The world of internet commerce has exploded over the past few years; nowadays, you can purchase almost anything imaginable on the web. When it comes to making purchases online as well as offline, you want to deal with a merchant you can trust. However, problems can always arise, especially when you deal with a merchant with whom you have no prior experience: the order can be delivered late, the order might not be what you expected, or it might not even arrive at all.
When situations like this happen, most merchants will promptly and quickly correct the error. There are, however, always a few bad apples in the bunch. When you come across one of them, don’t be afraid to use your financial institution’s protective weapon: the chargeback.
I had a personal experience with one of these unscrupulous merchants that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and an appreciation for the chargeback. There is an online flower delivery company known as Bloomex, which promises purchase and delivery of flowers for less than what it costs at a local florist. I decided to try them out and ordered flowers for Valentine’s Day several days ahead of time, paying extra for guaranteed morning delivery.
When I called my girlfriend on Valentine’s to see if she was happy with her delivery, I was disappointed to hear that they had never arrived. In fact, the flowers only arrived two days later! To add insult to injury, the flowers arrived in a dirty cardboard box with advertising coupons for Bloomex advertising how cheap they are. The deliveryman didn’t even offer any apologies; he just dumped the package and left.
Usually when something like this happens, you would expect the company to act quickly in order to satisfy the dissapointed customer. In my case, the company never replied to my emails. They never returned my phone calls when I left a voice mail. Whenever I talked to a customer service representative, I received a standard, curt reply, telling me that “management will look at your file and you will receive a refund shortly”.
After a few weeks of going in circles, I received my first email from them, stating that I was not entitled to a refund, because too much time had passed since my request! When I called them back, they said a mistake had been made and that my refund would be initiated right away. I waited for a few weeks after this and no refund ever came.
I decided that I had had enough and I decided to initiate a chargeback with my credit card company, providing them with a documented list of emails I had sent out and responses I had received from the company. I finally received a refund a few days later, in the form of a credit applied to my credit card balance. It was only a refund of the extra delivery charge and not the whole balance, but after all the stress of going back and forth, calling them and trying to get the refund I was entitled to and always getting blown off, I was happy to at least get something back.
I learned a few things as a result of this experience:
- Always run a search when dealing with unknown merchants!
- When dealing with an unscrupulous merchant who gives you the run-around, don’t wait very long before issuing a charge back. Let your credit card company know of their behavior right away. Many merchants are hoping that you wait past the chargeback deadline, and then it’s too late to issue a chargeback!
- When it comes to perishable goods, it’s often better to go see them in person and deal with a local person that you can trust.
Sometimes you need to learn some lessons the hard way; in this case, I didn’t get burned too badly, but I do pay more attention to whom I buy from now and what their reputation is. How about you guys? Any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it!