Be Smart When You Buy Online

The other day I was reading a post on WhiteBlaze.net about someone who had made a purchase form an internet store a few weeks ago and have not received the items in which they ordered. Of course though, their payment had been processed. They have tried making contact with the owner via email as well as by phone and even by private message (PM) on the WhiteBlaze.net site (the owner was a forum member, however has not been active for about 2 years). Now they are sitting around waiting and hoping the gear comes.

This same thing happened to me last year. It was one of my very first gear purchases. I had purchased the Kelty Red Cloud 5600 backpack and the large Kelty rain cover from an internet company called Camping Gear Depot. I immediately got an email through my email I listed during the checkout process, and the money came out of my bank account in a day or two. Then I waited. I was supposed to get an email when the items were shipped with the shipping information. After about a week I had received nothing of the sort, so I began trying to make contact. I used the email and the phone number listed under the customer service section of the website. I never got any response to the messages I left.

This is when I decided to do my research on the company. I couldn’t find much, but from what I did find, it was the same stories as mine. This was very discouraging. So, after a few weeks I took the only next step I could think of, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). (I also filed a report with something like the FBI Internet Fraud.) The BBB did not get any response from the company either.

So, there I was. I used my debit card to make the payment and the bank said that since I authorized the transaction, they could not reimburse me. I felt awful, and spent the little money I did have on nothing. It was very disappointing. And the fact that it was supposed to be my first pack really broke the excitement.

So, I have learned the hard way to research first and buy second. This is very obvious, but it can be rather easy to fall into if you are not careful.

Here are a few things to help you find out the goods on the store:

  1. Shop at well-known sites. (REI, Campmor, Backcountry.com, etc… to name a few.) There are quite a few internet stores that are in the good, and the easiest way to find them is to read through some of the forums. Which leads me to the second…
  2. Use internet forum boards. There are a lot of threads on valid internet sites you can use. Lots of people talk about the stores they buy their gear from on the boards so it is simple to get a good idea of some good stores to shop at from forums. Also, sign up and ask questions if you can’t find a lot of info on the store you are looking into. Chances are someone on the boards know something about it…And sometimes the owners will even chime in (Such as Henry Shires from Tarptent will occasionally do).
  3. Type in the store name with the word “review” in the Google search bar. Read others reviews about that store.
  4. Check at the Better Business Bureau to see if they are listed.
  5. Call the store using the numbers listed on the site. if you don’t get an answer, something may be up. However, a lot of the smaller privately owned businesses are run by hikers, which means that they could be out hiking. Some of the sites (such as Mountain Laurel Designs and simBLISSity) will list on their homepage that they are out hiking.

These are just a few suggestions. The whole point is to research the sites, and be safe with your money. A good deal that doesn’t produce the goods is the worst deal of all. I know this from experience. But I did finally get lucky. To finish my story above…

A few weeks after my purchase from Camping Gear Depot, I received a package from them, right out of the blue. When I opened the package I was so happy to see my pack, but the rain cover was missing, and according to the invoice with the package the rain cover was not even listed. I counted myself lucky, but decided to try to get the rain cover (about an extra $40 for the rain cover with the shipping – the backpack”shipped free.”) I made calls, and sent emails. A few days later I actually got a voice on the other end of the line. I did not get ugly, simply explained I received my order and it was incomplete. He responded that he thought the rain cover shipped with the pack. They ended up crediting me the price for the rain cover, so I only ended up being out about $9 for the shipping. I was good enough there, and left it at that. Also I did update the report I turned into the BBB.

The name of the store that is from the WhiteBlaze.net story is Hikersupply.com. The owner was a member on WhiteBlaze.net and was a hiker himself. I don’t know what will happen with that situation, but I am hoping that he is just out hiking and has not gotten back. But I just don’t know. I did remove the store from the list of stores that are found on the right hand side of my blog page. Also, if anyone else has any difficulty with any stores listed on my blog, please notify me so I can remove them from the list if need be.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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