PanasonicDirect Complaint - Beware of shipping charges
If you order from PanasonicDirect on their website, be sure to watch the final status of your order to make sure they don't try to add on shipping charges later. It happened to me.
I ordered a new telephone and headset for my home office; we've had good luck with Panasonic electronics before, and it was one of the few two-line cordless phones that is compatible with my AT&T voice mail account (it shows a blinking light on the charging base when I have a voice mail, which I like), and it wasn't terribly expensive...$79.95 + $24.95 for the headset. My husband actually ordered it for me; he's better with shopping for the electronic gadgets than I am, and he was quite excited to get free shipping - something they called "UPS Next Day Regular," whatever that is. I've shipping with UPS many times, and I've never heard of it. But it was free, so I said good. I got the confirmation e-mail which showed the costs of both items, local sales tax, and zero for shipping. Saved a copy, which I always do. Contrary to what the confirmation e-mail said would happen, I never got any further e-mails saying my order had been shipped, or anything else from PanasonicDirect. So, I checked the order on their website, mostly to see when to expect delivery, so I could be home to sign for it. As it happened, my order was delivered that day, which was much sooner than I had expected it to arrive (usually free shipping is by slow boat to China).
To my surprise, the total charge on the website included a charge of $25.75 for shipping, which then increased the sales tax amount by $1.25 - a total of $27 more than the amount that was confirmed in the e-mail I received. I went ballistic, printed the page from the website, printed off my confirmation e-mail, and gave them to my husband. I told him he'd better call them, because if they got me on the phone, I was just going to lose my temper. He did so, explained to the CSR he spoke to what had happened--that I had been overcharged $27.00 for shipping, which according to my order confirmation was supposed to be free. She told him to fax both pages to her attention, and she would call back after she received them. He did so, and we were both thinking, "OK, we're getting somewhere!" She called back, and said there was nothing she could do about it, that my order had been shipped UPS 2nd Day Air, and that is what I was charged for. My husband said that was not what he had selected when he placed the order, that what he chose was free, and the order confirmation I received via e-mail proved it. He asked to speak to a supervisor, which he did. The supervisor he spoke to told him this: "There was a glitch on the website; the shipping option you selected should have shown a charge of $25.75. It should not have shown a charge of zero, and there is nothing we can do about it." My husband told the supervisor, "Oh, yes there is; I have an order confirmation that quite clearly states in black and white the shipping charge is zero. I'm sorry if there was a glitch on your website, but that is not my problem. I paid for this order with a credit card, and I am not going to pay for these charges, and I will be disputing them through my credit card company. And you can forget ever getting my business again."
I am an extremely savvy consumer when it comes to my knowledge of consumer credit laws; I have availed myself of them many times throughout my life, and I have never lost a dispute yet. That is because I document everything, save my receipts (especially for major purchases), and keep an eye on deadlines. The laws were enacted to protect consumers, and that is exactly what they do. If the consumer can show that the merchant was in the wrong, the merchant will lose, and the credit card company has to support the consumer. It's as simple as that.
So after the charges posted to my credit card account, I went to the credit card's website, and started the dispute process online, this past Sunday. I had to fax my supporting documentation to their dispute resolution center, and had to type a brief description of what had happened, and what I had done to try to resolve it with the merchant (they like you to try to resolve it first, but it's not a requirement). All I had to do was fax the copy of my confirmation e-mail showing zero shipping cost and the copy of the charge from PanasonicDirect's website showing the higher shipping charge. Complete documentation is a necessity in these cases.
By Monday morning, I had a response from the credit card company telling me they had opened the dispute case, and would be getting back to me as it progressed. By Monday evening, I had an answer from the credit card company. They said, "We have posted a credit to your account for $27.00 for the amount of the charge you are disputing. We have also charged this amount back to the merchant. We now consider this case closed. We thank you for contacting us to resolve the issue with the merchant."
By Tuesday, the credit had posted to my account. What really surprised me was that they said, "We now consider this case closed." Typically, how these things go is the credit card company posts a provisional credit to the customer's account, and a chargeback to the merchant's account, in order to give the merchant time to respond to the dispute (they have 30 days; the consumer has 60 days from the date the bill was received on which the disputed charge appears). The credit card company will typically wait for the merchant to respond, in case the customer's dispute is invalid. If it is, the charge comes back to the customer, and they have to respond, or pay up (another 30 days). If the merchant can't substantiate the charge, they eat it, and the customer prevails. And that's how I Win these things: I only dispute charges that I know FOR SURE are the fault of the merchant. If it's my fault, well then, it's my fault and I eat the charge.
So when the credit card company said, "We consider the case closed," I thought, "Wow, they looked at my documentation, decided, 'Yep, the customer was right, the order confirmation said zero for shipping, so the merchant couldn't just slap on a $27 charge for shipping, even if the customer did luck onto a computer glitch that she shouldn't have. We're not even going to give the merchant a chance to respond, we're just going to charge it back to them, and be done with it.'" So there!
It was only $27, but it's the principle of the thing, and it was also the arrogance of the customer service people. What they SHOULD have said was, "Why yes of course, you are absolutely right, zero means zero. We'll credit that amount to you right away, and we apologize for any inconvenience you were caused by having to call us." But no, they got snotty and said, "It was a glitch, and you shouldn't have gotten free shipping, and too bad, we're not going to fix it." Oh yeah? We'll just see about that. They not only lost $27 because of their attitude, they lost my business AND I'll let everyone I know know what jerks they are, and maybe they'll lose more business than mine.
That is also why I always make major purchases with a credit card. You pay by cash or check, and you are at the mercy of the merchant as to whether you will get a refund. You get a credit card company involved, and those consumer credit laws kick in, and you've got some leverage with unscrupulous merchants. It pays to know your rights; read the back of your billing statements. They are all disclosed there.
Thanks for letting me share my three cents' worth!