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prasantrin

ordering food online--how to deal with backorders?

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Last week I placed an order for some meat online. I had asked the purveryors several questions about their products prior to placing the order, including some products listed as "sold out" as well as those in stock. I told them if the "sold out" items would be restocked soon, I would postpone my order, otherwise I would place it immediately. Shipping was going to amount to roughly 10% of my order, and I did not want to increase that percentage. They told me I should go ahead a place my order of items they had in stock, as they would probably not be receiving additional stock until the end of the month.

I placed the order, and received a "your order has been shipped" notice, and in that order, they said they were out of stock of one of the items I wanted, so they could not ship it. Then they said they were looking forward to my next order!! With the order as sent, shipping amounted to a whopping 20% of the total order--peanuts for some, but not for me.

My questions:

Should they not have informed me that one of the items I wanted was out-of-stock before they processed and shipped the order? I certainly would not have placed it the order had I known they would not have included that particular item (it was one of the items I had especially wanted, and I had first inquired about it when I contacted them--it was listed as "in stock" when I placed my order. It's brisket, by the way, and it's almost impossible to find in stores in Japan).

If the unshipped item is re-ordered, who should be responsible for paying for the shipping of said item?

From their "we're looking forward to your next order" comment, I'm guessing they think I should place another order when that item is in stock again (they say in about two weeks), and pay for the shipping. If that happened, I would only be ordering that item, and then shipping would be about 40% of the total order. It's not going to happen. . .

I have contacted them, and am waiting to hear what their response is, but in general, how should back-orders, etc. be handled by retail food outets? If I'm going to argue with them about this, I need some ammunition!

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That is annoying.

I ordered some things online from Dean & Deluca last year. When the order came, I discovered it was broken up with some items backordered. Phoned them and they assured me the shipping on the remaining items would be on the house. That's the only food order I can recall placing that wound up being incomplete, and I realize it's not exactly a parallel situation to yours, since I did not have to place a re-order. Anyway, I would hope all you would have to do is remind them of the discussion that took place initially, and they would make it up to you, ideally by waiving charges for shipping the brisket, assuming you are willing to re-order.

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Thanks, Tess. I just heard from them, and they apologized and said they would waive the shipping charge if I were willing to reorder the item.

They also said, however:

This means that often it is not possible to stay on top of which products are in stock and which are not until the last minute.  Most of our customers prefer partial shipments rather than nothing at all.  We unfortunately don't have the manpower to ask each one every time what they would prefer, so when an out of stock item will take more than a few days to come back in stock and the out of stock items are only a small percentage of the sale, we ship it off.

Even though it's a small company, I don't see how it's not possible to keep track of stock, and I definitely don't see how difficult it would be to e-mail people whose orders may be incomplete due to insufficient stock. It's just a courtesy, in my opinion, and one that any business should provide!

At the very least, they should have a box to check on the order page (like Amazon does) asking customers if they would prefer to hold the order until complete or to ship in incomplete.

Oh well. It's done, and now I just have to decide if I want to go through with the rest of my order. I really wanted to make that corned beef!! (And plus I ordered their par-baked rye bread so I could have corned beef sandwiches, and now I'll have rye bread with no corned beef!!!)

At least I'll have my pork belly so I can start on my bacon!

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This is similar to Costco business delivery. You order a bunch of items, get charged for delivery, and then don't find out until the order is delivered whether some items were out of stock. And they do NOT then deliver the out of stock items for free. Kind of annoying.

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This is similar to Costco business delivery. You order a bunch of items, get charged for delivery, and then don't find out until the order is delivered whether some items were out of stock. And they do NOT then deliver the out of stock items for free. Kind of annoying.

I'm not sure if Costco inventories everything. I recall ordering an item and getting it directly from the manufacturer. But I may be mistaken. Not every company can afford a computerized inventory system that communicates between the incoming order department and the warehouse/shipping operation. I agree that the customer should be given a choice about whether to receive an incomplete shipment and no additional shipping should be charged.


Ilene

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For me, that's a good enough reason to find another vendor. It could be worth ordering through a Japanese company (for example through Rakuten) if your Japanese is up to it, as some companies serving the expat community in Japan are a bit lackadaisical about shipping.

I've taken to ordering rice in 30 kg lots and flour in 10-15 kg lots. More than one company meets my criteria (mostly price!) but the companies that get my business are the ones that tell me within 24 hours of ordering if there is going to be any kind of delay, and the ones that have various options for processing and packaging of bulk orders right on the main order page (e.g. do I want all my rice polished or only some, do I want my bulk order in one package or in several small packages, etc.).

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For me, that's a good enough reason to find another vendor. It could be worth ordering through a Japanese company (for example through Rakuten) if your Japanese is up to it, as some companies serving the expat community in Japan are a bit lackadaisical about shipping.

I've taken to ordering rice in 30 kg lots and flour in 10-15 kg lots. More than one company meets my criteria (mostly price!) but the companies that get my business are the ones that tell me within 24 hours of ordering if there is going to be any kind of delay, and the ones that have various options for processing and packaging of bulk orders right on the main order page (e.g. do I want all my rice polished or only some, do I want my bulk order in one package or in several small packages, etc.).

That's service! Of the internet shopping I've done in Japan, the best service was from the guy I tried to order the Meyer lemons from. He called me within an hour of my placing the order to tell me they were out of stock (out of season, actually).

I've been looking for other sources of brisket, and have not had much luck so far. It seems most of the brisket in Japan is pre-sliced for bulgogi or yakiniku (I can't remember which, but it's also very very expensive), and larger pieces of brisket are much much more expensive than what this guy is selling for. I did find a source for reasonably priced brisket, but I'd be required to buy two 1-1.5 kg pieces, which doubles what I'm willing to spend and leaves me with an extra brisket I won't need (I've only got 35 weeks left in Japan,so I don't think I need that much meat).

I guess if I really want corned beef (and I do!!), I'll have to go back to this guy. He did offer to cover the shipping if a re-ordered it, so in that sense, he's made up for the goof. And I got a free pack of Polish sausage even though I didn't put the freebie code with my order (I e-mailed it later).

mukki--I'm surprised about Costco. I checked their website, and according to their FAQ:

Out of inventory. In the event there is not enough inventory of an item to complete your order (or if an item is no longer available), you will receive an email prior to the cancellation to notify you that the item is out of stock.

Assuming Costco Business follows the same terms of service as Costco.com, then they should notify you that the item is not in stock before your order is received. I'd call and complain.

Beanie--you may be right about not being able to afford a more sophisticated inventory system. It is a small company, though it does do both retail and wholesale business. But yes, they should definitely have some kind of option to cancel the order if an item is out of stock. Perhaps most of their customers order a lot more than I did, so they would rather have an imcomplete order than none at all, but I only ordered a few things, so it was really quite inconvenient for me!

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