Letter from BBB

Yesterday I got a letter from BBB (Better Business Bureau). They don’t seem to have any real power, but can do bad things to company’s reputation. Here’s their letter:

The Better Business Bureau has attempted to present your complaint to Alexandr Sport Store in an attempt to resolve this matter to your mutual satisfaction. Unfortunately, despite our efforts to achieve a mutually satisfactory resolution of this matter, we have received no response to your complaint. We have attempted to contact Alexandr Sport Store through written correspondence twice on your behalf. We have also attempted to contact this firm by telephone. Despite such repeated efforts, we are compelled to close this matter in our files. This does not minimize the importance of your concerns to you, nor is it any reflection upon the validity of your dispute. We wish to provide you with prompt notification, as you may wish to pursue this matter through an alternative resource.

The Better Business Bureau is a private, nonprofit organization without the powers of an enforcement agency; as such, we cannot compel a business to grant you a particular settlement or to respond to your complaint. BBB mediation is a voluntary process requiring the good faith and willing participation of both parties to a dispute. A central function of the dispute resolution process is to enhance communication between the parties and, in so doing, foster a greater appreciation of contradictory positions. Utilizing such efforts, we often attain a mutually satisfactory resolution to disputes brought to our attention; not all matters, however, achieve such an outcome.

Please be advised that this firm’s failure to respond to your complaint will be reflected in its BBB record. Accordingly, we will report that this firm has an unanswered complaint to consumers, businesses, banks, government officials, and members of the press who inquire about them. In addition, firms failing to answer even one such complaint will generally receive an unsatisfactory rating, the Bureau’s lowest mark. Your experience may, therefore, alert other consumers seeking information through the BBB.

Why did I contact BBB? Several months ago I ordered some fencing equipment via Internet, quite happy to find the stuff so cheap (on-line store, selling via eBay). My order (3 items) got delivered fairly quickly, but instead of electric epee I got sent a practice one (it was almost twice cheaper than the one I ordered). I immediately contacted the store (one-person company – Russian business in New York) and asked for return shipping label. He argued with me for a long time and kept requesting that I should send the epee back to him at my expense and promising to repay my shipping costs afterwards. I’ve dealt with some small stores that handle returns that way, so this wasn’t something new, though it is unpleasant to do business in this mode, but finally I agreed.

After he got the epee back – nothing. To my email reminders he first replied that he was going to send the correct item real soon, and then stopped responding.

In the mean time, the deadline for making a complaint via PayPal (my payment method) has expired – I thought that eBay and PayPal have the same complaint period – no such luck. The amount in question was fairly small, about $35, but one cannot let crooks just get away. I complained to eBay, they made a pretense of trying to mediate (I was responding to their inquiries immediately and he was playing for time and responding at the last moment), and then they wrote to me that since they could not resolve our conflict and the amount is less than $50, they are not going to do anything about it.

That’s when I wrote to BBB. Well, not only – I also wrote about this story on fencing forum – hopefully it will help someone not to get ripped off.

During the five-six years that I had been buying on Internet (and I do that fairly often), I ran into crooks only twice. Both times they were small Russian companies from New York. I made my conclusions.

Published in: on August 19, 2005 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Rat Hunt

Couple of days ago I was talking to friends and the wonders of associative memory brought back an episode that happened 20-25 years ago. The nine-story house where we used to live back then had a big grocery store on the first floor. And, naturally, the grocery store had its storage facility – ideal environment for rats. The architectural genius who designed the house, for reasons of rationalization that are not quite clear to us, combined the ventilation systems of the apartments, the store and the storage into one, thus creating a system of convenient and concealed pathways for rats.

One of the rats, driven by rat equivalent of the urge to travel and explore the unknown, managed to get to our eighth floor. Probably, it liked the smells from our kitchen. It managed to chew through the bars on ventilation shaft – really, how long are plastic bars and mosquito net going to hold an adult rat – and bravely jumped off to a sink and then to the floor. My first thoughts – there’s a carrier of who knows what diseases in the apartment – kill the bastard and the sooner the better. The hunt started.

The first thing that I grabbed was my epee. Hunting rats with an epee is funny, but not very effective. An epee is a thrusting weapon and mine was a sport epee, i.e. with blunt tip. One could thrust it at the rat till one was blue in the face, but it would only tickle the rat (I wonder if rats are ticklish). Besides, the rat was running around VERY FAST. After a couple of senseless thrusts, I had to start using the epee as a slashing weapon – that was definitely more painful, judging by the beast’s noises, but also would not lead to desired result (all three epee edges are dull and the blade is fairly flexible). Finally, the rat clearly got tired of this abuse and it managed to hide behind a cupboard, where I couldn’t reach it.

The story takes more time than the actions – the whole hunt took no more than a minute (did I mention the rat ran VERY FAST?).

Story ended very simply. We did not let the rat get out of the kitchen (all precautions were taken when entering and exiting), we put some poisoned grain on the floor… For several more days we heard the rat moving behind the furniture, and then it got quiet. Took us a while to find it, though – it chewed a whole in one of the boxes, dragged pieces of cloth and rug in there, filling the whole, and died.

Memory labeled this episode as the only hunt in my life and as the story of my most unusual fencing “opponent”.

Published in: on August 18, 2005 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Faire is over – long live the faire

Fair in Novato (http://forestfaire.com/) closed day before yesterday. Six weeks flew by too fast. What remained are a special kind of tan (by shape of my shirt collar), pain in the ribs (got touched very nicely in epee tournament), empty bottles, and many pleasant memories. What also remained is a worry – there’s a high probability that this faire (the oldest of this kind of faires) closed for good. If this turns out to be true, it will be very sad. But there are other good places (http://www.faires.com/choices.php):

  • August 27-28 in San Francisco – http://www.renaissance-web.net/sffaire/ – I will not go there, but it’s a good faire, apart from total absence of alcohol (bring your own flask if you want a drink)
  • September 10 – October 16 in Gilroy – http://norcalrenfaire.org/ – I’ll definitely be there at least one day; most likely we’ll go there in big company, in costumes and with full arsenal.
  • October 15-16 in Folsom – http://www.folsomfaire.com/ – I’ll be participating in this one and will be there both days; on the night of the first day I’m organizing a vodka tasting; tasting results are determined by condition of participants nex morning.
Published in: on August 16, 2005 at 1:18 am  Leave a Comment