The Hard Sell

I’m sure I’m not alone in my buying habits of researching a product that I want, then searching for the lowest price on the Internet. In general, this practice has served me well, and I’ve had trouble-free dealings with a number of storefronts without any trouble whatsoever.

I occasionally run into web sites with “teasers” — such as are designed to give good prices in search engines like Pricewatch or Google Product Search — where the website will suggest add-ons and accessories like extended warranties and overpriced doodads. The worst websites will automatically select these or add them to your cart. While irritating, the wary can still get a good deal with a lot of checking and cross checking to ensure that what you want is exactly what you get when you go to confirm your order.

A whole new level of dickery was achieved recently when following this basic procedure at Fotoconnection, where the tactic employed is to get some high pressure salesman to call you after your order has been placed. After placing my order for a relatively inexpensive, point-and-shoot camera, I got two emails about an hour apart asking me to confirm my order.

Perhaps unlike most people, my immediate response is, “up yours, jerks, I typed everything correctly, if you can’t handle it, it’s your loss.” Among many reasons I like online ordering is that I don’t actually have to talk to anybody. I just don’t like doing it.

So they call me.

“Sir? We’ve had a lot of problems with stolen credit cards and so we’d like to confirm your billing and shipping address.”

On the surface, this doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, since unless I managed to type my address incorrectly, this wouldn’t do them a lot of good. However, maybe they’re actually verifying my phone number, so I play along, figuring an address is at least innocuous. If they had asked for my credit card number, I would not have given it out. (It’s a not-uncommon scam to call somebody in the phone book and ask for their credit card number under some pretense. If they needed the number again, I’d have insisted upon calling them. But more likely, I’d have told them to pound sand.)

“I also noticed that you didn’t order a battery or charger with this camera. Would you like us to add the 5 hour or the 2 hour battery to your order?”

Suddenly, it’s obvious why they called. But, having researched the camera first, I knew better.

“I expect there to be a battery in the box,” I replied. “It’s a sealed box, right?”

“Well, yeah,” the salesman went on, “but that battery is only good for fifteen minutes.”

I’m honestly at a loss for words at this point. First of all, who measures camera batteries in “minutes?” In the context of a camera, what does this even mean? Fifteen minutes of continuous shooting? That actually doesn’t sound too bad. Fifteen minutes of shelf life? That would make even the “5 hour” battery pretty retarded. I can only conclude that the sales guy is an idiot.

“Well, 15 minutes sounds fine for now,” I said, “once I get my original order, I’ll decided if I need anything else.”

“We’ll ship it out today,” he replied, seeming either annoyed or dismayed, but not quite discourteously, and hung up.

I assume that I’ll get what I ordered; if not, I’ll sort it out with my credit card company, but in the meantime, I feel like I need to take a shower. Just. Ewwwww.

So I’m now amending my procedure above, and checking the ratings of online vendors I haven’t used before on a site like Resellerratings. Thank god I didn’t order from somewhere this bad. That being said, fotoconnection has managed to lose a customer, and next time I get a call like that, the only thing I’m going to say is “cancel. my. order.