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#86345 - 03/21/05 04:33 PM OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
nickbuol Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 4424
Loc: Marion, IA
OK. I am reluctant to do this, but I am still feeling burned from my “experience” with a particular vendor last week and I just HAVE to warn people here about the vendor. I care too much about my fellow home theater fans to sit quiet. I will stick to the facts.

This is not meant to do anything more than to try to help others around here, but if I am in violation of any rules, I am sorry, and any moderator can feel free to remove this message.

Note: I am a very easy going, relaxed guy that does not get irate, doesn’t swear, and keeps calm and cool in just about any situation.

I put in an online order for a Sanyo Z3 projector from the online retailer, A&M Photo World last Wednesday. They had the lowest price on DigitalSaver, and told me that they were an authorized reseller.

I placed the order online, which was very easy to do, I had a coupon for free shipping, which I used, and received an email a few minutes later confirming my order with an order number (no details beyond a single line item of the Sanyo PLV-Z3, including no price verification.) It also stated that if I called their 800 number, I could “expedite order processing.” Wanting to get this thing going, I gave them a call.

Called the number, which the phone was answered with a “Can I help you?” with no clarification of who the company was, thanks for calling, or any other polite address to me. No big deal, I can be a down to business guy, after all time was wasting.

I gave him my order number, and he responded “Why didn’t you get the upgraded package?” I said “What package?” He said, “The one that comes with the remote, manuals, and 3 year warranty.” I told him that I thought that was included… I guess not.
I should have stopped there, but I’ll listen to the guy talk to me like I am some idiot who should know better. I guess I should have known better, but I am an optimistic guy and inquire for more information and how I was supposed to know about these “upgrades.” “They are clearly on our website” he says, but I don’t see them, and he can’t give me a link. Anyway, he proceeds to tell me that for $1850, I can get the whole package and be at a 5 year warranty, plus there is a $100 rebate from Sanyo. Sounds good to me. Should be $1750, which is less than most other online resellers, and I would have 2 years extra warranty. I do it, and he says that the projector should ship out later that day (last Wednesday).

On Thursday, I start looking for the $100 rebate form on Sanyo’s site, and then anywhere on the internet and I have no luck. I try to call the store, but after 20 minutes on hold, I just send them an email. Later in the day, I get a generic response back just to call their 800 number again. In the meantime, their billing department leaves a message on my answering machine at home that they need to verify my billing information before they can ship and I need to call them. My wife gets the message and calls me at work. I call right away (about 5 minutes to 4PM central time), and I sit on hold waiting… At about 4:01PM, someone picks up the phone on their end and hangs up. I call back, and get a recording that their billing department is closed for the day (closed at 4PM central time). I am a little frustrated, because that means that not only did it not ship out Wednesday, but now it wasn’t going to ship out Thursday either… Or was it??? (More to come on that.)

When I got home, I called back their general number and try to find out more about the $100 rebate. It is now 6PM my time, 7PM there (New York). I can only talk to a sales guy at this point, and he tells me that the $100 rebate was an “instant rebate” and there was no form to fill out. I say, OK, so please verify my total then (should be $1750)… He says it is $1969!!! WHAT?!?!? I tell him that the price is completely wrong, and that there was a $100 rebate that the sales guys told me was available on Sanyo’s web site (which it wasn’t)… He told me not to worry, that I need to just call back the billing department Friday morning and get it squared away since it wasn’t going to ship until I verified with them anyway. I told him that I doubted that they would fix their $219 “mistake” and that I didn’t like how the whole transaction was handled by them and that I would like to just cancel my order. He said that he couldn’t do that, and only the billing department could.

So I wait until Friday morning. I am at home sick (allergic reaction to something I had the night before), so I am not in the mood for the climax to this whole ordeal.

I call the billing department and talk to the lady that called me the day before. She tells me that my projector SHIPPED “last night” (Thursday night). I told her about the rebate problem, and wrong pricing, no free shipping anymore, etc, she doesn’t help me, but instead just transfers me to customer service. I explain the situation to them, and they pass me to the sales guy, I talk to him, and he, in the middle of one of my sentences, just transfers me to someone else. I don’t know where I am being sent to, but after 10 more minutes on hold, I am picked up by a guy in shipping. I know his name, but I didn’t get it out of him for a while.

What the heck am I doing talking to a shipping guy? He tells me that the projector shipped and there was nothing he could do to help me until I received the projector. Yeah right, let me accept the package and then deal with their restocking fees… I don’t think so. I explain to him that it just seems fishy to be “upgraded” to options that should be standard equipment, then I loose my free shipping, am told about a non-existent Sanyo web site available rebate, am overcharged for the product, I’m told that it CAN’T ship until I verify billing information, but when I threaten to cancel the order, it “magically” is shipped… All he says is that when their billing department called me and got my answering machine, that doing that was enough verification to proceed. Our answering machine is one of the digital ones that when the power goes out it defaults to the generic outgoing message, so they would have no idea if they called the right number. I tell him this, and he didn’t care. The guy was very rude. He asked me who I talked to the night before, and I told him that I didn’t get the guy’s name because he told me that the unit can’t ship without talking to the billing department first, so I wasn’t concerned. He says, “Without a name, I can’t help you!” and is about ready to just hang up on me. I tell him that this is just crazy. I am the customer and I am in need of help, but I am feeling like I am being taken advantage of. He repeated that without a name, he can’t help. I tell him that I don’t even have his name, and he REALLY got upset telling me about how he has been working there for a long time and always answers the phone the same way, “Shipping, this is Marty, how can I help you?” I had a pen and piece of paper that I was writing down all of the details, and except for the lady I called directly in billing, not a single person I talked to answered with their name, and I had to ask for it. Marty answered simply, “Shipping…” when I called, and when I said that to him, he said, in a very rude voice, “We record ALL of our phone calls and document them in customer account information, would you like me to play back this phone call?!?!” I said “Yes,” but he never did. I then said, since every call is recorded and every call is documented in the customer account information, then he should be able to look up who I talked to the night before and even play back the call to help clear things up. He said that I was being a jerk. I told him that I was only trying to help sort through this so that I can get the correct price or get my money back…

This conversation went around and around in a circle for about 10 minutes with him yelling at me, and me asking to speak to a manager, supervisor, or anyone that can help me. He never passed me on. I think his job is to just get people so mad that they give up, but I didn’t. I was frustrated, but I still had not yelled at him, called names, or anything. I then said that I just want to get this resolved or get my money back. He yelled at me, “Do you want me to cancel your order? I’ll just cancel your order!!!” I said, ‘Great!” He was about to hang up again, but I said I had 2 more questions… “When will I get a credit to my credit card, and what do I do with the package when it shows up.” He abruptly said, “24 hours and you won’t receive any package.” CLICK

The guy hung up on me. I called back, talked to a guy in customer service, who was actually the only polite person I talked to at this company. I would name him, but he bad mouthed Marty to me saying that he (Marty) has been in trouble for this kind of thing before. I told him that the whole ordeal from order to cancellation is a very poor way to treat a customer. I asked him to verify the cancellation of the order, which he did, and to verify the credit to my credit card, which he also did. He asked if there was any way to keep my business, and I told him that even if I could get the price I was told over the phone originally, I still wouldn’t do it. I also asked him what I am to do with the package when it shows up (I know I asked Marty, but I wanted to be sure), and he said… “It hasn’t shipped yet….” WHAT???

I felt like I had been scammed from the start. What a horrible feeling.

I then was out looking for reseller number 2, and I found them. Broadway Photo was it. Then I noticed that the layout for their site and checkout process looked familiar. I checked addresses and phone numbers, and even called their sales force. Guess what? I got the same sales guy as I did at A&M! Same place. I hung up.

3rd on my list was a refreshing change of place. VisualApex out of Washington state! Opposite side of the country, and a complete opposite in terms of service. These folks were polite and very helpful. I told them about my situation, and they were a huge help. They price matched for me, rushed my order through, it shipped out even the same day, and best of all, it was for the right price! Just goes to show that you need to be careful out there. VisualApex is an AVScience Alliance Member, so I should have just started there to begin with.


_________________________
http://ht.buol.us
M60s, VP180, VP150, QS8s, SVS 20-39PCi, HTPC, JVC RS45, Onkyo TX-NR709, Shakers

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#86346 - 03/21/05 04:43 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
Engine_Joe Offline
local

Registered: 01/14/05
Posts: 239
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Nick, sadly that's not uncommon. There are a LOT of businesses (usually photo businesses for some reason) that are actually the same company located in the same office (sad to say, as a New Yorker, that they seem to be based out of NYC quite often), who pull these kinds of scams. I've fortunately never expereiced it, but I've read reviews of such places many times wher using those DigitalSaver type sites. Their complaints are almost identical to yours.

Nowdays I willingly pay a bit more for the assurance of a company that will engage in less shady business practices.
_________________________
---- A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing... M60s, VP150, QS8s, EP350 Onkyo TX-SR702, Denon DVD-3910

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#86347 - 03/21/05 04:44 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
bigjohn Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 3016
Loc: San Angelo, TX
what an ordeal man... i couldnt imagine the feeling of despair.

great you could cancel your first shot with no fees or penalties.. and good that you found a respectable company that has managed to solve your problems.

there is always that sense of doom and terror when dealing with online marketers. can they be trusted? will it get here on time? are they a licensed retailer? will it be working equip? i think all of us have gone thru it at one point or another. sorry this had to happen, but great that it turned out all right.

and thanks for the heads up on a horrible company.

BTW- my wife and i use B&H photo for most of our online camera type needs. little bit higher price, but great reliable service.

bigjohn
_________________________
EXCUSE ME, ARE YOU THE SINGING BUSH??

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#86348 - 03/21/05 04:59 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
nickbuol Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 4424
Loc: Marion, IA
The situation could have been a lot worse. I could be sitting here right now, waiting on my projector from them, thinking that I am getting it for $1750 ($1850 - $100 rebate) and then get quite the shocker on Thursday when I see how much they charged me, and be fighting them to take it back...
_________________________
http://ht.buol.us
M60s, VP180, VP150, QS8s, SVS 20-39PCi, HTPC, JVC RS45, Onkyo TX-NR709, Shakers

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#86349 - 03/21/05 05:06 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
nickbuol Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 4424
Loc: Marion, IA
Note on B&H Photo. I ordered my Pannasonic S97 DVD player from them, and while they took a few days to ship it, the price was good, and everything seems in order. It is supposed to be here Thursday as well, so they seem to be a reliable reseller as well.

Why can't online/phone order only places be like Axiom? Take the savings of not needing much more than a warehouse and sales location (realizing that Axiom needs a construction location too), and pass those savings along instead of pocketing that as extra profit and go cheap on sales staff, customer service, and use poor business practices.

Axiom (and some others) have the right formula here. I just got hit by a place with the wrong formula.
_________________________
http://ht.buol.us
M60s, VP180, VP150, QS8s, SVS 20-39PCi, HTPC, JVC RS45, Onkyo TX-NR709, Shakers

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#86350 - 03/21/05 05:47 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
BrenR Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 12/10/03
Posts: 3602
Loc: Winnipeg MB Canada
B&H Photo-Video are undeniably one of the top 5 e-tailers in the world. They've been in business since the parting of the Red Sea, been doing catalog ordering since the days of the Pony Express, and I've personally ordered everything from B&W darkroom supplies to HMI lighting stands from them.

Bren R.

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#86351 - 03/21/05 05:59 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
dmn23 Offline
aficionado

Registered: 02/01/03
Posts: 649
Loc: Nashville, TN
Nick, I am genuinely sorry to hear about your experience. For future reference (and for anyone else considering buying online) this is quite easily the most helpful photo site I've ever found. Oh, and Phillip knows his programming and web development inside and out. Both are highly recommended reading.
_________________________
M22ti mains, EP175 sub, VP150 center, QS4 surrounds

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#86352 - 03/21/05 06:38 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
MarkSJohnson Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 09/27/04
Posts: 10849
Loc: Central NH
In reply to:

Why can't online/phone order only places be like Axiom? Take the savings of not needing much more than a warehouse and sales location (realizing that Axiom needs a construction location too), and pass those savings along instead of pocketing that as extra profit and go cheap on sales staff, customer service, and use poor business practices.



Nick:
I'm glad everything has worked out. I've dealt with a few places like that and it really, really sucks. I've been tempted to drive there with a baseball bat to get to know some of these people in person.

The reason they do it is simply because some people, when at the price comparison web pages, always start with the cheapest. AND, they trust the store's rating because they WANT to believe they're going to get a good deal. I've seen stores have a four or five star rating on the price-comparison sites, then go to an independant website like ResellerRatings.com and find that they only have a 2 star (out of ten) rating for the last six months! A&M has a rating for .62 out of ten...one of the lowest I've ever seen.

When I'm searching online, I never just look at the cheapest price. I look for the lowest price by an e-tailer that I'm very familiar with or has high ratings across EVERY rating site!

And if, during the order process, they ask if you'd like to pay extra for accessories that the manufacturer normally includes, just hang up. For many purchasers, I've checked the BBB and BBBonline as well. I've spent 25 years in the photography and video production business, and have seen WAY too much crap from some of the NYC places to deal with them.

I don't in any way mean for this to sound like one of those "what did you expect?" lectures, 'cuz like I said, I've been there!


Edited by MarkSJohnson (03/21/05 06:42 PM)
_________________________
::::::: No disrespect to Axiom, but my favorite woofer is my yellow lab :::::::

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#86353 - 03/21/05 07:31 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
bridgman Offline
axiomite

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 5333
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
>>A&M has a rating for .62 out of ten...one of the lowest I've ever seen.

Ouch... I saw that before and figured it was a typo.

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#86354 - 03/21/05 07:48 PM Re: OT: WARNING. Online Retailer Alert! -LONG
Ajax Offline
axiomite

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 6249
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Go to Reseller Ratings and check out Axiom.
_________________________
Jack

"People generally quarrel because they cannot argue." - G. K. Chesterton

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