Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Online Shopping Tips

I've recently had an online shopping experience I want to tell you about.

Back in May, I ordered 2 replacement tires for my lawnmower from Sears Parts Direct. I've been very happy with my lawnmower, and living in hot, sunny Florida, it gets more than it's share of work. I needed new tires, and since I bought the lawnmower from Sears, I wanted to get the parts as well.

Within the span of a month, I received more than a dozen emails from Sears, saying that the tires were on backorder, and would be shipped on a new date.

More than a month after I ordered the tires, they had yet to arrive, and I only received an email with yet another promised shipping date.

I went on vacation. I focused on projects for work. I visited family and friends. I forgot that I had even ordered the tires.

About two weeks ago, my father was tired of seeing a lawnmower strung apart in our garage. So he went to our local Sears Parts Store, where he walked in, told the cashier our dilemma, where in just a few short minutes, my Dad was able to buy the tires IN THE STORE without waiting. Tires that were supposedly backordered. For nearly three months. And to make matter worse, the associate checked the "national inventory" and found that 398 tires were available.

As you can imagine, I wasn't thrilled. I called Sears Parts Direct to ask about my tires. They said the tires were still on backorder. I told them I wasn't happy that for nearly 3 months, Sears had debited my checking account nearly US$60 for a product it had yet to ship, and hadn't contact me in nearly 2 months to give me an update. I requested a full refunded.

The next day, I had yet to receive the refund. So I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor was at lunch. So I left my number with the agent, and was told I'd hear back when they returned from lunch. No one ever called. So now I'm feeling like, not only have I paid for a product three months ago that's yet to be delivered, now no one can even talk to me about the situation and a remedy.

So I call back the following day. When I explain the situation to the agent, the agent asks "why didn't you ask for a backorder charge-back"? I'm sorry - as a luxury retail consultant, with more than a decade of retail experience, I've never heard of a "backorder charge-back"...and in more than a dozen emails from Sears updating me on my situation, I was never given the option of a "backorder charge-back".

I'm still waiting for Sears to credt my account. And they've had my money for nearly 90 days now.

I'm not telling you this story out of vengeance or spite. I want you to know what I didn't.

If you order products online:

-- familiarize yourself with the policies of the individual vendor. In my case, Sears pushed the blame to the manufacturer and has a policy that "orders cannot be canceled".

-- monitor the process of your shipment. If you haven't received your product within a reasonable amount of time, follow up with the retailer. Track shipments and progress. If you need to dispute a charge, remember that your Credit Card is on your side. They can help you block payment or recover money in the event of undelivered merchandise.

-- if a product is on backorder, ask for a "backorder charge-back" - which apparently is a temporary refund until the product is actually in stock, and then is recharged by the company upon actually shipping the product.

Be smart. Be educated. Be ware.

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