IN YOUR CORNER
They skipped the Black Friday queues, but not the Black Friday blues
If overselling on shopping sites meant you didn't get that dream product you chose online, here's what to do
Black Friday is increasingly becoming the story of South Africans discovering online shopping.
While overall online retail is increasing by 25% year on year, Black Friday’s online stats are pretty much doubling every year, according to the Online Retail in SA 2019 report that SA technology market research company World Wide Worx released at the beginning of November.
Still, according to the report, only about 4% of South Africans shop online regularly, and in terms of overall sales, online makes up just 1.4% in SA, compared with more than 13% in the US.
But if ever there was a retail opportunity to entice a reluctant online shopper, it’s Black Friday.
Jazelle Naidoo was among those who decided to give the mall madness a miss this Black Friday, going online to buy a pair of shoes that TotalSports had on sale for R499.
When she’d heard nothing further by late Monday afternoon, she made enquiries, and was told her order had been “returned”.
“They said they had no stock of the shoe to give me because it was ‘oversold’.
“Had I known that at the time, I would have gone to the mall to buy the shoe, as they still had stock in my size.
“Now that Black Friday is over, they won’t give me the shoe at that special price.
“And on top of all of that, I’m told I have to wait 7-14 days for my refund!”
Overselling on Black Friday is not just a South African thing.
US hardware store Lowe’s was among the retailers that oversold items this Black Friday as a result of overloaded servers not being able to update sales versus stock in real time.
It oversold a snow blower but offered those affected a near-identical product at the same price.
But not all companies “make a plan” for their customers who lose out due to overselling.
“Epic fail from Wink,” tweeted “Lucius Malfoy” of San Francisco.
“All my orders were cancelled because they were oversold … No longer a fan.”
I asked TotalSport brand owner TFG what went wrong on Black Friday this year.
“TFG’s real-time stock system worked very effectively for 364 days of the year, but Black Friday volumes unexpectedly compromised our order processing queuing system this year,” said Kathryn Sakalis, TFG’s business head for marketing and e-commerce.
“It was a new learning curve for us, and we will ensure that this is addressed so that it doesn’t happen to our customers again.”
As for why Naidoo and others are made to wait seven to 14 days for a refund, Sakalis said technically the company was not processing refunds, as it did not take a customer’s money until the product was dispatched from its distribution centres.
“We simply put an ‘auth’ on the card, which secures the order. In the case of a cancelled order, we release the ‘auth’ almost immediately, but the banks still need to process this and release the funds to the card.
“It’s not unknown for bank to hold on to ‘auths’, so if a customer who has paid by bank card has not seen a release of their funds within 48 hours, we recommend that they contact their bank directly and ask when this release will happen.”
And what about compensating customers who were prejudiced by the “oversold” phenomenon?
“We have been compensating customers on a case-by-case basis,” Sakalis said.
My advice: if you had your Black Friday bargain hunting spoiled by online “overselling”, ask the company for some form of reasonable compensation.