Monday 13 October 2008

Online shopping woes

Generally I'm a big fan of online shopping. It means that I don't actually have the irritation of going into a shop and dealing with crowds, unruly children, surly shop assistants, lack of stock and all the other things that blight a shopping experience. It also means that I can sit at my desk (or in bed, or on the sofa, or anywhere else) and not schlep around a several miles of mall. I also find what I want (nearly) every time with minimum  inconvenience and comparing and contrasting is easy. These are the advantages of online shopping.

Online shopping does have disadvantages though. If you buy in a shop you see what you are getting there and then, and (generally speaking) you take it away with you there and then. Transaction completed. If you then (at a later date) have any difficulties you can march back into the store and give a hapless sales clerk an earful... there and then. If you buy online you don't see what you are getting, quite often you have to wait to get it and when you want redress - well, it isn't as easy as you'd like it to be.

Last month I did some shopping on eBay. My reasoning for the purchase (keyboard and mouse) was that a) it was cheaper than I'd find it in the shops and b) given the specialist type shop that I'd need to visit and the timeframes I had available it would probably arrive faster. Faulty reasoning. First of all the PayPal transaction (because eBay own PayPal and pretty much force you to use it) was one of those annoying eCheques (yes, unless you add 'back up funding' they won't do instant transfers anymore). So this took time to clear (just like a real cheque). Fair enough. I then get a 'payment reminder' from the seller. I write to them and politely point out that the eCheque will take time to clear but if they would like to check their records they will see the transaction is pending. Another payment reminder arrives which I ignore (two items were combined under one payment).

PayPal then send me an email to tell me that my payment is cleared. The seller then sends me what I now assume is an automatically generated email confirming that the payment is cleared and informing me that they will contact me when the goods ship. The next thing that happens is that I get an 'unpaid item strike' from eBay. How?! Why?!

Bear in mind two points. The seller has acknowledge the payment is cleared.  I write (several times) to the seller... who eventually apologise and agree that the payment is made and that the 'unpaid strike' will be removed. Nothing happens. I go through the whole process with eBay who remove the strike for me. They won't however let me leave feedback for this transaction because I "didn't participate in the dispute". Whatever. I emailed the idiot seller after the first reminder! Now over a week has passed since the payment cleared and still no goods or indication of when the goods will arrive.

The thing that annoys me the most (it's a tough call on this one) is that PayPal is owned by eBay. It should therefore not be possible if you used their 'preferred' payment system to have an unpaid dispute. The systems should talk to each other. The PayPal transaction uses the eBay item codes. One should look to the other and refuse to let the seller mess the buyer around in this way.

The next thing that is going to happen is that I'm going to file a dispute of my own against the seller for 'goods not received' as this is getting beyond a joke!