Buying From Strangers Over the Internet
One minor, thorny problem: the overhead lights in the kitchen have been a pain. Slender double neon bulbs, they push into slots, which is easy.
These bulbs start flashing brightly on and off to announce they are sick and going to die.
Changing them is a bitch. With adjoining lights right next to one another in the overheads, you have to break off the glass bulbs and then jiggle the base up and down while pulling at the same time.
The Original Bulbs
I’m pretty sure that 22 years ago these exotic bulbs were made by Philips or Sylvania.
At various times over the years, I ordered replacement bulbs.
When they arrived, I looked at the boxes. The pictures matched the bulbs in the ceiling so I put them in storage without checking the manufacturer.
The last batch was of ProLumes — a brand I never heard of.
The bulbs worked okay.
Recently looking for replacements I Googled ProLumes 18W-D. A ton of suppliers turned up — folks I never heard of. Some of the sites had nothing like what I was looking for. A sampling:
- Myriad offers from eBay.
One of the purveyors on eBay offered 1 bulb for $10.98. The sales message:
Married to my high school sweetheart for 32 years. Been in liquidations as long. Started selling on eBay Feb 02 in order to expand our market. We love selling Online!
I finally settled on Atlanta Light Bulbs. They seemed to have real people on their website and looked legit.
I placed an order for 3 bulbs and gave my credit card.
My card was hit for $12.30 plus $9.95 S&H for a total of $22.25.
Atlanta’s Bait-‘n’-switch Disclaimer
Not comfortable with these people, I went back onto the Atlanta Light Bulbs site and found the following:
Cross Reference Items:
The term “Cross Reference Item” is an item that is an equivalent or an alternate brand that may be substituted due to stock or item availability. It is used by Atlanta Light Bulbs to advise the buyer that they are purchasing an item that is coming from our cross reference database. Atlanta Light Bulbs has amassed a large database of part numbers that are equal in use and functionality. Many items in our Cross Reference database are discontinued, not readily available or have been upgraded since their production. Atlanta Light Bulbs chooses the brand lamp you (the buyer) will be receiving. Cross Reference Items are used when certain items are not available due to stock availability. Please note that many brands are not available for the displayed “Cross reference Item” price. Atlanta Light Bulbs will substitute items that are of equivalent function, quality and similarity of use. Atlanta Light Bulbs has the right to send you (the buyer) the brand that Atlanta Light Bulbs has chosen to be the appropriate substitute for the item you (the buyer) have purchased. If you (the buyer) would like a specified brand, it is your responsibility to contact Atlanta Light Bulbs to check which brand you will be receiving, please contact us at: http://www.AtlantaLightBulbs.com/ecart/mform.asp
[Emphasis mine. —DH]
The first line line is pure B.S.
"... or an alternate brand that may be substituted due to stock or item availability."
Anything is available in stock if the merchant cares about quality, and winning the trust of a customer or prospect.
The point of bait-‘n’-switch is buying low, selling high, maximizing the mark up and hoping the mark (customer) won’t notice.
Imagine Bait-'n'-switch Everywhere
Supposing Wackadoodle Light Bulbs got into the small appliance business.
I order a KitchenAid® — Professional 600 Stand Mixer from Wackadoodle for $449.95 and they send me a KitchieAngie-Wah-Dee-Poo mixer made in China for $449.95.
And let’s say I don’t notice the brand and keep it. Wackadoodle has made a usurious amount of money on a dishonest transaction.
If I complain, Wackadoodle can point to the disclaimer on the website:
“Wackadoodle will substitute items that are of equivalent function, quality and similarity of use. Wackadoodle has the right to send you (the buyer) the brand that Wackadoodle has chosen to be the appropriate substitute for the item you (the buyer) have purchased.”
I spent 3 days brooding about doing business with Atlanta Bulbs whose business philosophy is avowed bait-‘n’-switch.
I did not want to get the wrong bulbs and go through the hassle of returning them.
The order arrived 3 days later, and Atlanta sent what was ordered.
I won’t do business with known bait-‘n’-switchers.
Takeaways to Consider
- Question for the FTC: Is it legit to bait-‘n’-switch if a disclaimer deep in the website says, “We reserve the right to bait-‘n’-switch?”
- However, as much I despise dealing with strangers on the Internet, the time saved beats hell out of driving all over the county looking for esoteric light bulbs.
- It’s probably better to buy online from people you know and have had good experiences with.
- If you are a newbie, you might want to post positive reviews and testimonials to enhance your cred.
- An ironclad, personally signed guarantee of absolute satisfaction is stronger than an admission you are in the bait-‘n’-switch business.
- The perfect, unbeatable Guarantee: “I do not consider a sale complete until the goods are worn out and customer still satisfied.” —L.L. Bean, 1916
- Visiting an actual store and picking up the actual merchandise is still a pretty good idea.
- WWW should stand for for Wild West Web.
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