Sunday, January 25, 2009
Half.com and Ebay: Consumer Deception (Did Madoff Learn from These People?)
Yes, I am accusing Half.com and Ebay (primarily because it owns Half.com, although I don't think much of Ebay even berfore it bought Half.com) of CONSUMER DECEPTION (inherent in the way they list, and/or allow sellers to list andor force sellers to list uadio books especially, although Half.com is not bery good in its listings of ordinary books and movies). As usual, you don't have to take my word for this. I am going to prove it to you, naming names and pointing fingers (as Half.com and Ebay are the recipients of this week's dreaded/coveted Flying, Fickle Finger of Fate--see next entry). First, let us identify the essential information for an online site to give a purhcaser interested in purhasing an audio boo: 1. Name of book; 2. author of book; 3. Whether book is Abridged or Unabridged; 4. Whether book is on tapes or comact discs; 5. (you won't believe I have to list this one, but with Half.com and Half.com sellers, I do) Whether the whole book is being sold, or only part of it, excerpts from it, or some different adaptation of it; 6. Name of reader (not perhaps essential, but almost); 7. Nujmber of companc discs/tapes, and hours of total reading (again,, perhaps not totally esssential, but important information. Half.com NEVER (and I mean never) gives all of this information as part of the listing required by Half.com. Sometimes, most of the information is provided in the Seller comments, but often the most essential information (like whether the whole book is being sold) only appears on the SECOND screen, if the person purhasing clicks on the .... indicating that the seller comments continue on the next screen (requiring a "click" in the right place). This virtually guarantees CONSUMER DECEPTION, and consumer deception is what occurs. I will go further. It is CONSUMER DECTPION for Half.com not to list whether the bookd is abridged or unabridged, and whether it is only Part 1 or only Part 2, on the initial Half.com search results. That is absolutely fundamental information to tell you what is being sold, and lack of it makes the search listing a LIE. I stand by this statement, and will elaborate. Take "Bleak House", by Charles Dickes (which I recently listened to on tape). Blacksoneaudio (a Half.com seller) ordinarily does not offer books like this in one set of tapes. Rather, the book is offered in multiple parts (usually 2), which must be purhased separately . You can argue that this is deceptive in itself, since who wants to purchase only the first half of a book. It is like buying onlyl the first part of a VHS movie. Yes, Half.com has sometimes listed movies, like serials, where only part was being sold (again, not stated in teh listings, but only in the seller comments--if there). Now you can understand how maybe some people would, in fact, be willing to order audio books in seaparate transactions, if rarely, since the complete audio book can be 30 hours lonig. But it is a total deception, and a LIE, to represent that you are selling an 'unabridgeled book when you are selling only Part 1, unless it is clear on every page that the listing occurs that you are only selling Part 1 (or part 2). It is routinely NOT clear on Half.com--until, the third screen, and sometimes not even then. Blackstoneaudio routinely does not give this information unless you click on the Seller comments, and get to the THIRD screen (first screen being initial search listing, which mispresents what is being sold; second screen being the Half.com main listing page, which again misrepresents what is being sold; and the third screen representing the Blacstoneaudio page, which--not prominently, but almost in fine print--finally tells you that only part 1 is being sold and not the entire novel). I ACCUSE Half.com and sellers like Blackstoneatudio of CONSUMER DECEPTION--deception inherent in the way Half.com allows these audio books to be listed without essential informatioin being prominent. You can probably go to "Bleak House" on Half.com and see examples of this. However, I will use another Dickes book to illustrate my point: "Little Dorrit". Now Blacksoneaudio markets "Little Dorrit" in two parts, sold separtely . Right now, Blacksoneaudio lists "Little Dorrit" on Half.com. The first search screen will give you a price for the book (a LIE, since it is not for the whole book). You get to the second screen and Half.com tells lyou the book is being sold "unabridged" (which I consider another LIE, in context, although I am aware that the term refers to every word being read, instead of to whether the whole book is beingsold, since it seems to suggest that you are getting every word of the whole book--"abridged" or "unabridged" not appearing on the search page, by the way, even though that is essential information as to what product is really being sold). Half.com provides a lot of totally USELESS informatiion on its main listing page that will give you the idea you are getting information to tell you whether you want the product. WRONG. It is only if you click on the ... indicating further sller comments that you MAY (not prominent) find out that Blacksoneaudio is only selling part 1 or "little Dorrit", and that you will only get half of the book if you order it. Blackstoneaudio is given 100% (lol) by Half.com as a seller. I would not give them more than 75%, although I admit their readings are generally very good. One of the "Bleank House" tapes, by the way, was recorded badly, and indecipherable, but that is the kind of glitch you regularly get with audio tapes. It is not nearly as bad as the deceptive marketing of the product. Wait. It gets worse. Under that same search listing for "Little Dorrit", Half.com has another seller ooffering the product (in used condition), at a lesser price. But, remember, the second, Hlaf.com product description screen fails to tell you hat only Part 1 is being sold (or is it?). This new seller, Alibis_Books, also has an extension f the "seller comments". However, this merely tells you that "14 casettes" are included. Unless lyou are aware that "14 casettes" is only half of the complete book, you will not know that Alibis Books is LYLING to you when it repreents it is selling "Little Dorrit". It is only selling half the book. Which half? Ah, who knows? You might assume that it is part !, since this is listed on the same lising as the Balckstoneaudio item saying that Blacksoneaudio is selling only part 1 (which you do not see by clicking on the Aiibis Book itme, but only if you also click on the Blackstneaudio item). But Half.com clearly DOES NOT DISTINGUSIH between selling part 1 or part 2, since that information is not part fo the Half.com listing. So Alibis Books MIGHT be selling part 2!!!!! Who knows? Now, Half.com used ot have an obvous place to click on to ask a seller question. Now that Ebay is running the site, y9ou get a lot of distractin marketing information about Ebay (which tends to be deceptive in itself), but there is no longer any obvious way to ask seller questions about the product being sold. Thus, unless you do an FBI type investigation, you do not know what product Alibis Books is selling, AND CANNOT EVEN FIND OUT. I am sorry. I regard "deception" as a kind word for all of this. Now let us go to "Nichoas Nickleby". "Nichoas Nickleby" is one of the longest books ever written int the Engish language. You will find the usual Half.com listing of only PARTS of the book. But you will come to one listing of an "unabridged" version of the book for $28.00. Is this casettes or dics? Dont expect to find out from Half.com or any of the sellers. The listing does not tell you. How many hours? No clue. Who read the book? No clue. Is it only part of the book? well, you don't know. You would assume that it is the whole book, unless you had experience with Half.com. But it is too cheap. Remember, this is a LONG book. Ordinarily, the price would be at least near $50.00, even on discs. Now Half.com is a discount seller (sometimes, as with Ebay itself). A $28.00 price MIGHT be the full book, EXCEPT that Half.com also tries to tell you your "savings" (another lie, since Half.com does not even know if it is the entire book in cases like "Little Dorrit")? Half.com tells lyou that the ordinary retail price of this book is in the 30's. That is SUSPICIOUS. So what are you getting if you order this $28.00 item? Who knows? And there is no easy way to find out. Does that exhaust the problems with Half.com? Not on your life. In my experience, the wrong book or movie is routinely listed in the wrong place. Let us go to "The Talisman" by Sir Walter Scott. well, you might be aware that Stephen King also wrote a book by that name (with Peter Straub). I ordered "The Talisman" from Half.com (Kevabooks). See below as to how stupid that makes me. I ordered the Sir Walter Schott version. What I got was the Stephen King version. Yep. The seller said he will refund the money, AFTER I return the WRONG audio book. He did offer a label, but I presently have no working printer. This is a $20.00 purchase. It is hardly worth the $20.00 to go through the trouble of sending this kind of item back, although I did (as a matter of principle). Then I have to wait and see whether I get the refund. Yes, I can complain to Half.com, but that involes going through even more hoops. Does this seller even HAVE the Sir Wlater Scoott book? Note that I was not told the right book was being sent, but that I would get a refund. From previous experience with Half.com, the WRONG book is often listed in this kind of situation. Half.com makes little effort to police its listings. I know that not only because of my experience with books sent, but because I have seen sellers who list the WRONG book or movie under a listing, and TELL you that they are selling a different book or movie. Now that is hones, but gives you not confidence in the listings. Nope. Once you go beyond current best seller movies and books, Half.com is turly unreliable and inherently deceptive. That is especially true with regard to audio books. Bottom line; YOU ARE A TOTAL IDIOT IF YOU BUY ANYTHING FROM HALF.COM. JUST FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU ARE BUYING IS AN EXERCISE IN TIME CONSUMING FRUSTRATION. I admit that I have ALWYAS felt this way about the "auctioin" process of Ebay--a concept I regard as inherently suspect. But I started to buy from Half.comm before Ebay bought it. It is a discount site, and not an auction site. I have no experience with Ebay itself, because of my opinion of the whole concept. Half.com has always been bad in the way I describe. But it has gotten WORSE since it was bought by Ebay. As I say, there is now a lot more stuff in each listing, while things like asking seller a qutestion have been deleted or hidden. Again, YOU ARE A TOTAL IDIOT IF YOU BUY ANYTHING BEYOND THE MOST OBVIOUS FROM HALF.COM. Wait a minute. It may have occurred to you that I just called myself a "total idiot". I could try to excuse myself by saying that unfornately Half.com is the only convenient place to even find lots of books and movies (especially if you don't want to deal wth Ebay itself). But I would be kidding you. I DID just call myself a ttoal idiot, and that is what I am. That is the problem with being honest, and having a mind that leads you to the logical conclusion, even if that conclusion is that I am a total idiot. I have, in the past, quite Half.com for a year or two at a time. I am thinking about doing it again, although I have not yet decided (yes, I really am a total idiot. But this is a case of doing as I say and not as I do, undless lyou are willing to accept the CONSUMER DECEPTION and frustrations of dealing with Half.com If you buy from them, do so with your eyes open, and with the knowledge you are a total idiot. No, I have not found Amazon.com to be substantially better, but I do not have as much experience there (the experience I have has been frustrating, and there is a unversal lack at these online sites of adequte descriptions of the product being sold). I don't seee how someone unfamiliar with Half.com has any chance on buying something like an audio book. The pitfalls are numberous, and the information provided DECEPTIVE. All in all, Half.com and Ebay are more than deserving recipients of this week's Finger (the statuette of an INDEX finger pointing, representing the oustanding example of stupidity, dishohensty and/or evil to become manifest in the previous week).