Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Buying On-line

I have some fairly straight-forward rules when buying on-line, although I've broken them more than a few times because there were no other options, but I also got lucky most of the time. So here's what I've learned and "generally" practice.

First, I try not to use Amazon if I can. I don't like the company, and especially their founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, but I have purchased products not available elsewhere, such is the power of Amazon to control the marketplace.

I don't use their marketplace stores anymore because despite a few successes, I've had more problems with them than successes. They don't vet their on-line stores as I think they should. I had one do a bait and switch because they didn't have the product they advertised, and then refuse to acknowledge it for a refund.

I've had decent luck with E-Bay over the years, but I restrict buying to those with excellent reputations, a long history and perceived honesty in communications. I have been burnt a few times but that's few compared to the many good sellers,

I don't buy from E-Bay of late for anything other than photography equipment, much of which I buy from KEH now and only E-Bay when they don't have it, because I've been burnt more often with the wrong product than advertised.

Ok, onward, to the rules. First I tend to stay with reputable, established businesses if possible, with one exception besides the two companies above, Walmart. They don't get my businesses. Their history of their source of products (China), bad treatment of American companies, and worse treatment of employees can't be denied.

I've only bought one product from their stores, a CD by the Eagles who sole-sourced them to release it. Not a fan of the Eagles for that or any band who does that. True it's business and their right, but it's my right as a customer too.

Anyway, often there are products that aren't available from local stores, established business, reputable on-line stores, so buying becomes something of a risk, and the best you can do is minimize it and don't buy from bad ones again.

The first rule is their Website has to have either a brick and board store or a warehouse you can verify. I don't buy from on-line stores who don't have a physical address on their Website, and a P.O. box isn't enough for me.

I also check their domain name to see who owns it and its history. That tells you if the seller is smart enough to own and manage their domain name (mine is owned and managed by me). Often the domain name is another company who operates hundreds, even thousands of them for other and often short-term businesses.

The second rule is that it must be based in the United States or Canada. It can be a foreign or international company but it must have a US or Canadian address. The only exception to this and the Amazon rule is Amazon Japan for CD's not available in the US.

This is because Apple hasn't made many inroads into Japan against Sony Music which domainates the CD and download music business, meaning buying from Japanese on-line stores, and Amazon generally has what I've needed so far. And it's been fun watching the DHL tracking from Japan.

That said, there's not much beyond these rules. It's a judgement call to decide if the on-line store doesn't have the information and is the only or few stores. It's the old adage, buyer beware and be smart, as best you can.

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