Geo restriction Country Blocking

Geo Blocking Sales for bikes and parts

Traditional geographical boundaries meant that was always a regional focus to the sale of bikes and gear. Of course the key brands were available, though always through local agents such as the distributer / wholesaler / importer or a national branch of the bike brand. 

Mail order made it possible for enthusiasts in remote continents (i.e. Africa, Asia and Australia) to have some access to speciality gear, there was usually a long wait and premiums for currency exchange.

With the ride of online shopping, sales initially were regional and for successful shops who adapted, they become international. But there were two effects:

Firstly, the products were no longer just ‘niche’ and hard-to-get products, rather they were everyday parts and accessories which were already available ‘locally’.  Customers were buying because it was cheaper… not because they couldn’t get it from their local bike shop.

Secondly, brands were now selling to the same buyer, but not via their local importer and bike shop and for many brands it raised questions of warranty and supporting the traditional retail channels.

 

However, the customer was usually a winner.
The customer has the same item for a lower price and are comfortable buying online so it is also convenient. Of course there are risks such as warranty issues and customer service challenges when dealing with the overseas shop. The end effect is that the bike rider has the same item… and the brand still sold their product.

 

Geo-Restriction and GeoBlocking for bikes and gear

Mavic was a very early adopter and for years they have been blocking Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles from selling their wheelsets to selected countries overseas. Other brands such as Continental have remained readily available.

Of course for customer who really wanted the Mavic wheels there were a few ways around restrictions such as using a 3rd party service to mask the country of origin and in cases it allowed delivery to an overseas address. Sometimes a bit of juggling the cart (selecting £ and UK delivery, adding the item and then changing currency and location) or simply ignoring on-site notes of restricted delivery… and letting the wheels simply turn up a few weeks later.

For ‘direct to customer’ brands such as the German brand of Canyon bikes and brands which are simply unavailable and unsupported in some countries, mail-forwarding can be used and is a service which is becoming increasing popular in the U.S. for example. A last resort is an international flight to Europe when the cost of flight and expenses is lower than the cost of purchasing locally.

 

How do retailers GeoBlock?

Wiggle detect a visitors location and when the product isn’t available they suggest that the product is no longer available, rather than not available. A challenge being that the products can be easily found on the wiggle site and only when selecting an unsupported delivery destination are the products suddenly out of stock.

Product No Longer Available

Search Engine Optimisation dictates this approach, it is better to include a product in the inventory and then try and guide a customer to alternative products, rather than to lose them completely. Of course customers who also notice this and over time simply may not visit.

Error 404 Page Not Found

Chain Reaction Cycles likewise have the product available in their directories for SEO purposes, however appear to favour an approach of sending visitors with an incompatible destination to the homepage. This can usually lead to the customer wonder ‘what just happened’ and trying a few times. Within their search database the term “Mavic Ksyrium” with a UK destination and GBP selected shows 25 results while with Australia as a destination and AUD there are only 8 results.

Among the Australia results are a few Mavic wheelsets which are apparently not blocked. Perhaps clearance or hard to sell wheelsets.

Mavic Ksyrium UK

Mavic Ksyrium Australia

 

Evans Cycles takes a different approach. In the past they haven’t appeared to block brands for sale, though more recently have changed tact. During testing there was also blocking on some Shimano parts which is unusual as Shimano and SRAM virtually never have geo-restrictions, sometimes the big online retailers sell before local bike shops overseas can even get stock.

Customers from ‘incompatible’ delivery destinations will see the complete range and receive no information or notice of restricted availability (with their overseas location and currency selected). First when the customer tries to check-out and pay are they informed that they can’t purchase. How annoying!

Evans Cycles Unavailable

 

While Evans do allows their own system to be circumvented, this process will not be documented. And there are also many other retailer to chose from. From the big ones, with our example of Mavic, Ribble have a single wheelset in their database, without any restrictions for people outside of the UK. Likewise ProBikeKit have no apparent restrictions however are focussed on UK customers and seem to neglect customers outside of the UK when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Hargroves Cycles is also in our database however doesn’t sell outside of the UK….

Actually they do, but unlike their competitors Hargroves don’t allow the destination to be selected by (potential) customers while browsing. Country selection is hidden inside the checkout process and their overseas delivery charges are hefty in comparison. In favour of Hargroves is their extensive range of our example brand ‘Mavic’.

 

Where does this leave the customer?

Some brands block some online shops from selling to customers in some countries. It depends how determined the customer is, where there is a will, there is a way. The inconsistency by many brands who try to block will leave loopholes. When online retailers in England wont sell, what about Northern Ireland… or a German retailer?

For brands there are also consequences. Some customers who experience these road blocks may return to local bike shops or local online bike store. Some brands require their products to be sold in-store, even if you are in South Africa for example, South African online retailers are not allowed to sell.

But some customers will simply walk away and turn to other brands, brands which are comparable but which they can purchase through a channel which they prefer, and for price they feel competitive.

 

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Shhh Shimano

Is ‘Shimano’ a naughty word?

There are so many good things to say about the Shimano brand in the world of cycling (not to forget, they are big in fishing). Even if you you have a budget Shimano groupset, it will still be well designed and will continue to perform as long as you look after it. And Shimano has also lead the component market without the teething problems that have held back SRAM or the chains of nostalgia which hold back Campagnolo.

Customers are happy, but a lot of bike shops and even their own national Shimano suppliers are having second thoughts. So why the discontent, it is the legacy of Shimano distribution which allows the European online bike shops access to super cheap wholesale pricing.

The Bike Dealer Blog recently published a blog post, The “S”-Word: Dealers Speak Out and discussed the American perspective of the Shimano distribution strategies;

Shimano American management claimed it cannot do anything to control European distribution, a part of the world that doesn’t allow MAP or MAP enforcement.

An example is given of a California bike shop owner who complains that the Shimano 105 5800 groupset is available online from European retailers for $382.49 while his wholesale purchase price is $500.

This scenario is similar in other countries with not online the bike shops, but also the Shimano national offices facing stiff price competition from their own brand, and little power to act for fear of being cut-off.

The Bike Dealer Blog quotes a Texan bike shop owner (which I assume is unrelated to the ex-seven time Tour de France winner),

Here’s the problem. Which bike company wants to bankrupt itself to make a point? You can’t avoid using Shimano components on your bike. You can’t even work on phasing them out, except at the low end, and if you try to do that, Shimano will strike back by making their parts cheaper and thus your competitor’s bikes a better value.

For a bike dealer to shift to SRAM or Campagnolo also involves its own challenges. Aside from missing out on the strong “Shimano” brand and having to service this brand anyway, what is stopping SRAM and Campagnolo from also tapping into the lucrative European internet retailer market?

While the European online bike shops are branded with the blame for killing local bike industries, and while the distributers and bike shops call their customers ‘heartless’ for buying online, it is the brands themself who have ultimate control. These big brands however have been caught by surprise at the power and speed of the internet and the subsequent price discrepenies which make customers happy and bike shops unhappy are a legacy of deals and arrangements which can’t be changed overnight.

For young brands the lesson is to establish globally consistent pricing which ensures that bike shops and distributers can compete on price. And consistent pricing makes customers happy, they no longer pay a ‘massive local premium’ for the same item.

IBD Annoyed bike shops importers

How to annoy bike shops and importers

Some bike shops get annoyed the minute a customer walks through the door, but that’s a different story. Good bike shops welcome customers with open arms and but there is a sure-fire way to get the staff to quickly turn against you. 

Local bike shops, independent bike dealers and bicycle retail chains face stiff competition from online retailer. A few dabble, succeed or even embrace online retail (and concentrate on bike servicing which online retailers can’t provide), but many can also compete against online retailers. This is not usually on price, but by providing the service and local engagement which Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles and co. simply can’t provide.

The easiest way to annoy staff at the bike shop is to ask them to price match an online price. Price matching an (overseas) online retailer will often knock out the complete margins and in many cases the bike shop may be paying a higher wholesale price than the online price.

But there is another way to frustrate your bike shop beyond tears, if you have purchased something online that has broken, take it to your bike shop (rather than to where you purchased) and attempt to get them to resolve the warranty claim. You, as the ‘bad customer’, are the idiot in this case. But this still happens. People try their luck returning their online purchases to the bike shop.

This scenario is made worse when it takes time to determine that the faulty equiptment was not purchased locally. People mnay attempt to contact the importer directly and waste their time before the importer determines that your wheelset was purchased overseas. (There are some good news stories where the shop or the import still look after the customer regardless, they really need be be commended for this).

Of course it can be costly, time consuming and frustrating if you purchase online, the equipment fails and you have to convince the online retailer that it is a warranty replacement. In many cases, this is where your local bike shop simply win through better customer service.

Outside of the bike world, big brands such as Apple offer worldwide service, but as a brand they also have much strong control over their retail outlets. Giant Bicycles is in a similar position with their Giant Bicycle stores and limited online availability.

Consumer protection laws change between countries and even states, the rule of thumb is to return items under warranty to the place where you purchased. And if in doubt, you can enquire with the brand.

 

photo © Bruce Turner

Damaged Bike Delivery

Bike or gear damaged on delivery? You need to know this!

You can’t hide the disappointment when you order online to find the bike or gear damaged on delivery. This is going to be painful! But there are a few things you should do to turn wrongs into rights and avoid frustration and heartache.

 

1. Don’t accept badly damaged deliveries

If the package looks as though it has been through disaster zone, simply don’t sign for it. Tracked packages will go through the system and because it is recorded and returned and that you havn’t received it, you can clarify with support whether a replacement should be shipped or you want a refund.

 

2. Don’t open the package

For deliveries you may not have a choice, it doesn’t need to be signed off, or a family member, colleague or neighbour may have signed on your behalf. If the box is is a really poor condition, don’t open it. Leave it unopened and take photos and report to customer service.

This is a judgement call, if you ordered cycle wear then a crumpled box may not bother you. but it doesn’t hurt to take a photo before opening.

 

3. Document everything and take photos

As soon as you have a suspicion that something isn’t right, start taking photos, for example unpacking the box so you have photographic documentation to ‘prove’ to customer support for your favourite retailer that this was the condition in which you received the item.

Documentation continues to making ordered notes if you speak to customer support on the phone (time, date, name and reference number) and being organised. This will save you from trying to locate lost details and ensures that you can back yourself up.

 

4. If it looks fine, inspect it anyway

Take the time to check your order, is it complete. What about the condition of each item. While you may not spot mechanical defects, take the time to carefully look at the bike or gear, look for scratches, damage or anything which is out of the ordinary. Wheelsets should be true, bikes should have original protective wrapping and be in pristine condition while parts may be in original packaging or OEM packaging.

 

5. Report to the retailer as soon as possible

The better retailers include ‘returns’ information with the delivery as well as with confirmation emails to make it easy and efficient for customers. (Likewise, the bad retailers hide this information and make it difficult and painful to lodge a return).

Provide the details of your order and describe the issue. If you are emailing rather than phoning, you may have to wait for a response and instructions.

 

6. Don’t use or ride the bike or equipment

It is temping to use or try equipment, but if it is not in order, resist this tempation. In an example, a customer reported a damaged Colnago from Wiggle however took the bike for a short ride. Wiggle staff responded The tyres, chain, and brake rims show considerable signs of clear use and rejected the claim suggesting that the customer had caused the damage. Wiggle documented, though included photos of a different bike – and the question is, who is telling the truth?

 

7. Don’t break it

The bike or the cycling gear may have arrived safe and sound, but removing it from packaging, assembling and simply accidently misusing can cause damage. Take time to browse any instruction and unpack and assemble with care. Don’t rush and be sure you know what you are doing.

Assembly can be tricky, Many bike parts, particularly Carbon Fiber, have torque specifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or ask to borrow a torque wrench. If something does happen, go to part three and document.

 

8. Be polite, be persistent

It is frustrating dealing with canned emails and 5 different staff members where you have to start again. The best retailers allocate a single staff member to help resolve your issue, while the worst ones bounce you around, don’t respond in a timely manner or simply ignore you. Be polite, by firm and persistent. Include your preferred resolution.

If you are ‘absolutely right’ but getting no where, it may be the support staffs role to reject or deny claims. Ask to elevate the issue or to speak with a manager.

 

9. Threaten the retailer

Having tried all reasonable approaches to reach a solution, if the retailer isn’t taking you seriously then it may be time to let them know you will be seeking alternative approaches to resolve. Keep in mind that defaming a retailer can get you into trouble, the online bike shop may become more interested in finding a satisfactory resolution if it keeps you from telling all of your friends, or reporting on social media and social communities or even reporting to the relevant consumer protection orgaisations.

 

10. When all else fails, take action

Some retailers may not be phased by a threat, running a poor business may mean they they are regularly threatened and that they know the threats are hollow. It is problematic if you have ordered overseas, customer protection laws may not apply however you should follow up with consumer protection agencies in the same country as the retailer.

Social media can be a good channel to draw attention to your plight though take care to be factual and publishing information which a retailer coud use to sue you. Other customers may have advice to help you.

Consider other options, if you feel that a retailer is not operating ethically you may be able to inform the consumer protection agency in your own country who can at least try to protect other consumes.

Posting a genuine, factual and detailed negative review on rating websites or evening writing a real letter (pen and paper) to management.

 

photo © Tracey Adams

Local Bike Shop Online Store

Can a local bike shop make it big online?

This is a loaded question, most of the worlds biggest online retailers started out as local bike store who did the right thing at the right time in the right place. Local bike shops have made it big and many others are trying.

The real question is, “why do some bike shops make it and others fail?” If the successful online shops did the right thing and the right time in the right place, what are the wrong things?

 

Lack of Genuine Committment

There is a different between trying to be successful online, and actually committing to online retail. The common scenario is that the local bike shop decides it wants to go online – pays a web design company $10,000 to create a shop and struggles to get sales. When they do get sales, fulfilling orders is messy and in no time the online inventory is out of date, along with the software and it discarded as an expensive failure…. because ‘the internet doesn’t work’.

The web design agency play a role in the demise for failing to educate the bike shop and showing them the big picture. And the cost conscious bike shop all too easily ignores or overlooks key parts of online retailing. As noted in an earlier article, If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

Part of genuine committment is a vision to look beyond the word of the one-dimensional web design company and take the initiative to understand the building blocks. Also to question information, to analyze, to research and make smarter decisions.

The building blocks for successful online retail

A brief and incomplete list of some of the key building blocks:

Marketing: whether big or small, you have to invest in marketing. You have to spend money and the smart retailers also discover the best channels and keep trying new approaches.

Fulfillment: A massive topic, and for the sake of simplicity includes logistics. This is ensuring that the inventory is current, that delivery projections are up-to-date through to processing the order, packing, dispatching, delivery and tracking. All along keeping the customer informed and happy.

Customer Service: As with traditional retailers, customer service can make or break you. Of course the customer service requirements for online sale is different, but customers want immediate satisfaction and immediate answers. Word of mouth is just as important for online retailers and negative customer experiences are amplified even further in the internet.

Technology: From responsive websites to cater to smart phone and tablets to effective order process as well as clever technical integration and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). You need an expert at your side who knows technology.

Price: The internet makes it inherently easier to compare prices, as long as the retailer is trusted the the lowest price wins. Why pay more for the same product (an online retailer can hardly sell their ‘customer service’)?

 

The Visionary

Any bike shop can set-up online, but a visionary does more. They understand the potential of online to their business, they understand the change or adaption required. They invest and continue to drive, often employing specialists which push their online retail abilities beyond others.

It means that online retail is not for all, traditional businesses certainly shouldn’t ignore online retail (they need to adapt to remain competitive) but if a retailer isn’t truely dedicated to opening up online retail, they are often better off investing in their core business.

But their are plenty of sales out there, and just because one retailer is popular, it doesn’t mean they can maintain. Management and profit orientated decisions can taint a retailer leaving gaps for young online retailers who can do it better.

 

photo: © ubray

Shifting Expectations when Buying Online

When you go to your local bike shop and order a bike or gear that they don’t have in stock, it can take time. Typically you wait for the next delivery from the wholesaler, sometimes they stuff up and it takes forever but there are expectional circumstances when the bike or gear comes in quickly, you get the call – though still have to make the second trip to pick up.

From the comfort of your home (or workplace) you can place an online order – and with standard delivery it needs to arrive as fast as possible. Customers have different expectations online – the online world needs to be fast and a delay that would be normal when dealing with a local bike shop is a late delivery.

The big online shops such as Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle have packing and dispatch all figured out – providing the items are in-stock, your delivery can be on its way the following day. Sometimes when certain items are delayed, the remaining available items will be sent immediately so you have most of the things you ordered sooner.

For established retailers, the delays are all with the delivery companies. Just like a missing sock in a washing machine, there is a fair amount of mystery why package A arrives in 3 days and why package B arrives in 6 weeks – no one really knows but it costs the customer service hours pacifying irate customers.

But fast turnover times is supported and promoted by the retailers, so customers don’t have unreasonable expections rather online is a different game. The retailers on-top of their delivery partners while maintain customer satisfaction and drive repeat business.

Look out for End-Of-Season specials on Bikes and Gear

Many of the big brands have already announced their 2015 bikes or cycling gear and products. You will even find some bike shops stocking next years gear. The fact is, new is sexy and for some strange reason, next seasons gear or next years gear always looks better.

The other fact is, most of us are not performance cyclists and the one percent saving will make zero percent difference (just don’t tell the marketing departments). The real effect is that often last season’s bike or gear may be substantially reduced and you could save hundreds of Dollars, Pounds or Euros for a bike which is almost the same as next years model.

Some brands are trying to buck the trend by removing the ‘year’ and ignoring seasons as a bike model generally has a life span exceeding one year. Often after a few seasons (and a few paint jobs and accessory changes later), a top model bike may be relegated and replaced, but still remains in the program as it was a good bike.

Bike shops need to clear their floor stock and/or warehouse stock for the new gear so you need to keep your eye open from between October and February, more specific time-frames will depend upon your country’s sale trends as well as the individual brands time frames for supply. Don’t be afraid to ask “when do you expect the new bikes in?”

Online retailers however may have different cycles when it comes to new season gear. Local bike shops are often first inline and online retailers are second-in-line as they are the ‘clearing houses’. This means that online retailers may get new season stock much later however once again, it depends upon the brands and their relationship with the retailer.

The bottom line

If you chose last year’s bike or gear, the chances are that the savings you make over the new year and new season equipment are far great than the difference in performance benefit. Of course there may be differences and the new gear is new – so if you want New and can afford New, go for it.

Customer Service verses Company Policy

Sorry Sir, but if you refer to our Terms and Conditions, page 53, paragraph 7.3.8 it states that…

That’s right, the customer is always right unless they are wrong. Or if the ‘customer service’ staff feel that the customer is defrauding the shop and succumbing to customer needs is a sign of weakness.

Most problems raised by customers such as non-delivery, late delivery, incorrect charges, wrong or faulty or broken parts are genuine. Without suggesting that a Local Bike Shop will always resolve a customer problem perfectly – online retail is built upon reducing overheads and this is frequently interpreted as meaning reducing customer service.

A return customer is cheaper to acquire so it is worthwhile for a retailer to focus on existing customers, ensure customer satisfaction and benefit from repeat business and customer referrals.

Without diving into all of the ways that retailers have been known to avoid customers and their duties, there is an easy way to reduce overheads. And that is, quickly solve problems to the advantage of the customer.

Rather than standing behind the rules and company policy, make it easy, make it fast and take a hit with replacements and refunds because this is an investment. The marginal losses (much of which can be recovered) is a marketing investment. The best online shops are the ones that solve problems quickly and have customer friendly terms and a customer friendly approach.

Can you Trust Online Retailer Reviews?

Just like your traditional local bike shop, growing a loyal customer following is an important part of business. I would argue that there is less customer loyalty with online shops compared with local bike shops. Being predominently price orientated and without that same recommendations, support, follow-up and maintenance, an online shop has a more limited role and more limited scope to build a following.

Despite less loyalty, when the price and time is right, it is significantly cheaper for online shops to sell to an existing customer rather than acquiring a new one.

Wiggle have been promoting their Gold customer loyalty plan and telling me that I have until the end of this month to spend $150 to remain in their program. So I should spend $150 for the sake of it?

Lets move along to online retailer social communication – specifically blogs and whether you can trust them.

So why wouldn’t you trust them – well of course because the online retailers want to sell and for this reason if they are publishing a review, they would hardly want to dissuade customers from buying. And that is where credibility walks out the door, as they are not independent media, how can they be impartial? (Another story is how independent magazines and website tend to publish reviews at exactly the same time that the same brand has advertising).

Searching the Wiggle blog for keyword “poor” and “bad” shows no results with articles or product reviews with these terms in the context of the products quality or attributes.

Chain Reaction Cycles have the CRC Hub with articles and videos, very much focussed on their products and events and news related to inventory.  They have created a more comprehensive community integrating video, blogs and social sharing tools, facebook, twitter and google+. Their useless search likewise delivers no results which suggest any criticism of any of the featured products.

We have previous discussed customer reviews and the tendency for bad reviews to disappear, or never to appear. Amazon have a different approach. By virtue of their size they happily allow negative customer reviews as they know that the customer will continue looking on their online shop for alternative products rather than leave.

In the cycling world, the product pool is smaller and even the big retailers can’t afford to annoy their suppliers and brands too much. But as a customer, yes, you can read a retailers reviews and also customer reviews and perhaps even get useful information. But be aware that there is a vested interest so time spend researching independently is worthwhile.