Shopping local is not all that it’s cracked up to be
Recently I started working on a review of a Synology NAS unit. I needed to pick up some hard drives for this unit to get started as fast as I could. No local stores around me had what I needed in stock but big online retailers like Newegg and Amazon did. I did, however, find a shop recommended by Synology two hours from me that was supposed to carry gear for Synology. I thought if Synology trusted them enough to add them to the list of retailers then why not give them a shot.
As a bonus, I thought, “They are a small business and I would be supporting a business other than a big box store.” I placed a call and spoke with Mitch, one of the employees, who informed me they don’t keep the drives I wanted in stock, but he could overnight them to the store for me since I needed them ASAP and they would cover the cost of the overnight shipping. “WOW!” I thought to myself. “Overnight shipping is more than Newegg and Amazon could do.” The best I got from them would be on Monday. This was a Thursday and I thought I was going to be able to drive up on Saturday to pick them up. That would give me the weekend to work on the setup of the Synology. Perfect.
I explained what drives I needed to Mitch – 10TB WD Red Pro NAS HDD 3.5″ x 3. I made sure to have him repeat them to me as I needed to make sure I had the Pro model HDDs (WD also makes a Plus model). He gave me the total and said I could pay for them when I picked them up. I was even willing to pay for them over the phone since they were expediting such a big order for me. “There is no need to pay now,” Mitch said. I got off the phone with him and was excited to be able to start working on the NAS unit review.
The First Red Flag
Later that afternoon I got a phone call back from the store to inform me that they ran into a problem and they could not guarantee overnight delivery to the store as originally promised. They said, the drives might still show up the next day (Saturday), but they wouldn’t know for sure until their UPS shipment actually arrived.
This was the first red flag that was thrown about this transaction and I felt in my gut this was going to turn out bad. I called on Saturday around noon and was told the drives were 100% not going to arrive that day, but they would be delivered on Monday. Mitch explained that the problem was with UPS.
At this point, I could have just let them get stuck with the drives since they were already in transit and not drove the 2.5 hours to buy them. I could have just ordered them from Amazon who would still have them at my house by Monday – without me having to pay extra for gas or the wear/tear on my car. I decided that I still wanted to support a local business and since they did try to get them to me faster I would still give them a shot.
I tried to figure out what my options were since I had the time to make the drive on Saturday, but Monday meant I would have to leave later in the day. To my surprise, I was told they would give me a slight discount on the drives ($30 off) for not being able to get the drives to me in time. I thought, “$30 off per drive? That’s a great deal!” Awesome! I’m happy again.
Monday rolls around and I was excited to take the trip. I had never been to this particular town and it was a nice change of pace. Because I was having to make the trip later in the day and would be arriving at their store after their business hours, the owner had given me his cell number and told me it was no problem that I was running late because he had work to do at the store and he would be there after they closed.
I had also been told a few times by other employees that most of them lived close by the store and they could come to meet me if I was there after business hours. I thought this was a ‘going the extra mile’ benefit of a local business and was impressed with what I felt was a higher level of service.
Once I arrived, the owner was there and he let me in the store. He said they all thought it was weird I ordered from them since I lived two hours away. I explained that Synology suggested them and since they were a small business I would rather give my money to them than to Newegg. He laughed and told me that because they thought it was weird, he did research and looked up Mac Sources and after that, he felt more comfortable with helping us out.
He goes on to tell me that his team took the drives out of the boxes and tested them for me to make sure I was getting good drives and no sectors were bad. I wasn’t thrilled that they took the drives out of the box but I also thought, “Cool, now don’t have to test the drives myself.” I asked him if they were the WD Red Pros and he said, “Yes, they are the exact drives you have on your site.” I felt pretty good about that because we’ve only ever featured the WD Red Pro NAS HDD in reviews. So, I thought there was no chance he was getting them confused with other drive models.
I mentioned to the owner about the discount Mitch talked about and he said, “No problem. How does $50 sound?” I thought, “This is great! That’s even more than I was offered at first.” He typed some things into his computer. I handed him my credit card. He gave me a receipt in the bag with the hard drives and I left. I thanked him again for all the trouble they went through to get the drives for me and he said, “It’s no problem.”
I placed the package in the back seat and started the 2.5-drive home.
A Sweet Transaction Turns Sour
Things that are too good to be true usually are. Because the owner said they tested the drives, he confirmed that they were the same drives we reviewed on Mac Sources, and because I confirmed the order with Mitch on the phone before placing the order, I trusted that everything was kosher with the transaction and I did not double-check the products before leaving their store. I also trusted that I was getting a discount as he said. When I got home, it was nearly midnight so I set the package on my desk and didn’t open it until the next morning.
The first thing I did was pull out the receipt. I noticed that there was no line item for a discount of $50 per drive, but the price per item was $50 less than the MSRP at the time. So, I thought everything was fine. Next, I pulled the boxes out and opened them up. The boxes were plain cardboard and not the typical Wester Digital retail box with branding. I didn’t think much of that since it was ordered direct to a retailer.
At this point, we noticed that the static wrap had never been opened on any of the drives. This means there was no way the drives were tested since the seals on all the bags were intact. I felt my heart begin to race as I thought, “The owner lied to me. He said his employees tested them.” I calmed down a bit when I thought, “Ok, maybe his employees said they tested it and he trusted that they did it. Maybe he didn’t know.”
After I had all the drives out of their bags, I noticed they were the Plus model and not the Pro model as I had requested. Now, the biggest difference between the two models is the transfer rate. The WD Red Plus is just a bit slower than the Red Pro drives. Both models are rated for 24/7 use and can be used in RAID setups. So, having the Plus model drives isn’t going to affect my Synology in a bad way, but for the purposes of the RAID test, I wanted to get the same HDDs to match what I already had installed.
At this point, I was fuming. Not only did I have the wrong product, but I also felt I had been lied to. I started calming down again when I thought, “But, hey I got a good discount on this deal. So maybe I can deal with the mix-up.” Then I looked at the receipt. As I mentioned above, the owner rang in the hard drives saying he was giving me a $50 discount. I assumed that meant per drive and not of the total. So, when I saw the price per drive was $239 instead of the $289 I expected, I thought that was the discount he provided. That’s a big NOPE.
As it turns out the recommended price per drive of the WD Red Plus HDD (10TB capacity) is $239. So, not only did I feel I had been lied to, but I had also just paid full price for the wrong product. Not only that, but before I mentioned a discount, the owner was going to charge me for the WD Red Pro price, which would have been $50 more per drive than the Red Plus drives sell for.
I was at an impasse. I had to get the testing on the Synology unit started. I used what I had and decided to try and resolve the matter over the phone.
Lousy Communication and Customer Service
In trying to resolve the order mistake and pricing problem, I called the owner’s cell phone first. I thought I would try to let him know that maybe his employees were untrustworthy. I didn’t get a response right away, but when I did he said he was unaware of his team not testing the drives as they had told him they did.
That’s not a good team in my opinion. The owner then offered “to make things right” for me and said he would speak with the team to find out what happened with the drive testing and how they ordered the wrong ones.
He never called me back.
If I were the owner of a business and my team screwed up something this bad I would be following through myself to make sure everything was corrected. Instead, he had Mitch, the guy who ordered the wrong drives in the first place, call me back and offer to refund $30 to my credit card. That was $30 total and not per drive.
I started to feel disrespected. It’s upsetting to have used five hours out of my day and gas to shop at a local store to have this many issues – and the best they can offer is a $30 refund.
Since they weren’t budging on any other resolution options, I agreed to the refund. Mitch said in order to process that, he needed my credit card information. I HATE giving out my credit card information – especially to a business that I’m not 100% familiar with. Fortunately, I was using my Apple Card and the security options on it are better than most credit cards.
Reluctantly, I provided my CC information. He assured me that once the refund was processed the info would be destroyed. Still, I felt that my information was floating around somewhere in La La Land. Mitch said the refund would show up on my card within 7-10 business days.
I wait. And wait. And wait.
After about 30 days, I realized that I never saw the refund applied to my account. I have reached back out to the business and have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. The last time I called I spoke with a lady that I had not spoken with before. She said she knew about the situation and that the refund should have gone through. I check my Apple Card like a crazed person and I’ve never seen it show up. She said she would look into it and call me back.
Let me be clear. This “calling back” thing from this company has not been their strong suit. So I don’t expect any over-the-top solution to this. In fact, she said we may need to refund it to a different card. I am willing to say maybe Mitch typed in my numbers wrong or maybe Apple’s CV2 number changed before the refund was processed.
It’s been a little over a week since I spoke with her and still no refund. So, I called back and spoke with the lady again. She said, “I pushed the refund through again. It should have gone through.” Pushed it through again?! This means they did keep the credit card number on file because I didn’t give it to her a second time.
No resolution. No satisfaction.
As of today, it’s been 56 days since I made the trip to their store. I still have no resolution to this issue. This is why I decided to write this article. I do think that supporting local businesses is important, but buyers need to be careful of where they place their trust. Bigger businesses have the ability to “make things right” over the phone – immediately. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Amazon or chatted with them online and had a refund in my account before the call was over.
In fact, I had a Logitech HomeKit Doorbell that stopped working more than three months after I purchased it. I tried contacting Logitech support and had no response. So I reached out to Amazon. Their customer service rep had me off the phone in less than 10 minutes (including wait time) with a refund in process and a return label for the defective product.
They even set it up so that I could drop the return off at Kohl’s instead of shipping it because it would ensure I got the refund faster. This was THREE MONTHS after buying it from them when their return window had closed. They accepted the return since the manufacturer was non-responsive with support and since they sold it to me originally.
I tried to give the local guy a shot and gave this particular business the benefit of the doubt more than once. But sometimes the little guy just doesn’t give a darn about the customer – nor can you trust them just because they are a local business. If I would have avoided this company like the plague and shopped with Amazon or New Egg, these issues would have never happened. And, if something like this happened either of those big retailers would have made it right the first time.
I am absolutely floored at how Synology trusts this company enough to include them on their partner list. I can’t express how dissatisfied I am with this business. I want to blast their name all over the internet but will take the high ground on this one (Thanks, Kenobi).
It’s upsetting to think this company still has my card on file and it’s upsetting to be lied to by the owner. My recent experience with Amazon, which happened while I was in the middle of drafting this article, is one more reason why I truly believe shopping local is not the best move you can make with some businesses.