Ask Stacy: My Online Purchase Was a Rip-Off — Now What?

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Empty wallet
pathdoc /

Welcome to “Ask Stacy,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers. You can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

If you’re not typically a video watcher, give it a try. These videos are short and painless, and you’ll learn something valuable. But if you can’t deal with video, no problem: Just scroll down this page for the full transcript of the video, as well as some reader resources.

Today’s question is about what to do when an online purchase goes bad.

It’s happened to all of us. We don’t get what was promised, or sometimes we don’t get anything at all. Here’s how to prevent it from happening, and exactly what to do if it happens anyway.

For more information on this topic, check out “7 Ways to Guard Your Wallet — and Identity — When Shopping Online” and “5 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Shopping Online.” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the words “online shopping” and find plenty of information on just about everything relating to this topic.

Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript.

Don’t want to watch? Here’s what I said in the video

Hello, everyone, and welcome to your money Q&A question of the day. I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and this question is brought to you by, serving up the best in personal finance news and advice since 1991.

Let’s get right to our question. It comes from Davy. Davy says:

“I ordered some shoes online. Well, not only did they send the wrong shoes, but they’re knockoffs. I emailed the site like five times. There’s no response, and that’s the only contact info there is on the site. It says the place is based in Paris. I paid with a credit card. What can I do to get my $120 back?”

Here’s a lesson we all need to learn. Before you buy anything online, look at the website. Do they have a physical address? Where is it? Do they have a phone number? If the only information is an email address, that’s not a good sign. Also, before you shop, look for reviews. It only takes a few seconds. Simply type the name of the store into your favorite search engine, along with the word, “reviews,” and see what comes up.

That doesn’t help Davy, but hopefully it will help prevent you from getting into a situation like Davy’s.

If you do find yourself unsatisfied with any purchase, online or off, here’s what to do.

First, when you’ve got a problem with a merchant — or anyone else for that matter — document everything you do. Record the time and date when you sent an email, when you made a phone call, when you sent a letter, as well as exactly what was said by both parties. This is critical if you want to be taken seriously in a dispute.

Second, always pay with a credit card. Always. The reason? With a credit card, your bank will step between you and the vendor and help you solve a problem. They won’t do this with a debit card.

If you don’t get satisfaction from your documented discussions with the merchant, simply call your bank — the number’s probably right on the back of your credit card — and tell them:

  • “I received inferior merchandise.”
  • “What was delivered is not what was promised.”
  • “I never got anything at all.”

Whatever the situation.

The card issuer will then have you file a formal written dispute. Shortly thereafter, your bank will likely go to the company, take the money out of that merchant’s bank account and refund it to you.

This is why it’s important to go to the vendor first and try to work out the problem. Don’t start with the bank.

When a bank reverses a merchant charge, it could really hurt (the merchant), because if they get enough of them, they could lose the ability to accept credit cards. And if you’re a web business, that means you’re out of business. So, merchants should be cooperative. But if the situation is truly just fraud, you might still get your money back.

Hope that answers your question, Davy. Let’s close today with our quote of the day. This is from Voltaire.

“Don’t think money does everything, or you’re gonna end up doing everything for money.”

Make it a profitable day and meet me right here next time!

Got a question you’d like answered?

You can ask a question simply by hitting “reply” to our email newsletter, just as you would any email in your inbox. If you’re not subscribed, fix that right now by clicking here. It’s free, only takes a few seconds, and will get you valuable information every day!

The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

Got any words of wisdom you can offer on today’s question? Share your knowledge and experiences on our Facebook page. And if you find this information useful, please share it!

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.