Online Ordering: Won't Somebody Take My Money?
I have finally decided to take the plunge into the wonderful world of online ordering. Partly at the cajoling and encouragement of my peers, as well as due to sheer necessity (I am currently in Hawaii, to where very few specialty items find their way).
And almost perfectly coinciding with my decision, both my cell phone and laptop gave up on me, making it (somewhat urgently) necessary to move on this.
Here are a few lessons I learned by being plunged into the wonderful world of online ordering:
Credit Card Addresses Must Match
This was the big and terrible downfall I fell pray to. My credit card billing address is my permanent address at home, and my shipping address is different. Sometimes online companies will allow you to have separate billing and shipping addresses, and some won’t. Beware.
The big issue I had was that my permanent address is in Canada, and many US shippers don’t seem to want to recognize foreign addresses. (Gee – I didn’t have this trouble when I ordered stuff from the US while I was in Canada, but there you go).
Solution: I called my credit card company, and had them change my billing address to the temporary address I am currently living at, with the provision that statements will still be mailed to my permanent address. Problem solved. Sort of.
Even if you aren’t fighting cross-border issues, the address verification process with credit cards is meticulously scrutinized. Even if one address spells out “Street” and the other is entered as “St”, you can expect problems. Names, initials, dashes, number signs, and apartment numbers must all be absolutely identical.
You Must Baby-sit the Order
On my first attempt to order a laptop, I went through PC Nation. They sent me an email confirmation of the order, and I received nothing further until six days later, when I got an “urgent” email to call the customer centre (which of course closed shortly after the email was sent) to resolve a credit card issue. Interestingly the “urgency” was communicated via email, not telephone – a much more immediate way to contact somebody.
The following day I called, only to find out that the order had been on hold for days and days now (nobody told me), because they couldn’t verify the credit card billing address. And now – seven days had lapsed since the order was placed, it was automatically cancelled, and in the meantime they ran out of stock.
Thank you for calling PC Nation, have a nice day.
I ran into similar trouble with my next vendor of choice (Buy.com – to whom I had to pay an extra $100 for the same product), but this time I was wiser. When I hadn’t received anything further than the confirmation email for a few days, I called in to see what was up. You guessed it – credit card verification problems.
Over the next 3 days, I went back and forth between my credit card company and various escalated levels of Buy.com to resolve the issue. It was extremely time consuming, painstaking, but ultimately effective. The order was only delayed seven days before being shipped out. Ha. Only.
Online Companies are Run By Monkeys
In my tribulations with Buy.com, the issue ultimately lay with the address verification department. Interestingly though, I was never able to be transferred to this department – I suspect because people don’t run it. Monkeys in computers do. Had a human being in address verification been able to talk to another human being at my credit card company, they would have been able to resolve it in record time. But instead a computer program couldn’t make heads or tails of my account and simply put it on hold. Without letting me know (hence the need to baby-sit).
In addition, every time I called in to check on the status, I had to go through at least two customer service representatives (and sit on hold for each of them), each time verifying names, addresses, credit card information, and names of first born. Once “level one” verified that I was who I claimed to be, they would immediately see that my file was escalated, and transfer me to the next representative, who would put me through the same paces.
One sad day when placing a separate order, I decided it might be easier to place the order with a phone representative as opposed to online. After 15 minutes of torturous conversation, where everything from getting my name right (it’s pretty easy – four letters and all) to finding the model I specified was like pulling teeth, I hung up and decided that the only way to place orders with such companies is indeed online.
Online Ordering is Not Easier
With purchases like laptops and cell phones, there are a million models to choose from, with detailed specs that boggle the minds of anybody not intrinsically connected to the industry. An almost imperceptible change in one of the specs can mean a totally different machine that may or may not be suitable for your needs.
In the “old days” when we could walk into a store, we could chat with the sales representative, outline our needs, and they could guide us through the purchasing process, indicating what we need and why. If they didn’t have what we needed in stock, they would order it to the store – no charge to us, the consumers of course.
In this “new age” of “convenient shopping”, the onus is squarely on our shoulders to research the heck out of what we want. That means scouring countless websites, comparing reviews, asking questions in forums, and finding competitive prices. I wasted days upon days trying to discern what model of laptop and cell phone I needed. It’s not rocket science either, and I’m pretty quick on my fingers with regards to surfing the net and finding what I need. But it was just that difficult.
Online Ordering is Riskier
Whether you are ordering through a supplier on Amazon or Ebay, or through a direct online distributor, you are always putting money up front for your order. You pay dearly for shipping costs too, and after you pay you simply pray that your item arrives as ordered.
If it’s not what you ordered, you have to send it back to the supplier, and you must wait for a new product. Gone are the days of walking back into the store and walking right back out again with your replacement or refund. In many cases you are also on the hook for shipping again, especially if you want to make a return.
Beware of Return Policies
Some companies will only accept returns within as little as fourteen days of the shipping date or even ordering date. So let’s see: if it takes two to three days to process, and three to five days to arrive, then you may have as little as six days to determine if the product you ordered is right for you, before ponying up the cash to return it. Great – all that time spent researching, ordering, and waiting for your item, only to have to pay shipping two ways because you didn’t like it or (even worse) because it wasn’t what you ordered.
I don’t necessarily blame the online companies for their policies or systems. I simply have had a terribly poor experience with online orders (big dollar ones too), and am jaded by the process.
And with these expensive orders, constant hand-holding, baby-sitting, arguing, and escalating, all I can think is “Won’t Somebody Take My Money”??