Online Shopping – Caveat emptor – Online Vendors Be Aware – Part 1


Online Shopping Experiences | Miniature Cart and Boxes on a Laptop

I do not do much shopping online, however, in the past two years I have expanded my horizons and for the most part, have been let down at every turn. 

This post is to outline my experiences and provide information to online eCommerce consumers and inform online storefront vendors of the online shopping experiences that some of their eCommerce shopping carts provide. 

To start with, let us provide some general industry jargon definitions. 

What is B2C eCommerce?

In the digital marketing world of web-based commerce (eCommerce), B2C (aka, business to consumer) is the exchange of products and/or services from businesses to end-user consumers. 

What is B2B eCommerce?

In the world of online eCommerce, B2B (aka, business to business) is the exchange of products, services, and/or information between businesses. 

What is An Online eCommerce Storefront?

Online Shopping eCommerce Storefront | Prop Storefront ImageeCommerce storefronts (aka, eCommerce platforms) let you sell your products or services online and even manage marketing tasks like sending email announcements, order confirmation, and tracking information. 

There are a host of eCommerce storefront solutions (aka, eCommerce shopping carts) available such as TrueCommerce Nexternal, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc 

What is an Online eCommerce Credit Card Merchant?

Unlike retail merchants, who can always accept cash or paper checks, you must be able to accept credit and debit cards (and possibly eCheck [ACH] payments as well). Traditionally, the only way to accept these types of payments was through a merchant account, which is simply an account that processes your customers’ payments and transfers the funds to you, the merchant. 

Today’s online eCommerce merchants, however, also have the choice of using a payment service provider (PSP), which performs the same basic functions as a merchant account but does not come with a confusing assortment of fees and complicated processing rates. Square and PayPal are popular examples of payment services providers. 

Online Shopping – Caveat emptor – Online Vendors Be Aware – Part 1 Click To Tweet

Some of the Back Story 

Bad Online Shopping Experience | Angry Customer Giving a Bad Review I had purchased a twenty-year-old brick-and-mortar hobby shop in February of 2008. I purchased online a new Dell laptop (for usage at the hobby shop) and a new dell desktop (for the hobby shop home office). I bought these online from Dell and had a great experience as expected. Not so much for the experiences that I am about to share. 

My goal was to build an online eCommerce shop and by purchasing a brick-and-mortar store I was able to obtain access to wholesale suppliers all of which wanted proof of ownership of a brick-and-mortar store at the time. Dropship, white label services, and inventory fulfillment vendor options were not what they are today.  

In 2009, due to the failure of the economy, I had to shut down the shop and packed up all of my inventory, and put it into storage until February 2018. 

Failed Experiences 

For the most part, I am not going to call out vendors by name except where warranted. 

Experience No. 1OnlineHobbyeCommerceVendorNo1.com 

In February 2018 I received a flyer from an online hobby vendor that enticed me to pick up my collecting hobby once again. The selections were exactly what I would collect and the prices were near the wholesale prices that I remembered from back in 2009. 

I selected sixteen items, one back-ordered, and placed my order for an amount over $350. According to their website, upfront, and center, if you placed an order of $150 you would receive an additional gift. In total, I was to receive seventeen total items. 

I received an order confirmation and a subsequent link to tracking information as would be expected from a fully functioning shopping cart. 

Several days later, I received two packages from the vendor. 

Upon opening the first package containing eight items, I found that there was no packing list…strange. 

Upon opening the second package containing six items, I found that there was no packing list in that package either. Uh oh. 

Do you see the math here? Eight plus six = fourteen, not the seventeen (minus the one back-ordered item). 

I contacted the vendor via their reply function from my online eCommerce order confirmation reply function explaining that I had only received fourteen out of the sixteen items expected (not counting the back ordered item). I also pointed out that I did not receive a packing list and that alerted me that something had gone wrong on the pick/pack, shipping department floor. Little did they know that I provide consultation services to online vendors as a profession. 

I got some lame excuse about how the one item was out of stock at the time of packing and shipping. Would I accept a different color? I agreed in a reply email. 

I then received a notice of acknowledgment of my acceptance of color change and apologized that the pick/pack employee didn’t finish the job and left on maternity leave. 

Then CRICKETS… 

I had to wait a few days until I got a break from work to actually make a phone call during working hours to the number listed on their eCommerce shopping cart website. I called their customer (no)service number and explained my situation to the agent that answered the phone. That agent asked me to hold for a minute. When the agent returned it was a different agent who explained that they were going through migration of their supply chain management system and were experiencing some difficulties. 

Little did they know that I provide consultation services to two of the largest supply chain system software solution providers. 

This agent guaranteed me that he would get my shipment corrected. 

Again, CRICKETS!!! 

Yep! You guessed it. A few weeks later I received my credit card bill and as sure as I am writing these words the missing un-shipped product was on the bill. 

I called my credit card provider and disputed the charge which they removed. 

The very next day, I received a voicemail message from this online eCommerce vendor asking which product that I wanted to return. 

I returned that call loaded for bear. I said straight out of the box that I wanted to speak to the customer service department manager. To which, the person on the other end of the phone responded that they were the customer service, department manager. 

I explained the issue and again was told that this person would handle it. As a matter of fact, she made a rather confusing statement, “I can see your order on the shipping floor”. 

I have yet to receive my free item, nor any further communication from this eCommerce vendor in over one and a half years. 

Angry CustomerThis vendor committed several mistakes: 

  1. Lack of quality control on the pick/pack, shipping floor 
  1. Lack of quality control in their inventory management process 
  1. Poor quality control of their customer service department 
  1. Made excuses for an employees performance instead of taking responsibility at a management level 
  1. Falsely billed for a product not shipped 
  1. Committed mail fraud for advertising products and/or services that they did not deliver on that was shipped through the mails. The gift. 

Did this online storefront vendor get it all wrong? Here are the pros of this shopping experience 

  1. Absolutely the best front-facing storefront in the industry and I’ve browsed all results in the 14 pages of SERPs available from Google available for my particular hobby including the paid ads. It provides the ability to filter by size and then price. Something that all but two of the other eCommerce online shopping carts provide. 
  1. Excellent search query ranking results. They consistently rank #1 in the Google SERPs for the terms that are used to search for products in this hobby segment. 
  1. Excellent selection of product 
  1. Excellent prices 
  1. Expected order confirmation at the time of order 
  1. Expected tracking information received in a timely fashion 
  1. Acceptable shipping times (2 – 3 days) 

However, if you cannot deliver, you fail. Promise what you don’t or won’t deliver, you fail. Require numerous emails and phone calls to resolve or in this case, not-resolve, customer service issues, you fail. 

In this vendor’s case, I had over $4000 worth of products on my wish list. I have not and will not go back to this vendor for any reason. They have lost a customer for life. 

In my next post, I will continue to provide an accounting of seven additional instances of unsatisfactory eCommerce vendor service. 

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