E-Commerce is a thriving business in India and there are many online vendors doing business like eBay, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Infibeam, Jabong etc. I have been buying things from eBay India from 2003 onwards since the time it was known by the previous name Baazi.com before being acquired by eBay. There are other websites which are run like marketplaces like OLX and Quikr but my focus will be on E-Commerce vendors those like Flipkart and Snapdeal which sell their own stuff.
Amidst all the competition among online sellers to get attention of customers, a commonly used theme on many websites is to promise a 7 day or 30 day replacement warranty or returns policy etc. One must read the fine print in these terms before making a purchase because:
In some cases the vendor may not honour the return warranty, as happened in my experience with flipkart. That led me to filing a consumer court complaint which I won but it may not be an option for small purchases. The best idea is to avoid any E-Commerce websites which look like fly by night operators without much history and sales behind them.
At other times, a vendor may send a wrong item by mistake and you should be prepared to go through hassle of shipping it back, as I experienced with Sulekha Deals when they sent me a bluetooth headset of the wrong colour. Incidentally that was the first time I experienced such a thing after having ordered many items. So I took the decision that they are probably new to the game and I cannot trust to place further orders with them even if there is a better discount.
We all procrastinate on things which are important but cumbersome to do. The return policy is usually from date of delivery. In case you do not track the delivery date carefully and evaluate the product within the return time, you may get stuck with it especially for those websites which have only 7 day return policy like Snapdeal.
If you do return the product, you will have to re-package it, take it to courier, get the receipt, scan the receipt and email it to the company. Also the reimbursement of the courier charges may or may not be covered so you should read the fine print always. But it still remains a hassle and many people may not care to go through all these steps.
Till the time the things get settled and you get refund for the purchase, you will be in a limbo and unable to purchase any alternative product since you are not sure what will be the result of of the return process in case it gets rejected.
image courtesy of: rt.com
Recently I had ordered things from sites like Pepperfry and Fabfurnish. I was trying both of them for the first time and they seemed to look like having a reasonable business behind. However what happened later is a study in contrast. I had ordered some 5-6 items from Fabfurnish and 7-8 from Pepperfry. For my Pepperfry orders, 2 of the paintings arrived with broken glass, and 1 small painting was the wrong item delivered.
For Fabfurnish, I experienced something similar with the table cloth sporting 1 mm holes and I sent them pictures of the items. These holes were probably caused by tags but there is no reason why customer should have to view them every day seated on the dining table. They promptly emailed back and called to say that they will give a voucher to purchase any other thing from their site, and I received the emailed voucher within 2 days too.
On the other hand, the experience with Pepperfry can be said to be an ongoing mild trauma, and a war of attrition. I had to file separate complaint for the broken glass and the wrongly delivered item. For broken glass issue, they were prompt to answer initially but afterwards seem to go into a sleepy-not-my-problem-becomes-customer-problem attitude with myself having to remind them to tell me what to do with the items.
For the broken glass on pictures, initially they said that I could get the item repaired and before that I should send them the estimate so they can approve it!
When I emailed back (only written or email for me, no phone calls ever) that I cannot run around to repair the items and why can’t they get it picked up from my place; they responded that return picking is not covered by them so I can return and get refund. But here is the deal, they did not send any instructions about return and reimbursement of the return shipping.
For wrong item issue (for which I sent them the picture of wrong item as compared to ordered one), they sent an automated email saying they will get back in 24-48 working hours and instead decided to sleep for 72 working hours (excluding the Sat/Sun in between) before I decided to wake them up.
I sent one email about both the issues and also mentioned that my items are broken and wrongly delivered so it cannot be covered under their so called Easy Returns policy as given on their website. It was only after that email that someone called and then they emailed me with details on how to return both the broken and the wrong item.
Now here here is the interesting and the shameless thing on their part. In this final email they have said that they reimburse maximum upto Rs 150 for normal items (except jewellery). But this policy has to be applicable for customer initiated returns, not for wrongly delivered or damaged items on delivery. When I shipped the items back yesterday, I had to pay Rs 840 to DTDC courier since they said the volume of the package was also more (it is the same bubble wrap package which I got the delivery in).
So here is where it stands as of now. I will be following up with them and in case they don’t reiumburse full courier charges, they will be one more company to get processed with consumer court complaint.
That’s all folks. You may want to shop till you drop, and maybe secretly that’s what the E-Commerce vendors are hoping so that in case they mess up the product/delivery, you won’t have any energy left in you to return the items in case of any problems.