Last week I received a 212-page "Fall/Winter Gift Collection 2004" mail order catalog from ABC Distributing. The printing quality of the book is quite good; at least it is much better than similar brochures from IKEA. Actually, lots of the product offerings in the magazine are alluring: imagine a kid's 70-piece train set for only $9.95, a 7-feet 600-light-prelighted Christmas tree for only $59.95, or 5-feet queen-anne display cabinet for only $49.95.
I found a lot of great deals in my half-hour browsing of the catalog. Then, things start to fall apart under scrutiny.
First, every price tag is footnoted by he phase of "plus shipping." There is nothing wrong about adding shipping charges to mail orders, but when you look for the description for the shipping charges, you read the following:
"What is included in the Shipping Charges?
Shipping charges can only be determined when your order is packed. Each order is processed and packed based on merchandise availability, quantity of items ordered, physical size, weight, and if the item is fragile."
If this does not make things too suspicious, check out how ABC Distributing expects you to pay the bill:
"How and when do I pay for my order?
You can make your personal, business check or money order payable to abc distributing, LLC. or pay electronically. Payment will be due immediately upon receipt of the merchandise and invoice. abc distributing does not currently accept credit cards."
What's the last time you saw a mail order company that does not give you exact shipping charges beforehand, nor allow you to pay by credit card?
As a result, it does not surprise me much what I find out when I google "abc distributing scam":
From Rip-Off Report:
"I SEE ALL THAT YA`LL ARE SAYING..... THERE IS NO CUSTOMER SERVICE WITH ABC DISTRIBUTING AT ALL IT IS A VOICE MAIL ONLY THAT ALLOWS YOU TOO THINK THAT THERE IS WHY ISNT THERE A 1-800 NUMBER THINK ABOUT THAT I ORDERED FROM THEM 1 TIME AND NEVER WILL DO AGAIN. THEY SUCK...........THERE SHIPPING CHARGES ARE MORE THAN THE DAMMMMMM MERCHANDISE."
From Reseller Ratings:
"What a SCAM! Each item that you order, is considered a different order - regardless of if you ordered them all at the same time or not - hence, multiple orders = multiple shipping = multiple shipping charges! For ONE order that could have been all sent at the same time!"
I don't deny there are many satisfied customers on the same pages, but you can clearly see there are even more dissatisfied ones. And you probably now figured out why the shipping charges policy and payment policy are so strange: without beforehand notification of shipping charges, ABC Distributing can make a killing in shipping charges by sending items in different packages (they charge UPS rates even if they send items thru USPS), and by requiring you to pay via check or mail order, you can only depend on its conscience to get your money back (vs via credit dispute if you can pay via credit cards).
If you are still not convinced, look at how BBB thinks of ABC Distributing:
"Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaints and a pattern of complaints regarding delivery and refund issues. Consumer complaints indicate delays in delivery or non-delivery of the product and that the company did not provide the refund as promised. Our files also show that the quality of the product ordered was not always as advertised."
That's why I don't usually do business with unknown names without some research; such research usually pays off.