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The Internet Bermuda Triangle

Purchasing over the Internet can be a wonderful thing. The dot coms are giving brick and mortar stores a run for their money. Many of the malls (so popular a couple of decades ago) are dead and gone because of the convenience of buying at home. When the Internet stores do screw up, however, watch out. It’s not a pretty picture and solutions to problems may not come easily. Take my purchase of an air conditioner, for example. Here in the Valley September is usually the hottest month of the year, and our main 15000 BTU unit was malfunctioning. I, therefore, looked around the net for a replacement. At about that time Walmart.com announced wonderful Labor Day price reductions. I bit. They had the brand I was looking for reduced from $530 to $470 and I ordered it. It arrived the Saturday before Labor Day. The installation instructions were pitiful but I soldiered on and had the unit in the window by day’s end. The fan in it was so badly out of balance, however, it shook the whole wall. I went back on line and told Walmart.com I was returning the defective unit and wanted a replacement. The page wouldn’t let me request a replacement. It seems that (like Amazon) Walmart.com includes sale items originating from other sellers in their Internet community. Since the unit had come from Electronic Express in Nashville, I could only request a refund (and not a replacement) on line. I did so. I could then take the unit out of the window, repackage it, and take it to my local Walmart store which would handle the shipping to Nashville. I therefore went out to a local store to buy cloth tape to secure the package I was returning. On Labor Day I took the package (which weighed well over a hundred pounds) to the Walmart store. They took it off my hands and gave me a tracking number so I could follow the package’s trip back to Nashville. Meanwhile the temperature was around 95 degrees and we badly needed air conditioning. I tried the tracking number several times. It didn’t work. So I called customer service at the local Walmart to find out what was happening. They called back to request a reference number which I gave them. They never called back with tracking information. At this point I first emailed and then called Electronic Express. I told ...

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