Online shopping is a highly competitive field, worth an estimated $1CDN billion in North America, which is why most companies offering online deals toss in various incentives to get you to buy from their virtual stores.
I enjoy online shopping – it is so much easier comparing prices from different merchants without having to deal with pesky commission-based sales people constantly pestering me. Also, I like the ability to order something one day, and have it delivered to my front door the next – it’s just like ordering a pizza, without the anchovies.
As competitive as the online shopping world is, there are still some bad seeds out there – it is a buyer beware world.
Recently I had two very bad experiences shopping online, and although I usually devote this blog to news and current affairs commentary, by sharing my experiences – both with major Canadian retailers -- hopefully others won’t encounter the same difficulties.
Before I delve into the dirty details, let me preface this sordid tale – I have bought many things online and never had a problem. There are plenty of quality places that deliver on their promises.
My first really negative online shopping experience actually involves a medium other than the Internet, but just as popular – television.
The Shopping Channel (www.theshoppingchannel.com) boasts wonderful deals 24 hours per day, seven days per week on their Canada-wide television broadcasts.
They have highly engaging hosts, skilled in the art of selling anything to anyone.
My mom is even addicted to watching this channel, and I must confess to occasionally becoming intrigued by some of their sales pitches.
Sometimes I scoff at the slick way they present low-end electronics based on their cosmetic appeal, such as their mini-lap tops which they often refer to as great fashion accessories. When a computer is sold to go along with a pair of shoes, one has to seriously question just how useful that computer will actually be.
Other times I marvel at the inner workings of some of their audio components, such as the Bose Wave Music system. It looks really cool, but they make up every excuse in the book to avoid telling you just how powerful it really is, so there is no way to compare it with other audio systems.
Then there are times such as happened a couple of weeks ago, when I happened to be flipping around the digital television universe, and my eyes happened upon a sleek set of solar powered garden lights. For a mere $30CDN plus shipping, handling and taxes, you get ten stainless steel solar garden lights.
I thought this was a great deal, and happened to really like the modern styling of the product. Also, the lights were solid – glass and steel, not plastic, which many of these are. So, I picked up my phone, dialed the number on the screen and placed my order.
I was offered what they call “Easy Pay” – their installment plan, which would have spanned three-months, but made the payments under $20 on my credit card.
I could have easily paid the total all at once, but opted for their installment plan – why not, it was a smaller financial amount at once, and didn’t cost anything extra.
Three days later, I receive a call from the Shopping Channel telling me that they made a mistake and didn’t put it on their installment plan, so the full amount would be billed to my credit card. I told them that was fine, so long as the order would be sent out that day – I was supposed to get it within ten business days, three had passed, and they were still waiting to authorize my credit card.
The Shopping Channel’s representative assured me everything was okay, that my card would be authorized right away and the order would go out by the end of the day.
The next day, my credit card still hadn’t been authorized – I check these things online – so I called The Shopping Channel back, and got a different representative. He was very courteous and professional, but was equally as confused with my question as to what was happening with my order. He saw in their system that I had talked with someone, and authorized the full amount, but didn’t know why it still hadn’t gone through. He said he left a message for the person I originally talked to, and once she got back to him, he’d get back to me.
I didn’t want to wait for them to figure out why their system wasn’t working – so I immediately canceled my order, and vowed never to order from them again.
Signs that a company may or may not be a legitimate, honest, or reliable company to do business with – no one knows what’s going on.
Granted, this is a Canada-wide television station, owned by one of the largest broadcasting companies in the country – Rogers Broadcasting – but even the big guys can appear all shining and spotless on the outside, but rotten to the core inside.
Had the customer service representative I talked with been able to get the answers to my questions right then and there – I am always willing to wait, no matter how long it takes to get to the bottom of any issues – I would have not felt uneasy about doing business with that company. But instead, he just left it at “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.”
Sorry, in this high-tech, information overloaded world, “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you,” just doesn’t cut it.
Today, I was forced to cancel an order with www.Staples.ca because they kept making promises, but not delivering – literally.
I ordered a webcam and wireless printer from their online site on Tuesday, and according to their own terms and conditions, was to receive the order the next day. I placed the order well before their early evening next-day delivery cut-off – I placed my order in the morning, and both items were in stock, according to their website.
SO, I should have received both the webcam and the printer this past Wednesday, between the hours of 9am and 5pm. I even made sure I was around and available for the order, constantly watching my building’s in-house security cameras for the delivery driver.
While I was putting my life on hold for a couple of small items, I get a call from Staples.ca telling me that the printer was out of stock, but would be sent the next day. The camera was still on its way for delivery that day (Wednesday). As the person who called was professional and apologetic, I understood, and was okay with this, although I wondered why it wasn’t reporting as out of stock on their website (I checked after the call, it was still listed as available).
I waited all stinkin’ day for that webcam – no one came. I called Staples.ca, and they told me someone did come around 10:45am, but I wasn’t home. I scoffed back that I was home all day, and had anyone attempted to ring up to my place, I would have answered. Had anyone knocked on my door, I would have answered, no one came by at all.
Usually when I’m away and a package comes for me – as for most of us – the delivery person will leave a missed delivery slip on the door, or in the lobby of the building. There were no such slips anywhere to be seen.
The Staples.ca representative apologized for “her mistake” – seems like more of an outright lie – and assured me she was putting “notes” into the system to ensure I received both items the next business day.
SO, again, I waited all day for both items to arrive, and again no one showed up. For next-day delivery, this would be fine if I was in some different time zone, but next day it wasn’t.
I called Staples.ca and politely asked about my order. The person I got, different from the first two, apologized and said she didn’t know what happened.
Sound like a familiar excuse? Big flashing red warning alarms went off in my mind’s eye.
The customer service representative at Staples.ca tells me she’s putting “notes” into the system to ensure I get my complete order the next business day. I complained that the previous person I talked to at her “wonderful” company did just that the day before, and that was unacceptable.
She offered me a ten percent discount on my order, and promised me both the webcam and the printer would arrive together tomorrow first-thing – “I’ll make your delivery a priority” she promised.
Originally ordered on Tuesday, should have arrived on Wednesday, it was now looking like I wouldn’t receive the order until Friday, but I do get a discount . . .
OKAY, I told her I accept her terms.
Today, a delivery driver shows up at my door with the webcam, no printer. I ask him where my printer is. He shows me on the invoice that I am not being billed for it because it is out of stock.
My credit card had already been authorized for the total amount, and hadn’t been reduced by the cost of the printer. And the customer service rep I talked with the day before didn’t live up to her end of the deal – both the printer and the webcam were to be delivered TOGETHER first-thing.
I asked the delivery driver what would become of the printer, and he tells me because it is out of stock I have to re-order it.
I canceled the whole damn order, refused the delivery of the webcam, and will never do business with Staples retail stores, or Staples.ca ever again.
Although they were always polite, they were caught in several lies, and never fulfilled the terms of their own policies clearly shown on their website. And, they made promises they either couldn’t offer (so they shouldn’t have made those promises in the first place) or just didn’t honor.
Buyer be warned – The Shopping Channel and Staples may appear reliable, honest and credible places to do your online and retail shopping. But appearances are misleading.