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

You order something online and it either doesn't measure up, or you don't get it at all. Here's how to prevent it and what to do when it happens.

Ask Stacy: My Online Purchase Was a Rip-Off — Now What? Photo by pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

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 MoneyTalksNews.com, 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!

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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.

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

Stacy Johnson
Stacy Johnson @moneytalksnews
I'm the founder of Money Talks News and have spent the last 40+ years in the personal finance trenches. I'm a CPA, author of a few books and multiple Emmy recipient. I'm ... More

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