If you watch commercial TV, you've seen commercials that sell products at, what appear to be, low prices. Some are legitimate, good quality products but others are junk. This page is here to help you avoid scams and avoid buying poor quality products. I won't try to tell you which products are good or bad. The suggestions here will allow you to determine if you're likely to be satisfied with the product that you intend to buy. These suggestions are also useful when trying to determine if an internet seller or distributor is reputable.
Using Search Engines:
Search engines are your best friend when it comes to checking for problems. Search for the item's name and include the terms scam, defective, over-charged, customer service... Do this in individual searches.
item name scam
item name defective
item name over-charged
item name reviews
If you see a significant number of buyers that have the same complaints, you should do a bit more research to see if you want to risk buying the product.
Checking Customer Service:
Customer service and returns are something you need to check, especially for more expensive items. Many times, the seller/distributor makes it nearly impossible to find a phone number for customer service. If you cannot find a phone number, that should make you suspicious. If you can find a phone number, before you make the purchase, call it to see if you can talk to a real person. If you don't like talking to service representatives that barely speak your language, ask to speak to someone at a call center in your country. This can be very important if you have problems.
Many times, you'll find that there are a lot of complaints about over-charges on the buyer's credit/debit card. There are banks that offer free or nearly free debit cards. Western Union is one example. If you call to buy the item, get a grand total BEFORE you give them your credit card number. When you get the total, transfer that amount (and maybe a few dollars more, to cover card fees) to the debit card and order with the pre-paid debit card. It will take a bit more effort but it prevents being charged 3-4 times what you expect to pay. Using a pre-paid debit card also prevents having your card number (the card number tied to your bank account) stored on a server that may not be well protected from hacking.
When buying with a debit/credit card, you should know that after you give them your card number, they can charge your card, even if you decide not to buy the item. If you're buying on the phone, don't give your card number until you've determined the total charges.
If you have a credit card AND a debit card and want to order with one of those cards AND you have significantly more in the debit card account than the cost of the item, use the credit card. Often, banks offer no protection for the debit cards.
One of the biggest scams is the 'get a second product free, just pay additional processing and handling'. For most small items, handling the second item means picking two of the items out of a bin on the shelf instead of one. This takes essentially no additional time or effort. Additional processing involves entering a 2 in the 'quantity' column instead of a 1. Not a big deal. The problem with the processing and handling charges is that they often add up to the same as if you'd have purchased two of the items with no special deal.
Buying from Alternate Sources:
Many of the items sold on TV can be purchased from other sellers. Many of them will be available on eBay. Buying on eBay, especially if you pay with PayPal may make it easier to get your money back if you are not satisfied with the produce. For lawn and garden items, a local home store (Lowes, Home Depot) may have the product in stock. If you want an opinion about the item, ask the store employee for that section of the store. They should be able to tell you if there has been a high return rate for that product. When buying locally, if you're not satisfied with it, you can easily return it.
Same Product with a Different Name:
Many items will be sold under multiple names. If, when searching for information on the product, you find similar products, search for information on those products as well. If all of the similar products have the same complaints, you need to take that into account when trying to decide if you really want to purchase the item.
Return Shipping Cost:
For virtually all mail-order items, the buyer will be responsible for ALL return shipping costs. Only when the seller specifically states that they will pay for return shipping can you expect the seller to cover return shipping charges. Even then, you should expect them to find a reason that they will not pay for return shipping.
If they state that they will reimburse you for shipping after you've returned it, ask them to email you a PRE-paid return shipping label. If the shipper that they choose doesn't have a convenient drop-off location, ask them to tell the shipper to pick it up at your home or business.
When you have to return an item, you should send it back with a trackable shipper (UPS, FedEx) or at least one with a delivery confirmation option. Some sellers will claim that they never received the item that you returned.