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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Purchasing PCs and Components | Making The Purchase ]

Order, Stock, Price and Ship Date Confirmation

When placing any order from an online or mail order vendor, it is wise to get an order confirmation that contains all the pertinent information about your order. Many people ordering online don't do this, and it is not uncommon for problems to crop up as a result.

How important this confirmation is to you is entirely a function of how important the accuracy of your order is to you. If you are not in a particular hurry for an item then you may not really care all that much if it is in stock when you place your order, and if you trust the company due to past experience with them you may not worry about potential pricing mistakes or inaccuracies. For most people, however, these details are quite essential.

The whole "beauty" of ordering online is that you can do it from the comfort of your chair without the need to call anyone. Unfortunately, when you do this, you are placing yourself at the mercy of the company's web site. Inaccuracies on web sites, especially when it comes to stock status, are very common, and even pricing mistakes occur frequently. Therefore, the only way to be sure about your order is to use the phone to place your order, or at least to follow up on the phone after ordering online.

Most online vendors would dispute what I am saying here, saying that their prices and stock status information are correct "most of the time". That's not surprising: companies save money when you order online and they have an incentive to try to discourage phone calls. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend ordering just online until companies generally do a better job about web site accuracy. All I can go by is my past experience, which shows me that it is very common to place an online order for something that is supposed to be in stock and then find out a week later that it has been backordered. I once placed an order with a well-known online retailer that had seven items that were supposed to be in stock, and only one of the seven shipped immediately. Sorry to say it, but that's what the current state of online retailing is.

Warning: Stock status is particularly untrustworthy on weekends and on holidays. Some companies only update their information on weekdays, and some won't mention this little detail on their site unless you go looking for it.

Assuming you do want to confirm your order, here is the information you really need at the time you place your order:

  • Pricing: The exact price of every item you are purchasing.
  • Product Details: Confirmation of the exact model of what you are purchasing, to make sure you are getting the right product. Be especially careful to watch out for OEM vs. retail components, and gray market goods.
  • Stock Status: Whether or not the items you are ordering are in stock, and if not in stock, when their arrival is expected. If you are not willing to take a backorder on an item that is out of stock, have the item removed from your order immediately.
  • Ship Date: When the item(s) will ship, specifically. Some companies are much better than others at getting in-stock items out the door promptly.

Tip: Some companies will have a time deadline for same-day shipments; for example, if you order by 3:00 pm Eastern Time, the item will ship that day. Find out what the deadline is and use it to time your next purchase from this vendor. (It's prudent to order one hour before the deadline to avoid cutting things too close.)

  • Order Total: The total amount of the order, including any sales tax or shipping charges.

The matter of whether to accept an item being backordered is a difficult question. To a great extent, it depends on your priorities, and on what your other options are. If you need the item in a hurry and another company has it in stock, then order it from the other firm. But sometimes it's easier just to accept the backorder and wait, especially if the item is very "hot". You may find that if you don't get "in the queue" by accepting the backorder you'll end up waiting a long time until you can find the item in stock somewhere else.

Next: Other "Extras"

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