Thursday, November 04, 2010
The Internet has provided new opportunities, including the ability for individuals to hide easily behind a cloak of anonymity in cyberspace. In the case of online businesses, it has also enabled many to create barriers between customers and live agents, one of the frustrations of the modern consumer.
I have owned a business for 35 years in New York City. I am old school when it comes to customer service and believe a business that takes your money has an obligation to provide easy phone access and transparency. Many companies do pride themselves on this and advertise as such on their websites. Others, even though reputable such as Amazon, offer no phone number on their websites. There are sites that do nothing but provide customer service telephone numbers for large companies.
Unfortunately, even when businesses have a physical presence, a visit in person to the offending store is no guarantee of satisfaction. When it comes to unscrupulous merchants, New York City has had a long history as a place with a fair number of weasels who drastically overcharge, lie and cheat in a variety of ways. Electronic shops in Times Square are notorious. But, overcharging alone is not a crime, so let the buyer beware, even in the world of bricks and mortar.
I was recently in the market for a no contract cell phone. The phone options for this are often limited. An unlocked phone can be configured by the phone carrier, and just a short stroll away from Verizon and AT&T on Broadway in NoHo is the CeX (Complete Entertainment Exchange), a dealer who buys and sells unlocked cell phones (along with video games, DVDs,CDs, computers and other digital electronic products).* My single previous experience was when I had accompanied someone who purchased a unlocked iPhone.
So, before my visit to Verizon, I decided to quickly drop into CeX and peruse the wares. I was greeted with locked doors, gates down and a number of ominous looking documents duct-taped to the shop doors and windows: CLOSED BY COURT ORDER and RESTRAINING ORDER, which warned that "Removal of property from these premises is prohibited, and the following activity is prohibited: use and occupancy." Below that was the reason: "Criminal possession of Stolen Property." In looking at online reviews, some alleged that CeX knowingly traded in stolen laptops. Apparently the NYPD was also aware. Whether in cyberspace, Times Square or any place with the character of the Wild West, beware of horse traders :)
*I was surprised to learn that CeX is not a mom and pop operation but one of over 100 stores in the US, Canada and the UK, where the corporation was founded in 1992.