Sunday, December 13, 2009

The good and bad of internet shopping

Buying on the internet is great, right?  We find wonderful prices, we can do all kinds of research on items, and even share experiences with other people.

The prices sure can be good, although sometimes the shipping costs more than compensate for any savings.  We also assume that we are purchasing the exact item we want.  Many times companies have their own model number with slightly different features.  This can make comparison shopping difficult.

Reading other peoples' opinions can even be misleading.  People might be paid to write "reviews" of products or companies that are not based on reality, but based on deception.  Yes, you can be paid to write good reviews of a product, and cynical me is sure that it is common for online companies to have employees write good reviews on popular review sites.

Amazon sells many products and often has great prices.  They offer free shipping on many items, but they also sell many items through their website that they do not take any responsibility for.  These items are sold through "Amazon Marketplace" and you may not even notice that you are not really buying from Amazon, except for the fact that you probably won't get free shipping.  Amazon makes a profit on these sales and the seller get exposure on Amazon.

I recently purchased a headphone from Vibecellular, advertised as the Skullcandy Proletariat noise canceling headphone.  What arrived was a product made by Amp'd instead of what I had ordered.  The Amp'd headphones may be wonderful, but I was shocked that a company could advertise a product on Amazon and then deliver something completely different. Skullcandy has a great reputation for honoring warranties, which is why I really wanted their product.

I read further on the Amazon Reviews and found that MANY people had experienced the same thing with Vibecellular and were very angry.

I went through the usual channels and Amazon told me that they take customer service very seriously (they claim to be "obsessed" with it), but they continue to let bait and switch companies sell products on their website.  In my opinion, a company that has so consistently misrepresented what they sell should be dropped by Amazon.

Vibecellular offered me $5.  This would not bring my final price to the regular price of the Amp'd headphones, which were selling at the time for $18, although strangely they are no longer selling for only $18.  I suspect that's because it made Vibecellular look bad to sell the same headphone for both $18 and $25.  I asked for either $15 or a refund, including my shipping costs.  I have not heard back from them yet.  If I do, I will post it on this site.

On the other end of the spectrum, I  recently had a very positive experience with internet shopping.  I was in New York City and wanted to buy my kids some authentic Chinese outfits.  The shops all had the same tired items and nothing really seemed special.  It was cold and dirty and we were tired.  On the internet I found a company called Chinese Moods.  I researched the company as well as I could and didn't find anything very reassuring, but I decided to go ahead and roll the dice.  In about a week I received my items and they are beautiful, well-made, and even included a couple of gift wooden combs.  It was very nice to be so pleasantly surprised. 

You can tell that I like to dis companies that I feel are bad eggs, but I also like to bring attention to companies that are good eggs.  Shipping isn't cheap with Chinese Moods, but it's coming all the way from China, after all, and the prices are great.  The selection of items is extensive and I would recommend them highly.  Some of the English on the website is poorly translated, especially regarding the materials.  I'll post a picture of my kids wearing their outfits when they get them.

I guess my point is that we like to save money when shopping and we also like good service.  Often, we get only one of the two, sometimes neither, and on occasion we get both.  I think we should speak up angrily when we get neither and we should let people know when we get both.  We are supposed to control the marketplace.  And, remember to read the reviews before you buy!

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