It’s cheaper on the internet, or is it?

Posted on 16 Jan 2019 by

When was the last time that you got a really genuine bargain? A quality product at a breathtaking price with a full warranty? Can't remember? Nor could I when I asked myself the same question.

Let me give you some examples of where and why you might want to think twice about purchasing from a faceless entity on the internet:

  1. 18650 cells are the batteries used in everything from torches to electric cars. They are a bit bigger than a AA cell and carry a lot of power for their size. A really good one made by a high-end battery manufacturer can have about 3500mah in it. It is possible, just, to squeeze a tiny bit more in with today's technology, but hugely expensive in the manufacturing process to do it. One of our suppliers relates a tale of a customer buying batteries with, theoretically, almost twice to stored power for a tiny fraction of the price of the quality units, and they tested them, finding that the quoted 6000mah was actually only 420mah, so less than 1/14th of the quoted figure. At Battery Business we know, of course, that the 6000mah is actually a physical (or chemical) impossibility, but the advert isn't aimed at us. It's aimed at the average person who has no way of checking. The batteries come from someone overseas who doesn't care about honesty in advertising, won't be interested in providing warranty cover and, anyway, how does the average person test a battery for true capacity? So the advertising blurb is promising double the capacity of the real thing for 1/3rd of the price, and the truth is 1/8th of the capacity of the real thing for 1/3rd of the price (but also no protective fuse so a rather nasty fire risk too). They sell these by the million to unsuspecting bargain hunters. You can read the story at this link:
  2. Big batteries...I'll take an example of a quality product that costs us about $300 plus gst and shipping to put on the shelf. We sell new stock of it for around $400, we make about $50 on each battery and we provide a full warranty service, as well as the technical advice and expertise that is needed to ensure the customer isn't getting the wrong thing. That battery can be purchased, online, for about $340 from one supplier, so they sell it retail cheaper than we can buy it wholesale, and we spend a large 6 figure sum each month on batteries, so we know what we are doing and we buy at very fair prices. How do they sell it so cheap? Well, online suppliers typically have 5 ways of doing so. They might buy in bulk to buy cheaper (and we know that isn't the case here), or they might have lower infrastructure cost than us, but still surely, have some cost, so they can't sell the battery below their cost price. So then you get to reason 3 which is that the product is old stock, sometimes damaged stock, and we regularly hear of people selling batteries at crazy prices because they bought a pallet that was 18 months old or had been submerged in a flood. Reason 4 is that the product is overstocked and they need to clear it. We get our batteries daily, so overstock isn't an issue, but it might be for some, just maybe. Or, reason 5, the product is knock-off, stolen, fake, grey import, repaired, damaged, display stock. You can estimate, from that list, your odds of getting a great deal. In most cases you get what you pay for.
  3. Can't tell the difference between a good product and a bad one? We regularly get asked why the deep cycle batteries that we sell "cost so much". We always try to get to the bottom of comments like that and we usually find that the customer has been looking at one of several cheap brands on the internet or in discount stores. There's one brand, for example, that sounds like something very big but is, in fact, something very nasty indeed. The batteries weigh about 20% less than they should do (too little lead, made up for by using acid that is too strong). They cost about 30 to 50% less than a quality battery of the same capacity and, I promise you, nobody who has purchased these would ever go back and do so again. The problem is that there is no way that the average battery buyer can know the difference between a good product and a bad one, and the people selling the bad ones won't tell you, which is where we come in, because we do know good from bad and we like to think that our buying power means that you get that help and still pay less than you might for a quality product. 
  4. The perfect scam, and one that is so common, right now, that it is scary. It starts with a dodgy person taking a look at a website like ours, seeing what we sell and then opening an EBay or similar store selling the same products, at a lower price, usually things costing $250 to $500 or so, each. Unsuspecting customer is looking for the product, finds it on EBay at a sensational price and buys it using his/her PayPal account. Dodgy person has the customer's money, and the order, and uses the customer's name and address to buy the product from us but uses a false email address, false telephone number and a stolen credit card. We get the order and Dodgy person hopes that we will send the product to the customer, who will then be happy to get what they ordered, and we won't get a bounce on the stolen credit card for another month or so. In theory it works a treat, we are left out of pocket a few hundred $ and the customer gets what they paid (someone else) for and is none the wiser. In most cases, though, we are wise to this now (we were caught a few times before we knew what was going on) so now we don't send the product until we have absolutely verified the authenticity of the transaction. The email address and telephone number don't work, so we just wait for the credit card bounce which happens, every time, a few weeks later. in the meantime, the poor customer who purchased from a dodgy dealer doesn't have what they wanted, and may be quick enough to file a complaint on EBay and get their money back, but at least they aren't going to be the recipients of stolen goods!

So, the moral of the story? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you really want to save a few $ buying from someone without a retail, bricks and mortar, presence, and want to buy without advice or warranty backup, then that's a fair risk and you make the call.

If you'd like advice and help with a battery related issue, please give us a call. Please don't pick our brains for an hour and then buy from the cheapest online store because there will be a reason why they are cheap and it is unlikely to be to your benefit, or ours. we will, genuinely, try and give you the best price that we can, because we want you to come back and see us next time, but we can't beat the price charged for old stock, stolen goods or counterfeit/grey imports.

We wish, as I'm sure you do, that there weren't crooks around, but there are, and the internet is a great place to do dodgy business!