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Stupid Trick #5 – There are usually specific items that will always be included with a product, whether it is an OEM or Retail package. This may include a PS/2 mouse adapter, driver disks, or software. Some vendors will actually pull these ‘accessories’ out of the box and charge separately for them, thereby allowing them to reduce the price of the item by several dollars. When you then purchase the accessory, you end up paying more than from other vendors who sell the entire bundle as supplied by the manufacturer. Other vendors will sell an OEM package without specifically stating so, thereby making customers believe that they are getting a better price. For example, one motherboard we sell contains a CDROM with Norton Anti-Virus and other utilities and tools. A competitor sells the same motherboard for $4.00 less, but without the CD. If you purchased the CD separately, it would cost much more than $4.00, but most customers who purchase don’t realize that they are missing anything.
Stupid Trick #4 – This one is definitely illegal – which is charging the credit card before shipping. This business is very competitive and it is difficult to make large profits. Many times the only way a vendor can actually pay for the product is to charge the customer’s credit card, then order from their supplier. While all merchant services contracts have a clause stateing that charges are not to be made until the product is actually taken into the possession of the customer (or actually shipped, as the case may be), a grace period of about 24 hours is usually provided, since sometimes things to get delayed for various reasons. The real problem is that the way the credit card companies determine whether a card has been charged early is to deduct 14 days from the day the customer actually received the item. If the charge was made prior to that, they will send a formal ‘cease and desist’ letter. The reasoning is that UPS ground will take up to 6 days, and there can sometimes be other unforseen delays. If a vendor really wants to take advantage of this, he can have up to 10 days use of your funds before shipping the product (if he uses 2nd day shipping, or equivalent).
Stupid Trick #3 – Some vendors actually charge a restock fee for cancelled orders – even if the order was never shipped!! This is to prevent the customer from cancelling after some of the other tactics above have been discovered, or to recoup their ‘losses’ when they specially ordered the product (because of using trick # 5, 6 or 7). Unfortunately, credit card companies are likely to allow these charges even if the customer complains, since the vendor can show that time, materials and effort were required to package and unpackage the product.
Stupid Trick #2 – There are some vendors who offer very short (15-day) warranties, and require purchases to be cash-only for specific items (such as CPUs, etc.). This gives the customer very little time to discover defects, and prevents them from issuing a chargeback on their credit card. The reason that people actually fall for this is that the prices are typically very, very low. The reason for the extremely limiting terms is that these vendors are most certainly purchasing product on the gray market, and cannot guarantee that the items are not fakes or remarks. Since at least 80-90% of the time this is not a problem, they get away with it and people actually will call them reputable vendors. My personal opinion is that they are taking advantage of those who are not aware of the issues with remarks and frauds, and setting customer expectations for very low prices that those who deal with authorized sources cannot even *buy* them for.
And Finally, Stupid Trick #1 – This one probably doesn’t even need mentioning, since there have been a few articles in major magazines about this. This trick is to open a ‘new’ outlet, sell product for a few months, ship only a portion of the orders then close shop and take most of the customer’s money. The people who do this are real crooks, and typically have engaged in this practice many times. The best defense against this is to purchase only from established vendors, but that really does an injustice for those who are legitimately trying to offer solid service and products (which is where we were about a year and a half ago).
It’s Your Money – So Caveat Emptor!!
The best advice I can give on which vendor to go with is to do the research, and not buy just because the vendor has the lowest price. For many people, service and support is an important aspect of their purchase, and that usually means a slightly higher price. I would recommend checking out several different sources of information.
First, check out the various vendor surveys on the internet. These will give you a very good idea of what people generally think about the established businesses. Realize that almost all of them will have at least one customer that is unhappy, but try to get the overall rating. Beware that the rating for any vendor with only a few ‘votes’ can be skewed in either direction.
Second, check the newsgroups. One of the best methods of doing this is to go to http://www.dejanews.com and do a search on the vendor name and URL. Any vendor that has been in business for more than a few months will have their name come up at least once on the newsgroups, and sometimes you can find hundreds of postings. Another method is to simply post a question about that vendor and ask for responses (either via email, or by replying to the post). There are very many helpful individuals who frequent these groups and will be very willing (and sometimes all too eager) to share their opinions.
Finally, if you can’t find any negative information through these methods, call the vendor and ask the difficult questions. Find out what their policy is when the incorrect item is sent, how they handle backorders, what is their position on remarks and their responsibility, etc. Many times you will just have to decide based upon how you ‘feel’ about the salesperson you are talking to. Ask if they will provide the guarantees they have spoken to you about in writing. After you have called 3 or 4 vendors, you can get a feel for who is being up front and who is a bit ‘shady’ based upon the answers they give.
Unless you have previous experience with a particular vendor, you should never purchase on the first call. Call at least 3 or 4 other resellers and get the information you need to make your decision. Find out what is included with the item (software, accessories, etc.) and compare to what other vendors have indicated. Also compare information on returns, restock fees, availability, and so on.
What it comes down to is that you must protect your money, because nobody else will. There are far too many ways to get ripped off, and the internet has become fertile soil for many of these crooks and scam artists to flourish, since it is so difficult to take legal action. These people know that for the several hundred dollars that they are fleecing people for, the cost of persuing the matter is prohibitive and many times costs more than the original product. Be an informed and cautious buyer, which will in itself help eliminate the fraud because it will become much less lucrative.
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