Online commerce has changed the way we buy all sorts of things, from music to DVDs to clothing and even whitegoods. I wasn’t that surprised the other day to see an eBay advertisement at a bus stop suggesting that you check out the quality of a particular thing at Westfield — and then buy it online. I’m sure the Westfield folks aren’t too thrilled at that prospect, but there’s equally no doubt that it happens.
What do you do for products that aren’t sold at your local Westfield, or if your local Westfield (or similar shopping centre) are too far away to make it feasible? There’s also whole ranges of product only available online — most Apps for smartphones, certain brands of consumer electronics (such as those offered by Kogan or Millennius )
There’s always word of mouth, which has value — as long as you know somebody with the product you’re after. Online reviews can be good as well, although it pays to know if a particular site has a bias towards a particular product or style before interpreting a review. Product reviewing is a big part of what I do day to day as a journalist across a number of publications, and I’ll always try to remain looking at the big picture, but the practical reality is that no review is 100% objective.
Bear in mind also that for goods sold in Australia by Australian companies, the same consumer protection laws cover your purchases. The laws vary a little by state and for some products, but generally speaking if the goods you get aren’t what they were stated to be, you should be entitled to a refund or replacement, and your point of call should be the merchant you purchased from. They may suggest you seek warranty from the original manufacturer, and sometimes that’s wise, but as the sales point of contact they’re still liable if the manufacturer can’t be found or won’t live up to the supposed warranty.
There are bargains out there online, but equally there can be flat out duds. One of the more amusing ones that came to my attention recently was conducted deliberately to draw out a dud; in this case American Song/Poem companies that will create music for your compositions for a fee. The folks behind alternative label Dual Plover sent these companies a bunch of classic Aussie rock anthems to do their worst to, choosing classics from Skyhooks, Rose Tattoo, and Australian Crawl. The results aren’t exactly quality-inspired, and at least at the time of writing you could download them free from here: http://dualplover.com/ozrock.php.
Personally, I’ll never be able to listen to Cold Chisel’s “Cheap Wine” quite the same way again.