August 2006 Archives

August 21, 2006

On-line stores

Off-line reputation

Have I told you?—I am a huge fan of the Romanian rock band Timpuri Noi. I’ve bought all their CDs back when they were released, but during various office and home address changes they somehow vanished. All of them. A couple of nights ago I was watching the band in a live transmission from Stufstock rock festival when I decided that life without their music is inconceivable and I have to buy as many of their albums as I can find available on-line, on the spot.

On-line, yes, but where? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

Radu Ionescu, I remembered, had a post about a Romanian on-line music store, it was a bitter post nevertheless but—hey!—I won’t find these guys on Amazon so I have to start from somewhere. So I paid a visit to only to recapitulate Radu’s dissapoinment: no trace of what I was looking for.

After zigzaging the net for a while, I arrived at and—look at that!—they have three albums. All good except that I never, not ever heard of this store. Is it legit? Is it a fraud? I did a whois query on the domain name, I googled (yeah, the verb) the company that hold the domain—it looks legit. But I cannot easily find any opinions about the store from people who actually bought something from them. It remains one way to find out—there are not even 20 bucks for the three albums, so why not? I’ll use a card linked to a monitored account that I can keep a close eye on in case things go berserk.

Finally, I placed the order and paid (after the net provider’s link died on me right in the middle of the transaction and only got up again an hour later or so).

I'll keep you posted about the outcome, but that's not the main point here. The point is: why on earth don’t I trust Romanian e-stores the way I trust most of the foreign ones? Is it only me or do most people feel suspicious of them? I frequently buy products and services on-line from abroad, but I never needed to buy anything from a Romanian store. I do now. So then again, why the prejudice?

Because their reputation. Or complete lack of it, that is.

Virtual stores need at least as much reputation—if not more—than brick-and-mortar ones because you have to trust them with your credit card and the goods you're blindly buying. And that's pretty hard when you never heard of them and information about their services is difficult to find, sparse or downright unavailable. People fear the unknown when taking out their wallets. Not having an 'About Us' (or similar) menu item in a visible place is a nicer way to tell customers "get the hell out of here".

Let's say they don't have advertising budgets for making themselves known, they didn't hear about PR and they never issue press releases because they don't have anything to say. But why don't they simply use design? When unknown, design is relatively inexpensive (compare it with media costs) yet one of the most efficient reputation builders. A good corporate identity and a clean page layout can speak up for them.

It's hard to trust them because they're oblivious to their own reputation.

1st update:

It's September 8, a week passed—no word from the store yet. But they didn't take the money, either. Current order status: Pending.

2nd update:

After eleven days I received an e-mail stating that the requested albums are not manufactured anymore and thus not available. I was offered the option to cancel my order, which I did. End of story. Still, I wonder why albums unavailable for years are offered to be purchased.