So you’ve just gone online and purchased that gadget you’ve had your eye on for months. But now you realize that you needed the one with the built-in accessory. Not a problem, right? You call the 1-800 number in hopes that the order can be updated. But you are told that it cannot. What’s more, you are also advised that canceling the order is not even an option, because there’s no way to do it.
Or you ordered some designer clothing. But when it showed up it didn’t quite fit as you had hoped. Now you must return it. After getting your return shipped back to the company, you patiently wait for the refund to be processed. A couple weeks later you are dismayed to find that your refund amount is considerably less than you expected due to a “restocking fee.”
Or perhaps you returned the product too late, and never got a refund at all. When you called customer service, you were brazenly told that you had received a “store credit” instead, and that you must be content with that.
If you’ve been around e-commerce for any amount of time, you’ll know that these are realistic scenarios. Although the play-out may differ slightly depending on whom or what company you are dealing with, one guiding principle must be kept in mind to make everything clear.
E-commerce isn’t about you the customer. It’s about the company. It is carefully structured to draw in as much profit as possible at minimal risk to the seller. By “risk,” I mean situations where the sale is lost due to order cancellations or returns. An online business’s goal is to get your money as efficiently at it can, and to keep it at all costs. They lay out the traps. Your function is to fall into them.
Most e-commerce platforms do not let CSR’s (Customer service reps) cancel orders. And if you’ve asked to speak to a manager, that probably won’t help either. The company’s finance or e-commerce department (closely related) typically sets the parameters as to whether or not an order can be canceled; what modifications (if any) can be made to an order already submitted; and what the forecast looks like for your credit card statement should you decide to return the product. Systems are generally set up so that orders cannot be canceled. And even when they can, there is often a ridiculously short time-window in which it can be done. So if you need an order nixed, you had better call immediately.
“Store credit” is just a fancy system set up to keep your money. I am aware of some sellers that will only give you 30 days from date of purchase to return a product. If it isn’t back at the warehouse within that time frame, or if the warehouse is slow in processing the return, you could end up with store credit instead of your money back. And most consumers already know enough about “restocking fees,” so there is no need to comment on that.
Is there a way to fight back and retrieve your money? There certainly are ways to break through the circle of enchantment cast by the e-commerce dragon. Some of them are more effective than others.
A BBB (Better Business Bureau) complaint is usually quite effective. However, the drawback is that it often takes more time than is feasible. After submitting your complaint, it can take upwards of 10 business days or longer (depending on the rate of response) to get any reply to your complaint, let alone a resolution. Keep in mind that the complaints are sent to the respondent by email. So if they are using a third-party organization to field their customer service communications, this could cause additional delays.
A faster way would be to reach out via public comment on the company’s Facebook or Twitter pages. I know that most companies will do everything they can to avoid adverse public-facing comments on their social media portals, because that is where customers go to get updates or leave feedback on a business’s product. Nuking their Facebook page with a few comments about how poor their product and service is, and warning others not to buy from them, will get you the fastest results. Most reps will try to get you into a private discussion once this happens. However, if you can talk it over via PM, the issue typically gets quickly resolved.
Making phone calls up the chain of command can also be fruitful. However, that requires some knowledge of the business’s organizational structure, which in most instances isn’t made public. I alluded to the fact that many companies use third-party e-commerce solutions firms to handle their customer service communications. So you likely won’t know whether you are dealing with an actual employee of the brand, or a hired gun. Nevertheless, if the issue escalates and you still get no resolution, you can ask to be put in touch with the company’s finance or legal department.
Disputing a credit card transaction should always be a last resort, and should only be done if all other avenues have failed. Generally speaking, if you have tried the above recommendations, you will not need to take it that far.
Granted, these are just a few ways you can beat e-commerce at its game. It is always better to settle things amicably if you can. But we know that there are times when we must go to war. Again, e-commerce is all about the company and its profits. It is driven by metrics. As businesses get increasingly predacious, quality of products and services suffer in the balance. Which is why it is important to insist on proper closure. This means satisfaction, or your money back. And when satisfaction fails, green is the color you ought to see the dragon cough up.