07 April 2009

Allposters.com: How not to build an online store

Let's go to yet another online store to buy some stuff. This time it's a poster. I search the Net and find an interesting one. I click on the .com site, but it redirects me automatically to the .es store. No problem. Prices are shown in euros, even though it's a US store. Not very comfortable now: I don't like a store charging in several currencies. Normally the customer never benefits of that, but let's forget about it. Maybe there are different prices for the US and Europe. Weird but... okay, I'm tired enough for thinking about that. Let's pay 14.10€, taxes and shipment included, and relax.

I purchase my item and get an email with a link to the order status. I click and my invoice now shows the prices in US dollars. The final price, including taxes and shipping is $12.81. I go to Google and the currency exchange rate shows that $12.81 = 9.59€. And I paid 14.10€!.

I go to the "help" section and read the following:
"AllPosters.com computes local currency prices for all items using competitive exchange rates. The local currency total displayed in your shopping cart (or as a sale price) is figured as the sum total of the US dollar prices for each item ordered, and then converted to your currency. From time to time, this amount may vary from the sum of the individual local currency prices of the items listed in your shopping cart, because of rounding differences that arise when converting the figures. This amount, if any, will be very small - up to one cent (USD $0.01) per item."

I ask the support team about this issue and the answer is:
"We apologize for the error online. Due to some technical glitch, it is showing wrong order total. I have sent you the correct invoice for your order. Your order total is $18.87 (EUR 14,10)."

So it showed $12.81 but it really was $18.87? Technical glitch? Mmm, bad start. I don't like this kind of things. Bugs in the orders related to payments?. And am I the only one affected by this issue?. Pretty strange, but it might be. Bad luck. A nice and quick response from the support team is always welcome.

However, I'm not still sure why but I think that something is wrong with that site. I try to access this URL for a sample poster. And what I find is... unbelievable. Depending on certain conditions (.es or .com site, browser and... I don't know what other!) I get three different prices for the same item!!.
  • Google Chrome, .es site, from location A (Spain)... currency shown in... dollars?: $24.99

  • Mozilla Firefox, .com site, from location B (Spain)... currency shown in... euros?: 28.90€

  • Internet Explorer, .com site from location B (Spain)... currency shown in... euros?: 21.00€. It's even funnier that if you try to buy the product and send it to Europe, the item's price automatically changes to 28.90€ (shipping and taxes appart).

Come on, are you joking?. I don't know how this can happen. And, by the way, $24.99=18.85€, which does not correspond to any of the prices shown in euros!!. Isn't that annoying?

Now someone will quickly come across with an explanation: "Huh, you don't know what's going on but I do! Oh, dude, that's super-easy! Can't you see it at a glance? The HTTP request header sent by your localized browser is used to detect your country, then different prices are applied depending whether you buy from the US or Europe... blah, blah, blah".

Nope. That's not what the online store policy says. It says the site charges in dollars and it will do the currency conversion for me. Why is it showing me the price only in euros then?. And whenever I've seen dollars, the price in euros is superhigh in comparison with the correct currency exchange rate. Something customers do not like at all. That's cheating, guys.

Seeing three different prices in the same store depending on... (I don't know exactly what criteria) is enough for me. Not to speak about currency exchange rates that don't match.

UPDATE: A second email with customer service informs me that currency is calculated depending on the IP address of the connection.

This is an awful solution. It is detecting my 3G connection as being in the US and showing $24.99 for the item in the .com site. I go to the .es site and it shows 28.90€, when it should be 18.85€ with today's USD-EUR currency exchange rate. Is that the "competitive currency exchange rate" that the site policy states?.

Allposters.com is definitely fooling users paying in euros. I don't even think it's legal. Please be aware.

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