Don’t let your warehouse become a “where”house

When I say the word ‘inventory’, what comes to mind?  (Hopefully it’s not thoughts of crawling into a warm bed).  When I think inventory, I am reminded of a horrific three month saga when I was working in IT Support.  How can inventory be horrific, you ask?  Read on.

When I was working for said IT Support company a few years ago, one of my many responsibilities was to oversee the RMA process of failed hardware and ensure that we received replacements.  Pretty straightforward, or so I thought.

One day, a clients’ network switch died a spectacular death.  This switch would quickly become the subject of my nightmares.

I called up Big-Name’s support line (names have been removed to protect the guilty).  I described what was happening, the errors/flashing lights, etc.  After finally convincing them that it was indeed broken, I was given an RMA number.  A new unit would be shipped to us in a few days.

A few days came and went, so I placed another call back to Big-Name support.  The rep checked the computer and told me that “The system hasn’t been updated.  When we have information we will let you know”.

Okay, weird.  A few more days went by and I placed another call with the same result.

The same thing happened the next 10 times I called.  Escalations to managers did nothing either.  Weeks and weeks went by, and still no switch.

One day, I hit pay dirt.  I must have gotten a) the new guy or b) the most disgruntled employee at Big-Name.  When I pressed about the switch, they replied “We can’t send you your switch because we are in the process of moving warehouses, and until we re-count our inventory, we are not allowed to send anything out.”

<insert choice expletives here>

At this point my supervisor threw herself into the mix.  After some stealthy investigation, she discovered phone numbers for several high-level corporate types at Big-Name.  She flooded them with calls and emails.  There were apologies, and promises that our switch would soon arrive.

A few days later, it actually did.

And a few days after that, so did a second one.

And then…a third!

This must have been a bid to make us quietly disappear, or it was just another sign that their inventory troubles were more widespread than I originally suspected.  Either way, we were never contacted about the two extra switches.  I almost wish they would have asked.  What a fun conversation that would have been!  “I’m sorry, we are in the process of moving and seem to have misplaced them…”

Having the right product in the right place at the right time is one of the most essential business tenets.  Customer service issues aside, I was most upset with Big-Name’s gross failure in this area.  This experience gave me a new perspective on inventory.  If you don’t know where your product is, you can’t sell it (or replace it).  Whatever you do, don’t let your warehouse become a “where”house!

Have you ever been let down by a lack of inventory?  How does your business stay on top of it?


Posted on January 17, 2012, in 'We Get Retail' Business Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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