A little less than a month ago I bought what I thought was an 32G iPhone, unlocked, for worldwide use. Little did I know that I was buying a black-market item from an unscrupulous Amazon reseller.
I went to Amazon because the online Apple Store didn’t have any unlocked 32GB phones for sale, but since Apple does resell phones through the online merchant, I wasn’t surprised to see that there were some for sale “by Apple:”
After ordering the phone, a couple of days went by and I got an email from “Wireovia,” who apparently is an Amazon reseller. At first I thought it was spam (after all, who hasn’t received email from a company they’ve never heard of?”) but upon closer inspection of the Amazon email confirmation, it does indeed say “Sold by Wireovia.”
Hmmm… I went back to the original page (did it again today, in fact), and Wireovia exists only in a “More Buying Choices” side link.
The communication from Wireovia was adequate, as they informed me about shipping delays, but eventually I received the phone. It looked to be in good nick, so I packed the phone away to be taken on my England holiday to be give as a gift. Before my trip, though, I left positive feedback for Wireovia on Amazon’s site, indicating that I approved of their communication style, and left it at that.
When my friend opened the box, she attempted to place her SIM into the phone, only to find that it wouldn’t fit right. This was puzzling, but since I had already left to return to the US, I suggested that she go to the Apple Store in London to find out what was happening.
That’s when it all fell apart, figuratively speaking.
The Apple Store rep said that there was something dodgy about the phone, and boy were they right, they found out all kinds of bad mojo:
– Serial number on the SIM card tray doesn’t match the phone
– Serial number is registered in China
– Box is for a Canadian iPhone, 16GB, but the phone is 32GB
The Apple rep suggested that she plug her phone into her PC and connect it to iTunes, and then force it to re-install the phone software. Not surprisingly, this was a no go.
Must Tell Someone, But Who?
Amazon’s customer service is notoriously lame. Trying to get help that doesn’t fit into the pre-defined categories means, more often than not, that you are completely SOL.
I had sent her the information from Amazon about the order, and she contacted them to get a return address for the device. In the meantime, I tried to go back onto Amazon and change the rating to warn people about this bait-and-switch black market product and the company that sells it.
It turns out that you can only remove a rating. You cannot edit or change it. Nor, apparently, are you allowed to contact Amazon to tell them about this. The best thing you can do, after searching for .5 hour, is attempt to dispute:
Amazon.com wants every order to go as smoothly as possible, but in rare cases, disputes will occur. Since the sales agreement is between the buyer and the seller, Amazon.com cannot intervene in the event of a dispute. Buyers should contact the seller with questions about their order.
If you ordered from a seller, visit Your Account, then view the relevant order summary. On the resulting page, click the “Problem with this order?” button, and you’ll see a link to contact your seller.
So, of course, I tried that. Following the 1800 links back to the order, I scoured the page – any page related to the order – for a “Problem with this order?” button, with no joy. In short, there is no way (that I was able to find after an hour of looking) to notify either Amazon or Wireovia from Amazon’s website specific to this order.
None. Zip. Zilch.
Honestly, I have no real clue how to avoid them. As I mentioned above, Wireovia was nowhere to be found on the product page until I got the confirmation email. Up until that time – even through the purchase process – I had thought this was processed and fulfilled by Apple or Amazon direct (especially since it was an Amazon Prime order).
All I can say is that from now on, if I order anything from Amazon I’m going to look very carefully at the confirmation and make sure that the fulfillment is precisely who I thought it was going to be.
In any case, even if I can’t engage in a dialogue with Amazon about Wireovia’s black market bait-and-switch processes, I write about it here. Next stop – the Better Business Bureau.