MONEY Autos

Here’s a Good Indication of How Much People Hate Car Dealerships

man in car dealership showroom
Adam Gault—Getty Images

If it were possible and practical, most people would never set foot in a car dealership when purchasing a vehicle.

Accenture surveyed 10,000 people in the U.S. and a handful of other countries about buying cars, and the results show that most consumers aren’t exactly fans of the standard car dealership experience. In fact, three-quarters said that “if given the opportunity, they would consider making their entire car-buying process online, including financing, price negotiation, back office paperwork and home delivery.”

Some cultures are keener on purchasing via the web than others. Overall, the poll showed that Chinese, American, and Brazilian drivers are “more interested in online digital experiences than other countries,” specifically countries in Europe. For instance, 75% of Brazilians and 90% of Chinese would buy a car in an online auction, versus 45% of Germans and just 35% of French.

The survey findings didn’t reveal all that much about why consumers don’t seem to think it’s important to make the big-ticket purchase of an automobile the old-fashioned way, in person at a car dealership. But anyone who has bought a car probably has an idea about why online purchasing is appealing. For many, buying a car at a dealership is too much of a confusing, high-pressure, unreasonably long process. It’s easy to see how it’s preferable to haggle over prices and options and review the fine print at one’s leisure in front of a screen rather than surrounded by salespeople and their “let me talk to the manager” games. After all, a classic negotiation tactic is walking away from the deal on the table, and walking away from an online offer is as simple as ignoring an email.

For another indication of the degree to which consumers don’t like the traditional car-buying experience, check out a recent survey conducted for Autotrader. Of the 4,002 consumers polled, only 17 said they like the current car buying process just as it is. The rest said they “want significant changes, particularly in the test drive, deal structuring, financing paperwork and service phases.” Many said they’d like to see the nitty-gritty of deals conducted online rather than in person. For instance:

Consumers indicate that they would like to see a big change in the way they go about negotiating the deal structure. Of those who liked the idea of online deal building, over half, 56 percent, want the ability to start the negotiation on their own terms—preferably online—and 45 percent would like to remain anonymous until they lock in the deal structure.

And this:

Nearly three fourths of consumers, 72 percent, want to complete the credit application and financing paperwork online. The key factors driving this desire are to save time at the dealership (reported by 72 percent of those who favor online paperwork) and to have less pressure while filling out paperwork (reported by 71 percent of those who favor online paperwork).

There’s no big mystery as to why car dealerships and automakers are reluctant to make online vehicle purchasing more practical and readily available. Doing so would put car sales staffers out of jobs and likely result in lower profits for automakers and dealerships. Let’s not forget that one of the supposed purposes of car dealerships is to provide a place for consumers to kick the tires, test-drive vehicles, and (hopefully) get good insights and advice from employees. A car is a major purchase, and a good car dealership will help steer you in the right direction.

Nonetheless, there’s considerable pressure to change the often-maddening experience—to make it quicker, more transparent, less stressful, and less complicated—and some auto brands are becoming more open to online purchases.

“There aren’t too many things out there anymore that you can’t buy in an online way, and it’s really automotive that’s lagging pretty much every other industry out there,” Doug Murtha, Scion’s brand chief, acknowledged in a recent Bloomberg story about how the Toyota-owned brand is attempting to make car purchasing “Feel More Like Buying an iPad.”

Most customers have been able to use Scion’s new options to buy a car in less than two hours—less than half the usual time suck—and the goal is to get the process chopped down to under an hour. Meanwhile, some Auto Nation dealerships in South Florida have been attempting to make it possible for shoppers to seal the deal on a new or used car in a Domino’s-delivery-like 30 minutes or less, thanks to customers doing much of the browsing and completing of paperwork online in advance.

MONEY Tech

Lots of Apple Watch Listings on eBay Are Attracting Zero Bids

Apple Watch
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sellers are asking extremely high "Buy It Now" prices at eBay to take advantage of strong demand for Apple Watches. But in many cases, consumers aren't biting.

By most accounts, the Apple Watch did a terrific business on the first day customers could place preorders. Apple reportedly received roughly one million orders last Friday, and demand has been so high that orders placed now won’t be delivered until June or even later in the summer.

The first customers who preordered Apple Watches, however, will have their shiny gadgets in hand starting on April 24 or soon thereafter. Part of the draw of being an early adopter is the opportunity to get one’s hands on the newest tech before everyone else, and a certain group of consumers is sure to be too impatient to wait until summer to get their hands on the new Apple Watch.

Naturally, this combination of strong demand and limited short-term supply led Apple Watches to begin appearing for resale on eBay almost as soon as Apple started accepting preorders. As ReCode noted over the weekend, most eBay listings for Apple Watches were of the “Buy It Now” variety, in which sellers post a flat price for the item rather than putting it up for an online auction. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some sellers appear to be exceptionally opportunistic and greedy, occasionally posting “Buy It Now” prices that are 200% to 600% higher than retail.

Mind you, anyone can place an order and pay the retail price at the Apple Store for these exact same watches; the only reason anyone would pay a premium for an Apple Watch via eBay is that—assuming the listing is legitimate—you’d be able to show it off a few weeks sooner.

OK, so people selling stuff online are trying to make a quick buck by taking advantage of impatient Apple fans: Nothing new here. Are people actually paying up?

In some cases, they are indeed, but often not to the extent that sellers might hope. In one eBay auction that closed on Monday, a 42 mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch with link bracelet that retails for $999 was purchased for $1,400. Another Apple Watch, a 38 mm with a Black Sport Band, received 20 bids and sold for $561, barely over the retail price ($549). The results of some of the online auctions ending on Monday were puzzling: In one auction for a 38 mm Stainless Steel with Black Classic Buckle Apple Watch, the final bid was $610 (original price: $649), while a 42 mm version of the same Apple Watch (original price: $699) went for $910 in an auction that ended at almost the exact same time on Monday afternoon. Yet another Apple Watch auction that ended Monday, for a 38 mm model that retails for $349, wound up selling for $480.

It’s hard to draw many conclusions about the height of Apple Watch demand and the state of consumer patience from such all-over-the-map results. One thing that’s particularly interesting is that dozens of listings with “Buy It Now” prices and many with side-by-side “Buy It Now” prices and high starting bid prices came and went on Monday after attracting no bids whatsoever. For instance, no one bid on a 42 mm Milanese Loop Apple Watch listed at a “Buy It Now” price of $1,499, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the gadget can be purchased at retail for just $699.

Obviously, some sellers are trying to test the market with the hopes of making as large a profit as possible on their timely device purchase. In general, buyers are paying only moderate premiums in Apple Watch resales. For now at least, it looks like consumers aren’t going completely overboard in the quest to slide an Apple Watch onto their wrists a few days before their neighbors and coworkers.

MONEY online shopping

7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

repairman arriving at front door
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

What do autographed vintage Air Jordans, environmentally friendly baby wipes, cheap wine, and plumber recommendations have in common? You can find them all at Amazon.com.

On Monday, Amazon announced the official launch of Amazon Home Services, a marketplace and recommendation tool to help people find, schedule, and pay for services like home cleaning, lawn care, and handyman jobs. The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, and customers with verified purchases made through Amazon will be able to review services as well. Amazon also says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job it promises to “work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund.”

Amazon’s entrance into the sphere of contractors and professional home services may seem a little out of left field. But the move makes total sense in light of the company’s overarching mission—to become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything.

Here are a few other seemingly odd retail categories that Amazon has ventured into recently. They haven’t all been successful. In fact, some have basically been flops. But when you’re trying to take control of the marketplace for selling everything under the sun, a few misfires and false starts should be expected.

Fine Art
Amazon Art launched in the summer of 2013 as a marketplace selling tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works—including some originals from masters like Monet and Norman Rockwell, with list prices into the millions of dollars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the highbrow art world have been skeptical about the idea of one-click ordering, say, a Rembrandt.

Renowned economist Tyler Cowen pointed out the absurdity of being asked to pay $4.99 for shipping for a “mediocre Mary Cassatt lithograph” listed at $185,000, and wrote that he hoped Amazon Art was “a doomed venture.” The New Yorker noted that actually selling and profiting from high-end art may not be the point for Amazon: “Regardless of whether Amazon Art revolutionizes the art world, it will contribute to the perception that Amazon is working to create: whatever it is you’re looking for, you only need to remember one U.R.L.”

Fresh Flowers
About the same time Amazon was getting into fine art, it quietly launched The Amazon Curated Flowers Collection, in which the e-retail giant would be selling and shipping flowers directly to customers. Apparently, the venture didn’t work out. Recode reported that the Collection was kaput within a few months, and now the only flower bouquets that can be ordered through the site come from third-party vendors.

Diapers & Baby Wipes
Another venture that seems to have not worked out as well as Amazon wished was its recent entrance into the diaper business. Last December, the company began selling Amazon Elements, its own brand of high-end, environmentally friendly diapers and wipes. Less than two months later, bad feedback from customers pushed Amazon to discontinue the diapers and take them off the market, at least until design improvements could be made. Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, meanwhile, are still listed for sale at the site, where they get a 4.5-star rating.

Collectible Coins
Amazon’s Collectible Coins marketplace hit the site last May, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and buy thousands of rare and historical authenticated coins from dozens of dealers. Like Amazon Art, the coins purchased via Amazon can be priced into the millions, and Amazon gets a cut of every sale—reportedly 5% to 20%.

Sports Memorabilia
Among the wide selection of autographed sports collectibles currently up for sale on Amazon is a pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers ($48,788 + $4.49 shipping) and a baseball featuring Lou Gehrig’s signature ($71,264.99, with free shipping!). Amazon got into sports memorabilia in 2012, and it has a section for entertainment collectibles as well.

Wine
The Amazon Wine marketplace was introduced in 2012 in about a dozen states, with shipping on up to six bottles priced at a flat $9.99. The service has since expanded for delivery to more than a dozen other states, and the site—no stranger to price wars—has been competing aggressively on wine promotions, notably with 1¢ shipping on many orders.

MONEY online shopping

FAA Gives Amazon Permission to Test Delivery Drones

Amazon's ambitious Prime Air drone delivery service took another step forward Thursday, after the FAA gave the company permission to test its drones.

MONEY We Try It

The Easiest Way to Deal With Annoying Online Shopping Returns

Shyp
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Pay somebody else to deal with them. That's the premise of an app called Shyp. MONEY tested it out

These days you can outsource even the most mundane chores—at a price point that isn’t out of reach for the average Joe. And a host of new web-enabled services have made the process a snap. MONEY asked freelance writer and busy working mom Cybele Weisser to try out some of them to see if the time they bought her was worth the price she paid. This post is part of a series recording her results. In future posts she’ll try out online personal assistants, grocery delivery, meal planning kits, and more.

The Chore: Shipping Packages

My love for Internet shopping is greatly eroded by my hatred for its inevitable byproduct: having to pack up returns and take them to UPS, the post office, and FedEx. Sending toys my kids outgrow to their cousins results is the same time suck and then some, since we never have the right size box.

→ Outsourcing options: Shipping and delivery apps, such as Shyp, Postmates, and Shipster, have proliferated in urban centers like New York City and San Francisco. Those outside metro areas can use all-purpose outsourcing site Taskrabbit but will pay more.

→ What I tried: Shyp

→ What it cost: $5 fee to pick up, pack up, and ship 10 pounds of toys to the cousins, plus a $13 charge from the U.S. Postal Service.

→ Time saved: 45 minutes total—15 to find and pack a box, 15 trekking back and forth to USPS, 15-plus minutes waiting in line.

→ How it worked: I pressed “add shipment” on the app, gave my address and delivery info, and uploaded a photo of what I wanted to send. Within 30 minutes a bike courier arrived at my door with a big white bag, placed my goods inside, and left for a central van where Shyp packs up the goods and finds the best price among shippers (the company gets bulk discounts, then marks up to allow for a profit margin).

Another half-hour later, I got a text with a link to a USPS tracking number and a receipt.

→ The verdict: Totally worth it.

I might have been able to send the package a bit cheaper if I’d gone to USPS on my own ($10 according to an estimate I got), but I didn’t have to buy a box and I saved a lot of time. Shyp says it guarantees shipments up to $1,000, but I might still hesitate if my items were precious or personal.

 

MONEY Odd Spending

Snuggie Maker to Pay $8 Million Over Customer Complaints

The makers of popular “as seen on TV” items like the Snuggie have agreed to an $8 million settlement over deceptive business practices.

MONEY Shopping

5 Ways Department Stores Are Fighting For Your Business

Sears store in the mall
Keith Beaty

Macy's, Target, J.C. Penney, and other stores are getting creative in their quest to boost sales, or at least stay alive and relevant, in an increasingly crowded and complicated marketplace.

The all-purpose American department store is “dying.” We’ve heard this for years, to the point that the retail category is not unlike the old man in the classic Monty Python scene who is loaded up on a cart of corpses despite his protest, “I’m not dead!”

Yet while we’ve witnessed the collapse of Radio Shack and various teen fashion retailers, as well as the larger struggles of malls as a whole, the old-fashioned department store is, well, not dead yet. In fact, this week, a round of earnings reports revealed generally good sales performances in the fourth quarter—and during the all-important holiday period in particular—from Dillard’s, Target, and Kohl’s, among others. Sears sales were down for the 11th quarter in a row, but even its report was viewed as decent because the company lost significantly less than it did in the same period a year prior. J.C. Penney surprisingly posted a loss for the quarter as well, though comparable store sales were actually up 4.4%.

Even with the mostly positive earnings reports, Target’s failed expansion in Canada, as well as the trend to shutter more and more Target, Sears, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney stores in the U.S., demonstrates that while department stores are alive, they’re hardly kicking butt.

To avoid being written off for dead alongside Radio Shack, here are a handful of strategies you’re going to see more of from department stores:

Trying out new store models. This week Macy’s announced intentions to create a new off-price retail brand that would compete with discounters like TJ Maxx and highly successful “fast fashion” chains such as H&M and Forever 21. Meanwhile, Kmart is testing out a smaller store format, and Target is expanding its “Express” small-store model to more markets. Walmart has been going small too, with more non-supercenter “market” locations. Overall, the strategies show that the large department stores and discounters acknowledge that the one-size-fits-all approach is flawed, especially when the size in question is a hulking big box store.

Pushing web sales hard. Target offered free, no-minimum-purchase shipping for all online purchases throughout the 2014 winter holiday period. The move helped long-struggling “Tarjhay” increase digital sales by 30% for the year as a whole. Now it looks like Target is doubling down on its e-retail offensive, with this week’s decision to cut the minimum-purchase threshold for free standard shipping from $50 to $25—a change that undercuts Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart, among others.

For its part, the world’s largest retailer is well aware that more shoppers are “omniconsumers” who make purchases via all channels, and it’s trying to win their sales at every turn. “No doubt business is going increasingly mobile and increasingly online,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told the Associated Press recently. “We don’t really care how the customers want to shop. We want to be in the position to serve them in any of those ways.”

Going old school with marketing. While virtually all retailers are seeking to juice web sales to compete with the likes of Amazon, J.C. Penney is trying to achieve this goal in an old-fashioned, seemingly unorthodox way. Starting in March, the department store that’s undergone several (mostly unsuccessful) makeovers in recent years will start mailing its oversized catalog to customers yet again. And one reason why they’re using this tool is that consumers are more likely to order merchandise online with a catalog in front of them.

Going invasively new school with sales pitches. Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Lord & Taylor are among the major retail chains that have taken the potentially creepy step of deploying wireless beacons that detect shoppers’ precise locations inside stores and send them info via smartphone about discounts, promotions, and special events.

Discounting in ways old and new. Discount-heavy Kohl’s, where you can “save” $2,136 on a $242 shopping excursion, and where no one in their right mind pays full price for anything, had an especially strong holiday quarter with 3.7% growth in sales, beating expectations of 2% to 3%. One thing this tells us is that the age-old sales tactic of “price anchoring,” in which “regular,” “original,” “suggested,” and “compare to” list prices are inflated so that the inevitable discounts seem all the more impressive, remains a surefire way to sucker shoppers into buying.

On the new frontier of discounting, Target is testing out a strategy from the playbooks of supermarkets and drugstore chains, quietly launched a rewards program mobile app in beta. Members get 10 points for every $1 they spend at Target, and 5,000 points can be traded in for 5% off your next total purchase at the store. For now, the program, called REDperks, is available on an invitation-only basis, and only in select markets.

MONEY online shopping

Target Undercuts Amazon and Walmart With Easier Free Shipping

Target sign
Mike Blake—Reuters

Target just cut its minimum purchase requirement to receive free shipping in half, from $50 to $25. That's $10 less than what you have to spend at Amazon or Best Buy for free shipping.

Target has a long history of being in the crosshairs of Amazon, what with the world’s largest e-retailer routinely undercutting Target’s prices, combined with a wide range of strategies to woo moms in particular away from “Tarjhay” with speedy one-click shopping. Perhaps Amazon’s most deadly weapon—causing trouble not only to Target, but nearly all brick-and-mortar retailers—is Amazon Prime, the subscription program that provides free two-day shipping, among other perks, in exchange for a $99 annual fee. Above all, what Prime membership does is dramatically increase one’s spending at Amazon.com because nearly all purchases made on the site will ship for free. And the purchases made at Amazon.com are purchases that are no longer taking place at Target, or via another retailer.

On Monday, Target went on the offensive by tweaking its own free shipping policy, with the hopes of stealing some business back from Amazon, among others. The new shipping policy, Target boldly claims, “Will Change Your Life,” presumably in ways not unlike how Amazon Prime is known to dramatically change one’s spending habits and errand schedule.

The new policy grants free standard shipping (3 to 5 business days) on all Target.com orders of $25 or more. Previously, the purchase threshold for free standard shipping was $50. The minimum purchase requirement for free shipping at Walmart.com, for instance, is set at $50, while Amazon and Best Buy offer free shipping on most orders if the total is $35 or more.

Clearly, the move gives Target a little leg up on the competition, and it could very well start a free shipping pricing war among retailers—a war that would obviously benefit shoppers. But how big of a deal is Target’s policy change really? And is there a prayer it could actually change your life?

The truth is that Target’s new policy won’t affect its best customers at all. That’s because the most loyal Target shoppers are highly likely to be in possession of the Target REDcard, a debit or credit card that providers the user with 5% off on all Target purchases, as well as free, no-minimum-purchase standard shipping on all online orders. What’s more, Amazon Prime subscribers who are happy with the service aren’t likely to be wooed away by Target.com—which has fewer items for sale than Amazon (who doesn’t?), and whose free shipping is slower than that of Prime.

The consumers being targeted by Target’s policy change, then, are those who aren’t regular Target shoppers and don’t subscribe to Prime, or those who do subscribe to Prime but have been thinking that maybe the annual membership fee isn’t worth it. Also, for Target’s offer to seem truly compelling, you must be someone who would regularly want to make online purchases of $25 but not over $35. Once you’ve hit the latter price point, after all, you can get free shipping from Amazon or Best Buy alongside Target, so Target’s free shipping is a wash.

All that said, there are probably some consumers who will view Target’s new policy as an appealing alternative to Prime and Amazon.com in general. Just as Target’s decision to offer a free non-minimum-purchase shipping promotion during the recent winter holidays gave its web business a boost, the retailer will certainly juice e-retail sales by cutting its free shipping purchase threshold in half. Some tiny portion of shoppers will probably “change their lives” by placing a few more small-money orders at Target.com now that shipping is free.

It seems unlikely, however, that the policy change will move the needle much in Target’s ongoing battle against Amazon, nor will it cure Target’s larger problems, including its failed expansion in Canada and the fading of its reputation among shoppers and the industry as retail’s cheap-chic darling.

MONEY online shopping

Become a Better Bargain Shopper in 7 Minutes Flat

computer cursor over "sale" sign
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (1)

The right tools and apps can help you land the best price every time you shop online.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute Bargain Finder

Buying on the web is convenient—maybe a little too convenient! Using smart apps and browser add-ons will help you score deals.

0:00 Surf to getinvisiblehand.com. This browser extension scours the web for the best price on whatever item you’re looking at online.

0:33 Adding it is simple. Scroll to “Download Now,” and in two clicks InvisibleHand pops into your bookmarks bar.

1:03 Take it for a spin. Recently, by scrolling to an HDTV on BestBuy.com and clicking on the yellow InvisibleHand banner at the top of the page, you would have seen links to five other sites selling the TV for less.

3:06 Head to Tracklf.com, a site that monitors price changes on millions of products. Click “Install Tracklf.”

3:49 Skip the lengthy explanation video and try it out yourself. Use the “Tracklf” button to see a three-month pricing history of any item and request an email if the price drops.

5:58 Grab your smartphone and search for “PriceGrabber” in the app store. This app lets you scan barcodes when you’re out shopping and see comparisons on in-store and online prices.

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Next:

  • Day 7: Find Ways to Save More
  • Day 8: Boost Your Earning Power
  • Day 9: Learn How Better Health Can Help Your Finances
  • Day 10: Shore Up Your Safety Net
MONEY Shopping

The Curious Ways Brutal Snowstorms Affect How We Shop

The region is being hit once again by snow, and some businesses such as this T.J. Maxx store in North Andover, Mass., were closed, February 9, 2015.
Jim Davis—Boston Globe via Getty Images The Northeast was hit once again by snow, and some businesses such as this T.J. Maxx store in North Andover, Mass., were closed, February 9, 2015.

As the snow piles up in the Northeast, business suffers at many restaurants and stores, as you'd expect. But bad weather isn't bad news across the board for retailers.

We’ve seen the pattern repeat itself many times over. Weather forecasters predict a big winter storm, and long before the snowflakes appear, panicked shoppers hit the supermarkets to grab whatever milk, bread, eggs, and, if you’re at Whole Foods, kale, is still available.

Likewise, the arrival of a blizzard—or rather, the forecast that one could be coming—all but guarantees that there to be a run on shovels, sand, salt, and other snow-coping materials at hardware stores and home improvement centers. Gas stations and stores selling winter boots and other cold-weather gear can rely on storm forecasts to create sales spikes too.

In these ways, at least, the storms pounding New England and much of the Mid-Atlantic region over the past few weeks have boosted retail sales in ways not seen since, well, last winter, when the polar vortex caused mad rushes on grocery stores throughout the Midwest.

And yet, bad winter weather is hardly a good thing for retail in general. In fact, for stores that aren’t selling groceries, gas, shovels, or boots, blizzards can be business killers. Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Herald that “conservatively,” retailers in the state have lost $10 million for each day they’ve been closed or had almost no business thanks to relentless snow. Restaurant owners in Rhode Island are calling this “the worst February in years” thanks to snow keeping would-be customers at home. Overall, a 2014 IHS Global Insight study found that a single-day shutdown in New York can add up to $700 million in total economic costs, including $152 million in lost retail sales.

Presumably, the bulk of those lost sales transactions would have been conducted in person. After all, snow and cold weather can only prod more consumers to stay indoors and shop online, right? Actually, the impact of big snowstorms on online shopping is a bit muddled.

On the one hand, 16% of consumers in a recent survey from Fluent said that they have shopped less this winter, while 27% said they have done more online shopping. So snow + frigid temperatures = increased online sales, right? Not so quick.

According to Adobe Digital Index data, the winter storm that hammered the Northeast in late January resulted in a $35 million decrease in online sales, largely because people were home rather than at work. “During the work week, a lot of people really do shop from their work desktop,” Adobe analyst Tamara Gaffney explained to InternetRetailer.com. “You also have power outages and people out shoveling snow. They’re not shopping, they’re doing other things. It has a negative impact on e-commerce.”

Another way that winter storms can wreak havoc on e-retail is that when roads are impassable or close to it, it’s extraordinarily difficult for goods to simply be picked up or delivered. For instance, a Federal Express Service Alert issued this week warned that in light of persistent snowy weather in the Northeast, “some service delays and disruptions can be anticipated for inbound and outbound shipments in CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA and VT.”

For what it’s worth, the impact of snow—even a series of storms in a particularly bad winter—is generally short-lived. Often, if snow or cold weather brings about a slow period for sales of cars or home appliances or whatever, there will be a significant, corresponding rise in sales once things warm up. In other words, the sales shift; they don’t simply disappear.

Besides, retailers really shouldn’t go blaming uncooperative weather as the reason sales have been poor. “It’s usually one of those ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses,” Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told Bloomberg News last fall, when some apparel stores were pointing the finger at warm weather for why winter fashions weren’t selling well. “Whenever something can’t be explained and is an anomaly — and it happens to coincide with an unusual weather pattern — that becomes the reason people supposedly didn’t shop.”

The observation calls to mind the way that Big Beer blamed unseasonably cold weather in the spring of 2013 as a prime reason macro beer brands like Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Heineken were experiencing slumping sales. Meanwhile, Bud and other major beer brands have seen sales decrease for years, and why this is so has a lot more to do with the increasing popularity of craft beer, cider, boutique spirit distilleries, and other alternatives to pale mass-produced American lagers than it does to any bad spell of weather.

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