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Has anybody seen this scenario before?.
What can we do in future to stop anybody else doing it?
We're still considering what to do. I suspect that we're going to try and "front it out" and refuse to give him a refund or send another item (value around £70) because we KNOW that we shipped the two items. I also suspect that he'll go to his credit card company and we'll end up with a chargeback.
What is ethically correct....is the customer always right even when he's trying to defraud you?
Even if you can show you shipped both items, though, you still have a dilemma. Being a jerk, this person will no doubt threaten to tell the world how bad you are on his PR7 blog, e-mail 1000 of his closest friends, and post in every discussion forum. My policy, if the customer absolutely refused to listen to reason, was to grit my teeth and reship the item (within financial reason), and flag that person for no more orders. Sort of liked getting mugged - you give the mugger your wallet to avoid serious injury or death... If you sell mail order, every now and then you get mugged. :(
(The other possibility, though remote, is that you shipped the product but someone removed it before the customer got to the box. Could be someone at UPS, a neighbor who saw the box left unattended, etc. Very unlikely, but I've seen it happen with expensive merchandise. If you buy a camera from a specialty mail order, you'll notice that the shipper is probably only identified by initials - that's to avoid tempting people who might have access to the box before it reaches you.)
As far as it being "lost" somewhere during the shipping process, that is always a remote possibility. I worked at UPS for a couple years and boxes do get broken open occasionally. I know of a couple instances where boxes were broken into and products were stolen but that would rarely be the case. If they received the box at all there probably wasn't anything stolen from it.
Being a jerk, this person will no doubt threaten to tell the world how bad you are on his PR7 blog
Hey, I've seen this happen to a site before, then others catch on, and next thing they know they go from a PR4 to a PR6 from bad word of mouth. Which in the end was pretty good for the site as they moved from nowhere to the top of the serps.
Hawkgirl : It's also a retail shop so no check on inventory levels I'm afraid
Rogerd / Mikemike : I'll check with Parcel Force, our shippers. We don't have to weigh the parcels, I guess we've got a contract that allows us to send all parcels under a certain weight for a single price but it's just possible that they weigh them.
All : You're right, we've been mugged. We can refuse to supply the guy again but that doesn't ease the hurt, nor does it stop him telling all his mates about his latest little scam.
golden rule no1 - only ship to the cardholder's address
golden rule no2 - require a signature from the customer for the delivery
having the cardholder's signature can also help prevent chargebacks.
if you don't follow these simple rules, you leave yourself wide open to fraud. admittedly there may be problems with this in some countries like the USA where people don't have secure mailboxes in which a "collect your package from our depot" card can be left if nobody is at home to sign for the delivery, but there are very few problems that cannot be overcome with a bit of thought.
you and a mate need to break into his house at night and search it for the other item. take a camcorder with you to film everything you do and to prove that he has the other item. then go to his room and wake him up to confront him. then you got all the evidence you need to go to the police.
more seriously, check with your local trading standards. they might recommend you ship a replacement "as a gesture of goodwill" and never accept orders from him again. they might say that he signed for the order so it's his tough luck. at least as you have his signature, you may be able to stop a chargeback.
i'd also make it very clear on the site prior to purchase, at the time of purchase and in any post purchase emails etc that it's the customer's reponsibility to check goods at the time of delivery.
If are 110% certain you sent both items, tell the customer that both items were sent and that you are going to check with the courier the proof of delivery. If a courier delivers a damaged or opened box, the receivor must sign the machine or paperwork as such. Offer him a free replacement if the goods were signed for in this way.
Or alternatively, claim from the courier and tell the customer that his goods will be sent as and when the claim has been accepted. ParcelForce are generally quick in responding.
I recently had the same thing happen to me, except the customer claimed there was nothing in the box! Well, I know that we shipped the items in the box... I think some people put this into system and use it against a number of different merchants because they know the problems of chargeback that faces us. In her first email she immediately stated that she was contacting her credit card company to stop payment unless we refund her credit card. There is no question in my mind that she had done this before. In my case the order was for about $120, which is not really a huge deal, but it was the way this fraud was committed that made me so mad!
In the end I decided to refund the order to avoid a chargeback. I was then thinking of a number of ways of to get revenge, like entering the customerís email in every spam newsletter on the Internet etc. In the end I just told myself to "grow up" and recognise that these things happen. Let's keep things in perspective; the Internet is a fantastic place. Where else can you set up a successful business in a couple of months for almost nothing, and make in a month what most people earn in a year? We will look back at these years as the "Internet gold rush" and we will be saying to each other: "Do you remember 2002, you could get thousands of visitors to your store per day FOR FREE!" :)
We then use our UPS On-line package to permanently record the actual weight to prove that it is correct, and provide proof that we shipped it, and the customer got it. If something is missing, then maybe the box was opened by the freight company, and we file a claim.
Our packing slip entry program double checks this with a different person checking it, and signing off on it.
We can go back and determine if the customer is right or wrong. If the customer is wrong, we call them and explain the exact weight of the box, packing material, etc. We explain the procedure to them. At the end we ask that they check around the room, and the packing material to make absolutely sure that it is not hidden somewhere. The customer now knows that you are serious about solving their problem. If you ignore them, then expect a chargeback. If the customer ignores you and doesn't do it, then you can explain their behavior to the credit card company.
Last, and probably the most important, go join www.merchant911.org. It is free. Only Merchants can join. They will do a background check on you prior to letting you join. This organization shares information with it member about people who like to commit fraud against merchants. Credit card companines don't care about customer who commit fraud against merchants, unless the sale amount exceeds $10,000.00. Less then that, you are on your own.
If you are going to be an on-line merchant, you need to protect yourself, and prove to your customer (and credit card company) that you are above reproach.
If you cannot prove that the customer is wrong, then the customer is right, even when they are wrong.
Unfortunately the credit card companies are really geared to protecting the consumer, not the merchant, and so until that changes I would have to agree with Lgn in that you must allow for any fraud when you work out your costs.
I would say, assume that 1% of mail order/online sales will turn out to be fraudulent.
Here is the zen I use to deal with this matter:
No matter if I know the customer is lying or not, I kill them with kindness and give them the benefit of the doubt.. A refund, credit, or replacement, make their shopping experience the best you can...yes I bit the dust on it.
The Reason you ask? Well, usually they always attempt to do it again if they know they painlessly got away with it the first time. If I have a gut instint the customer is lying, I place their name on a "black ball" list. When an order comes through again from them (which in most cases it will), then I go out of my way and have it insured, weighed, and checked by third party.
It usually bites them in the (you know where) when they attempt to do something a second time and they are caught red-handed in lie. In one case, we notified the credit card company, and their account was terminated for consumer fraud.
[added]By the way, the credit card company also gave us credit for the first time it happened [/added]
It is an ideology that what comes around goes around. If you are honest, in the end you will come out ahead, rather than stooping to their level.
My two cents, now back to the dance.