I began writing this to share what I’ve learned when shopping online, but it turned into a lesson for me instead. I learned how to buy something online, return it because it made you look silly, pay for shipping and a restocking fee, buy another item from a different online company and receive the wrong item, then find out that they don’t stock the correct item anymore and then have most of my money refunded.
After doing all that, I bought it at JCPenney for $18 more than I had paid for it online (including shipping).
So, it didn’t turn out to be a particularly good example of an online purchase, especially since it didn’t end up being an online purchase at all, but I’m still going to share what I learned in the process of not buying something online.
I dealt with what is quite possibly the worst customer service on the wonderful wide world web. The company? Kitchen and Home Gadgets. I’m purposely not linking to their site because I don’t want anyone to give anyone the impression that I recommend them. On the contrary, I wouldn’t recommend them to someone who poked me in the eye, poured vinegar and salt into an open flesh wound and kicking me in the crotch repeatedly. That’s how bad they were.
After exchanging more than twenty e-mails they still hadn’t refunded the money for the watch (they have since then) and they refused to pay for the shipping charges which I had paid out of my own pocket to return the watch they had sent in error. It was only $4.26, but it’s the principle, not the amount, that was frustrating.
What I learned from all this is that there is an essential step in buying things online. It is to make sure the company you’re dealing with has good customer service and is reputable. Only after I ordered my watch did I discover that they had a track record of poor customer service.
Also, as a warning to those who are thinking about buying the Casio Pathfinder PRG50T-7, you’d better have forearms the size of elephant legs. Otherwise, it will look like you’re wearing a ferris wheel on your wrist. Sure it has a digital compass, thermometer, barometer, altimeter, stopwatch and automatic backlight, but when your watch is the first thing people notice about you, not because it looks good but because it’s so large they can’t see who’s wearing it, you just can’t keep it. It must go back in it’s h-u-u-u-g-e case.
I decided to go with the Casio MTG900DA-8V instead.
It’s solar powered, so I don’t have to replace the battery, it automatically turns on the backlight when there’s not enough ambient light and it synchronizes with the atomic clock in Fort Collins, Colorado so I never have to set it. It also has the world time for 30 cities, a stopwatch, four alarms and is water resistant up to 200 meters. I hope it lasts a long, long time.
The process I recommend using when buying anything online is as follows.
1. Search for product reviews and features to figure out what’s available.
2. Make a list (in your head or written out) of the features you want (I usually split them up into required and optional features), then create a list of a few specific models that satisfy the requirements.
3. Begin searching for the lowest price. A Google search for the make and model is a good start, and in addition to using the search results, I’ve found that the Sponsored Links can be very helpful in finding low prices. I also check Froogle, Pricegrabber, Overstock, eBay, Amazon, NexTag, Bizrate and any other site I can find. Now that you’ve found the item at the lowest price, don’t just buy it. You need to research the company, looking at customer reviews, the cost of shipping and take into consideration whether or not you’ve done business with them before.
4. Lastly, pay for it with a credit card. It gives you some protection in case something goes wrong. I prefer vendors who allow me to track the shipment because it’s nice to know when it’s going to arrive, but that’s a low priority. It’s also a good idea to save and/or print the invoice as proof of payment, just in case you need it down the road.