Buy online @ your own risk?
Over recent years buying online has become a popular alternative to wandering down to the local shops. Not only do you often see substantial discounts and have goods delivered to your front-door, but you also save on shoe-leather and valuable travelling time. There is of course a downside for shops, but what the hell, buying online is the future … isn’t it?
Last Christmas I ordered a Netbook online through an online reseller, turned out to be faulty (DOA) so I sent it back and tried again. Second attempt hadn’t arrived by the time Christmas eve arrived, after paying for guaranteed delivery, so I wandered down to the shops and purchased a unit over-the counter, not the unit I wanted for the price I wanted, but a more powerful unit on special offer, so I was reasonably happy. When the mail-order unit did arrive (in the new year) I refused delivery and eventually refunds turned up. As I didn’t have too much trouble getting refunds and suppliers were fairly quick about it, I didn’t think much of it – “snow happens”.
October this year I came to purchase a more substantial machine and once again I turned to an online supplier, as I’ve been supremely unimpressed with my experience I’m tempted not to mention them by name – but it was Amazon (marketplace). The unit was delivered faulty, the supplier sent a courier, accepted the return and accepted the fault. (there were actually two physical faults which made the unit unserviceable) So far so good. They insisted on repairing the unit by returning it to the manufacturer, but were unable to give a timescale. I requested a refund – no answer. I requested a refund from Amazon, who requested a refund from them – no answer. I then spent quite some time jumping through hoops, filing an A-Z claim with Amazon and getting no response other than “Oh did we say 1-2 weeks, we meant 3-4 weeks and even then …”. Eventually I referred the issue to trading standards who told me to request a charge-back via my credit-card company, something Barclays sorted within a 48 hours.
So, “what happened to Amazon, they used to be reliable!” aside, if you’re ordering stuff you “need” (in this case computers) and can’t afford to wait 3 months for a refund, is online shopping the way to go? For books and CD’s sure, for a start it’s more difficult to deliver a faulty unit, but now that shops have regained some sanity with regards to comparative pricing .vs. the Internet , could it be that shops might make a come-back?
As an advocate of working on-line it seems to be an odd conclusion for me to reach, but in context it does seem that shops once again do have some major plus points.
If I buy it in a shop, someone tells me face-to-face what it’s going to do (or not), someone’s going to hand it to me over the counter and I’m in a position to test it on the spot and hand it back if it’s faulty. If it develops a subsequent fault, I can drive down to the shop and hand it back. It all sounds stupidly simple and familiar, indeed the use of the word “drive” would have been on my list of previous reasons to buy on-line …
Consider the following however, your kit ordered on-line might not turn up (within the described time-frame), it may not actually be what you ordered, it may be faulty and for one of many reasons you may want to send it back. Heck, we’ve all seen the YouTube video of a FedEX kit delivery , literally anything could happen. Now consider you want a refund and you send the kit back, they might not get it, they might say they didn’t get it, it might have been damaged in transit, they might not accept that the defect was their fault and if you purchased from Amazon, you may find yourself dealing with the issue via an Indian call centre, who will be very sorry about your problems, but may be unable to do anything useful or ever get back to you. (and whoever it is, a refund could easily take quite a long time!)
So is buying stuff of value on-line “safe”? Ask me a couple of years ago and my response would’ve been an “of course – it’s pretty run of the mill these days” … but now, based on experiences over the last 12 months coupled with shops adjusting their prices to compete with on-line sellers, maybe not such a clear-cut answer.
If you do buy on-line, make absolutely sure you use a credit card and not a debit card.
Then, if you ever need a refund, all you need to do it return the goods (by recorded delivery) ask the vendor for a refund, wait 48 hours and if they don’t provide one, simply contact your credit card company and request a charge-back. They will want some documentary evidence (email) to back up the claim but it’s way easier than you might think. If you’re tempted to use a vendor based guarantee system, be warned they may not be too quick and indeed sometimes, they may not even work (!)
I’ve just chased Amazon again and pointed out that feedback on my claim is now overdue by 6 weeks – let’s see if I get the promised email this time (!)
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