The fine art of negotiation or not. :)

Wow. The internet is indeed the great equalizer. Yesterday, I penned a post about shady business practices. In that post, I levelled my ire at AWS Convergence Technologies, makers of the WeatherBug software. I had purchased a subscription to WeatherBug Plus and I almost instantly had buyers’ remorse. To make matters worse, activating the Plus part of the software was taking longer than advertised. The last straw was the deafening silence on AWS’s part in responding to my pleas to look into my activation issues. Then, I decided to obtain a refund and got no word. For the gory details, check the other post out. The purpose of this post is to talk about what I learned from this experience (from the consumer’s standpoint) and highlight what went wrong.

What happened: In the end, I was able to get an amicable resolution to the matter of my refund. This didn’t happen instantly. My first email to AWS was about the activation issues I was having and no response was received. My fraud radar went up and I followed that email up with one requesting a refund. When I received no answer, I instantly began researching online for any history of weird behavior with WeatherBug. To their credit, I didn’t find anyone who had been given the run-around like I felt I was being given. In fact, this should have told me that, maybe, just maybe they were under-staffed or something. However, I have had a few close calls with online purchases and I take my finances rather seriously. After some more email-fu and a couple of calls, I sent a email missive laden with phrases like “good faith effort” and “legal system”. 🙂

Seeing results: When my best effort at sounding serious didn’t raise any responses, I blogged about the problem on Jane Talks Tech!. My intent in blogging about it was to see if I would get anyone online to sympathize with me or even give me a hint as to what the deal with AWS could be. Well, in less than 24 hrs after sending the strongly-worded email and publishing my post about the saga, I was contacted via my blog by a representative from AWS. According to the representative at AWS I spoke with, they were ‘backed up’. I can understand that and I probably over-reacted a little bit in thinking the worst of them. Nevertheless,  you should know that AWS Convergence Technologies does have humans in charge  who care (:)) and they are actively monitoring the intarwebs which is why I believe this case finally got resolved. Ultimately, some lessons for consumers and sellers alike are:

  1. If you say in a legally binding document (like a terms of use)that you will respond to an email or inquiry, please do so or set your auto-responder to alert the affected party that you are, perhaps, experiencing high call/email volume and will be on backlogged. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away (this piece of advice is more for me). 🙂
  2. For consumers/buyers, if the seller doesn’t get in touch with you, don’t panick just yet. If you did your due diligence i.e. researched their conditions for offering a replacement or refund, you should know how long to let the sellers “slide” before really hammering their email servers with threat-laden emails (*cough* Jane, take heed *cough*). Still, if you have been burned by online retailers before, frustration is understandable.
  3. Records, records, records. Because of this case, I think I will start using my Grand Central number more often in my dealings online. I love the recording calls feature! The sellers already have this system set-up (remember: this call may be recorded or monitored for quality assurances?) so why not have your own records? As soon as I edit the sensitive bits out of our conversation, I’ll put it up on my site. I didn’t need to initiate an fraud investigations in this case because AWS is honestly legitimate and the rep. was genuine. However, in an earlier case with an online retailer, I had remembered to use my VISA credit card and after showing the bank some emails I’d sent, they OK’d the chargeback.
  4. For consumers, I seriously urge you to revisit using your VISA Debit card for online purchases. This tip is unrelated to my issue with AWS, but I found out the hard way that online purchases of “intangible” objects like subscriptions aren’t covered, apparently. I had attempted to challenge the transaction with AWS under the basis of “merchandise/services received not what was ordered” (which is a mighty stretch, I know) or “have not received services” which was more than likely to fly as I hadn’t been able to activate the software. However, I was told by my bank respresentative that my case wasn’t applicable since it wasn’t an item that was mailed. Beats the heck out of me. Anyhow, the point of this fourth tip is: use your credit card (Mastercard, VISA, etc) for online purchases with afford stronger protections for consumers.

The end: I should see the handsome amount of $19.95 in my bank account pretty soon. The truth is, I suspect if I didn’t hear from them, I might have given up and resigned myself to never seeing my money again. Then again, I’m rather unpredictable and I might have pushed this to its limits. Call me weird, I take pride in it. 🙂 With that, I call this case: closed.

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