Hoping to buy flooring online?
Most of us have heard all too many horror stories of Internet fraud. Although dishonesty has always existed in business, in today’s virtual marketplace, scammers have become more covert than in past times. The elderly and other vulnerable adults are especially susceptible to the scurvy practices of white collar criminals. And dishonest behaviors online are costly to every business in terms of risk management.
So, how do you protect yourself if your mind is set on buying flooring virtually? You have just spotted what seems like a good deal, and not every online merchant is a sociopath.
Start locally–no matter what
Being able to sample various colors and products in the three-dimensional world means brick-and-mortar stores like ours will never disappear. Stop in our shop to test flooring samples and get professional, no-pressure advice. Once you take your sample home and see how it fits your needs, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision if and when you order a similar product online. You might also photograph the samples and consult with your family and friends to get more input before you decide to order from an online merchant. You cannot have too much information when making any major purchase.
Finding a reputable website
Although we live in a virtual world, there is nothing like old-fashioned in-person networking. Talk to friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others who are unbiased and who care about what happens to you. You might get some good leads and may also hear of businesses to avoid. Online auction websites like Ebay require cautious vetting of sellers. Be sure to check the reviews and ratings of your seller before you think of doing a transaction.
Third-party consumer resources
Angie’s List is a good example of a company offering consumer protection for a reasonable membership fee (you can choose different member plans and pay schedules). Some companies create “fake” reviews on themselves. Angie’s List uses certified data collection, meaning anonymous reviews are not allowed. Another plus– companies get a chance to respond to less-than-favorable customer reports. Any ethical company would be quick to respond to unfavorable reports, offer their side of the story, and try to resolve things; this can be a good sign in terms of a company (but there is no guarantee).
Search engine strategies:
To effectively vet businesses before you deal with them, enter key phrases in your search engine such as “company name and bad customer experiences.” Get all sides of the stories in your research, even if your heart is set on what seems like a bargain. Wishing you were dealing with an ethical company when the facts suggest otherwise is a waste of time. Also, when dealing with an unfamiliar business, read testimonials (usually companies with authentic testimonials will offer at least part of the customer’s name and geographic location). Try to call the business you are considering and speak to a live human. See if they will give you references. If they seem resistant, trust your instincts and stay away from them.
Things to do before committing:
Once you research the business and get some hard facts from reliable sources, chances are you will be safe in dealing with them. Before you commit to ordering any products, be sure to get a quote (in writing) from them on shipping costs. Even if the actual materials came at a terrific price, you might get gouged with shipping fees. In fact, shipping costs could cancel out any savings you might have realized in ordering online. Also, be sure to find out the return policies of the company. Insist on reviewing up-to-date written policies (a reliable company should post their terms and conditions in plain view on their website, and you shouldn’t have to dig for it); be suspicious if they hassle or guilt you for inquiring about their policies. Once you have read their terms and conditions, you might be in for a shock…and feel thankful that you took the time to research.