Fraud in Online Stores
Posted: 2015-05-28. Categories: Online Services

Or how not to get taken for a ride on Amazon.

Let me say up front, I am a very frequent online purchaser. I buy online almost exclusively from Amazon. I am also a seller on Amazon and find it easy to give gifts this way, my profits often going toward a birthday gift.

Navigating Amazon has been a learning experience for the past ten years or so. Well, let me give you an example. I ordered a Diamond Hummingbird Feeder, (Glass 30 Oz) from a company on Amazon (not the company listed).  The business I purchased from doesn’t seem to sell these any more.

When is Quantity: 4 not 4 items?

When is Quantity:4 not 4 items?

You will notice the current price for one feeder is $23.54 with free Prime shipping, but if you select Item Package Quantity: 4, you can order 4 feeders for $17.99 plus $8.00 for shipping.  Wow, the deal they reeled me in with was one for $19.99 or 4 for $28.93.  What a deal!  I ordered immediately because I had just walked across the street and bought the same hummingbird feeder for $16.99 for one.

When I contacted them. I was polite and explained that my order was shorted three items, and I would like them mailed to me. After a few days they emailed a response saying they would refund 20% of my order. I smelled a scam, and replied simply that I would like the three other hummingbird feeders I already ordered or my money back.

They refunded my money and let me keep the hummingbird feeder.

I was looking for hummingbird feeders, this one has an ant trap on the top — exactly what I was looking for. Our local pharmacy sells these very same models and I’m ashamed to say, for a couple of dollars I was lured online.

Sellers who do this are betting on you saying, “It’s just a couple bucks.” Those couple of bucks add up quickly, but face it, if the deal wasn’t so sweet, we wouldn’t be tempted.

The exact same thing happened when I ordered some chocolates.

What would you do for a chocolate bar?

I confess to an obsession with Chuao Chocolatier’s Sweet & Salty Bar. They’re awesome! Unfortunately, they’re also $6/each. That’s a heck of a lot for a single chocolate bar. Any chocolate bar. In an effort to save some dough on chocolate, I scoured Amazon until I found a 12-pack for the very low price of only $9.46 + $8.11 shipping. AWESOME! Almost too good to be true, right? I was very careful to ensure the purchase was for 12 bars, as you can see in the image below (“$0.81 / bars” == 12 bars):

Choco-Fraud
This is what online fraud looks like

I paid for the chocolate then waited for delivery. What I did receive was delivered very quickly. It just wasn’t the right thing.

Salty Sweet Snacks Sampler

The first shipment contained a “Salty Sweet Snacks” sampler set of 4 bars. I assumed it was a simple mistake — similar name and the retail price was closer to that in the specific Amazon “sale” price on the product I ordered — but the four very random flavors (potato chips and rocky road, really?) didn’t even include the Sweet & Salty bar that I actually ordered. Sigh. I contacted the seller and explained the situation. I was civil — cordial, in fact — and patient. I pointed out in my first contact that the product details page on Amazon indicated there should have been 12 bars. It would be over a month and paying for two returns before they claimed that it was for only a single bar. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A week after my original contact they replied and offered me 15% to keep what I received instead of getting what I ordered. I shipped back the sampler and waited patiently for the real bars. Two weeks later they finally sent me a replacement package. Of ONE Sweet & Salty bar.

I contacted them and explained, again, that the product details page on Amazon indicated that it was a package of 12 bars. They gave me another RMA and I shipped the bar back and waited patiently, again, for the dozen I ordered.

They sent me a package, again, with a single bar.

I contacted them and explained the problem once more, and this time demanded the other 11 bars. They replied and said that the item was only a single bar, even though it clearly identifies as a package of 12 on the Amazon product page. I replied with a screenshot (above) and a link to the product page on Amazon. They said it didn’t matter, and that I was only getting one bar. They offered me 15% to keep this ONE bar instead of receiving the dozen I ordered. At this point it had been around 6 weeks from the day I placed the order and I had spent over $45 in return shipping alone – plus the ~$18 for the actual order. At this price I could have just continued to buy them at $6/each from the market.

Instead of simply giving in, I contacted Chuao Chocolatier. Chuao Chocolatier was not only the manufacturer of the product, but for all three packages I received had also been the shipper – and their contact information had been included on the packing slips. I explained the problem to them, including the link and image for the Amazon product page. They shipped me the remaining bars with an apology for the confusion.

I’d like to say this is the end of that drama, but as of posting this the same Amazon seller that says your $20 is only for a single candy bar is still selling this same product and shipping a fraction of what the product page includes. Even though I spent over a month trying to show them that the product page said it was for a 12-pack, they remain unconvinced that it’s anything other than one bar.

While I love these chocolates, you could say this experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t buy or eat these chocolates anymore.

Whoa, That’s Slow!

You might think that waiting 6 weeks for the right candy is bad. It was probably the most painful experience we’ve had with online shopping, but it wasn’t nearly the slowest. That honor goes to an adapter I ordered through Amazon. It was amazingly inexpensive — about half what other sellers were charging for the same adapter and there was no shipping cost even though it wasn’t an Amazon Prime product. Wow! Hey, $3 vs $7, sold. My first clue came in the order confirmation email, which identified the estimated delivery date a full two months in the future. No way.

Yes, way. Well, almost. I received the package 7 weeks later. It was shipped all the way from China for only $3. If I had that kind of time to wait it would have been fine, but I didn’t. A few minutes after the first purchase I ordered a second one (with Prime shipping!), and received it in less than 48 hours. The extra $4 was well worth it.

Screwed by Shipping Costs

I’ve had one other quite memorable bad experience in all these years; I had ordered a splash shield for my KitchenAid, only to find it was the wrong one. I tried to return it but I had to pay the shipping to return it and I had already paid to have it shipped the first time, which was half the cost. After shipping it back it would have cost me as much in shipping as it cost to purchase, so I kept it and gave it away.

In case you have to return an item, I always try to order the item in question directly from Amazon, ensuring it’s through Amazon Prime. Amazon is good as gold regarding returns, and the shipping is top notch.  Just a couple of weeks ago I sent a gift to Mesa, Arizona.  I kid you not, it was delivered in less than 24-hours — and on a Sunday to boot.  I was amazed!

Be sure to inform them if you are taken or swindled. I won’t order any more chocolate online because of our experience. I certainly won’t be ordering those hummingbird feeders online.

Price Matching is Your Friend

If you do shop from big box retailers, be aware that most perform price-matching guarantees for other brick and mortar businesses and Amazon. Install the Amazon App on your phone and price check those purchases before you buy at Best Buy or Staples. Sometimes you’ll find that the brick and mortar has a better price, but I regularly get price matching for about half of what I would otherwise pay in the store, and I don’t have to wait for Amazon to ship it. This is absolutely the best of both worlds.

That said, we live in a remote area where most of what we need isn’t available locally. We can drive over an hour to the city, and sometimes what we need will be there, but more often than not we’ll be forced to buy online anyway. We always shop local first to keep our dollars in town, supporting our local economy. I firmly believe in supporting our local businesses. We have some wonderful stores right here in Twain Harte.  I start my shopping locally and with our local co-op. It feels good to know your neighbors.  Now is a good time to get to know them. Nothing makes you respect what you have and who you do business with more than having a horrific experience like those above.

Categories: Online Services
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