like a failure. Here I was a very successful professional, yet, I couldn't secure this simple little toy? I had made so many mistakes, trusting the big box store, waiting for weeks, and allowing all that time to pass. Jumping on eBay in a last bit act of desperation. None of these big companies cared. If the big box store had cancelled my order earlier, I would have had plenty of time to go elsewhere. I just couldn't believe how easy it was for them to ruin my Christmas, compounded by the fact that it was my trust in them that put me in this position.

 

During an evening drive, I came clean to my daughter. I explained to her how apologetic "Steve" from India had been. I explained to her the eBay person who disappeared and how hard it was to find this toy. She glanced up at me from the back seat "oh that's okay, dad, they are really hard to find maybe we can get one after Christmas." 

 

I wasn't sure how disappointed she really was. Maybe she didn't want her dad to feel bad, maybe she had researched enough to know that they really were hard to find. Perhaps she is just a really good kid who was able to keep things in perspective. Regardless of the reason, it set me on a mission.

 

As a company we acquire thousands of products. We rely on partners, distributors, shippers to create a smooth supply chain. I inquired to my staff how hard would it be to add toys to our product list. The puzzled look on the staff was priceless. "There's like millions of toys", our shipping manager replied. "Not every toy, I replied, Just one or two, whatever toy our customers have a hard time finding. "It's not that complicated. It's just like any other product," said one of our managers. And with that we got in the toy business. 

 

We will never be the cheapest. Our pricing strategy forces us to raise prices because our #1 goal is to have the product in stock for as long as we possible can. We do not want to offer super low prices that only attract resellers. We believe This is why products become hard to find.  

 

By Alexander Brown

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