Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Web Store versus The Mall Store

As technology advances there are more stores on the internet, and they are selling everything from jewelry to vacuum cleaner parts. The plethora of stores is a boon for the consumer. They don’t have to leave their homes, they can comparison shop with several different stores, find the best price and have it shipped.

Many jewelers who have on-line stores also have brick and mortar establishments. Some have been in business for generations and others only a short while. Since there are so many website stores it’s hard to determine how long any of them have been in business. When you drive by a store or walk through the mall, you see the store and can figure out for yourself how long they’ve been in a particular spot. This can be helpful but it doesn’t always point to longevity, or even trustworthiness.

I read a story a while back that profiled a jewelry store who was taking jewelry in for repairs and selling pieces in their store. Turns out they were keeping the money and the jewelry to line their own pockets and were not paying the suppliers or having the jewelry repaired, terrible. Many people lost family heirlooms and pieces that had sentimental value. A brick and mortar location did not help these people. So how does someone know they are in an honest store or are visiting a trustworthy on-line store?

While it is impossible to tell one web store from another, it might be wise to take a look at their return policy. If a store does not have a return policy I would probably shy away, and while most stores do have some sort of policy, it’s usually not as liberal as Costco or Zappos. Costco has a return policy whereby they accept a return for any reason, including buyer’s remorse, for 30 days. Zappos also allows a very liberal return policy, 365 days from date of purchase as long as you have all the original packaging material and they pay the shipping, both ways.

Most retailers do not allow unconditional returns, partly because they are small and cannot absorb all of the hidden costs associated with a return. Retailers like Zappos and Costco make up for these costs with sheer volume. It’s always a good idea to check with a jewelry store, on-line or in a mall, to see what return policy they enforce. Do not expect all jewelry stores to return your money, especially if you think you made a mistake and are now experiencing remorse over your purchase. Although some stores will allow at the least, a store credit for just such an occasion as long as the piece has not been altered or was not customized.

Most retailers are willing to work with their clients and this is usually a mark of good customer service. Stores that plan to be around for a long time hope to build good customer relationships e.g. they will try and accommodate their customer’s needs. Don’t be afraid, just do some research and it doesn’t hurt to ask questions. After all, that’s what customer service is all about.

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