4 Ways You Didn't Realize Online Stores Are Screwing You
If you had told us 20 years ago that there would come a day when we could buy stuff like movies, clothes, and shipping containers full of Kit Kat bars while sitting on our toilets and without having to talk to a single human being, we would have passed out and not woken up until this wondrous future had arrived. Such is the miracle of Internet shopping.
Unfortunately, online retailers are getting more and more afflicted by the virus known as corporate bullshit, getting to the point where the long lines and sweaty people of the days of yore are looking mighty tempting. For example ...
If You Disagree With Amazon, Your Books Stop Existing
Amazon's dominance over the book market is so complete that it's reaching existential levels: If you have a book, but it isn't on Amazon.com, does it really exist? Some lucky authors are finding out the answer to that question after the rain forest-size retailer had a disagreement with their publisher (Hachette, one of the biggest in the world) and retaliated by unleashing every desperate shopper's worst fear: the "Currently Unavailable" button.
"We originally had a giant middle finger, but parents complained about it being in the children's books section."
When e-book pricing negotiations fell through with Hachette in May (we assume this was less "negotiations" and more a Mr. Burns-esque "Release the hounds!"), Amazon decided to stick it to them by suddenly fucking over every book associated with the publisher. Overnight, even big authors like J.K. Rowling had the purchase buttons from their books literally removed. For those lucky enough to keep their books available, Amazon instilled an artificial two- to three-week extra delivery time.
Colbert has a shorter wait to get The Late Show than his book.
Other book authors reported inflated prices and convenient recommendations to similar but cheaper books, presumably leading to a sudden spike in sales for the Larry Cotter: Boy Witch series. It's not the first time Amazon has been accused of shady practices (including secretly charging extra shipping fees, passing off fake Chinese cosmetics as the real thing, and selling illegal and prescription drugs to anyone with a credit card), but they've never been so brazen about it. Hell, they flat out admitted they were intentionally discouraging people from buying Hachette books, even going so far as to say that if you want them so bad, you can buy them from their competitors.
"... for now."
So, like every corporate spat, both sides are going to realize that this is just a giant shitfest costing them millions of dollars and will figure out terms quicker than you can moan "I'm sick of this crap," right? Nope -- Amazon didn't merely publicly announce their douchebaggery, but also claimed that it's not going to end any time soon. Yeah, when you have control over the majority of the e-book market, corporate suicide is apparently something you can afford to do.
Lululemon Bans Customers for Reselling Products That Didn't Fit Them
Buying clothes generally means you're free to do whatever the hell you want with them, and if that includes using your new $200 shirt as a flappy condom or scrubbing it against the muddy ass of a drunken elephant, it's your business and your business alone. Unfortunately, this isn't something Lululemon, online retailer of yoga pants and other boner-inducing garments, agrees with -- this year, anyone reselling their old Lululemon items found themselves banned from the store quicker than a brony on any non-brony forum.
Never mind the bans, we wanna know what Breanne did to piss off Katelin so much.
The issue began when Eric Lewis, a Lululemon superfan (a thing that exists) and founder of the LuluMen blog, received a phone call from the company he had thrown $10,000 at over the past five years to tell him he was banned from their website because they saw him selling their products on eBay. Yes, they actually tracked down the guy's phone number to make sure they could hear the sound of his heart breaking when they gave him the devastating news.
When Lewis took to the Internets for justice, Lululemon stated that he was banned because he was reselling the products at a higher price. They were just looking out for their customers! However, dozens of those customers joined in to say they got the same tragic "No pants for you" phone call, even if they were selling used items for cheap because they didn't properly fit -- something that is bound to happen when you shop at an online store with an extremely limited return policy. Considering that this was pretty much the Internet equivalent of lawyers dropping in on your neighbor's local garage sale and kicking over the tables in a tornado of legal documents and "NO SELLING" signs, soccer moms and yogis all over the world were rightly pissed.
"Eric Lewis once used your pants to deliver a baby who grew up to be Abraham Lincoln, and this is how you repay him?"
Seeing the sheer amount of pissed-off people flooding their Facebook page, the company cut its losses and admitted they got a little carried away with the bans, adding that they'd contact the customers to apologize. Hopefully not on the phone, or some poor intern is gonna need trauma counseling.
Clothing Brands Sell "Discounted" Low-Quality Knockoffs of Their Own Clothes
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time shopping online has experienced that magical moment when you find a coveted product at an inexplicably discounted price and whip out your credit card so fast that your monitor is pulverized by the sonic boom. If what you're buying is clothes, you probably found the offer at one of those offshoot sites where the big brands regularly shave hundreds of dollars off their regular prices, seemingly out of the kindness of their hearts.
Sure, she's a little skinny, but "Rag & Bone" seems a bit mean.
However, these discounts are usually bullshit. While the dress above is labeled at a 62 percent discount, bringing your mouse up to the price box elicits a pop-up that says, "The strikethrough price reflects the regular price at which we've normally sold that item ..." which makes sense, but pay attention to this part: "... or, if we have not previously sold an item, the price at which that item (or a comparable item) is normally sold in the market."
Translated into non-bullshit English, this basically means: "This item kinda looks like a much more expensive and higher quality one that we sell at the real store, so we're just going to pretend it's discounted, even though it's an extremely cheap imitation." Of course, you only realize that after your impulse buy has arrived and you get toxic rashes from touching the fabric. Some brands even distinguish their self-knockoffs through a small mark most people will miss -- like Banana Republic, which puts three dots on the tag of the shittier version.
"Which represents three more than the number of fucks we give."
And yes, we know outlet stores have been selling low-quality rejects from the main stores for decades, but there's a big difference when it's online: You can't reach out to touch the dress and realize it's actually made of cellophane. You're going by a picture that looks just like the real thing. It's much easier to see that something is off when you're standing in a shady, non-air-conditioned store with a sales clerk who smells of hash, as opposed to browsing through a perfectly functional website. Is it too much to ask that they make the sites look as shitty as the clothes?
Urban Outfitters Steals Designs Online and Plasters Them on Their Products
Last May, stumbling upon the Urban Outfitters website in a drunken spontaneous shopping spree that would soon be regretted might have landed you on the page for this "Bambam Geo Bodycon," which sounds like the name of a Transformer, but is actually a skirt:
"Shit ... we meant to put that in scare quotes."
We know where your eyesight immediately landed: Yes, the nice geometrical pattern on the skirt, which for $60 better damn well include a fully stocked mini-fridge sewn inside. But despite its hypnotic appeal, buying that item from Urban Outfitters would have contributed only to extending the unsurprising phenomenon of stealing on the Internet to the real world. Why? Because Urban Outfitters outright ripped off that design.
They were basically caught lying out of their asses.
The same exact design was originally created by artist James Soares, who sells clothes and other stuff on the site Society6. When a loyal commenter notified him about Urban Outfitters' skirt last May, he promptly sent a complaint. The company claimed it was an innocent accident, since the product was actually made by some of those lawless Australians, which theoretically gets them off the hook ... if it wasn't for the fact that they've been caught doing this before. And before that:
And before that:
They also stole this poor man's sense of irony.
So if you've ever uploaded a photo of your face online, don't be surprised if it turns up on an "original" Urban Outfitters piece of clothing. If you're lucky, you may even end up decorating a model's butt.
The third part of XJ's epic science-fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.