Tag Archives: ecommerce

The PS3 Purchase Roller Coaster

As you might have read, I want a PS3 real bad. Well, I ordered one today, paying more than I wanted to. Here’s with how it happened:

  • About a month ago I learn of the PS3 MGS4 bundle and verify it’s a good deal at $500. The guy at my local GameStop says the demand won’t be huge so I should have no problems picking one up when it comes out on 6/12. I didn’t detect any sarcasm.
  • Shortly after this, I register with Amazon to notify me when they’ll be getting it. I really don’t want to get it from Amazon because of shipping and waiting, but I figure this couldn’t hurt.
  • Amazon sends me an email yesterday stating that they’ll have limited quantities on 6/6 at 10am. Wow, I can get one early! I call up a few GameStops who unequivocally tell me they will not be getting any early, and hint that even if they did they wouldn’t sell it to me. Bastards. Clearly, they’ve bought them all and have them at home already.
  • I get ready to buy from Amazon, setting up One Click to use standard shipping. I see there’s a notice on the product page that there will be limited quantities and great demand across the country, so it will sell out quickly. Huh. That’s not good. Still, I’m ready get buy it tomorrow and receive it 6/12 the latest.
  • 9:30am. I’m online and ready to buy, refreshing every few minutes. Computer clock is synchronized with the government’s atomic clock. I see comments popping up in the review section and product forum. Somebody brags that he pre-ordered it from GameStop. Pre-order? What a fool! Doesn’t he know Amazon will have them on sale today?
  • 10am. After a few more refreshes, the page changes. “You can preorder this item for $499 and get Super Saver shipping.” Preorder? You didn’t say preorder, you said order! WHAT THE FUCK?!?! HULK SMASH!!!
  • 10:02am. I check GameStop. As the braggart noted, they have it for preorder, but it’s $560. Someone in the Amazon forum notes the free shipping gave him a ship date of 6/17. I don’t want it to take forever to get here, and I don’t want a markup. This sucks.
  • 10:05am. On Amazon, I click preorder. “The item you have chosen is no longer available from that seller.” You’re that seller, asshole! Aaaagh! It’s sold out. From the forum posts, it looks like it took maybe 2 minutes.
  • I check Circuit City, they don’t even have it listed. Time is running out and GS is my only option. I call up the local GS again: can I order it in store to avoid shipping charges (and ensure it isn’t stolen off my front steps)? No, online only. I bite the bullet.

So I went from paying $500 plus shipping and getting it before 6/12 to paying $630 and getting it on Friday the 13th. I thought GS was price gouging with the $60 difference, but it turns out they forced customers to also buy the MGS4 bluetooth headset. While I’ll soon need a bluetooth headset for the California hands-free law, I was not planning on getting one that looks like it belongs in some little kid’s playset:

Metal Gear Solid Bluetooth Headset

While I would have gone with something from Jabra or Plantronics, this is made from some company I’ve never heard of. On the plus side, I’m all set to play Buck fucking Rogers with the neighborhood kids.

I miss 800.com

As I get older, some recent world history starts seeming like ancient history.This is not a good thing.I date myself when I recall programming with punch cards, real-to-goodness pieces of paper with little holes in them. I date myself when I say that I miss the sound of my old LPs playing on a phonograph. And I am dating myself when I long for those brave pioneers of the early Internet Commerce Experiment (ICE): 800.comI still remember when the world of electronic commerce offered untold riches to anyone who was willing to dream up a new enterprise and pay outrageous sums to web developers to make it a WWW reality. There were offers galore from all sorts of outfits; I naturally gravitated to those offering cheap and discounted DVDs. Don’t forget that we early DVD adopters had to pay upwards of 20.00 for each of our shiny movie discs (my most expensive DVD purchase was 21.99; I paid that for the “Lost in Space” movie DVD which included –wonder of wonders– two commentaries and tons of supplementary material. Wow. I recently saw that very same disc in the discount bin at Fry’s Electronics for 4.99. Wow. )

So I spent my early surfing days looking for discounted and free DVDs. I found 800.com to be a good place for price and selection. Their first sale was 3 DVDs for 1.00 and I quickly took them up on their offer. Yet there was a better draw on their site: they had a film blog and weekly writing contests for free DVDs. I could tell that they loved film and I envied their adventure into online commerce. What could go wrong with selling the films you admired and rewarding good writing from your customers??

Alas, 800.com is no more. They were victims of the Disastrous Internet Bubble Burst (DIBB) and went the way of the dodo, along with Pets.com eToys.com and other worthy endeavours. But I was lucky/talented/geeky enough to win a couple of their contests.� Here are some of my entries, see if you can guess which ones won prizes.

Continue reading I miss 800.com

Amazon Prime

I just took Amazon up on their offer for Amazon Prime. If you haven’t ordered from them lately (they pop up the offer every time you check out), it’s basically free 2-day shipping on almost every product (maybe no big appliances?), with no minimums, and you can upgrade to next-day air for $4.

It’s nice to not have to pad your order with crap you don’t need, just to come up with the $25 minimum for free shipping. And then get annoyed that instead of using a slower delivery method for free shipping, they’re delaying shipment for several days. It’s more frustrating to see your stuff sitting in a warehouse than it is to see it being slowly delivered.

The cost for Amazon Prime $80/year, which might not be bad if you’re splitting it among your family. The free trial lasts 3 months. If you want the service, there is a gotcha! If you read the fine print, at the end of your trial, if you don’t quit, you are automatically upgraded to 12 months of service. This means your service is extended by 9 months, not 12, but you still pay the full amount. So take the time to quit before your trial ends, then pick it up on your next order. Then you get 15 months for $80, not just 12.

USB Cables Don’t Cost $30+

I know that not everybody (meaning practically nobody) comparison shops to the extent that I do. Therefore you might go into Staples or Office Depot and think that USB cables normally cost $25-35. This is at least a 100% markup. They are assuming you don’t know any better, or are buying it with a larger ticket item like a printer, and in contrast it seems less expensive. And you’re too lazy to buy it elsewhere. On top of that, I see they’re trying to carry only top of the line, gold plated cables (which might have a .000003% performance gain), so you don’t have any choices. At Staples, they go a step further and gouge you for their store brand! You’re not even getting a name brand like Belkin.

Just so you know, using pricegrabber.com you can find a longer cable for less than 1/2 the price. I just purchased a 16′ Belkin USB 2.0 cable for under $10 shipped at databazaar.com. This is 60% longer and over 65% cheaper than Office Depot and Staples. And I earned AAdvantage miles from databazaar.com in the process. Yes, I have to wait a few days for my cable, but I probably could have shipped it next day air and still have saved money.

yourmusic.com – Can Anyone Beat This?

I recently signed up with CD service yourmusic.com, and so far it’s the best deal in music I’ve seen. If you’re familiar with Netflix, the concept is similar (no, you’re not renting CDs). You go through their catalog and add CDs to your queue. Every month, the CD at the top of your queue is sent to you and your credit card is charged, until you quit the club.
Here is the amazing part. Cost of the CD? $6. Oh, cost with tax? $6. Cost with tax and shipping, you ask? $6. Wanna buy more CDs? $6. Cost per disc for box sets and double albums? $6. Cost if your queue is empty at your “time of the month”? $6 (and they don’t ship you anything).

That’s it. Frankly, I don’t see why you couldn’t just sign up, buy all the CDs you want at $6 each, and then quit. At worst, you leave one CD in the queue if they require a 30-day notice (which they don’t state, I’m just speculating).
My price threshold for CDs at a store is $12 for a disc I really want, otherwise $10 because they?re gonna tax me. Half.com has some great deals, but their shipping charge is $3 per disc. So, for me, this is a pretty stunning deal. Heck, I just saw Coldplay?s X&Y at Sam Goody (yeah, I know) for $20! Who the heck pays that? Hmm, yourmusic.com doesn’t offer that CD, so perhaps that’s a bad example…

The catch? None, really. Shipping isn?t instantaneous. I signed up on a Sunday morning (1/15), they shipped it on Tuesday (1/17) and it arrived today (1/26). About average for free shipping. Their selection isn?t stellar, about 14,000 CDs, but I was still able to find a few good ones. Reviewers elsewhere pointed out that CDs sometimes disappear from your queue, so if you really want something, you might want to order it while you know you can still get it. The only issue for me is that Rhapsody fulfills most of my listening needs, so I?m only buying CDs that are great as a whole, and something I?d want to listen to in the car. When I get a subscription-capable MP3 player, my need may disappear altogether. Until then, my queue is loaded.

eBay & half.com Precautions

I’ve recently been burned by half.com and ebay, and while I don’t think they’re dangerous, you need to take a few precautions to protect yourself:

Upon winning a bid or purchasing an item, send an email to the seller to make sure they’re sending you exactly what you want.

For example, even though the product description said the DVD was widescreen, the seller didn’t check it, and sent full frame. Granted, full frame DVDs should all be destroyed on principle, which is why they’re often cheaper. So always make sure you’re getting exactly what you expect, ’cause darn it, only the director’s cut of Kangaroo Jack will do.

Ask for a shipping confirmation email with tracking number.

The ship times afforded to sellers are, in my opinion, overly generous. Sometimes 3 weeks. I’m sorry, but when we’re talking about that mediocre movie where that ingenue I’m in love with is topless for 6 seconds, I don’t have that kind of time. If you have a tracking number, you can be reasonably sure it’s not arriving via asthmatic pack mule.

Lose your patience.

Hey, I’m not telling you to be a jerk about it. Be polite, but understand that you’ve got a limited window (60 days, maybe) to get a refund. I was very patient with a seller, as there was some communication between us. Next thing I know, they’re no longer registered, their feedback dropped like a rock, and half.com is telling me it’s too late to file a claim. Another time, I waited until the last day it had to arrive (the aforementioned 3 weeks), and the seller’s response was, “Sorry, I never got the order.” While probably a lie, since I received both the “order received” and “order confirmed” emails, he did give me an immediate refund. Still a big waste of time. Better to yell early, then give good feedback.

All For Nothing?

I’ve just been informed about a new site called AllOfMP3.com. It is a Russian site (link for English in the upper left corner) that offers digital music at a steal. What’s a steal, you ask? Well, iTunes charges $.99/song, and Listen.com charges $.79/song + $10/month. So how does 1-2 cents/MB sound? Yes, they charge by bandwidth, and their Online Encoding (OE) system allows you to choose the format and bitrate. Of course, higher bitrate = more data = more money. Some songs cost $.02/MB, so for a high quality, long song, you maybe pay a quarter, but on average it’s a nickel. And some albums are even free.

You’re thinking, “This can’t be legal! It’s too good to be true!” Well, guess what, buster? I think you’re right. Well, it’s definitely true, but I am highly skeptical that this is a legitmate service. They claim they’re legitmate in Russia, which is very possibly true, but they also warn you that it might not be legal in your country. Since they don’t have time to check everyone’s laws, you’re on your own.

One of their payment plans seems particularly suspect. If there’s a CD they don’t have, but you do, you can rip it and upload it for twice their standard bandwidth costs. Something about that just shouts “accomplice”.

Most of the internet lore on them is testimonials, and I haven’t seen any stories of people getting burned. A few believe it’s run by hackers, and even though that claim is largely unsubstantiated, you’re probably best off using PayPal to avoid giving away your credit card number.

I’m curious as to how the RIAA will strike at this. Even if it’s illegal, they’re only finding/sueing those who share music for free. Can they subpoena Visa or PayPal? Get Russian authorities to hand over AllOfMP3’s records? Hard to say. Well, hard for me, at least. Every other review of this site is absolutely sure this is legal, no doubt in their minds, and this includes Tech TV. Granted, it has been around since 2001. Maybe they’re right.

Disclaimer: I have not used this service.