What if I buy a faulty product?

Have you ever been searching endlessly for something and you finally find it online? The PERFECT THING - Hooray!

But hang on. These guys who’s website you’re on. You’ve never even heard of them. Hmm could be dodgy!

Buying online from a business you've never heard of or had any previous dealings with can be a bit daunting right?

What if you order it and it doesn’t arrive. Or what if it comes and it’s faulty? Will you get a replacement without a fight?

Or maybe you’ve been at a Christmas Fair and you see the ideal pressie for your awkward uncle - fantastic!

But then you wonder what will happen if the product turns out to be faulty? The stall will be gone tomorrow. How on earth would you get it replaced or your money back then?

These are very legitimate concerns. We all have them. Yes, even me - the owner of an online store and regular exhibitor at fairs up and down the country. When I’m ordering online or if I have a chance to sneak off and do some shopping at a fair, the very same thoughts run through my head.

Without a 'bricks and mortar' store to pop into and get a feel for who you're buying from, it's tough.

Will you be looked after if there's a problem?

Is it even a real company?

This week I had the pleasure of getting to meet up again with one of my customers, Nic. 

Nic had contacted me to let me know that something she’d bought at a workplace event a few weeks prior, seemed to be faulty.

I absolutely hate it when that happens. It’s the worst thing when you sell a product that turns out to be faulty but for me it’s thankfully very rare. Let’s face it, it's going to happen occasionally to even the very best of retailers. The most important thing is how that business puts things right.

After a bit of online chat about the best (and quickest!) way for me to get a replacement to Nic and collect the faulty one, the most obvious solution was clear. As Nic lived relatively close by, an (albeit) last minute invitation was extended to Nic to a little pop up shopping event I was hosting at home the following day.   

So Nic got her replacement product along with the chance of a glass of wine and another wee chance to browse the Christmas collection - happy customer, happy me! We checked her new product together and it was working perfectly - phew! I mean she knows EXACTLY where I live now! 

If you’re shopping online or at a fair this Christmas and you have any concerns about what might happen if your goods turn out to be faulty, there are some simple things you can do at the buying stage that should minimise the risk of poor aftercare.

Best practice online shopping

While you can't visit a physical store to suss them out, you can certainly have a good root around a company's website.

1. Check out the ‘about us’ or ‘about me’ page. Learn a bit more about the business and their values. 

2. Is there a clear returns policy on the website? Unlike Nic, you may live nowhere near the business. How do they plan to handle returns/faulty products?

3. Don't you feel much better about buying from someone or using their services when someone else can recommend them? Vouch for them? Are there any customer testimonials on the website?

4. Are there clear ‘contact us’ details? Phone number? Email address? Postal address?

5. Is there up to date content on the website? Recent blog articles perhaps? 

Best practice shopping at a fair

1. Don’t leave the stall without a way to contact the business afterwards. Does the stall owner have printed materials available with contact information, website address, Facebook page etc? Not all businesses have printed carrier bags. Will you remember who you bought from?

2. Google them quickly on your phone. Do they have a website? Any online reviews? 

3. Check if they have an active social media account (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc) with recent posts and customer interactions.

4. Pay with a credit card if you want extra protection. Most stall holders take card payment these days and will be able to either text or email you a receipt on the spot. If they offer to send a receipt electronically, take it. Don’t worry, new regulations ensure they can’t use your phone number or email address gained this way for marketing purposes.

Businesses who genuinely care about the experience of their customers will demonstrate this to you at every opportunity.

  • In the way they behave in person
  • In the information they provide online

Related content: Did your customer service offer a moment of truth today?

If you're unlucky enough to be sold a faulty product, putting things right quickly and effectively is just one way great businesses demonstrate their integrity and ethics to you, their valued customer.

Yes, there's always the Consumer Goods Act 2015 to fall back on but who needs that stress! Whether you're shopping online or at a fair this Christmas, seek out businesses who, one way or another, actively display their intent to create great customer service before and during the sales stage and you're making the best buying choice right there.

I'd love to know your thoughts. What tells you a business is likely to give great aftercare? Please leave a comment below.



Written by Lynn McMurray

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