Yesterday I went with my mother to buy her a new laptop and a Palm pilot.

We went to the first store because she had $250 worth of coupons that would go towards her purchase. We looked at the laptops, and early on the choice came down to two that were fairly similar. Then I noticed a box and asked about that brand of laptop, which I have, and the guy takes us to another area and shows us those; why didn't he show these earlier? I find the one I think is best and ask about it, and he tells me that one is discontinued, and they don't have any of them available; why are they showing it then? He then decides to show me one that's not on display, that's suposedly taking its place, and the cost is almost $500 more than the one I'd wanted her to have.

So, we're back to selecting between the two original ones, and we finally pick one. Then we go to look at the Palms, and this time I had one in mind that I wanted to see first, which is the same kind I bought my wife last year. Only, they've changed the look and capability of it, so now it's not the same anymore. We look at the other palms, and Mom decides on which one she wants. You guessed it; that one has been discontinued, but of course it's being displayed. Another one that was being displayed, they'd run out of; I couldn't believe this.

We bought the items we wanted, but Mom said she wanted to go to an office supply store across the street to see if they might have the Palm she wanted. They had one on display, so we asked about it, and they said they didn't have any; what the hey? Mom decided to go back to the first store and buy a Palm that wasn't her favorite, that both stores had, but the other store not only had it for $10 less, but, of all the weird things, was in a different county, though only across the street from each other, so the taxes were lower.

This is a different customer service than I usually write about, because this time, the people helping out were fine and courteous. The stores, though, dropped the ball. Had it been me, I wouldn't have made the purchase on that day, and probably gone looking for a different place that had just what I wanted. But Mom wanted something that day, so, there you go.

How often do companies take chances with losing customers when they promise something they can't deliver on? And should someone in each store have known that they didn't have what they were displaying before disappointing a very willing customer? Just asking questions on a Sunday afternoon.