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Friday, September 19, 2008

E-Shop Police?

Hey all, The Raving Reviewer here (I sound like Gossip Girl, no?).

A little something was brought up in my inbox a couple of days back about an irresponsible shop and it's dealings. It seems that it was also sent out to various other Blog Directory and review sites, but I don't know if they've mentioned it just yet.

Here's the e-mail that was sent out :

I just want to share with you an experience pre-ordering from:
A shop blog called Her Avenue.

I pre-ordered a cardigan from Her Avenue 2-3 months ago.
I paid a total sum of RM54 inclusive of postage.

She posted saying there was a problem with the pre-order and promised to refund me my money.
That was 2-3 months ago as well.

Until now, She still have not refunded me after me giving so many calls and emails.
I even tracked down and called her husband and her co-worker.

Her site stated that she went overseas at August 7th.
That is a lie.
The husband informed me that she only went outstation (To PD) 2 weeks ago.
Meaning, she ignored all my messages and emails for the past 2-3 months.
The husband is now avoiding my calls.

I was being level head, sensible and patient.
Gave her time, kind and tried to understand her so called position and I get this kind of treatment.

She ran away with my RM54.00.
I write this article to inform everyone to not make a transaction with that shop blog as the owner is irresponsible an unethical.

Regards, Simple."

We don't know how true the above email is, but if it is, How unethical! Although it is a little creepy that 'Simple' ended up tracking down the shop owner's husband and co-worker, I don't know if I'd be doing anything differently if I were in her position. RM54 is not a lot of money in the business sense, but it's definitely a hole in your pocket if you're the one taking it out. Especially since most of the online community here in Malaysia is mainly made out of fashionista's on a student budget.

So, what can one honestly do when you're faced with an online scam? Well, you could do what 'Simple' did and circulate emails to warn others of the store that preyed on your pocket, but then again, I personally wouldn't like receiving angry emails all the time. And besides, how true can they be? It could just as easily be a jealous hater who wants to put a shop out of business.

So our solution is to follow the simple belief that prevention truly is better than cure. Especially when your dough is at stake.

Here's The Reviewers Top 8 ways to prevent being scammed online :

1. Make sure you know exactly what you're paying for.
Clear pictures and detail shots are a definite must have when it comes to online shopping, because even if you receive the item on time, it may not be in the tip-top shape that you had in mind, so make sure everything is crystal clear between you and your seller.

2. Choose bigger, or more well known shops with a reputation.
Stores that have been running longer with returning customers have a much much lower chance of scamming you since they really know their stuff, and obviously a lot of people keep coming back for a reason.

3. Take note of a shop's character.
Shops who take the effort to create an ambience aesthetically with their layouts and photographs, as well as do great write up's on their products, show that they are passionate about what they do, and are much less inclined to cheat you of your money.

4. Ask questions.
Talk to the seller and see what they're like. If they're open, friendly and inviting, you'll feel much more at home. What's more, good sellers often give you their contact details in case you need to contact them faster, and when that trust is built, the risk of loosing your money in reality is lowered by a large percentage. In the case of 'Simple', at least she got to call and ask, although it's strange how a online scammer would be so willing to provide their personal details when they are so blatantly dishonest.

5. Always opt for safe postage options.
Never allow your purchases to be anything short of Registered Mail, where your parcel's tracking number should be provided when the seller sends it off so that you can check out your item's location as it makes it's way to you. This also helps to prevent purchases being lost in the mail. For safer options, you can choose more expensive postage options like Pos Laju where it'll require your signature and identity on delivery so you know it exactly when it arrives, and who it arrives to.

6. Make sure you follow a shop's rules and regulations!
Most shops have a list of Terms and Conditions that you must meet in order for them to agree to do business with you. It's tough on the buyer to have to go through all this, but it's tough on the seller too sometimes, because they've often had their fair share of irresponsible buyers! If you've purchased once or twice off local blog shops online, or have visited a few in your own time, you'll get the hang of it, since most shops share similar T&C anyway. But always be sure to check, especially their reservation rules, and backout options.

7. Be a responsible buyer as well.
If you've not been honest and on time in payment before, some shops will go to the extent of blacklisting you. This IS a scam sometimes because of miscommunications between seller and buyer, and as a result, the buyers will have to pay the penalty of never being able to purchase online again. These are rare and sad cases, as pissed off sellers can get pretty mean from their frustrated experiences with other irresponsible buyers. I've actually come across a local site that somehow managed to get hold of their pictures and even went the length to paste a big "BAD BUYER" sign on their foreheads. I think that's a bit much. Personal space should never be invaded like that, especially when used in non-supportive senses.

8. Check out the site's feedback rankings.
Sites like have added feedback pages for local sites to be a part of. So far, that's the only one I know of, and it's a great way to check the history of those sites. Most have very good feedbacks, but like the scam warning emails, you never know who's true and who's falsely accusing. But it's a good way to check, although you should also be cautious and take the other precautionary steps in the process.

I hope this will help all shoppers and potential online shoppers in the future.

Do remember that no matter what, every purchase you make is a definite risk, because there are so many elements to be considered when buying online. From the product's availability to purchases lost in the mail, even in real life sometimes we can be conned into buying unnecessary items or products that don't deliver what they promised.

But it's always good to be weary of the risks involved as well as to be open to solve any problems that arises. Don't be quick to hate on shops if accidents happen, be sure to let the owners know, and keep communications open. If a shop provides refunds, make use of them. Certain shops may not, but they may provide you with discounts, free items or replacements to make up for it. Discuss what went wrong with your seller before you decide to make a report on them. They're human too, so give them a chance to explain. =)


I just though of an idea : An E-Shop Police. 
What do you think? 
A site that will approve/disapprove of stores according to a certain set of rules and/or feedback pages. A site that has the authority to ban or circulate good and bad lists of shops in the neighborhood. Review sites do that sometimes, but to a certain extent. I have come across a site before like that, but for sellers only, to report bad buyers. I don't quite remember the URL, but it'll be good to check that out too.
A site called "Business Better Bureau" aka. does this in the U.S. Should we have something like this in Malaysia? Should it be free to encourage more sites to be a part of it rather than deterring them with payment schemes?

Let me know your thoughts on the matter! =)

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