Watchdog: Be cautious when buying online

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Jan. 8, 2014 at 8 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.

Victoria resident Jeff Neaves browsed Amazon this past summer for panoramic photos of Old Trafford, where the soccer team Manchester United plays.

It seemed to be sold out everywhere except for at the website

At first, the business' name gave him pause, but he felt reassured after plugging its Leander address into Google Maps and seeing a street view.

Neaves, 34, then made the estimated $50 purchase with a credit card, knowing he could legally report it as fraudulent and get his money refunded if the package never arrived in the mail.

The package did arrive, framed and wrapped in bubble wrap and cardboard, about a month later, after Neaves called the business repeatedly.

The Better Business Bureau's Corpus Christi division says others were not so lucky.

The BBB has received 83 complaints about Art-Heist. The business did not respond to 55.

"That's a big red flag for us," said Tracy Bracy, the BBB regional director. "Customers said it took several months to receive their order. If they were ever received, the product was inferior or not what the website was advertising."

It is important for online consumers to read reviews on BBB's website, she said.

They should also receive a confirmation receipt and review the company's refund and shipping policies.

Be wary of a seller when the only contact information on their website is a post office box, Bracy said.

Art-Heist shipped more than 10,000 items in 2013, and the 83 complaints lodged against it were over a four-year period, owner George Hansen said via email.

He said the business already provides customers tracking numbers if they send an email to requesting one. The company will continue to improve, he wrote.

"We are looking into an automated system that will include the tracking number in an email to the customer when the shipment leaves our building. ... Again, 83 complaints out of 40,000 (transactions) is pretty good," Hansen wrote. "We would love to have no complaints, but you can't please everyone. Most of those who complained did not bother emailing us previous to complaining."

Hansen said they got a little behind on shipping, but anytime a person has a question or concern about an order, they can email the company at any time.

Neaves, meanwhile, said he's thankful the transaction did not end worse.

"The print is not the quality that was shown online, but I wasn't in the mood to send it back," he said. "I don't know if he (the business owner) is overwhelmed. If he sent me what I ordered, why did he not send other people's stuff?"



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