Entries Tagged as 'Shopping'

Bed Bath and Beyond – Followup

Just a quick post to follow up on my service issue with Bed Bath and Beyond.

First, the replacement parts for my order arrived in about a week (which means they processed the outbound replacement order within 48-hours).  The parts were packaged extremely well and there was no damage.  I, of course, haven’t installed the replacement parts yet — but it’s on the list.

Second, the return I made to the store was handled equally well.

No doubt about it, Bed Bath and Beyond knows how to treat customer’s right — and they’ve certainly earned my repeat business.

 

Original Post

Originally posted 2009-08-23 01:00:07.

Credit or Debit

When you use your check card bearing a VISA or Master Card logo at a merchant to pay for a transaction you’re given a choice of how the point of sale transaction will be settled — and that’s generally presented to you as “credit” or “debit”.

Should you care which?

HELL YES!

Most merchants would prefer that you choose to settle the point of sale transaction as a debit; and the reason is very simple — money.  Most any merchant will make more from a debit card transaction than a credit transaction (but remember, they’ve built in the credit card charges to their pricing – so you’re not benefiting in the least).  Plus, the funds will be removed from your account almost instantly.  Also, when you choose to do a point of sale transaction as debit, you’ll have to enter your PIN (just like when you use an ATM).  While you might think having to use your PIN is far more secure, in point of fact you’re exposing sensitive information in a public setting — numerous times criminals have compromised merchant networks and obtained both customer debit card account numbers and their PINs.  Keep in mind, even if you can show that your number was used fraudulently, it will take a great deal of effort and time to get your money back — and that might just be the beginning of the nightmare.

But…

When you decide that your transaction will be settled through the VISA or Master Card network (just like a credit card would be) by hitting the “credit” button you will get all the protection that would be afforded to you had you used a credit card.  Federal law protects credit card users; but both VISA and Master Card go beyond the scope of law with their zero liability programs; and if somehow your account is compromised having funds conditionally credited back to you is a simple phone call (and perhaps notarized affidavit) away.  Sure, it might cost the merchant more money for the transaction; but it doesn’t cost you more.  Plus, while the funds to cover the transaction might be placed on hold, they will remain in your account (earning interest perhaps) for several days.  Additionally, if your financial institution has a rewards programs, generally you only earn points in it with credit transactions (that’s because your financial institution makes more money when you choose a credit transaction as well).  Finally, since the transaction settles through the VISA or Master Card network; the fraud prevention systems of VISA or Master Card, in addition to any your financial institution come into play.

Why on Earth would anyone choose to do debit card transaction (using a PIN) when a credit transaction is much, much safer for the individual, and simpler (though you can argue if you have to enter your ZIP code you’ve typed one more digit than your PIN)???

Bottom line — choose wisely; choose credit!

VISA Master Card

NOTE: For debit cards issued by non-US financial institutions; or cards not bearing the VISA or Master Card logos, please contact your issuing financial institution or consult governing laws in your jurisdiction.

Originally posted 2010-07-30 02:00:40.

Adorama — Follow Up

This is a follow up to a fairly unflattering post I made on a purchase from Adorama.

First, the time line of the entire espisode for reference, my thoughts follow.

  • 2008/12/26: I order a Sunpak CF-7078 Twin Filter Pack (52mm Ultra-Violet and 52mm Circular Polarizing) from Adorama through Amazon (Amazon was out of stock).
  • 2008/12/18: Adorama ships my order, and sends tracking information.
  • 2008/12/31: My order arrives, but Adorama has substituted a Tiffen filter set without contacting me (the invoice clearly indicates that it’s intentional).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact both Adorama and Amazon via Amazon’s web interface).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact my credit card company via telephone; they indicate their will be no issue initiating a charge back, but ask that I give the merchant time to resolve the matter first.
  • 2009/01/01: Amazon replies to my inquiry and indicates that vendors may not materially change an order and that the Amazon A-Z Guarantee would apply should I not be able to resolve the matter with Adorama.
  • 2009/01/04: Adorama has sends me a pre-paid UPS shipping label for the return of the items via email.  Though the instructions indicate that I must drop off the item at a shipping location.
  • 2009/01/05: I’ve also been contacted by Helen Oster, Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador who has read my BLOG post and interested in investigating the matter.  I’ve already sent her enough information to get her started.  I’ll be sure and post anything of interest that happens.
  • 2009/01/06: The Tiffen filters to Adorama via UPS, my regular UPS delivery person picked them up for me, so I didn’t need to drive to UPS to drop them off (but I was still out packing material and time).
  • 2009/01/09: Adorama has offered an explanation (that their buyer felt it was acceptable to replace an out of stock item with an in stock item that retailed for more, without contacting the customer first); while I accept this as an explanation, I find it an unacceptable practice.  Only I can decide what product has equal or greater value, since only I am able to gauge the metrics of the products I choose to fit my needs.  Also, Adorama is attempting to “make this right”, and I certainly applaud their effort — but it would have been easier on everyone had someone just ask what I wanted before shipping a substitution.  Additionally Adorama offers a single Hoya filter as a replacement; I reject that offer simply because I would still need to buy an additional filter.
  • 2009/01/10: Adorama offers two Hoya filters in place of the Sunpak.  I agree to this and they ship the filters (I have an order pending for the Sunpak filter set on Amazon; that’s what I wanted, and that’s what I’ll have — but I certainly felt like I needed to let Adorama exercise their right to “make it right”).
  • 2009/01/16: The Hoya Filters arrive as promised.

Let me start by saying that this matter probably should be characterized as one individual making a bad decision that was inconsistent with the Corporate polices of Adorama, I think Helen’s dedication to making things right, and Adorama’s willingness to incur substantial costs in this matter is evidence of that.

I rarely appraise companies by whether or not they make mistakes, but rather by how they address their mistakes.  While I would have preferred to just get the items I ordered in a timely fashion; or been told their was no stock, I would put forth that you simply could not find a company more willing to go the extra mile; or an individual (Helen Oster) with more moral fibre and tenacity to make sure the right thing is done.

Initially I felt that I would never deal with Adorama again; but my feeling is that they’re certainly worth a second shot (each of you will need to decide for yourself, since this is my only dealings with Adorama I do not have a feel for statistically how often something like this may happen, other than to say my gut tells me it’s rare).

Originally posted 2009-01-16 01:00:20.

Circuit City “One Price Promise”

Do retailers really think consumers are stupid?

Take a look at Circuit City’s “One Price Promise” on their web site… pay particular attention to the exclusions.

One Price Promise?  Yeah… you can be confident you’re likely to be screwed over if you’re not an informed consumer.

I’ll spend my money elsewhere — though I’ll be happy to force them to better a lost leader price by 10% with there “Unbeatle Price Guarantee”!!!

Originally posted 2008-11-26 12:00:28.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder – Post Note

It was sunny (but cold) on Saturday, so I did get a chance to get outside and shot some bright daylight footage.

The color was excellent, the motion quality was very good.

With adequate lighting I don’t think you can touch the quality of this camcorder for twice the price.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder

Originally posted 2010-01-10 02:00:24.

Green Online… JUST SAY NO

Below is a note I sent to Willis Orchard Co about an order I placed for some tropical plants.


On 19-Mar I placed an order for three Medjool Palms (1.5′-2′) and a Drawf Cavendish Banana Tree with and expected ship date around 1-Apr… yesterday (11-May) I received the FedEx packages containing those items.

Roughly a week after the expected ship date I began calling approximately once a week for an update on the shipping status — to which (other than the last call) I was always told that the product should be shipping within a couple days…

Needless to say, my impression of your “customer service” wasn’t very high; in fact it was so low that I acquired the forty-seven other fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees I used to begin landscaping my yard from local sources…

I understand that your shipping delays were caused by your vendor; however, the failure to realistically appraise me of delays is solely a fault your company and customer service people must bare.

While the shipping delay alone was enough to make me shy away from doing additional business with your company; the condition of the plants I received certainly indicated to me that I shall not put your company high on a list to consider again.

The committed size of the plants is stated to be the overall height; while I’d would have hoped that would be the height from the top of the root ball to the highest vertical point on the plant, it’s obvious that you intend that measurement to be the distance from the top of the root ball to the furthest point on a (stretched) frond of the palms.

In my case that appears to be two just less than 18″ (one of those I’m being generous with the “just less”) and one that isn’t even 16″… further the one closest to 18″ and the one less than 16″ are based on measuring fronds that are brown at the ends (dead) — which most likely didn’t occur in a single day of shipping from Southern Georgia to Northwest Florida.

I can’t say I was the least bit surprised… and certainly I don’t think any of these three specimens would have come home with me had I visually inspected them before purchase (at the prices you charge).

Whether these represent the plants you would normally ship to a customer or simply you feel you’re a victim of the volume of your orders verses the inability of your supplies to fulfill their commitments I can’t say… all I can say is that I’m greatly disappointed.


In retrospect, I’d say ordering plants online should be put in the same category as ordering produce online — what you get might not live up to your standards, and what others are happy with says nothing about the quality.

Originally posted 2010-05-13 02:00:35.

American Blinds

I spend a fair amount of time researching the window coverings I wanted for my home; and I’d decided on cellular blinds.

Like most things I don’t know a great deal about, I read up on a topic and ask questions — and window coverings was not exception.  It took me the better part of two months to educate myself to the point I felt comfortable making decisions [well, my office and the master bed room I’d chosen Plantation faux wood blinds for before I moved in — but partially out of necessity].

I learned the questions to ask about blinds, and detemined the options I was interested in, read reviews and got several quotes.

I decided to go with American Blinds; their prices were certainly not the absolute lowest, but they seemed to have a product that was very high quality at a reasonable price.

I ordered blinds for all the remaining windows in the house except the garage (that I could get for less locally, and I certainly wasn’t putting a cellular there) and the guest bed room (it has a perfect arch, and I haven’t decided what to do there yet).

It took about two weeks for the blinds to arrive; and the first window I was going to hang was the master bath room (also the smallest window).

I opened up the blind’s packaging (they were each labeled for the room / window they were intended), and immediately noted that the blind wasn’t finished — the pull string hung down over five inches below the bottom of the blind, then I noticed that the brackets were made of PVC not metal (as promised), and that there were no instructions to hand the blinds in the boxes (as promised).

I brought up a chat window with customer service who immediately provided me with the wrong instructions for hanging the blinds (I already knew how to hang blinds with metal brackets — in fact I already had the instructions for the blinds I was supposed to be getting); it took me close to an hour to get the right instructions for hanging the blinds, and then I had to download them from the manufacturer’s site (using the retailer’s log in information).  They couldn’t explain why the blinds weren’t finished, nor could they provide me with any written instructions on how to properly finish the blinds.

I’d had enough — I didn’t order a build-it-yourself blind project; I’d paid (via credit card) for a product, and this wasn’t it… so I told the customer service representative I wanted a refund — that these blinds wouldn’t do.

I did finally get a RMA from them; and they said that the manufacturer had changed the blinds and that they would be updating the information on their site (I have no idea if they have, and really don’t care).

All I know is I’m out $35 return shipping and quite a bit of my time– unfortunately I can’t get that back from my credit card company (who I filled a charge back with while I was on the road to UPS to drop off the blinds).

If you’re going to order blinds on line, make sure that they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and order one (small) blind to start with to make sure you’ll be happy with the quality.

Personally I’ll NEVER do business with American Blinds; and I highly recommend that EVERYONE avoid them — I find their ethics a little questionable at best.

Originally posted 2009-08-05 01:00:42.

How To Bid On eBay

Let me start by saying this isn’t eBay for dummies — you should familiarize yourself with the basic operation of the eBay web site through another resource.  What I hope to provide you with is a rational for how to bid successfully on eBay to enable you to purchase items at a fair price.

Let me start by prefixing all of this with the statement that what eBay has tried to do is create the feel of the type of auction commonly refereed to as an “Open Ascending-bid Auction”, also known as an “English Auction” — though they have modified it slightly to have a time limit rather than just go until their are no more bidders.  You can read many resources on auction types if you’re interested; there’s actually a body of game-theory that covers auctions for those so inclined.

Before we digress too far off topic…

First you need a little background on how eBay’s proxy bidding works, and an understanding that if everyone were to just enter in the actual price they were willing to pay when they first bid that would be all you’d need.

What happens on eBay when you enter a bid is fairly simple — eBay records the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item, and then will automatically bid as much as needed to satisfy the bid rules.

So if there are no bids, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the minimum bid set when the auction was created.  If there is already a bid, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the lesser of the maximum you set for your bid or the current amount plus the bid increment (which varies based on the current bid — it increases as the amount of the current bid increases).

If two people were to set the same maximum bid, the person who placed the bid first would be the one to have his bid recorded.

Like I said, if everyone just entered in what they were really willing to pay then that would be it, and when the auction closed the person who was willing to pay the most would win the auction.

But, that’s not how it really works out.

You see, people aren’t always honest (even with themselves), and people like to play games (even with themselves), and people always like to get a steal (or read that as great deal if you like)… and of course, people are emotional (so they get caught up on the splendor of the train ride — even when it’s clearly going to wreck).

So, what many people do is record a bid for the amount that they’d really like to get the item for — even though they are willing to pay (significantly) more.  That means that lots of people are continually upping their bid as they get outbid, and because they see other people “wanting” the item, they get caught up in a frenzy that they often loose control of… and end up paying more than they actually are comfortable with.

Remember, no one forces you to keep bidding — and no one forces you to watch the train you’re on slam head on into another (in fact, you’re free to jump off).

If you’re head is spinning — or you’re saying that I would never do that (many call that doing the back-stroke in that famous river in Egypt — d-Nile, or denial if you like) then you’re just an average Joe trying to win an auction on eBay.

I’m not here to slap anyone on their wrist; if you want entertainment, excitement, need to fill your copious amounts of free time, and don’t mind spending more than you’re comfortable with — by all means, keep getting caught up in the emotions of “winning” a bidding war; but if you’re just looking to get things you want/need at a reasonable price — read on.

How to bid on eBay…

You could use eBay exactly as it’s designed.  Just place an initial bid for exactly what you’re willing to pay for the item and be done with it.  Don’t watch the auction, don’t enter in any more bids… be content with your honesty (and do something more useful with your time).  But you’re not going to win very many auctions — in fact you’re probably just going to fuel the fire because of the interactions of eBay’s proxy bidding and people who have got caught up in the frenzy of bidding.

So how to bid on eBay successfully…

The answer is easy, you snipe.  Basically sniping the auction turns the English Auction into something more resembling a First-Price Sealed-Bid auction (at least from your view point).

Wait, what is a snipe?

Well, a snipe is a bid placed at the last moment.  Sniping basically allows you to place the bid you would have right away at the very end of the auction, giving other bidders no time to respond to your bid — and forcing the eBay proxy system to do it’s job without creating a frenzy of bid-and-re-bid.

There’s nothing wrong with sniping; in fact all you’re doing by sniping helping prevent other bidders from getting carried away with bidding.  It doesn’t make it any more likely that you’re going to get an item (if there are wild bidders — they may have driven the item up well beyond what you’re willing to pay long before the last few seconds of the auction).  And the number one thing it will do for you is prevent you from getting caught up in the bidding war and paying more for an item that you’re interested in.

You can bid by hand; just open up the auction; actually open up two copies of the auction, one to watch the count down clock, and in the other enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and click to the confirm dialog.  When the count down timer reaches under 10 seconds, submit your bid (you may need to submit earlier if you have a slow connection — and you may be able to time it to less than 10 seconds if you have a very fast connect — but remember as long as the amount of time left is less than the reaction time of a human being you’re not going to be fueling the frenzy).

Obviously sniping by hand is tedious and time consuming… so there’s automation to help you out.

JBidwatcher is a Java based tool that you can run on Windows, OS-X, or Linux desktop (or server) that will attempt to snipe auctions for you from your local machine.  Which means you need a stable internet connection and you computer has to be on and JBidwatcher has to be running.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.

GIXEN.COM is a web based system.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.  There is no limit to the number of auctions you can snipe; but there is a $6 per year upgrade that will give you redundant servers to place your bids (decreasing the chance of not getting you snipe in).

There are also a number of other systems that charge — perhaps they’re better, perhaps they’re not… but these two certainly work well enough for you to use to develop an understanding of how to effectively bid on eBay.

While I’m giving you the 4-1-1 on sniping, I should mention that there are two basic types of snipes — individual item snipes and group (also called multi) snipes.

In an individual item snipe it’s easy to understand — you enter a bid for the item in question and your bid is placed a specified number of seconds before the auction closes.  If you have the highest bid at the end you win, if you don’t you don’t — and it’s over and done.

In a group snipe you actually bid on a series of items (generally related — but I guess you might also use it for budget constraints).  You enter a separate bid for each item of interest in the group.  The sniping system will place your bid on the first item — if you win, it cancels all the remaining snipes in the group; if you don’t win, it goes on to the next item in the group.

With group snipes you have to be careful that there is sufficient time between the ending time of two auctions for items of interest for the sniping system to handle it (most systems will flag auctions that may be a problem and allow you to decide if you want to take the potential risk of winning both… obviously that’s a bigger deal than missing the second).

Also, most sniping systems let you have as many individual snipes or group snipes as you want (you have to be careful not to have the same item in an individual snipe and a group; or in multiple groups).

Also, most sniping systems will handle auctions that have multiple items available (in other words, it will place a bid for the amount and quantity — eBay’s proxy bid does most of the work).

Sniping might seem like it’s a lot of work; but actually it makes bidding easier in the long run, and more effective.

Remember, if you don’t win an auction sniping it’s not (generally) because the sniping system didn’t do it’s job — it’s simply because you weren’t willing to pay as much as someone else… in fact by sniping you’re increasing your chances of winning an auction at the price you’re willing to pay.


Let me remind everyone that I am not a fan of eBay / PayPal — I consider them companies of questionable ethics at best.



eBay Sniper

http://www.gixen.com/

eBay Sniper
http://www.jbidwatcher.com/

Originally posted 2010-10-08 02:00:32.

Un-Freshpair

I’m probably not the most typical shopper in the world… when I decide to buy something it’s generally because there’s a sale and when I shop — I buy enough to last awhile.

Today I was going to take advantage of the FRIENDS13 25% off your entire purchase on Freshpair.com (I was actually thinking about setting up an affiliate account — in the past I’ve made several $200-ish orders and I figure the small kickback and coupons they offer might actually save me money in the future)…

But after adding 21 items to my cart ($216 after the 25% promotion) I read a few reviews and I decided that one of the items I was considering purchasing I just wasn’t going to be happy with, so I went to remove it… simple enough, you either change the quantity to zero or you hit the delete link, right???

Well, no — not on Freshpair.com … it doesn’t seem to work.

So I called customer dis-service… and while they answered the phone quickly and I spoke to a real person without having to go through an automated attendant (normally I’d have praise that as incredible customer service).

I was connected to a man who was to put it politely was snippy — which of course didn’t sit well with me.  While I started the conversation polite, business-like, and courteous (as I would always do when I was calling the first time for customer service), the call quickly went down hill… apparently the “solution” is empty out your cart, clear your cookies, and start over… oh, and if you’re wondering — it’s a known problem (and it’s been a known problem for sometime).

Well, I ask to speak with his supervisor… he told me he was the supervisor, that everyone else had gone home (at 3:50 pm EDT on a Thursday… hmm — my guess is he’s the only customer service person there or he outright lied).

Even more pissed I asked to speak to Matthew the president of the company (I’d seen the very nice thank-you notes included in each of my previous shipments… and I decide to see how far I got).

Well, Matthew was apologetic  but was very quick to tell me that the technical issues of fixing removing items from a cart where people what more than a handful of items just wasn’t a priority for them, that it would require too much effort.

Like I remarked to him… it must be nice to have so many customers you don’t need to worry about customers who want to spend a lot of money with you…

So, I decide I wanted to help them…

I tried to place a separate order for each and every item (free shipping why not punish them by maximizing their shipping cost, after all, they can’t handle large order, so give them the smallest orders possible).  Eleven orders (I cut back on the items) most right at or under $10 each… on a different credit card, and each appears to have been authorized fine (I actually called Chase to check on the three placed on Chase issued cards), but the orders were canceled — no email was sent indicating the order was canceled, and once again when I called their (pathetic) customer service I was told, they couldn’t determine why the orders where canceled, just re-order (lol — like I haven’t heard that before).

Well I guess the only solution is to take my business elsewhere… enough of my time has been wasted on Freshpair.com.

And I encourage everyone else to consider taking their business to a company that actually wants to provide not only competitive prices but good customer service… and that would not be Freshpair.com…

Originally posted 2013-05-02 15:00:52.

STOP • THINK • CLICK

I’ve mentioned the Internet Crime Complain Centerbefore, but the US Government also sponsors OnGuard Online with the slogan

STOP • THINK • CLICK

While most savvy internet users should be aware of most everything on the site, there’s no harm in taking a minute out and visiting it to see if there’s any suggestions that might make your online experience safer.  You may also want to recommend that your bank, credit union, and credit card company link to them.

Originally posted 2009-01-07 12:00:50.