Every year, more and more of us are shopping online. Be it booking your weekly grocery shop to picking up the latest game, as Broadband becomes faster and cheaper we are abandoning the high street for the convenience of online ordering and knowing the goods will show up on our door within a few days. As someone currently unemployed due to this trend one might think that I would shun online shopping, but honestly I love it as much as anyone. As someone who has worked in a shop and now spends a large portion of his time online I also see plenty of people who seemingly don’t know how to use these sites correctly and making some glaring errors in the process.
So, out of the kindness of my heart I present to you The Dummy’s Guide to shopping on Amazon.
Know who your buying from.
This one should be easy right? Well if you buy OFF Amazon it doesn’t mean your buying FROM Amazon. Amazon marketplace allows anyone with stuff to sell and a bank account the opportunity to sell their stuff on marketplace. As a result, more and more small businesses are listing their goods for sale on Amazon. Once you find the latest book, DVD, CD or Games system your looking to buy there is the option to buy it used or new. Clicking either option will give you a whole list of prices to choose from. There are four columns PRICE + DELIVERY, CONDITION, SELLER INFORMATION and BUYING OPTIONS.
Price and delivery simply tells you how much your paying, below it tells you the cost of postage. Condition is VERY important, you need to look closely at that before you place your order. For instance, if you were looking for IRON MAN 3 on DVD, you might see one that seems a lot cheaper than the rest, if you look at CONDITION you might find there’s something wrong with it. The conditions go NEW, USED-LIKE NEW, VERY GOOD, GOOD and ACCEPTABLE as well as ones for COLLECTIBLE which might denote the item is signed or rare or in some way better than the regular listings. Now IRON MAN 3 might say USED ACCEPTABLE and then below it give a brief description saying ‘Disc only, no box’. So not reading that, and simply ordering the item you might find an envelope turn up several days later with nothing but an IRON MAN 3 DVD in it. In other cases it could indicate that there is some damage or other fault with the product and the bargain might not seem so much of a bargain.
Seller Information tells you a bit about the person or company your buying from. It gives the name in big blue writing. Below it it might say ‘fulfillment by Amazon’ but this does not mean your buying from Amazon. With Fulfillment a business can send its goods to an Amazon Warehouse and Amazon themselves will ship them when ordered, After that it gives you the sellers feedback rating. This is also important to look at, someone with 5 stars and a 100% feedback rating has very good customer feedback so has developed a good reputation, when this gets lower it means customers might have been less satisfied with either the goods or the level of service. Its also important to look at the amount of feedback a seller has as if they have a good level of feedback but a very small number of sales they have had less opportunity to upset their customers and accrue bad feedback.
So, if your buying that product cheaply off MADMIKE64 and he has an average of 3 stars and 47% feedback you are running a greater risk of getting a piece of junk through the mail. If you click your mouse on the feedback or the seller name you can look more closely at the feedback and get more details about the company your buying from such as address and a list of other things they stock. Going into the feedback and reading it is VERY USEFUL and highly recommended as you can get a much better idea of what customer complaints are about. For instance, I bought a DVD set cheaply off someone with 0% positive feedback. They had only sold the one item and the customer who bought it didn’t seem to understand the purpose of feedback and had given a review of the film itself they had bought. I ordered the DVD and got excellent service. The person I bought it off was a great seller who had some really bad luck. The final column BUYING OPTIONS merely gives you the option to put the item in your cart to buy later or one click order there or then. Be careful with one click ordering as if the item has a free postage option, you can still end up paying postage this way as it goes to the dearer option for postage.
Feedback on your purchase is something you should do once your order has arrived and you know you are happy with it. Go into YOUR ACCOUNT and then click on YOUR ORDERS. This will give you a list of the products you have ordered with options to contact the seller, file a claim and leave feedback for third party sellers (you can’t leave feedback on Amazon itself) If you have an issue don’t leave feedback until you have dealt with the seller but if its all good then click LEAVE FEEDBACK and tell people how your experience with the seller was. The Feedback system lets other consumers know more about the reliability of the people they are ordering from. It’s how scam artists don’t last long on the site as it helps Amazon pick up on problems and helps other customers know not to trust that seller. Whatever you do don’t try and leave feedback in the product review section. The seller wont see it, Amazon won’t see it and you will get nowhere.
3.Know how to complain.
So you have ordered that DVD and its not turned up. Or it’s turned up badly damaged. Or perhaps it doesn’t meet the product description. Well the best thing to do is go on to your order history click the CONTACT SELLER option. Before you escalate things with Amazon it’s always best to give the seller themselves a chance to respond and rectify the problem. Often they will offer a full or partial refund or a replacement for the goods. The vast majority of Sellers on Amazon are honest and don’t want bad feedback so are prepared to jump through whatever hoops necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. If you don’t hear back within a day or so CHECK YOUR SPAM FILTERS. There has been occasions where Sellers have been desperately trying to contact the customer and not getting through because the customers spam filters are rejecting the e-mails. If your confident your being ignored however then it’s time to escalate things. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding ordering off Amazon is that you will somehow lose your money if you get burned. Amazon guarantee every sale and take poor customer service very seriously, they will make sure you get your money back and penalise the seller in question. So people selling goods and not sending them, people shipping faulty or defective items or people who try and ignore customer complaints tend not to last very long on Amazon. Below the Contact Seller option is a FILE/VIEW CLAIM button that lets you file an A-Z claim on your order. This moves the complaint to Amazon themselves who look at the sale and decide who is at fault. The seller is given the opportunity to put their side of things across before Amazon comes to a decision. On most occasions the decision goes in favour of the customer. However, if the claim is lodged 90 days after the purchase it can be turned down. Amazon also look at the history’s of the Seller and customer as well, so if you have a habit of ordering things and then claiming they never arrived or constantly demanding money back on every order placed, eventually they will catch on. The system tends to be fair on everyone. Lodging an A-Z claim is basically like contacting head office if you walk into a shop and buy a defective item, the sensible thing is to try and deal with the store directly so remember that the A-Z option is there for when the seller fails you. Please give sellers the opportunity to respond and be patient if they don’t respond immediately.
You may get an E-mail from Amazon asking you to review an item you bought. Alternatively you may buy a product and find it somewhat disappointing. Amazon gives you the opportunity to review the products you have bought and tell the world what you thought. Say for example you bought that DVD, it turned up exactly as described, fully working and no problems. You sit and watch the film and it turns out to be total rubbish. You wouldn’t give the seller bad feedback for this as the quality of the actual film is not the sellers responsibility. They didn’t make the film, their just buying and selling goods. This is what the reviews are for. Equally the reviews are not for giving your experience of shopping and how good or bad the seller was, that’s FEEDBACK’S purpose. The option to review your product is also located on your order history. It asks you to rate the product out of five and say a few words about it. The reviews are there to help the customer decide on a purchase. Because with online shopping you cannot see the goods in front of you, knowing what other people thought is very useful. You could have avoided that bad film for example, if you had read all the customer reviews and realised a lot of people who had bought it before you thought it was garbage. Like Feedback it’s not compulsory, so don’t feel you have to do it, its more a helpful thing for other consumers and if everyone pitches in then the system works better.
5. And finally….
I hope this has been of some use. I know some people may read this and think “well…duh!” but as someone who has bought and sold stuff on Amazon for a while now I have seen plenty of people who don’t and this was for them. Apologies for the Dummy title, its meant in jest, like those yellow guides you see in book stores. I know for some people shopping online can be daunting. I would like to say as well that of course there are lots of other sites you can buy from, I chose Amazon because it’s the one I use the most myself and a lot of the points I made here could easily apply to Play.com or any other site.