Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not-So-Sweet Shopping

Sugar is my new love. At just five months old, the miniature Goldendoodle with shaggy blonde hair and big brown eyes has stolen my heart. (Not a “designer dog” aficionado? A Goldendoodle is a combination of a poodle and golden retriever.)

Sugar has also chewed a hole in my wallet.

New-puppy expense goes far beyond the inevitable veterinarian bills. There’s the succession of collars, each bigger than the one bought two weeks before. And the expensive dog food, the training treats, the training class, and of course the accessories. I have bought Sugar a bandana for fall, one for Christmas, her very own blanket, and a toy box full of dog playthings.

While most of my shopping has been at my favorite PETCO store, a few items have come from online sources. The most recent Internet shopping experience, though, left me wanting. I got an e-mail from “In the Company of Dogs,” which advertised special holiday savings. When I checked out the merchandise, I saw a collar I simply had to have. (It was a pink-and-orange tropical design, perfect for my buff little blond with the surfer curls.) Reduced from $18.99 to $12.99, with free shipping to boot, the collar sailed into my cart and off to checkout I went. Everything went without a hitch, until I clicked “confirm purchase.”

At that moment, a receipt appeared on my screen—for $18.99, plus shipping, rather than the reduced price of $12.99, sans shipping. I sat there, not knowing what to do. The purchase was made, the company had my credit-card information, and the price was wrong.

I had no choice but to call the company, wait through interminable recorded messages and offers, hold while the customer-service staff served what the taped voice described as an “overload of calls,” and gradually become more frustrated as the minutes ticked by. Finally, I got my live person, explained the situation, and he looked up the purchase. He said, “But that collar is $18.99.” And I had to point him to the Web site where the collar was clearly under the sale items and reduced to $12.99. His response was, “Hmm.”

We finally got the mess straightened out, I was charged the correct price, and I have since confirmed that the reduced amount was what ultimately appeared on my credit-card statement. But I was left feeling very dissatisfied that the retailer couldn’t do a better job of integrating information. In this day and age, when sales are few and far between, retailers can’t afford to make these kinds of pedestrian mistakes.

Don’t get me wrong; Sugar loves her new collar. But her next one will come from someone else.

—Katherine Field

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