With Christmas looming and postal services variable, we at Chip Chick have decided to look at four major geek gift providers to see what kind of service they offer the harried customer – how easy is their checkout, what’s their packaging like, how good is delivery – and how do they handle returns?
Without any further ado, here’s the Chip Chick consumer shopping guide that you need to bookmark this Christmas.
The Product: Four retro iPhone cases in the same price bracket from four different online merchants.
The Stores: Perpetual Kid, FredFlare, ThinkGeek, Gadgets and Gear
The Evaluation: Ordering, Delivery Times, Packaging
The Problem: Four cases, each arrive with a *scratch*. How responsive is the customer service team about refunds/ replacements?
The Timing: Black Friday- it might not be Christmas, but it’s a heavy duty online shopping day.
• Nintendo style iPhone 4 case, ($12.95 at time of order)
• Site a little confusing to navigate, lots of products not much cohesion in going through it all.
• Payment layout page is a little confusing to navigate.
• Many payment options available – thumbs up!
• Allowed you to see shipping cost options before filling out details.
• No email confirming order- all other brands sent one within an hour.
Delivery and Packaging
• Package arrived within 4 days.
• iPhone case packaged inside a padded white envelope.
• Packet contained invoice and details about returns/ future purchases.
• No obvious logo on envelope to indicate who it was from.
• Cheapest ground shipping, $6.95.
Refund and Replacements
• Emailed the info/complaint address about the ‘damaged’ iPhone case.
• Received a return email offering me a replacement within an hour.
• Was asked to provide an image of damaged product.
• Provided image and then the refund was arranged immediately.
Gadgets and Gear Online Shopping Overview
• Great customer service and dealt with claim in a friendly courteous manner.
• Product came in good time and in nice condition.
• Multiple payment options offered.
• Slightly clunky site to navigate, but priced very competitively.
• iPhone 4 Calculator case ($12 at time of order)
• Simple ordering process.
• Multiple ways to pay- extra points for PayPal option – who else feels PayPal is like fake ‘free’ money?
• Email receipt confirming order within an hour of ordering
• Option to get a gift receipt with purchase.
• Option to pick up delivery from store (one based in NYC).
• Cheapest shipping is UPS ground for $7.95.
• Currently if you order over $50, shipping is free.
Delivery and Packaging
• The package arrived within 4 days of ordering.
• Packaged in a large cardboard box with lots of tissue paper
• Clearly labelled FredFlare with cute heart logo on box.
• OMG, what a BIG box!
Returns and Complaints
• The packaging included a form about how to return an unwanted or damaged item
• Email about DIDN’T mention returns but provided a URL link to FAQ which included return information.
• The form included a section about damaged goods and asked for item to be sent back to them, and that money/exchange would be processed within 10-14 days. Which I thought was abit too long for a refund.
• No response from FredFlare email for 3 days, and called their customer service number.
• Spoke to a real person straightaway who apologized and arranged to send me a replacement rightaway. Within 10 minutes I had a new tracking order in my email inbox.
FredFlare Online Overview
• Great customer service when you speak to a real person, not so great via email.
• Lack of clarification on return postage for defective items.
• Extremely easy ordering service with many options.
• Very quick delivery.
• Time spent trying to get a refund/replacement: 2/3 days via email, 10 minutes on the phone.
• iPhone 4 casette case ($10.49 at time of ordering)
• Lovely site to browse, but ordering form was messy and confusing.
• Once placed order spammy popups appear trying to direct you to other places (not so good).
• Payment option is credit card only- NO PAYPAL.
• Shipping prices vary which is great.
Packaging and Delivery
• Came very quickly.
• Packaged in large padded envelope clearly labelled Perpetual Kid.
• Package included a free cutesy monster toy to play with- a nice little touch.
Refunds and Replacement
• Filled in online form to complain about ‘damaged’ iPhone case.
• Received a response from customer service via email within one hour, offering me a replacement.
• Agreed on replacement, and then had an email apologizing that they were out of stock on that product and a refund was issued.
• Refund did not include shipping cost however, so was left around $5 out of pocket.
Perpetual Kid Online Shopping Overview
• I appreciated how many options of postage there is.
• Site offered a lot of great products and was nice to navigate.
• Order page could have been better presented and more payment options was desirable.
• Responsive customer service in regards to defective product, just wish they’d refunded the postage as well.
• Loved that they included an extra toy with purchase- these little touches really do make a difference.
• Etch a Sketch iPhone 4 case (12.99 at time of ordering)
• Offered multiple options to pay including PayPal.
• Clean site design made it very easy to navigate and find products required.
• Had an email confirmation once order was placed.
Delivery and Packaging
• Packaging was a simple padded envelope with no obvious markings.
• Product was packaged in a small cardboard box, which looked nice and is very gift-able.
• Product arrived four days later than every other order- despite choosing the cheapest shipping option for each brand.
• Multiple shipping price options ranging from $5.84 (3-4 business days) to $22.84 (next day) which was nice to have.
• Item came with a free ThinkGeek sticker.
Returns and Replacements
• Email from Think Geek contained a link to the return options which was helpful.
• Couldn’t use form though as was not considered ‘registered’ due to the way I’d ordered. So had to contact Think Geek via their online help chat.
• Online help a real person who was very helpful and arranged a replacement product within 5 minutes for me, with their apologies.
Think Geek Online Shopping Overview
• Nice site to use, and a very easy checkout experience.
• Liked the variety in shipping price-points, but frustrated this iPhone case took longer than the others to arrive.
• Helpful customer service, who dealt with queries promptly and quickly.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and helpful all the customer service representatives were: emails were answered very quickly and problems resolved almost immediately. In every case, I spoke/emailed a real person, and even the stores that were slow to respond via email were very helpful when reached on the phone. I felt like my custom was valued and that a real effort was made to make me happy.
In terms of pricing and delivery, PerpetualKid were very impressive, offering the lowest shipping prices , combined with a low rate for their iPhone 4 case. I also loved the cute toy that was included with the case, and the big well named envelope was very exciting when it came. Their customer service rep was also very helpful, though they did lose points for not refunding me the postage for the ‘damaged’ product, though they would have replaced it if there had been one in stock.
In second place I would have to say Gadgets and Gear, the phone case arrived quickly, the price was good and they were the only company who asked for proof of damaged good- and were happy to accept a photo, rather than necessitate me shipping it back to them.
Overall, I feel that pricing on shipping could be a little lower for all brands, but that their customer response team can’t be faulted, and you need to go with which company has the exact product you are after.
*Not many iPhone cases were harmed in the creation of this article.
** This feature was reached as an anonymous ‘consumer’ with companies unaware they were dealing with journalists to create an unbiased assessment of how they deal with consumer complaints.
*** Note: Some postage rates/prices may change because of the season- it may cost more to order with Christmas so close now, and some brands are offering free shipping/ money off coupons which will adjust the price of the order.