I am a fairly regular buyer of goods from the internet, so I thought I would have no problem with on-line shopping this Christmas. Unfortunately, I had two bad experiences: on one I decided to use a "non-brand" retailer, the other I found "seeing and feeling" really are necessary for some purchases.
Consumer Electronics - I have bought all sorts of electronics on-line, and I thought this year's family present of a portable DVD player would be a no-brainer. However, I found a site that carried the model I wanted for nearly $50 less than Amazon, even with shipping. Knowing that I was taking a risk, I decided to go for it (even if one of my best friends works at Amazon).
Well, I got the product, opened it up, and it was obvious it wasn't new. The product was somebody else's return, a floor model, I don't know what - just not new. The good news is that the customer service at this site was actually pretty good. They stated they only sell new products, apologized and offered an exchange or refund. Fearing the worst, I just asked for a refund, so I shipped the product back and got a full refund (verified today). I then re-ordered it from Amazon today (Jim's laughing now). So instead of saving $50 from ordering the first time from Amazon, I ended up spending an extra $15 in return shipping (I still saved on sales tax).
Lesson: Stick to on-line retailers you know and trust, even if you spend a little more.
Jewelry - Again, I knew it would be a risky proposition, but I decided to give jewelry a try this year. As a high-priced item and living in a high sales-tax state, I figured buying on-line would save a bundle in taxes (yeah, I would report it later) and compensate me for the risk.
I bought the product from Blue Nile, which is considered the best on-line retailer for jewelry. I received the product quickly, and it was as described on the site....but it just didn't "wow" me. If I spend that much on a present for my wife, I expect it to knock my socks off, and there were just a few little things that I didn't like.
Like above, Blue Nile was VERY good with its return policy and I sent it back today (another $15 out of pocket). They offered to help me with another selection, but I decided with two weeks left until Christmas that I would buy locally, which I did this afternoon. I ended up spending a little more than I did at Blue Nile, and of course paid sales tax, but I know what I picked wowed me, so I know it will wow my wife.
Lesson: There are just some things you have to see and touch before buying.
Since I am pretty much out of money, I am done with shopping, so I have done my little part to help the economy this Christmas season.