A number of weeks back I wrote (here) about my opinions and experiences with commercial clients buying equipment from the internet for their aquatic facility. I mentioned warranty difficulties, lack of tech support, and here today gone tomorrow businesses, among other rationales, as reasons why you should do your research before buying online.
Recently a few real life examples of this danger have come to my attention. At least two of my clients have encountered the harsh realities that sometimes come with those fantastic, almost too good to be true prices. Both involved facilities who were attempting to maintain older equipment during a time when replacement parts were becoming harder to find, and more expensive to purchase from reputable retailers. In the interest of financial conservancy, they looked online for the solution.
In one situation, the facility found the parts they were looking for through an easy to find, well-advertised website that most of us in the chlorine generator industry are aware of. They selected the parts that they needed, placed the order, and paid in full with a credit card. Then they waited…and waited. The standard order confirmation email never arrived, but the funds were drawn from the credit card. After a time my client began emailing the website with inquiries about their order. A few emails and a few weeks later, they never heard back and the product failed to arrive. With no evidence that they would actually receive anything, my client finally sent an email explaining that they would be contacting the credit card company and reversing the charges if the website did not contact them soon. That, finally, elicited a response – an angry one. The people behind the website responded quickly and angrily, claiming my client had not only received an order confirmation but also had been contacted about product and part delays and could therefore no longer cancel the order. This wasn’t true, but my client again waited and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Finally, over 2 months after the initial order was placed they still had nothing to show for it and asked their credit card to reverse the payment. Not only were they temporarily out the money, but that also added up to two months of extra work, decreased productivity, and unnecessary frustration for all involved at the aquatic facility.
In the second case, our client actually found someone in China who was selling what they claimed were re-plated ECG cells. They quickly encountered the biggest issue associated with buying these unknown Chinese cells: no one will service them. There is no telling what process and materials were used in creating these cells, what quality control existed, if any, and what effect the cell may have on the other system parts. For this reason, you risk voiding any warranty your equipment may still carry when you introduce aftermarket parts. If your warranty has expired and is therefore not a concern, that still leaves the fact that you bought from China, not from your trusted retailer. When that product fails, who can you call for help? Sadly, as our client quickly learned, the answer is usually no one. You cannot expect even the most caring business to support product that they did not sell, since the time their tech support staff spends with you is lost revenue for them. So if your Chinese product fails and you can’t find support, how much money did you really save in the long run?
Of course, not all online transactions end badly. These are examples of the worst case scenario, but are tales we hear more and more frequently. They are certainly something to think about the next time you find your facility in need of a part and are tempted to reach for the computer.
How about you? What have your experiences with online suppliers been?