Note: In this blog post, I’m using the common WAHM acronym as a catch-all to include any type of work-from-home business.
I’m a Work-at-Home-Mom or WAHM. I don’t sew beautiful baby clothing or do wonderful things with beads and wires, but I do conduct business from home, and completing my work in a timely and professional manner is a priority for me. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from experience that not all WAHM’s operate in this fashion.
Online purchases that go sour play out something like this: Buyer orders and pays for item. Seller promises a turnaround of a few weeks. Buyer requests an update and seller explains that life has gotten in the way (“I was sick” or “My car broke down and I haven’t been able to mail packages” or “My serger needs repairs.”). Seller becomes very difficult to communicate with (no response, delayed response, etc.) It may take many more weeks, or even months, before the item (or promised refund) arrives. In the worst cases, the buyer is left with nothing.
How do you avoid a situation like this?
Buy from sites with a trusted rating system. Etsy, Hyena Cart and Ebay are examples of sites that allow you to view feedback from other customers before choosing to deal with a seller. If the business has a Facebook page, look to see if there are any customer recommendations, fan photos or other signs of positive feedback for orders received. Check wall posts and comments for red flags like customers asking “Where’s my order?” or complaining “No one is answering my emails!”
Pay attention to time. If the seller quotes a turnaround of many weeks (for non-custom items), consider whether you are willing to wait that long. It’s also a possible indicator that this is a WAHM who drags her feet. If the item is in stock and paid for, there’s no reason it should take weeks to get it in the mail.
Get proof of delivery. Find out before you buy if the seller will provide tracking or delivery confirmation.
Keep your correspondence. Save emails, Facebook messages or other correspondence with the seller before, during and after the transaction is complete. This is important if you need to file a claim later on.
Use Paypal or a credit card to purchase. Paypal’s Purchase Protection covers online purchases that are not received, damaged or not as described. However, there are exceptions. While Paypal policy seems to indicate the custom-made items are not covered, this response from a Paypal representative suggests that a buyer will be covered if a custom-made item is simply not received at all. Paypal disputes must be opened within 45 days of your purchase to initiate the claim process. Paypal is very favorable to buyers when they can show an item hasn’t been received or is not as described. Another option is to use a credit card if you’re ordering a custom-made item from a WAHM. That way, you can use your chargeback power through the credit car issuer to recover lost funds.