I recently experienced a “gotcha” moment when I ordered a big ticket item from what I thought was a reputable online merchant. The old axiom “buyer beware”
never entered my mind until the morning after the purchase. It all started when I decided to replace my tiny point and shoot camera with a digital SLR camera because I wanted to enjoy taking pictures again. Don’t get me wrong, the smaller camera was more than capable of snapping great pictures, but it always felt like I was holding a toy, not a real camera; but that’s another story altogether. As usual, I spent many hours roaming the internet, trying to find the best rated camera at the best price.
Online Research Tips:
As someone who knows a little about internet marketing and product ratings, here are a few tips that may help you on your next product search:
- Always be aware of review websites that compare only a few models based on their features. Most of these sites are completely legitimate, but you don’t want to buy a product based solely on feature comparison alone. A feature does not tell you if the product is reliable or if it works correctly, its only a feature.
- Make use of the great reviews on YouTube.com. There are a lot of great independent reviewers that present some terrific comparisons and actual end user perspectives.
- Don’t base your next big purchase solely on the negative or positive reviews from previous purchasers. If you read enough reviews, you can talk yourself into or out of just about anything. Keep in mind that there will never be a product or service that appeals to everyone. Also, some review sites are not “verified”, meaning anyone (with or without an agenda) can write a review without ever having purchased the product.
- Try to use legitimate review sites whenever possible. For digital cameras, I use Digital Photography Review and for all other products I use Amazon.com. I have found the reviews on both these sites to be highly reliable.
- When reading reviews, look for “trends”. If several consumers complain about a specific issue or problem with the merchandise, it may be more than just complaining, this could be a real issue with the product. Also, check the date that the review was submitted. If the date is several months old, the product may have had a new version released, or in the case of a digital camera, a software fix may have been applied to correct the previous problem.
- Read all the reviews, not just one or two. Consider this; if someone is complaining about a product not working, they may not be using it correctly or they may have never read the printed instructions that came with the product. As someone who has worked in customer service in the past, I can tell you that happens all the time.
Watch Out For Bait and Switch:
Ok, I’ve done the research, selected the brand, model, and found the cheapest price. The next step was to plop my money down. I did it and I felt good about saving a little money.
The next morning, I receive a call from the “reputable” vendor and they wanted to verify my address, which I had diligently input into the purchasing and shipping information (hmm). I immediately got that suspicious tingle down the back of my neck. The salesman stated that he wanted to clear up the fact that I had purchased the “international” version of the camera and not the “US” version (this confused him greatly, imagine that.) At that very minute, a giant “red flag” waved in front of my eyes as he continued his well practiced sales pitch.
Here comes the switch:
Come to find out, the international version of the camera was available at the stated price, but it didn’t come with a “US” charger, it was not factory verified (sounds scary), and it didn’t come with a warranty. But, for a higher price he could sell me the “US” version with everything I was expecting at a higher price. My next words were “CANCEL the order and remove me from your system.”
The salesman tried to keep me talking, but the relationship was over after the first few seconds on the phone line. I hung up feeling horrible for trusting them with my credit card information. You probably know the feeling, its like realizing you’ve left your front door open when you’re on vacation hundreds of miles away.
In the end, I purchased the same product from Amazon.com and paid the additional $100.00 plus tax for the product. It ended up being the same price that the salesman offered me in the end, but he got my business using bait and switch tactics and that disgusted me. I will never do business with that company again, period. So, I leave you with “Buyer Beware”, even if you think you are a savvy online shopper.