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Here’s why Best Buy should re-consider item-level RFID tagging

 I’m not sure why Best Buy has de-emphasized its item level tagging program, but here’s one reason why execs at the electronics chain should seriously think about pursuing it again. It’s called greater inventory visibility.

The day after Christmas I arrived at Best Buy to return a 26-inch Samsung flat screen that came out of the box on Christmas Day with a one-inch gauge across the screen. (that’s a discussion for another day, but what happened to quality checks?)

My Best Buy store associate quickly advised me that “our inventory is so messed up” and then, after waiting several minutes, informed me that they had no more TVs of that model in stock. Given their hazy-at-best inventory visibility, I couldn’t help but think that the model I needed was buried in the stock room somewhere.

Their suggestion was to drive about 15 miles to their nearest store. “It looks like they have three or four in stock,” the associate told me. Again, not an overwhelming vote of confidence for their inventory management system. With a blizzard about to hit the Boston area, driving 15 miles wasn’t an option anyway. So I asked the store manager to replace the damaged unit with the next model up, which features newer LED technology. He agreed to do so, although it cost me a few more bucks.

So here’s the Best Buy gain id RFID had been in use. For starters, the entire returns process would have been seamless. The 10 minutes or so that the store associate spent locating inventory could have been spent serving customers on the day after Christmas – a very busy buying day. That likely equated to lost revenue. And if the store associate could have guaranteed  me that the item was in stock at another store, I may have made the drive there. Instead, they sold me a highly discounted TV at a loss.

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