The Dangers Of Online Shopping!

I just love shopping online. I can sit back in the comfort of my own little den, no trudging around,  it’s just all so easy. And then, at the end, the package is delivered right to your door. What’s not to like? Mind you, I am very cautious when buying online. I stick with reputable sellers and only purchase through PayPal. If a vendor does not offer PayPal, I look elsewhere. I’ve never been dudded (do you say that in America?) it means ripped off, or conned. That said, I’d like to relay a very recent experience which clearly demonstrates that, no matter how careful you are, there are still potential pitfalls.

The story goes like this: My lovely wife and I decided to buy a little balcony setting — two chairs and a small table — to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee under the shade of our back verandah. After much hunting around online (and in bricks and mortar stores) we fell in love with this one from an online retailer:

Keter Corfu Balcony Set

It was very reasonably priced and just what we were looking for. The product description included “chic rattan finish” and “some minor assembly”. Perfect! After waiting in eager anticipation for several days — as you do — the package finally arrived. As I dragged the largish box out to the back verandah I remember thinking to myself… how on earth did they manage to pack two chairs plus a small table in there! I soon found out. This whole thing came in about a squillion pieces which you then have to put together like a giant jigsaw, or a massive Lego set. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. To top it all off, the whole thing is made from plastic/resin, not a sign of rattan anywhere. I’m thinking… they’ve got me, I fell for it.

This is not what we expected or wanted so I’m quickly in touch with the vendor requesting a return and refund. To the vendor’s credit, he was both understanding and helpful, almost immediately agreeing to refund our money in full once the goods were back in their hands. I won’t bore you with the details but, as it turned out, getting the product back to the vendor proved to be an even more difficult chore than assembling it.

Actually, I will bore you with one detail– this courier company I rang will only accept packages up to a certain size. So, I provide the courier company chap with the carton’s dimensions and he promptly informs me that, at almost 80 cubic centimeters, it’s too big for them to handle. I do the math myself and come up with a little under 40 cubic centimeters. When I then put this to him he tells me, “Oh, we always work out the cubic centimeters and then multiply by 2.5.” Now I’m getting really mad. I say to him, “Ever since math was first invented, cubic volume has always been calculated by multiplying length x width x height, why on earth would you then multiply the result by 2.5?” This is what he answers, I swear this is true, he says, “I dunno, that’s just the way I’ve been told to do it.” Needless to say, I hung up. It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys!

Anyway, after we decided it was probably easier to keep the damn thing, I ended up paying a young feller to put it all together. It took him 1 hour 35 minutes — or what he described as a ‘3 cans-of-beer job’. I estimate it would have taken me at least 2 and a half days, and most likely a full carton of beer. Now for the happy ending — as it turns out, now it is all together, we actually really like this setting, it looks smart and is very comfortable. And the big plus– being made entirely from UV treated plastic/resin, it is virtually indestructible.

Even though we ended up being happy customers, I did take the vendor to task over the misleading description on the product page, pointing out to him that “rattan” is actually a natural fiber, nothing to do with plastic/resin. And that “some minor assembly” was possibly the understatement of the century. Again, to his credit, he has taken that on board and since amended the online product description accordingly.

So, even though this (mis?)adventure started out looking like a a potential disaster, all ended well. In finishing, I must put in a good word for the vendor who was extremely communicative, patient, and understanding all through the entire process. Plus, to his eternal credit, he has now described this balcony set in much more transparent terms. Still no images of the unassembled setting in all its squillion pieces though, but I suspect that may be a bridge too far.

Would I recommend the company, absolutely! Would I recommend the setting — definitely yes. On the proviso that the purchaser understands and is prepared to accept that it is going to take a while (plus a few cans of beer?) to put it all together.

I’m sure many of you will have similar tales to tell, please feel free to share via the comments.

Happy shopping!

8 thoughts on “The Dangers Of Online Shopping!”

  1. Jim,

    I have been purchasing online long before I ever heard of Amazon. I have had great success with all my purchases over the years only once or twice getting a turkey when hoping for a pheasant. (Sometimes you get what you pay for. ?)

    With confidence, I now order items on behalf of other people. Many are too timid to try themselves.

    Unfortunately, the brick and mortar stores are on their way out as they cannot compete with a low overhead warehouse that only needs a few pics to show their wares.

    Some well placed stores will continue to service the intimidated willing to pay a premium, but those living in smaller centers will need to travel far to get what they want.

    Here in N.A. you can even buy your car online.

  2. Happy to see some folks are adventurous with their online shopping. I’ve read too many horror stories of broken articles due to shipping and the problems with returns. Limit myself to smaller items and wait for those deal crasher sales. Might also depend where one lives. Remember years ago when Amway was big. Those living in rural areas would receive almost everything via post office.

    And as for using Pay Pal, I mainly deal with those I know, so when it comes to using credit cards, I mainly use one with a very low limit, that I can easily track.

    But hats off to those who purchase large bulky items online, Mindblower!

  3. Jonathan Skrine

    We buy and pay for almost everything online. Groceries, tools everything.

    Being reasonably good at it we are often asked by friends and relations where to get stuff or to get it for them.

    Up to £100 Paypal is the safest over that and the credit card becomes the option.

    There are online courier services that cut the cost of direct dealing with couriers in shreds. If the figures in your piece are correct they are a tiny fraction of sizes allowed here.

    The only BIG problem was a card fraud by an ASDA employee which took £6500GBP from our credit and debit card accounts. We got things sorted and it didn’t cost us one penny. This was a telephone transaction NOT online payment.

    The largest item was a computer a good few years ago when the price with monitor was around £2000. We always buy computer bits and bobs online.

    eBay has become a nightmare for the unwary and Amazon is often cheaper anyway. In recent years we have found ebay purchases from China to be safer than eBay UK IF something goes wrong – go figure…..

    I just bought a second hand electric wheelchair far cheaper than from a bricks and mortar supplier and am now shopping for a trailer and online realise that a bicycle trailer (with slight modification) is perfect at a tiny fraction of the specialist disability item.

    The cost of business rates (property taxes) has moved small businesses to the markets and car boot sales here. Every day another business closes and the shop is converted to domestic use. The only small businesses surviving are internet based.


  4. Sharon Lippincott

    At least this past holiday season and at least in my town, theft of packages from doorsteps has been a huge problem for online shoppers. That’s another important caveat.

  5. Haha. I got furious at that courier company just reading about your experience.

    I shop online a lot. 90% of my purchases have been successes. However, there are always those times when you are sent the wrong thing. My biggest complaints have been the cost of return shipping. If the mistake is mine, that is one thing. If the error is on the seller, and I am expected to pay the return shipping – such as what happened recently at Overstock.com – it is infuriating and I will never do business with them again.

    When it comes to clothes, I would so much rather go to the store. Lately the stores are cutting down their stock to bare minimum, making it not worth the trip. Some things need to be tried on. I’d never buy a pair of pants online unless I was familiar enough with the brand to know exactly what size I needed. Otherwise, I am too often stuck with the decision of whether to return an item (and pay the shipping) or keep it, even though I’m not happy with it.

  6. I recently had to return two laptop batteries purchased through Amazon. The Lenovo one was incorrectly described, and the Dell one I’ve since discovered that Dell makes it almost impossible for batteries to work if not bought direct from them.

    As I do not live in the USA, my online purchases are shipped to a Miami mailbox where a company there coordinates onward shipping to foreign destinations such as mine. An online purchase return therefore entails my getting the item back to my Miami address where I can then send in onward to Amazon. They seem to have an arrangement with Amazon that if the cost of getting back to Miami and on to Amazon is prohibitive, the item is dumped here, and I get a full refund.

    So this had a happy ending money-wise, but I don’t have the correct products to use.

    1. I don’t really trust Dell. I once bought a used Dell laptop online, that didn’t work, and the part that didn’t work – a battery charger – could not be replaced except by Dell’s own brand. The company no longer made the charger. Of course they knew that when they sold me the laptop. Grrrrr.

      I did get my money back, but swore I’d never purchase a Dell product again. Six years later, I broke my promise and purchased a 27″ Dell monitor. Initially I had trouble with it, and the service department guy offered 0 help, saying,”Well, you know it is high def.” WTF? Eventually, I was able, on my own – no thanks the service department – find the correct drivers and have since fallen in love with the monitor. However, I am back to this: No more Dell products. Grrr.

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