This is the story of my attempt of buying an iphone from a small Boulder based company called chronochono (www.chronochrono.com). It might be of interest for other people considering to to the same.
Chronochrono sells iphones with several options (locked, unlocked, activated with a stealthsim).
On Dec 13 I bought an iphone with a stealthsim from them. On their web site they wrote they would be shipping within the day, but my unfortunate experience is that after several days they kept saying that they were waiting for the stealthsim to arrive (therefore at least their statement about immediate availability is not true!).
On Dec 19 I had a mail exchange with Chris Wentz (probably the only person behind this company) and he tried to reassure me. We agreed that he would have shipped the iphone immediately, and the stealth sim when available. On Dec 20 I did get a message form USPS - but it was only to say that Chris had requested a shipping - I never got the confirmation from USPS that they actually got the shipment.
On Dec.23 still the USPS site did not give any sign of having received the shipment (you can still see here the current status...). It might be that USPS is sloppy in updating its site, but that's a bit hard to believe... Chris sent me an email: "I don't know what else I can do to convince you it was sent. I will try to have usps cancel the shipment. If you get the phone please send it back to me. I gave you a refund through Google Checkout so you would not be worried, and I don't want to risk any legal hassles.".
On the evening of the same day Chris sent me another mind-boggling message: "Marco, I wanted to make sure you have your USPS #- ec 930 079 600 US. It should update with new information once your package is in Greece at customs. One of my assistants put in the wrong number when entering it into Google. I guarantee it will be there By new years, and if not I will refund you $40 for the delay. I appreciate your business and if there is anything I can do to make it better please let me know."
Now - if he actually sent me a refund - and requested to cancel the previous shipment as he said in the morning - why was he shipping once more? (btw, I'm not living in Greece...)
I had another element of suspicion: on their home page they have a PayPal logo. However when you buy from them , you do not really have the option to go through PayPal, but can only go through the Google Checkout option (which does not really fully protect you from fraud like Paypal does). Unfortunately I did notice that only after buying, when I became suspicious... I also told Chris that if that's the case he should remove the Paypal logo - but he never did. (Note: after the whole story ended I've got an explanation for this - see the Addendum below).
January 6, status update, end of the story. After coming back from a short ski vacation (Jan 2-6, in Stubai Tal, Austria), I had the news from our offices that Chronochrono fully refunded us on Dec. 24. That's good. About the shipments of Dec 19 and Dec 23, there are no other traces on USPS, you can check on your own by using the link above and the code.
What did I learn?
All is well that ends well. Well, sort of. I did not get the iphone but at least I've got the money back.
It looks like some people have been luckier: I found a forum where a French guy says he bought an iphone from them. On the other hand, if you take a look at the comments to this posting, and you'll find that other people went through the same troubles I had (they did not get the iphone - but in the end both of them had their money back as I did).
Well, I might have been paranoid. But to me, the bottom line is that if you write "we ship the same day" you have to do it. Or at least, you should immediately take the initiative and explain to your customer why you did not. Especially if you run a small, little know business without an established reputation.
February 1, 2008 - Addendum
I've got an e-mail from Chris:
At your suggestion I have done two things- I have added a current stock status to the top of most products. Also, I have added a business line for customers to call and ask questions or leave messages.I looked into having the paypal logo removed, but since the webstore is made with a template, it is there permanently. Paypal pays my hosting company to put it on all the webstores. Because of this I am unable to edit the logo from the site. I would also ask you to remember my communication with you and prompt refund when I realized I could not deliver the product well.
Good to see that things can somehow improve. The text on the chronochrono's website is also clearer now about the fact that the you can only pay via Google Checkout (or bank transfer for larger orders).