December 23rd, 2010

Never Ever Shop from Bradford Exchange Online

I should have done a little more research up front.

I ordered a really appalling Christmas sweater from them just after T-day; I blogged about that. It has still not shown up, and a request for a tracking number. Much later, I got an e-mail saying the package has arrived (not just been sent, but _been delivered_), which did not refer to the e-mail which I sent via their web form (and to which I have not otherwise received a response). Which it has not.

So, never, ever, ever do business with The Bradford Exchange. I've sent a second e-mail via the same webform. If they can't come up with tracking information for me, my next step will involve denying the charge and contacting the Better Business Bureau.

They can't even blame FedEx for this one. They sent it USPS. At least that's the story.

ETA: I dug up an 866 number and had to sit on the line for a long time before I got to talk to someone. They don't have a tracking number. The e-mail that I received is sent automatically 3 weeks after they send the item out -- it's not based on any reality at all. Their policy is that they'll send a replacement item free of charge if it still hasn't arrived after 30 days. Needless to say, that's not a great solution, given that I ordered this sweater just after T-day for this Christmas season and the season is all but over (we do solstice, primarily, altho we also usually do some sort of extended family thing on Xmas eve/day).

They're still trying to pin this one on the postal service, which I find risible. I asked the customer service person to pass this one up the line and told her I was going to blog about it.

I did a little looking around at the BBB, and they have an amazing number of delivery complaints. By comparison, Amazon has far fewer delivery issues (and this is with way more business overall and a larger number of total complaints within the same time frame -- but a much smaller _number_, not just fraction, involving delivery issues, and with the delivery stuff resolved to the customer's satisfaction far more often).

Do Not Ever Shop from Bradford Exchange. I'm going to walk through the whole process (call at the 30 day window, which will be just after the start of the year) and see if they'll do a resend at that point, and find out if that arrives. If it _does_ arrive, I won't decline the credit card charge (and I probably won't bother complaining to BBB, because it'll just register as "resolved to the customer's satisfaction", which won't represent my lived reality). I'm of two minds as to whether to bother declining the charge otherwise: there's a lot of reason to believe the credit card companies do nothing useful in terms of disciplining companies, and it can definitely lead to problems on my end; it's not enough money to expend a lot of effort on.

However, it is an annoying enough thing for me to want to make sure everyone knows about these idiots, and knows not to do business with them. They may appear to sell one of the most comically tasteless holiday sweaters EVER, but if you can't actually _get_ it, it's just a scam anyway.

Shop From These People Instead

I figure, if I complain about companies that do not provide a satisfactory shopping experience, I should mention companies that _do_ provide a satisfactory shopping experience.

First and foremost: USPS Registered Mail. They never lose packages, and if they do, they'll pay you whatever you told them it was worth.

Second: UPS. If they lose packages (they must, right?), they don't lose my packages. Their tracking system is easy to use, and they tend to deliver a lot faster than their estimates.

Third: Yes, I have some bias, but I have had the occasional really negative experience (there was the whole incident involving the address book and gift registries and finding all the addresses to update if you move, several years ago. I sure hope they've fixed it since then, because that was ridiculous). But I buy a huge fraction of everything I buy through Amazon. It shows up fast. It is reasonably priced. They seem to do a good job vetting third party sellers. The returns system is easy to use.

I've had uniformly good experiences with, now owned by Amazon, however not everyone I know has had the same. I've had uniformly good experiences with Apple and their support for their products but again, not everyone I know has had the same. Statistically, the odds of anything happening to any one person are relatively low, so I try to weigh the experiences of my friends into my experience, to increase the chance that I'll detect problems. For example, there were some glory years where _everyone_ had fantastic experiences dealing with Dell. When I started hearing bad stories, I sold the stock I owned in them. It was not a bad decision. When properly navigated, eBay's reputation system is relatively effective (stick with people with lots of sales, very high ratings and who have been selling over a period of years).

A few favorites for used books through Amazon:

Better World Books
Midtown Scholar Books

And I can't really fail to plug a favorite of my husband's, that I also love:

Newbury Comics

An excellent chain of stores selling mostly music, but all kinds of other funky stuff, too, some of it used, they have their own website (which I haven't ever used) and a third party seller on Amazon and elsewhere. Their pricing is highly competitive.

Netflix does a fantastic job of maintaining your "spot" while switching between multiple devices (a Tivo, an iPad, a laptop, etc.). I've never had a delivery problem, the discs almost always work (which is somewhat amazing if you think about it at all), their catalog is stunningly diverse and modifying your account is trivially easy and does not require a phone call (switching between plans).

Non-profits that I love: CSPI (yes, I know they can get a little annoying at times), the "food police" who go out and hire labs to test things and then get their people quoted in NYT articles and similar about lawsuits they (might) file because the food in question is a serious threat to the nation's health. UCS: they really _are_ scientists, and they are very data driven. They've branched out from the nukes they started out worrying about, and they display a good understanding of the tradeoffs inevitable in public policy. Also, they are pretty effective lobbyists.

There. I got distracted a couple times with people who I thought of to complain about, but I deleted those paragraphs. It's an almost entirely positive post with positive suggestions for who out there deserves to have whatever money is burning a hole in our collective pockets.

Happy Holidays!