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Don’t Buy from Buy.com

I plunge into the paradox of how my computer can be both in stock and on back order.

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I made a mistake. A week ago I went against my intuition and purchased an Asus eee PC 900 laptop computer from Buy.com, a big internet “seller consolidator.” I usually refuse to make big online purchases without first talking with a representative of the company that I am buying from over the telephone. I am skeptical; I am old fashioned; I want to know who I am dealing with before I enter into a business transaction. I want to know if a company is reputable enough to not hire customer service representatives in India whose job it is to essentially say that they, “cannot do anything” with an unseen bobble of the head.

But a telephone number for Buy.com was not available on their website. This was a clear sign that they did not want to deal with me. I should have turned an ran, when I kept on going headlong into the arms of impending annoyance.

So I got a little lazy on my living principles, and in my excitement about getting an 8 inch Asus eee PC 900 – which has the potential to be the perfect travel computer – and made the purchase from Buy.com without first talking to a representative of the company. I was rushed into this dealing, as I wanted to buy and receive the Asus computer before I leave the USA again on the fourth of June. The Buy.com website said that my order would be shipped in 1 to 2 business days and that the eee PC 900 was in stock. I believed them. I figured that I would have the computer by the end of the week, and rode high into my purchase. I thought that I could just take a chance and order it and that I would have the darn computer in my hands before I knew it. Discretion is an old, unwooable maid, is it not? I was wrong.

Buy.com sells computers all day long, I figured, how could they screw up a simple and straight forward order?

My initial feelings prior to purchasing this computer now seem ominous. I had a feeling that it would not go through.

It didn’t.

My rush to save time contradicted itself and ended with me not getting the new computer that I really need.

I did not walk slow, and my hast drove me headfirst into a dark hole.

So the Buy.com website said the the Asus eee PC 900 laptop computer was in-stock and would be shipped in 1 to 2 business days. This sounded good, so I just bought the darn thing without checking the company out at all:

  • Then it took two whole business days to verify that I was the me that is represented on my debit card.


  • Then it took two whole business days for the order to be sent to the “warehouse.”


  • Then two more business days went by before I receive an email notifying me that my item really was not in stock as the website says it is.

No, Buy.com really does not ship orders in one to two business days.

I was then sent this notification of shipment delay from Buy.com:

Hello Wade P,

We are writing to let you know that we are experiencing a delay in being able to fulfill one or more items on your order # . We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you.

The item(s) affected by this backorder notification are:

sku: 208017730
description: ASUS Eee PC 900 8.9in 12G SSD 1GB DDR2 Windows XP loaded EEEPC900-W017 Intel Celeron M 430 1.70 GHz 8.9in 12GB (SSD) HDD 1GB PC2-3200 (DDR2-400) 802.11b/g Windows XP Home Notebook – White
qty: 1

So, I take this email to mean that my computer was not really in stock when I was told that it was. So my curiosity got the best of me and I checked the Buy.com website, and, surprise, it said that the computer that I unsuccessfully tried to order was still “in stock.”

I was clearly duped.

So I wrote Buy.com the follow message:

Hello, I was just notified that there is a delay in the shipment of the computer that I ordered. This is not acceptable. I leave the country at the end of next week, and I need this computer before I go. I am a journalist, and I need this piece of equipment in order to work. Please let me know when you can get this item to me. If this computer cannot be delivered by Thursday, May 29th I will need to cancel the order and be given an IMMEDIATE refund, as I will need to make this purchase through a different company. I am very upset with your service. When I made this order I was told that this item was in stock and would be shipped in 1 to 2 business days. This was not the case. I was mislead and lied to. Again, please tell me if you can get this computer to me by Thursday, May 29th, because I am leaving the country soon after this date, and having this computer sent to me after I leave does me no good at all. I relied on Buy.com and I was let down. Please give me a customer service telephone number that I can call to figure out what is going on.

Thank you, Wade Shepard

Reply from Buy.com:

Hello Wade,

We apologize for the delay in shipment.

Item #208017730 is still in the fulfillment
process. We do not have an estimated shipping date at this time.
However, confirmation will be sent via e-mail once your order is

Thank you for your patience.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question

This email did not resolve my question.

I would not expect anything else.

I have an inherently repulsive reaction to dealing with machines or people who could be misnomered as machines. I definitely do not want to talk with people who work in the call centers of India and the Philippines. I simply cannot think of any reason why they should care about me or my stupid computer. They are in Asia; they work those silly call center jobs for a year or two and then move on. Nobody on planet earth should take a call center job seriously. I would hope that I, my computer, and the company that Asian call centers worker labor for is of very little importance to them. I understand, and I do not hold animosity against call center employees, even if they allow their their propped up smiles to fall and their all too obvious apathy to show through their customer service “face”. I would hate to find out how awful of a call center employee I, myself, would be. I know that I do not care about dumb white people and their stupid computer problems.

After having extensive personal contact with the call centers of Bangalore, India, I have come to realize that the main job of the customer service drone is to not know anything and to be able to do absolutely nothing. This is what they are paid for. It is my impression that their training is designed to reduce these highly educated and intelligent individuals to mere and useless buffers between Western founded companies and their angry clientele.

I would assume that large companies do not want to deal with the complaints and problems of their perilously impertinent customers, so they dump this job upon middle class Indians and the highly educated youths of other poor countries. So when a company screws up, the foreign call center employees, and not the company, are yelled and screamed at. It is my impression that foreign call centers are the blank faced goons that serve as middle men for companies who do not want to deal with their customers. The call center employees are put on the front lines of customer dissatisfaction and wind up the pitiful protagonist as they absorb the wrath of angry customers. They cannot do anything. They are merely buffers. It is what they are there for: to stand between a company and their dissatisfied customers. So if the option is presented to me, I will take any road around dealing with a person in Asia who has no real tie, care, or sympathy for the company they work for or the customers that they pretend to serve.

I have never found a real reason to voice a complaint upon the deaf ears of the call center.

But I needed to find out what was going on with my Asus ee PC 900 laptop. So I made the inevitable phone call to “Buy.com.”

The man who answered on the other end had one of those intentionally “neutral” English accents, that are not really so neutral at all. He sounded like a robot. I knew at once that I was talking to the other side of planet earth. But was I talking to Bangalore, Bombay, Manila, Costa Rica, or Shanghai? I was hoping not India.

I did not feel like imagining all of the mindless head bobbles that I would be getting on the other end of the line if I was yelling at India. Other than that, I think that call centers are equally useless.

I told the robot on the phone my wrap. I told him that the Buy.com website said that my computer was in stock when I ordered it, when I paid for it, when I was notified that it was on backorder, and right at the very moment in which I was talking to him. If the website is correct and my computer really is in stock then why was I sent an email stating that it is on backorder and shipment would be delayed? I could not understand.

“But your order is in stock, sir,” the robot voice replied to my onslaught, “but it is delayed because it is on backorder.”


“Something cannot be both in stock and I backorder!” I roared.

I was clearly dealing with that particular Asian twist of logic in which ‘A’ can be ‘B’ and ‘B’ can be ‘C’ into infinitum. I have often been baffled by this way of thought as I traveled through the spiderwebs of no-logic on various journeys to India and the rest of Asia. I am an American. My logic is derived along Western lines. I simply cannot understand Asian thought. A product can either be in stock or on backorder, not both.

“Let me talk to your manager; let me talk to the person who is in charge of you,” I requested.

I was done. I would not be sucked into the logic-less pit that I was standing above.

I found myself hoping and wishing on the slim chance that his boss may be a Westerner. I have seen many Westerners in Asian call centers before, but I have not yet met the day when they would get on a telephone help unravel a spiderweb of problems.

“Hello-my-name-is-Doris-may-I-help-you?” spoke the call center manager.

Robot talk.

I knew then that I could not be helped.

I really hoped that I was not talking to India.

I did not even want to imagine all the head bobbling that I would be getting as I tried to explain that an item cannot be both in stock and on backorder. ‘A’ cannot be ‘B.’ My socially derived ignorance leaves me unable see the world any other way.

I tried to explain this, and I was consequently lead into a twist of words and overturns of logic that really had no place in the conversation. It was basically reiterated that my computer was “in stock” but delayed because it is on backorder: spiderwebs inside of spiderwebs inside of spiderwebs.

I quickly tired of this runaround and spoke bluntly that I was canceling my order and needed my refund on that day.

“Order-cancellations-take-three-to-five-days-to-process, sir”

“So I have to sit around and just wait a week for my order to be canceled! I am leaving the country in a week and I need my money now! I have to buy this computer from a company that can actually fulfill the order before I go. I need my refund today, no questions. Your company lied to me and told me that an item was in stock when it was not. I need my refund today!”

“I-cannot-do-that-for-you, sir”

She was right. She couldn’t. This poor lady was just a buffer for me to take my frustration out on. She could not really do anything. Yelling at her any further would be futile.

“Ok,” I digressed, “are you in Bangalore by any chance?” I had to ask.


I felt a smile creep across my face at this. Because even though I was being given a logic less runaround, I was not being head bobbled at.

My tune then changed, and I very politely thanked the lady for her help and said a nice goodbye as I got off the telephone.

Oh well, there was nothing that I could do. Yelling at some over educated Filipino lady who really has nothing to do with the company she works for was not going to get me my computer or a refund. So I went outside and smoked a good pipe of tobacco.

When I returned to the computer a miracle had happened:

My order was canceled and my money was refunded!

A miracle! The Filipino call center lady did something! I do not know what she did or how she did it, but she did something! I stood there in amazement.

It is funny how the world turns.

I still do not have a new computer, and I will probably not get one before I leave. But I am happy. I am now $550 more wealthy and have the newfound means for 55 days of travel. Old Faithful still has some life left in her, and, after a good overhaul, I think that she will be able to take on another journey.

In my exuberance, I spent more than a vagabond’s fare on a birthday present for myself: a brand new Japanese-made bulldog pipe.

The punchline to this tale is that Buy.com still says that they have the Asus eee PC 900 laptop computer “in stock.”

If it means anything in this world of impersonal service and shady internet monster companies, I do not recommend shedding dimes in the direction of Buy.com.

Oh yeah, the telephone number for Buy.com is 1-800-800-0800 (Press Option #3) if you want to talk to my Filipino friends.


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Filed under: Technology, Travel Gear, Travel Problems

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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