Practical Ecommerce

The Shopping Experience: Poorly Described Item Disappoints

Editor’s Note: “The Shopping Experience” is an occasional feature whereby we purchase an actual product from an ecommerce merchant, and then critique the process. For this installment, contributor describes his attempt to purchase a book.

I was searching for a book recommended to me by a friend called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It was, he told me, going to explain how to get rich. Google Product Search found the book for a very low price, $1.23, at Half.com.

Private Sellers, Great Reviews

Half.com was founded in 1999 and is now owned and powered by eBay. It is a marketplace for individuals and companies to sell discounted items. Most items for sale there are books, CDs, movies, and video games with the website taking a commission of each sale. The seller is supposed to ship an item within three business days. Each seller, much like eBay, has reviews and ratings from previous customers.

As I came to Half.com via Google Product Search, the navigation I was presented revolved primarily around the various choices for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, with the option that had appeared in the search engine at the top. My seller, bwibook, had a lot of reviews and a high quality score, not to mention a purple flying star, which seems to have some sort of positive attribute. I read some of bwibook’s reviews and decided to order.

Product page from Half.com for "Rich Dad, Poor Dad."

Product page from Half.com for “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”

Simple Checkout

The checkout page at Half.com was easy to interpret, and simple in design. Happily, the shipping charge was displayed, as was my total price, before I had to enter my credit card (if one has a credit card associated with their Amazon.com account, it can be used at Half.com, as well). The $3.99 shipping was via USPS and is standard for single-item book purchases.

Pre-checkout page from Half.com for "Rich Dad, Poor Dad."

Pre-checkout page from Half.com for “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”

Email Confirmation and Shipping

Within seconds of my purchase, I had a confirmation email. No tracking number was included, but of course the shipping method was USPS media rate, which does not offer tracking. I never received confirmation that the item had shipped, however, and media mail can also take a long time. After eight business days from purchase, I began to worry that something had gone wrong. While the item finally arrived on the ninth business day, the envelope was very, very small for a book.

Not What Was Described

This is where the disappointment – and humor – began. I opened the envelope, and sure enough, it was a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but it was a miniature copy! I looked back at my receipt and to the screen capture I’d gathered for this article. Nowhere did it mention that it was a miniature, abridged version of the book. This is just false advertising. The blame cannot go directly to Half.com, for it would be impossible for it to police every item. But I am very disappointed in my seller, bwibook, who was ultimately responsible for the description of the item.

Photo of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book, as purchased.

Photo of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book, as purchased.

Half.com is probably a good place to shop for bargains on both new and used items. However, in the case of my purchase of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and in spite of the fact that bwibook has tens of thousands of reviews (most of them positive) and a very high rating, I essentially got taken. Of course, there are ways to return the book, but it’s more of a hassle than the $5.22 would be worth. My other recourse will be a negative review for bwibook via Half.com’s built-in reviewing system.

Jeff Muendel

Jeff Muendel

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Comments ( 5 )

  1. Pamela Hazelton May 6, 2010 Reply

    Product descriptions are so important. Yes, you want to entice the shopper to buy, but you need to be very clear about the product. There’s no such thing as too much detail when it comes to describing what customers will receive.

  2. Armando Roggio May 6, 2010 Reply

    Great post. Funny little book.

  3. Louis Camassa May 7, 2010 Reply

    Jeff-looks like Half.com lived up to their name; you got half the price, for half the product!

    Funny article!

  4. RogerCVC May 11, 2010 Reply

    My new book " Upper Middle Class Dad/ Lower Middle Class Dad" will be published in the same format. :-D

  5. Alex Mulin May 12, 2010 Reply

    > My other recourse will be a negative review for bwibook via
    > Half.com’s built-in reviewing system.

    That’s the best you can do.
    E.g. I use past reviews to get the best idea about cons of any product I am going to buy via Internet.