Friday, March 13, 2009

When is a Watch not a Watch?

by Denise Stanley, Fink’s Jewelers, eCommerce Manager, Roanoke, VA

So, when is a Watch not a Watch? When it's not authentic.

Seems logical, right? But in the world of internet shopping where millions of virtual items are at our fingertips for immediate purchase, finding authentic merchandise isn't always easy.

When you're in the market for a brand name timepiece, you're likely to go online to find the nearest retailer. You browse through their selection and locate the one you have in mind. Then you notice the price, and click-click, you're comparing prices across a few websites to find the same item at the lowest price. In less than 30 minutes you've found exactly what you want at the cheapest price you can locate and are ready to enter your credit card and buy it.

Beyond the obvious fear of credit card fraud and shady websites, you might hesitate for a minute because you've never heard of this retailer before. But they have a nice-looking website and obviously have a huge selection, so they must be a good source. Besides, they have a great return policy and money-back guarantee.

The pitfall to online shoppers, especially in the world of brand names, is the Unauthorized Dealer. Sometimes called "Grey Market" retailers, the merchandise they sell is of uncertain origin. You might be buying used, reconditioned, altered, or even knock-off merchandise and worse, you probably won't find out in time to use that generous return policy.

Wanting to save 15-30% on an expensive item, many of us can be easily lulled into trusting a web retailer. In this situation it backfires when you need to have the watch repaired and bring it to an authorized dealer to send it to the manufacturer. The $500 you saved means nothing when you learn you've paid $1800 for a fake watch and the manufacturer won't repair it.

We all love a great deal, but grey market retailers devalue the brands you love. As a rule of thumb, ONLY shop on the websites of authorized retailers. (You can find authorized retailers on the brand's website.) An authorized retailer will NOT make repairs in-house when the item is under manufacturer's warranty (this will void the warranty). They will NOT sell outside of their territory (this is a violation of the vendor restrictions). They will NOT offer you a discount on new merchandise and will only honor price considerations with the manufacturer's approval.


Prior to joining Fink's Jewelers as eCommerce Manager a year ago, Denise Stanley owned an advertising agency in Roanoke, VA. She can be found Twittering and Facebooking about daily. She enjoys being mommy to her two fantastic daughters.