A cautionary tale about buying on the Internet.
“Of course, I never wanted to buy it via the Internet anyway,” I told my sister, while swishing bubbles over my naked body. “I wanted to get a camera from the local shop, but they didn’t have much of a choice for us to look at. So Roger looked through the Which magazine and sought out which digital camera would be best for our needs.”
“They warn you about buying from the Internet you know,“ my sister said, not unkindly, but it was touching me on a raw spot just the same. “You’d better start at the beginning. I forgot what you told me last time.”
“Hang on a minute, I need to put a bit more hot water in the bath,” Well, I had been sitting there over half an hour listening to my sister’s news and views.
“Don’t know how you can soak that long. I prefer a shower myself. It takes less water too.”
I could hardly hear her with the water running. After about a minute I turned off the tap and told her, “It helps me relax, especially after all this business with the camera.”
“Are you going to tell me, or splatter in the watter!” She talks like that sometimes — no, most of the time.
“It took ages to choose the right camera for Roger. He wanted one that gave directions for use on the screen. It’s hard for us oldies to remember instructions.”
“Huh, you’re telling me!” my sister interjected. “I’m older than you, kiddo!”
“Not much,” I said, wondering what difference sixteen months made when you were in your mid seventies. “But anyway, he’d looked in Which and still couldn’t make up his mind. So I looked to see what was on that market place that most people seem to use. They have customer comments and that helps a lot. I chose a Panasonic for him. It seemed to have everything he wanted. The next thing was to decide which seller. I chose the accessories from the host seller and the camera from one of their market place sellers. I wanted a new one and this was a little cheaper than the others — or was it that the host seller didn’t have one in stock? Can’t remember now.”
“Old age, me duck,” she commented. “It gets us all in the end.”
Do I need constant reminders? Even so, my sister is a dear kindly soul.
“Well, this company seemed to have a good record according to customer feedback. So that seemed okay. I paid up and waited for delivery. The host seller’s delivery was free but that came first.”
“Nothing in this world is free, chuck. You pay one way or another.”
My sister is a wise lady.
“The camera was supposed to be next day delivery service, but that came a few days later. I guess they are slower at processing orders.”
“Not the only ones slow off the mark. Get on with it!”
“It was ‘a next day signed for’ delivery. I duly signed the form and took the package into the kitchen. Roger came in to open his birthday present.”
“And the camera was missing, you told me that, kiddo.”
“The camera and the battery. The charger was out of its wrapping but everything else was wrapped and packed inside the box as you would expect for a new camera. But you see, Roger had already noted that the camera’s box had been opened a few times. His detective eyes had noted the bruising on the flaps and so on.”
“Good job he’s got good eyes, yours aren’t so brilliant, me duck.”
I don’t need reminding that my eyes are deteriorating at an unkind rate, but my sister’s a good caring lass.
“Well, Roger thought it must be a returned item to the store, and that the box had not been checked by the seller before sending on to us. Whatever the cause for not receiving what I had paid for, I had to do something about it. I hate this sort of thing.”
“Don’t we all, Kiddo. I like to see what I’m buying. Sounds more like it had been nicked to me.”
I don’t like to accuse any worker of theft, nor even consider the proposition. I had already regretted dealing on the Internet. How can you prove that something is missing?
“Well, at least, Amazon informed me that I was covered by their Market Place Guarantee. So I thought it would be all right. I followed the instructions and got in touch with the seller. They did not reply, so I sent another email detailing everything in the package and asking what they intended doing about the missing camera.”
“Huh, I can guess what they said — get lost!”
“Oh no, it was quite a polite message. They insisted that everything was checked when it was dispatched, and they said they found it hard to believe that I was claiming that both camera and battery were missing from the box. And said that my email claim was most unusual, and as to my complaint, they cannot assist me further on this occasion.’
“Bloody hell, they were calling you a liar!”
“They are too clever for that. But I guess it amounts to the same thing. They likely get a number of folk trying it on. But I could have given them references as to my character. You know, I have no debts, no criminal record, nothing for anyone to doubt my word. Golly, I’m a retired teacher. I’ve worked for many charities, I…” Now choked by tears, I could not go on,
“Cheer up, chuck,” my sister empathised. “We know, everyone knows, you’re not a crook. You’ll get your money back.”
Possible loss of the money was bad enough, but the hassle and the insinuations that I was trying to get money by false pretences hurt — really hurt! The seller even made a statement on the Internet, against my customer remark (the one you’re asked to give after receiving your goods), that I was trying it on, and he wrote it in a most disparaging manner. I was very angry. Things had not been going too well on a number of fronts and this came as a painful blow to my self-esteem. I complained to Amazon and they removed the company’s slanderous statement. But it did not get my money back.
“Money back? Not from where I paid for it, I won’t!” I told my sister. “After Amazon did all their so-called investigations, they told me that my claim had been denied. Why? Because I had signed the next day delivery slip on the parcel. They said the seller provided them with Royal Mail tracking that showed a delivery with signature acceptance for the correct weight of the item shipped.”
“Dafter than you think. There’s no weight mentioned on the parcel just a £6 next day delivery charge. Even the Post Office could not find a weight on it. Roger weighed the box and contents and then looked up in Which how much the camera weighed — very little actually, The camera box, oddments, packing material, outweighed the missing camera by several times. What was I supposed to do when I received the package,” I wailed, “ring up and tell them the package I received seemed a trifle light, and should I send it back to the seller before I opened it?”
“Huh! I’m glad I don’t buy from the Internet. It’s the Big Boys, gal. They win every time.”
After recovering from my further complaining, I told my sister that I had placed the matter in the hands of the credit card company. “They were lovely — they listened to me.’
The bath water had gone cold. Just as cold as I felt inside.
I did not know it then, but I had good reason to suspect that all was not well, despite the assurances from the nice guy at the credit card company. The following week, I had a letter from them saying they could not proceed, but if I could produce documents as evidence of the missing camera they would reconsider. Evidence of something not received?
So continued my fight for a satisfactory conclusion. After being in touch with Trading Standards, I did all the daft things I was told to do knowing full well that none of them would convince the seller, their host company or the credit card people. I visited the local Police Station where the loss was registered as an incident, Another visit to the Post Office to get the box weighed there and ask for advice. Following their suggestion, writing to the Post Office main office only to receive confirmation that it was up to the sender to make a claim against the P.O. Pointless since the seller had no intention of either accepting my claim that the camera was missing from its box, or communicating with me in any way whatsoever. Onwards to getting in touch with Consumer protection departments and so on, and on, and on! Even writing to Working Lunch, all the time pressing my claim with the host company. When ringing Amazon customer service departments, those at the other end of the phone, realising my distress and frustration, were quietly sympathetic and said they would pass it on to be dealt with.
Finally, I was told what I had been asking for — the weight the seller had claimed the package to be. No doubt about it, if all had been present inside that delivery box, the weight would have meant a surcharge. I could have sent them the box, oddments and packing to prove it. By this time, I had a file of about 45 sheets to send to the credit card company, with a scan of the top of the packing box showing the postage label. I e-mailed some of the evidence to Amazon.
Eventually, I received an e-mail saying the matter had been settled. Amazon said that it was because the seller had not supplied them with the correct weight of the box (or something to that effect), which I assume was the basis for their evidence of the camera having been included. My credit card had been credited with £4.50! I hit the roof and sent e-mails to both parties saying I refused to accept the settlement and that the matter was now going to the small claims court. A few hours later, I was fully reimbursed. That is, told my card had been credited to the full amount of the camera payment. But it took time for it to go through the system.
Over that three months period, I had only received the initial two e-mails from the seller. It was an incredibly stressful time. This was not just a fight to get my money back but my honour was also at stake. Who is this seller? I am not going to state their business name lest they drum up an excuse to sue me! Who this firm actually is we never found out. We couldn’t find them registered anywhere by that name, not an address nor a telephone number. Clearly, they rely on keeping quiet and waiting for any unhappy customers to give up, relying on their majority of satisfied customers to put them in good standing with Amazon. But I advise all who are considering buying on the Internet to examine the star ratings of the supplier and look up the comments that go with the LOWEST star ratings for that company. There may be very few of them to find amidst the rest. But if those customers that do complain get sarcastic or unhelpful comments in return by the company that supplied the goods, and if there is an unsatisfactory returns policy (plus you have to pay the postage for goods returned) think hard about using them. Part of my ‘evidence’ was the bad comments I sifted out from two years of selling by that company. Those particular buyers had been treated badly, they were not just late delivery sort of comments.
Relaxing in the bath after receiving the good news, I rang my sister to tell her the happy outcome. I could now go out and buy a camera at one of the big stores just ten miles away, where I could rely on service with satisfaction. I knew what my sister would say about that! She would be right too. The camera I bought was actually cheaper and, of course, no postage to pay. Plenty of chance to examine the items too, and compare it with others. I can also rely on the store’s good reputation for replacing unsatisfactory goods.
I have to admit though, I have never had problems buying from the Amazon company itself, not that I have bought much over the years. Obviously, items that are in one piece (such as books) should be safer to buy. At least, I have had no significant problems. Likewise buying certain items of clothing from reputable companies. A nuisance having to return goods not the size ordered but at least no extra cost involved.