Online buyers beware

I consider myself fortunate enough that as a young person I was raised in a culture where a ‘handshake’ to seal the deal still meant something.

Fast forward to today and, due to the Internet, we find ourselves in our culture that forces us to do our full due diligence to ensure we don’t get scammed. It is an unfortunate commentary on our culture today, but a necessary one as our society is buying more online from individuals and companies they do not know.

Buyer beware.

Last November, I was reviewing a deal of the day email I received from a reputable web retailer.

“Buy a Secret Santa Box,” the email subject line screamed. It caught my attention. The deal promised that for only $29.99 I would receive a surprise, male-oriented gift package with a retail value of at least $130. In fact, it stated some of the surprise gift packages would include tablets.

I bought one. I was intrigued.

Buyer beware.

The fine print stated the secret Santa box would be mailed out in time for Christmas. A week prior to Christmas, still no parcel. So I emailed the company’s customer service department who replied back to state that they had contacted the supplier and the parcels were in the mail. I should receive mine any day now.

Christmas came and went. Still no surprise package. (Was this the real surprise?)

Once again, I emailed the company who simply replied back with a vague apology and a promise to issue a refund.

A month later, a very tattered and dirty courier bag arrives at my house. It’s my secret Santa box. But there is no box. Inside the courier bag with no bubble wrap or any other type of protection, are the following damaged items: a cheap, thin pink scarf; a plastic pink necklace; a yellow and cheaply made set of ‘baby chicken’ salt and pepper shakers from China; a tube of unheard-of shower gel; and a useless USB plug. Was this worth $130 and male-focussed as the ad promised?

Well, let’s just say some of the items ended up with my goddaughter to play with – and destroy! The remaining items are in the landfill.

Fortunately, I did receive a full refund as the goods were damaged and the surprise package did not live up to the hype of the daily deal.

Buyer beware.

I buy coins and banknotes online, and to date, I have been happy with my buys and know they are legit because I aim to buy from companies and individuals I know. But, as you’ll read in our current series on counterfeit currency, the risk of buying fake coins online is a major (and scary) issue for collectors – whether they know it or not.

I was astounded to read that counterfeit buster Mike Marshall figures since 2007 he’s reported more than 100,000 alleged fake coins being offered on popular websites such as eBay, Alibaba and DHgate. “They’re everywhere, and it’s every day,” he tells CCN’s Jesse Robitaille.

Thanks to Marshall, many fake coins have been removed from online sales but it remains a mammoth problem. Just consider this: the day Marshall was being interviewed by CCN, he had already discovered close to 100 fake coins online.

This is just one individual. How many are not being seen and land up in the hands of collectors who believe they have bought legal coins? They’re in for a rude awakening.

Buyer beware.

It’s an issue we need to discuss and find ways to resolve. Pointing fingers of blame is not the solution. Long term, we need a concerted effort by all involved in the hobby to fight and stop the scammers and educate the collectors. I’ll be writing more about this in my next column, after we conclude our three-part series.

Meanwhile, I would encourage a community discussion on this issue. Email me your thoughts and ideas on trying to halt the trade of counterfeit coins. I’ll share your submissions with our readers.

As for my bad online experience, it hasn’t derailed me from buying online. It just reinforced the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Buyer beware.

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