Several months ago, word got out that Toys R Us and Babies R Us would be filing for some bankruptcy protections and closing some stores. Today they officially announced they would be closing all of their stores, as early as this week.
Seeing today’s news from a mile away when that first announcement hit a few months ago, I decided to use up all of the gift cards we had received over the course of the last years of having babies. I had several hundred dollars worth, and went on the website, and later, in store when I couldn’t find anything I wanted on the website. Eventually, I just decided to buy a dozen cases of diapers and wipes, knowing I would at least go through them eventually (I have three kids four years old and younger).
After spending over an hour on the website trying to purchase these diapers (which were cheaper on Amazon), I decided to try to make the purchase over the phone. I was on the line almost another hour and a half before I was able to complete the purchase and use up all of the cards I had. I decided to buy a few pairs of socks to round out the order, and half of those socks never arrived, and I received notice that they were out of stock several weeks later. Not wanting to spend another two hours trying to use up my remaining $10 in gift cards, I ate the rest and washed my hands of dealing with them again.
A few weeks later, I had to go into a store while on vacation in Los Angeles because I lost my baby carrier. It was a similar experience; I called ahead to see if they had the items I wanted, and after spending twenty minutes on hold, I was given a non-commital “yes, probably.” I went into the store, which was dirty, disorganized and half-stocked, and wandered for 30 minutes looking for someone to help me find the item. When I could find no sales associate and ran out of patience, I called the store while inside the store asking where the baby carriers were. I eventually located the baby carriers, and checked out, spending more money than I would have directly from the company or on Amazon (I needed it immediately, for the flight home).
I’m always sad to see businesses close and individuals lose their jobs. With the closures of a lot of these brick and mortars, though, I’m starting to think that it’s the market just correcting itself. We were once at the mercy of giant stores like Toys R Us and Sears; we had few choices for places to shop for the items they carried. But now thanks to the Internet, I could have purchased that baby carrier from Amazon if there’s a sale, directly from the company, or from a small boutique baby shop in Tennessee (I’ve purchased baby carriers from all three; yes I have a lot).
I once had fond memories of visiting Toys R Us and picking out toys with my mother for special occasions; now my children imagine a toy they want, and we sit together trying to find out of it exists somewhere on the Internet. The experience of visiting a store was special, but the Internet holds a different kind of magic.