Am I right to be mad at retailer for not selling me an item they're holding for someone else?

Settle a dispute, please:

I went to a specialty store for an item that I wanted to buy today. They’re the only store in the area that sells this item, so the option is to either get it from them or get it online. It’s an expensive item for its category; think of it as the top shelf, big ticket version of whatever item you might imagine. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a store to only keep one of them on hand at a time due to its price compared to the price of similar items.

I walked in and inquired about the item, and the store clerk explained that they actually had it in stock, but they were holding it for a customer who had asked them to hold it. In fact, he said, they had already been holding it for a few days and the customer had not shown up and purchased it. I explained that I’d be glad to purchase it right now and the other customer could wait until they ordered another one.

The manager came over, heard the situation, and explained to me that he’d be glad to order me one, which would come in later in the week. I explained that I wanted to purchase it right now and that the other customer should “lose out” for not having already shown up to purchase it.

In my experience of working and buying from a variety of retail establishments, putting items on “hold” was usually honored through the end of the business day, if at all, when no money had already been put down. It’s the basic “bird in hand” principle - why miss out on a sure sale now in favor of a potential future sale?

I think that the retailer was wrong to turn me away in favor of this theoretical sale. My wife disagrees, and thinks that they should continue to hold the item for the customer and that I should have to wait and that I’m wrong for being miffed at the situation. My intention is to now purchase the item online (at a savings) and tell the manager that I did so in retaliation for the store’s behavior.

Who’s right? Should the store have sold me the item?

And, if it matters, we’re talking about a $100 item, not a boat or something. Standard over-the-counter transaction, not something that would normally be complicated enough to justify multi-day hold/waiting periods and so on.

I think you’re in the right, though I’d not stay angry over it. When I worked retail we did not hold items, except in the sense that you could pay for something and pick it up later. Otherwise, holding for longer than until the end of the next business day is unfair to other customers and stupid for the shop.

Well, I would be kind of mad, if they’d been holding it for days and if the other customer had not secured this hold with any kind of down payment.

slight hijack/I once wanted to buy a pair of boots. I had tried on the left boot. The right boot was on display in the window.

The clerk wouldn’t get it. Why not? Because that was the last pair of those particular boots, and if he took it out of the window he wouldn’t have it to display.

WTF? If they didn’t have the boot–which they wouldn’t, if I bought them–they’d have no need to display it. But he wouldnt’ remove the display boot.

My girlfriend and I figured he was secretly holding that pair of boots for somebody he knew, otherwise it made no sense whatsoever.//

Anyway, yeah, you’re right. Working retail, I would hold items for longer than one day for a customer. But after the first day, if another customer came in and wanted the item, that customer got it. There were times, late in the day, when I figured whoever put it on hold would not be back. And most of the time, I was right–the customer did not come back.

I think you’re right. They should have sold you the item, and let the other customer wait for it–but maybe they had the assurance that other customer would come back. Maybe it was his girlfriend. Or the manager’s girlfriend. You never know.

Yeah, order it online and write them a letter. (I probably wouldn’t even write the letter, I’d just bitch to everybody I knew.)

It’s their item, they can do whatever they want. Perhaps this other customer is someone who comes in everyday and brings them all kinds of business and has earned a little loyalty.

The weird thing was that they even told you about it: why not just say they were out, since they had no intention of selling you the one they had? That’s the part that would bother me.

If I were the manager and a customer asked me to hold an item because he was going out of town for a few days and couldn’t pick it up until he got back, I probably would have not sold it to you either. OTH, if the customer had said, “Can you hold it for me for a few days while I think about it,” that’s different. Under that circumstance, I would have sold it to you on the “bird in the hand” principle.

But where the retailer really went wrong was with the sales clerk who told you they were holding the item for someone else. (Unless I read your OP wrong, the item was not on display, correct?) What possible purpose did it serve to tell you that?

If its not a big deal to order it or for the other customer to wait for it, its also not a big deal for you to order it or for you to wait, so IMO its a wash if thats the case.

And if it IS a big deal to order for or wait for, then I lean towards the customer that managed to get them to hold it for them.

Grr! Buy now, or move the eff over, you wishy washy, namby pamby little girls. This isn’t layaway; you can’t get the item you want now six months later. Well, apparently you can.

I’ve wanted an item put on hold me for me before (very rarely, because seriously, almost always you either want it and buy it, or you don’t and you don’t), but have understood that if someone else comes in, cash in hand, it goes to them. Last summer I found these adorable shoes that I needed, but the problem was there was only one pair left in my size in the store, and some other woman was trying them on! I circled around, hoping she’d put them back, found some other shoes, then went back to find my size was gone. Blast! The woman had absconded with my shoes! Okay, they weren’t my shoes just yet, but they should have been the very moment I was checking out, and saw the shoes on the shelf behind the cashiers. I said, “If you’re going to put those back on the shelves later, I can save you the effort and buy them now. I love those shoes.” This is when the cashier informed me that this highly indecisive twat couldn’t make up her mind over whether or not she wanted them, so asked the store to hold them just in case she decided if she wanted them. What?! I even called back the next day to see if the shoes were still there, but no, they were not. :frowning:

I will spare you the details of the mad chase that ensued, but after scouring the globe, I found what I wanted, in the right color (sheesh!) in my size. If the woman had gotten there first, and just bought the damn shoes like a normal person, I’d have been miffed that I was beat to the chase, but I wouldn’t have been upset with her or the store.

So then! In case it’s not clear what side I’m on, I’m with you, Vern.

You don’t have some kind of divine right to the item, even if you were there, cash in hand.

The store would have been within their right to sell it to you and they’re within their right not to sell it to you. Who knows. Maybe the other customer is the boss’s mother-in-law or the guy who holds their mortgage. Someone they just can’t piss off.

Mind you, I might not shop there again. I’d be more inclined to shop at a place that actual sold items I was looking for. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to rub their noses in it after the fact.

We regularly put items on hold, but usually for only a day or two. Unless we know the hold customer well, and know for sure for sure that they are coming in and desperately need it before we can order one, we will sell it to whomever comes in waving cash after those two days. But we almost always have a phone number and can call the hold customer to find out what’s up, when they will be in, if they can wait. Sometimes, if we are holding something for a very good customer who spends a lot of money with us on a regular basis, we’ll hold things longer than normal to avoid alienating a steady source of income. And sometimes we can’t order something unless it has been paid for in advance, so ordering another one in is out of the question.

I would be upset and disappointed, but I wouldn’t be so angry as to hold a grudge. And if you order it online, it’ll still come to you “later in the week” so you won’t be getting it sooner, just possibly cheaper…and if that’s the case, I would go with cheaper to begin with. I don’t think anyone is really “right” in this situation, but the manager should have tried to contact the hold customer right there and then.


I don’t understand this reasoning. Vernon was willing to buy the item immediately and did not wish to wait unnecessarily, so clearly it was a big deal to him. The person for whom the item was stupidly and unfairly being held either did not have the money available (in which case it doesn’t matter if it’s a big deal or not) or is in no special hurry (in which case it’s not a big deal). The store’s screwing themselves out of a sale.

As to the persons who wonder why the clerk told Vernon about the item in stock, I assumed that he or she did not know it was being hold. Back in my furniture selling days, one of my co-workers used to infuriate me by “holding” an item but not telling anyone else, then protesting when somebody had a customer who wanted to pony up the cash and drive away with the item at once. It was a commission thing.

It depends on what they said to the customer they were holding it for.

I ask for things to be put on hold all the time. When they do, I usually get a date by which it will be released (e.g., “We can only hold this for a week.” “We’ll hold it until the end of the day.”) If I came back within the window of time they’d given me and they’d sold it to someone else, I’d be pissed as all hell and you’d be reading the other side of the story in the mini-rants thread.

The store doesn’t have to put things on hold for me, in fact, it’s against policy for some stores. But if they say they’re going to, good customer service means they should honor it.

I used to work in retail so I’m biased but really you’re just coming off as as a whiny child here. You want it NOW and you’re going to throw a temper tantrum if you don’t get it NOW. Boo effin Hoo. I outgrew that phase when I left kindergarten.

At the store where I worked, we used to hold items for 3 days. If a customer asked us to hold an item for a few days longer than that, we would do that, as well. At no point would we ever remove an item on hold within the given time frame to give to someone else.

Of course, we were also smart enough to never tell customers we couldn’t sell them something because it was on hold (precisely because we didn’t want to deal with temper tantrums).

That will show that mean manager! :rolleyes:

Cool your jets. He didn’t say he was going to through a Molotov cocktail into the building; he said he’s unhappy with their service and will inform management of such.

Also, if the person who they were holding it for has been waiting for days and hasn’t showed his face, why can’t they order one for him online, instead of making the person who is ready to buy now wait?

I haven’t read the other responses so this may have been covered but IMO you weren’t ‘wrong’ to be mad, you have have whatever emotions you want, but you have to understand that the retailer owns that item, they can do whatever they please with it. Maybe the person that they are holding it for is one of their best customers, maybe that person always does this kind of thing but they know he/she will show up for it at some point. IMHO, once they mentioned that the person was supposed to be in a few days ago but still refused the sale to you, the most you could have done was politely suggest that they call the other person and see if they still want it or just order another one from them (or go home and get it online).

I have an even more bizarre “won’t sell it to me” story…I went to the food court pizza place one evening very close to closing time and ordered a whole pizza (to take home). They refused because it was too late, they had already put the ingredients away. Fair enough, I thought, but noticed they had just placed a whole pizza (of the same type I wanted to order) in the case to be sold by the slice. So I said, “I’ll just buy that one, let me have 8 slices of …” And was refused on the grounds that then there would be none left if a customer came in behind me. We ended up getting sandwiches from the next stand over instead, and with a discount when that clerk heard about why I wasn’t having pizza.

To the OP, I think you are both in the right up to a certain point. The store should not be holding anything longer than a business day. But if that is not their policy or if they have a policy to hold items indefinitely…then they really should not have the item on display (or should claim it out of stock) if the last one is being held. I believe that the biggest irritant of the situation is that you know they had it and you know why they wouldn’t sell it to you. If they had simply said, “I am sorry, sir, that item is unavailable at the moment, but I can order you one which will be here within the week.” They would have been telling the truth as they knew it and also would not have pissed off and probably lost a customer.

The other side of things is the customer for whom it was being held. I am sure that everyone here and reading this has nothing but the most impeccable manners and understanding of these situations, and if we called and asked for something to be held we would pick it up within hours and be completely understanding if it were sold the next day because we were unable to make it in time. But what if that customer asked for the hold, then had an unforeseen cause delay them getting to the store to actually buy it? I am sure they appreciate the courtesy of the store holding it a little longer for them and will also tell their friends etc. of the amazing customer service (balancing out your negative feedback).

In short: the store should not have done it, so you are (more) right. But they did, so the next thing they should not have done was tell you about it, so you are right there too. Your anger (within reason) is completely justified.

You’re missing something. So the other customer says “Hey, I’ll come in Tuesday and pick it up” Then V.V. stops in Thursday but they won’t sell it to him even though the first person was going to pick it up two days ago. Now, you’re saying that VV should get it because the other person clearly didn’t need it, right? Maybe the other person was planning to stop by on Tuesday, but couldn’t make it, so they’ll stop by later in the week because they really didn’t need it until Sunday anyways. Good thing they asked the store to hold it for them.

As for telling VV why they even had it, VV said they were the only store in the area that had the item, so when a customer came in looking for it, they wanted to make sure said customer knew they could purchase it there, they would just have to wait a few days to get it in. If they had simply said no, VV would have kept walking.

Where did I say anything of the sort? I get the feeling the OP has already told the manager how unhappy he was with the situation so to go back/call and say I bought this online in “retaliation” for you not giving me what I want right now reeks of childishness. Part of life is learning that sometimes you have to wait for what you want.

Because the person who the item was on hold for could show up an hour later? Or the next day? Part of life is also honoring your agreements.

Ha ha ha! Awesome.

Fair enough, but this is part of why I say they should order another online, then give the item currently available to the customer currently ready to buy. That way the customer in the store would be happy, and even if the person they were holding it for suddenly came in moments later, they could offer a (what I think is reasonable) explanation that it had been days since they heard from him, and another customer came in ready to buy, so they sold it and ordered another for him. I’d like to think most people would be okay with that. I’d be.

Edit: valley, your exact wording included nothing of Molotov cocktails, but you said he was whiny, and throwing a temper tantrum like a pre-k child. I’d say being dissatisfied with customer service and stating so is acceptable, grown up behavior.

One more thing: The possibility of the guy being one of their best customers is the one angle I can see. Otherwise, you snooze, you lose, and in this particular case, the snoozer didn’t even have to lose. He could have suffered a slight delay in item availability.

I thought your response was shrill and reactionary as well. I didn’t throw any sort of “tantrum” - I was completely calm and friendly through the entire situation. As for the “retaliation” statement, what I mean is that I would buy the item online as a direct result of the store’s behavior - as a personal business decision that is a reaction to their behavior. I would then inform the store manager/owner (same guy) that I had done so in order to make him aware that his behavior had directly cost him my business in this circumstance so that he might change his behavior and policy in the future toward other customers. He’s a pretty young guy who might not have enough experience to know that a situation like this could be very alienating to an otherwise happy customer; the thought might not have ever entered his mind. If he realizes this, he’ll conduct better business in the future and be more successful with me and other customers.