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Online Retailer Fraud?

Cliff posted about 13 years ago | from the watch-out-who-you-buy-from dept.

The Almighty Buck 27

Capt Gerkin asks: "While debugging a hardware problem on my system, I had the opportunity to take a good long look at my RAM chips. The DDR memory, that I purchased online two months ago, had some interesting product codes, and the descriptions didn't match with anything at Micron's website. Although I understand they may not publish all memory on their site, it brought up an interesting question for online retail. With the hard return procedures, no name companies and faceless dealers, how often is the product we think we are purchasing really a fake? It would be interesting to find out how many times others have placed orders for something online, only to get something entirely different, instead."

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hmmm.. (2, Insightful)

turbine216 (458014) | about 13 years ago | (#2363187)

well, you've got two options here...

- buy from reputable distributers with good return policies...

- buy from no-name companies with dodgy return policies, and run the risk of getting screwed.

Sometimes peace of mind is worth the extra couple of bucks you'll have to spend.

(by the way, how come this story never made it to the main page???)

Re:hmmm.. (3, Insightful)

stilwebm (129567) | about 13 years ago | (#2363442)

I agree 100%. The price premium for buying from a reputable dealer online these days is negligable. The most important thing to remember: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. I learned the hard way too. Thankfully I used a zero-liability credit card for that purchase.

Re:hmmm.. (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366112)

You can get the best of both worlds. For example smaller dealers like,, and are all well respected for their customer service. There are many other small dealers that are run honestly. All it takes is a bit of research to seperate the shoddy dealer from the great dealer. Places like (which I've mentioned in a couple posts already, no I don't work for them, yadda yadda) are very handy...

Hot button topic... (2, Insightful)

juliekins (248339) | about 13 years ago | (#2363326)

It's one with me, anyway. All of my computer geek friends insist on buying their parts from companies listed on PriceWatch because they swear up and down they can get the absolute best prices there. Never mind that sometimes they end up buying parts from, and Joe Bob charges three times normal shipping costs to make his money back since he's selling computer parts at ridiculously low prices. Plus, Joe Bob almost ALWAYS has a bizarro, convoluted, screw-the-customer-at-every-turn return policy. I'm all about being frugal, but as a previous poster said a few extra dollars is worth my peace of mind. Are you really saving that much money when you risk getting crap merchandise that can't be returned?

I'm trying to get my boyfriend to stop shopping at these places, but he's gotten lucky and not been screwed the few times he's shopped there, so he continues to do it. I'll stick with the bigger name places for my parts, thankyouverymuch.

Re:Hot button topic... (2, Insightful)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366075)

Shopping via Pricewatch and not getting screwed isn't all that hard. You just need to cross reference the company you are buying from with the companies ratings on Of course it helps to take the ResellerRatings with a grain of salt as the system can be force fed but in general you can weed out the bad guys with seconds of work.

I have a completely different problem.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2363645)

I always use a combination of and (best price vendor that maintains a minimum rating, usually 6.0/7).

Last order I placed I got more than I asked for - they ended up sending me about three times the stuff I actually ordered. Thats a double shipment of what I wanted, and an extra shipment of what appears to be someone else's stuff (not sure if it's a dupe of their order or if they're sitting around waiting for it - only name on the packing slip is me on the "ship to" field".

Past experience with returning a double shipment (again from a vendor with a 6.X/7 resellerrating) was barely even a thanks, for about $350 worth of stuff.

So I'll figure out in a month or so if they try to charge my card for it. Then off to Ebay I go.

Re:I have a completely different problem.. (2)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 13 years ago | (#2364492)

So in other words, you go out of your way to avoid crappy, disreuputable vendors to avoid being defrauded, then happily commit an act of fraud against an honest merchant.

You're a swell guy.

Re:I have a completely different problem.. (1)

tarp (95957) | about 13 years ago | (#2365088)

They shipped it to him, didn't they?

If anyone ships something to me, it automatically becomes mine!

Re:I have a completely different problem.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2368696)

Umm, looks like it's mine to do with as I please, and its _illegal_ for them to ask me to send it back. Or charge my credit card for it.

What's the price of double checking an order? Or hiring people who care in your shipping department? When I make a mistake that costs my company money, I get called in by the chief engineer and get lectured. Great incentive not to repeat a mistake, since I don't want a second talking to from him, and my pay raises are tied into how well my program performs. Companies that don't have the drive to prevent costly mistakes from repeating may be honest, but not necessarily good business entities.

From the FTC Website: or dr/ques.htm

Unordered Merchandise

Whether or not the Rule is involved, in any approval or other sale you must obtain the customer's prior express agreement to receive the merchandise. Otherwise the merchandise may be treated as unordered merchandise.

It is unlawful to:
Send any merchandise by any means without the express request of the recipient (unless the merchandise is clearly identified as a gift, free sample, or the like);


Try to obtain payment for or the return of the unordered merchandise.

Merchants who ship unordered merchandise with knowledge that it is unlawful to do so can be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. Moreover, customers who receive unordered merchandise are legally entitled to treat the merchandise as a gift. Using the U.S. mails to ship unordered merchandise also violates the Postal laws.

Re:I have a completely different problem.. (1)

thogard (43403) | about 13 years ago | (#2369427)

Those rules only apply in situations where someone ships you stuff and then demands payment. If you order something and the company made a mistake, you are legaly required to return it at their expense.

Re:I have a completely different problem.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2369570)

That's an interesting statement, and leaves a fuzzy middle where some of these things lie.

For example, the mis-shipped items indicate a different invoice number, different tracking numbers, and in short, were not part of my original order in any way. The only association I see at this point was the shipping address. I don't know how much further anyone can assert either way without splattering the discussion with IANAL all over. Messy stuff too, hard to clean.

Let me count the rip offs (3, Interesting)

Christopher Bibbs (14) | about 13 years ago | (#2364374)

Ok, there was the hard drive that wasn't right. Got that from a fly by night that has long since vanished. The no name memory that wasn't even close to spec and made my machine flakey as all hell. That really sucked. Ooh, crapy modems that couldn't get half of the advertised baud rate seem standard from cheap shops. The list goes on, but I'd guess I've been screwed a half dozen times pretty bad.

On the positive side, several purchases from Insight [] were perfect with good support when a video card fried itself. TC Computers [] was always good for motherboards and what not (and now owned by Insight). and Amazon have also been good to me. So on and so on for about two dozen purchases.

I think the summary here is bad experiences with big (and expensive) on line retailers, less than 10%. Bad experiences with small, fly-by-night retailers, more than 70%. Gee, you really do get what you pay for.

Re:Let me count the rip offs (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366097)

Ok, there was the hard drive that wasn't right. Got that from a fly by night that has long since vanished.
The warranties on hard drives (and almost every other buyable PC part) are covered by the manufacturer. All you need to do is go to the manufacturers home page and start the RMA process. Of course it is probably too late but... Also you sometimes get nice bonsuses like a larger hard drive because they no longer make the smaller size.

warranties count for jack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2372151)

if the company no longer exists

Re:warranties count for jack (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2372702)

if the company no longer exists

Well I should have clarified that comment with "if it is a hard drive" as I was thinking about this specific case. If you are thinking of hard drives too - drive manufacturers almost never just disappear. They usually get brought up/merged like Quantum, etc..

not really fraud, but... (1)

faster (21765) | about 13 years ago | (#2364680)

I placed an order at GoGoCity [] for a notebook hard disk they had marked as "in stock". It didn't ship for three days (I had ordered 2-day shipping, so I was watching the order), so I called them.

It turns out that "in stock" really means "we think one of our vendors can get that to us fast enough that you'll think we really had it in stock", and in the case of my HD, they were wrong. I cancelled the order.

However, I've ordered other stuff from them since then (yeah, I'm a fool), and it's all come through promptly and without a single screwup.

That's why I pay a few bucks more locally (2)

gmhowell (26755) | about 13 years ago | (#2365600)

I paid about $5 more for some 128MB chips yesterday. Oh, and another little bit for tax. Because I know the vendor, and they don't give me grief on returns. I also get to look at the product prior to purchase. (Was looking for a PCI modem with a controller on it. IOW, not a WinModem. Anybody know of an internal PCI controller based modem?)

Heck, one time *I* fried some memory. I knew it, they knew it, but they RMA'ed it anyway. Support your local vendor. For an extra 10% or so, it's well worth it.

Re:That's why I pay a few bucks more locally (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366140)

I paid about $5 more for some 128MB chips yesterday. Oh, and another little bit for tax. Because I know the vendor, and they don't give me grief on returns. I also get to look at the product prior to purchase. (Was looking for a PCI modem with a controller on it. IOW, not a WinModem. Anybody know of an internal PCI controller based modem?)

Buy a Lucent (LT) winmodem. Seriously! There are drivers [] out for Linux. I got one when my Dell laptop (Inspiron 4000) happened to have one built in. In my short testing of it I found that it works exceedingly well with high connect speeds and excellent compression. I too hated winmodems at one point but they can be an excellent solution if your processor is of a recent vintage.

If you definately don't want a winmodem take a look Winmodems are not modems; Linux information page [] .

Re:That's why I pay a few bucks more locally (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 13 years ago | (#2392715)

I'll take a look. The last time I visited the issue (2 years ago?) they were all junk.

I actually did dig up an external modem. Turns out that hylafax doesn't like the Sportster line, but I beat it into submission. Now if I can get WHFC to work...

Thanks for the advice though. It'll make shopping for a new motherboard easier (ISA slot is not a MUST have:).

Re:That's why I pay a few bucks more locally (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2394678)

Yeah, they probably are still junk! As I haven't had the chance to use a Lucent (LT) WinModem under linux for long term I'd be sure to check other peoples experiences. But it sounds like you have it taken care of with the USR/3Com modem. Personally I too would lean towards getting a hardware based modem just because it makes me more comfortable. I just wanted to point out that some winmodems do work under linux now. But I got a little too over enthusiastic it would appear :). Regards.

Never a problem. (3, Interesting)

Rolan (20257) | about 13 years ago | (#2366386)

I just built my brand new computer entirely from stores listed on pricewatch, with exception of my monitor. The trick is to actually know what your buying and not just buy RAM in the size you want. i.e. I didn't go to pricewatch and search for 512 MB Ram. I did my research on RAM manufacturers and decided on a couple that had good reviews. Then I went and searched for those specific ones and made the comparisons on prices between those. I also look for things like the CAS rating on the RAM, if it's not listed I move on.

Anyway, the trick is to know exactly what you are buying. Sure, I could have gotten that 512MB DIMM for $40 less than I paid, but that was a 3 CAS No name brand. You get what you pay for, don't go for the cheapest, go for the deal!

BTW, the only reason that I didn't buy the monitor through price watch is that the prices can't be competitive. Monitors are so big/heavy that shipping is very expensive, so I bought it locally.

Re:Never a problem. (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366805)

Personally for memory I don't even bother with Pricewatch anymore. Crucial [] has great prices and excellent quality (the link to crucial is 15% off instead of the regular 10%). I maxed out the memory on my Dell Inspiron 4000 to 512mb for less than $100 (remember this is a laptop so the memory is the more expensive SODIMM stuff).

Re:Never a problem. (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366809)

Oh yeah - Crucial has free shipping too. That is the other thing about Pricewatch - be sure to add shipping costs to the totals. The lowest priced in a particular category almost always have high shipping costs...

Re:Never a problem. (1)

wolf- (54587) | about 13 years ago | (#2368188)

We have ordered over 30,000 megs worth of memory from Crucial [] in the last year, and have NEVER had a problem.

Before we found them, we used McDonald and Associates [] out in Iowa. Also a great company worth buying your memory from.

Recommendations... (1)

xonker (29382) | about 13 years ago | (#2366396)

I've had very good luck with, they totally rock. I've probably placed five or six orders with them this year, every one of them arrived quickly and I got exactly what I expected. ComputerGeeks also certifies some equipment with Linux, which is awesome. (I usually check first anyway, but the extra effort is appreciated...)

On the other hand, I tried ordering from and was horrified I got a few sticks of RAM basically shoved in an envelope with no padding. Amazingly, they worked and didn't get broken in the mail. (Shipped postal, mind you...) I decided to give them another try, and ordered three used systems for cheap. They all arrived in the same box with insufficient padding. I called to complain and got a whole boatload of attitude from their marketing manager or something. She finally promised to refund my shipping, but it took three calls over three weeks to actually get them to honor it. Avoid them at ALL COSTS.

Summary: All hail, avoid -- and no, I'm not affiliated with either company in any way.

Having worked at a company that did Internet sales, I know there's no way to please everyone and no matter how good a company's service is they'll inadvertantly hose someone's order.

Here's a few tips, though -- never order from a company that won't give you a physical address and phone number to call. If ordering a sufficiently high dollar amount, call their customer service people FIRST and just ask one or two questions -- in other words, find out if a human being answers the phone and if they're helpful. If you get ripped off, call the state's attorney general's office and find out what your options are.

Good luck, and be careful out there...

Re:Recommendations... (1)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2366815)

Don't forget the Better Business Bureau [] - some people have had great experiences with the BBB helping them out when the venders go bad.

The benefit of (2)

Snowfox (34467) | about 13 years ago | (#2370734)

I use for most things. This lets you search for products, and sort on most by price including shipping. Most of the lowest-priced sellers on Pricewatch really gouge you on shipping.

You can also see merchants' ratings on Yahoo's service, as entered by other purchasers. And the fact that you're going to have an opportunity to affect their ranking after the sale usually means that sellers bend over backwards to help you if there's been any kind of a problem.

One of the other great things about Yahoo's service is that you can track all your orders (past and present) in one place. This is a godsend if you're like me and you often have 5-6 orders outstanding.

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