Helping you buy safely online
Buying online can be so convenient. And the prices being offered can make it look so tempting.
But it's important to remember that buying online isn't always the same as buying from a store. It should be, but it's not.
Of course, there are many responsible, reliable online retailers. And buying from them is just as safe as buying from a store.
But there are also many online sellers who aren't that scrupulous. Who take advantage of being 'somewhere in the ether' to part you from your money and provide you with substandard goods and service.
How can you tell the good e-retailer from the bad?
Here's NINE easy ways to help safeguard your money ... and your sanity ... when buying online.
1.Warranty and customer service: what warranty is offered and how do they handle complaints or questions? Australia’s consumer protection laws are very strong ... but that’s not the case in India, China or many of the countries you can buy from online. There is no such thing as an ‘international warranty’. Whoever supplies the goods into Australia is responsible for the warranty. If you buy directly from an overeseas seller then you can't claim for free warranty repairs or service from the Australian importer.
2.Does the online seller have a street address that you can go to if things go wrong? Or do they only have a PO Box or an overseas address? If they won’t resolve your problem by email or phone, where can you reach them? Australian best practice is that an online seller should provide their ABN (Australian Business Number), physical address, and phone and fax numbers.
3.How will the instruments be supplied? Many instruments sold online are like flat-pack furniture - you have to assemble them. So please factor in the cost of set up, especially if you’re buying orchestral strings or guitars. A full set up will cost from $80-$150, depending on the instrument.
4.Are you buying more than one instrument? If so, we strongly recommend you buy just one instrument to test the quality before investing more money into the unknown. We regularly hear of schools that have spent $6,000 - $8,000 only to find they have received ‘objects resembling instruments’ - the trumpet valves are soldered closed, the trombone slide won’t, and the violin bridge and tuning pins are so unstable they won’t stay in place.
5.Buy with a credit card, PayPal or, if you’re spending a large sum of money, use an escrow service. PayPal has some limited ability to recover your money. Your credit card company may assist in helping you recover your money (check with them before you buy). An escrow service is like putting money in trust - you put the money into the escrow account, the supplier sends you the goods and if you’re happy with them you direct the escrow firm to release the money to the seller. If the goods aren't right, you return the goods to the seller and the escrow service gives you your money back. (Check the terms and conditions of the escrow service before you use it.) If the supplier won’t allow you to use an escrow service, then we recommend you walk away. Any reputable company will accept escrow.
6.Is it a genuine musical instrument or a toy? Many toys are accurate reproductions of a genuine instrument ... to look at. But the tuning and size of the instrument isn’t right and your child won’t be able to learn to play on them. If you're buying from a grocery store, toy store or department store ask the sales people specifically "is this a toy or a genuine musical instrument" and if they say it's a genuine instrument ask them to show you what makes it genuine and not a toy. If they can't tell you, how do they know it's not a toy?
7.Is it a genuine instrument or fake? If the price is significantly lower than the same product in a store then be suspicious. Check carefully, some fakes look great until you check inside. Be very careful of anything technical. We have examples of mics that looks great on the outside but are filled with nothing but washers, or that would blow up any system they are connected to.
8.Is it a high tech product that normally comes with tech support and/or free upgrades? If so, unless you buy from an authorised retailer in Australia you won’t qualify for that support or those upgrades. You may decide that the price difference is worth not having those services - that’s your call. But make an informed choice: check that you are comparing like with like when you get an online price.
9.Check the power supplies. If you’re buying an instrument that plugs in, check what power supply it comes with. Converters can end up costing the difference between the two prices ... and this will also affect the warranty.