FOTOS INC: The gray side of online shopping

It’s Christmas morning all over again, just not the ones you like to relive.

Mark Brett is a reporter/photographer for the  Penticton Western News.

Mark Brett is a reporter/photographer for the Penticton Western News.

I wish I had read then what I know now …

For one thing I would have been much more secure financially and to a lesser degree maritally after my initial (and no doubt last) venture through the electronic aisles of online shopping.

In this virtual retailing experience at a New York City camera store I later found out my cart had literally runneth over with items I didn’t order and upgrades to the ones I did.

How this happened was, after submitting my order to the company, the next day I received a phone call from an employee under the guise of “confirmation” which translated means sales.

Needless to say the invoice was significantly higher than what I initially ordered.

That included hundreds of dollars for something called “expedited processing” which the employee was unable to break down for me.

At first I tried to cancel, however the items were already packed and on their way and if returned would cost me hundreds of dollars in restocking fees for nothing.

After a number of phone calls, email threats and counter threats, the salesman, who after one discussion with my wife refused to talk to her — calling her a pit bull — agreed to refund a large chunk of the change.

At this point (way too late) with help from my co-worker Steve, I began doing some background checks on this particular business and much to my dismay I learned I was not the only victim of this type of sales scam.

Those searches and what I found should have been required reading before shopping but the damage was done, time to move on.

So now the waiting game for the package to arrive by standard shipping which for those unfamiliar to the term is what is known as the scenic route.

And when this courier service says it will take 10 days then damn it, it’s going to take 10 days.

Enjoy the ride.

In this part of the process I picture a blindfolded dispatcher in front a large map of the United States tossing darts at random to determine the routing.

Watching the tracking online, the goods leave New York then on to New Jersey, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and then the ever-popular destination of Hermiston, Ore.

Those not familiar with Hermiston will be interested to know it was where Lewis and Clark discovered the area’s first landmark in the 1800s. It is called Hat Rock, aptly named because it is a large rock in the shape of a hat. I’m sure there is a café there by the same name and if not there should be.

Wikipedia lists Tucker Bounds as the town’s “notable person.”

But enough fun, our truck is waiting and it’s time to get back on the road again. Next stop, Redmond, Wa.

From there it’s across the border to Richmond then to Kelowna and with a couple more hiccups finally into my waiting arms.

It’s Christmas morning all over again, just not the ones you like to relive.

Remember the new toy you took out of the box that didn’t work?

No problem, I can just return the item for a refund or exchange.

Not so fast.

More reading that should have been done beforehand, the policy which states there is a 10-day return/refund, however that doesn’t apply to in-store or mail-order purchases in other words, everything.

As well, the product is what I find out is “grey market” (read up on this) and does not come with a warranty.

More phone calls and eventually the salesman agrees to ship another product item, I think mostly out of fear of having deal with the pit bull.

So now as I watch the routing and re-routing of my package once again and with some time to kill, I decide to catch up on some reading, hmmm, this looks like a good one, Shopping Online for Dummies.

I’m sure it will fit the bill.

Mark Brett is a reporter/photographer for the Penticton Western News.