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Dropshipping: Why those online deals are usually too good to be true

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When Sean Virsunen of Collingwood, Ont., was looking for an aquarium heater recently, he did what a lot of Canadians do: He shopped around online to find the best price.

He eventually found the item he thought would suit his needs on Walmart.ca for a great price — $15.97 Cdn. “I knew it was going to be something really cheap,” he says, “but I thought it could be worth it.”

A few weeks later, the item had yet to arrive, so Virsunen sent off an email to Walmart.ca to inquire about the delay. 

“Their response, in a nutshell, was that it was sold by a third party, we have nothing to do with this, you need to contact them,” Virtsunen recalls.

That was surprising to him, since he had ordered the item on Walmart.ca and didn’t notice anything about the product not actually coming from them. But sure enough, when a package arrived some time later, it was from a company called Zest Mall Inc.

Dropshipping started as a way for retailers to supplement their own offerings online, but has devolved into online businesses with no products of their own selling straight from manufacturers. (Aleksey Novikov/Shutterstock)

It looked vaguely like the product he had ordered, but it came with foreign writing on the box. It also had European-style electric plugs, so it was wired to work on a 220-volt system — not the 120-volt system used throughout North America.

Virsunen contacted the company to complain, and after receiving numerous emails offering him a discount on his next purchase, he grew frustrated and insisted on a full refund. The company said it would do that if he could ship the item to an address in California — something that would have cost more than twice what he paid for it in the first place.

He complained to Walmart again, and they eventually said they would refund his money if he returned the item to a store. 

“We expect our sellers to honour their return policies,” Walmart Canada told CBC in an email. “However if a customer is not able to receive a refund that is allowed under the policy, they can escalate their refund request to Walmart.”

While Virsunen thinks he will eventually get his money back, the experience was an eye-opening one for him, and his first foray into the murky world of something called “dropshipping.”

Representatives of Zest Mall Inc. did not respond to multiple CBC requests for comment. But their business has the hallmarks of a practice where third-party companies known as dropshippers sell products to consumers directly from the manufacturer, without the need for a physical store of their own.

A murky world of retail

Traditional retailers sell products to domestic consumers that are often made by foreign manufacturers. Retailers make money by marking up the price to cover their costs — rent for the store, salary for employees, warehouses to store the stuff and the technology to process payments.

In dropshipping arrangements, goods go directly from the manufacturer to the consumer without the added costs of the retail side. (CBC)

Dropshipping cuts all of those costs down drastically, because it circumvents or outsources most of those tasks. The dropshipper sets up a web store that’s often little more than a photo catalogue of available items, and ships the item directly to the customer from the factory.

In some cases, dropshippers don’t even have their own web store, selling their wares on the web portals of established retailers like Walmart, Amazon or Home Depot.

Payment processing is usually handled by an outside party, too. Canadian tech company Shopify is a big booster of the practice, via its app called Oberlo. Shopify says 85 million products have been sold through Oberlo. 

It didn’t used to be that way.

“In the past, retailers would engage in a dropshipping arrangement for purely logistical purposes,” says Mark Cohen, the former head of Sears Canada, who now teaches business at Columbia University in New York.

In Cohen’s day, a brick-and-mortar retailer like Sears would partner with a foreign supplier to dropship “large bulky products it didn’t want to stock on its own shelves that it could more efficiently simply arrange to have shipped directly from point of origin.” It worked well for big-ticket items like appliances, many of which are made outside North America to begin with.

But the rise of online shopping has turned dropshipping into something quite different, as consumers demand better deals and expanding selection.

“Consumers don’t care where the goods are coming from,” Cohen says. “They see it, they want it, they buy it, they expect to get it.”

More and more, that suspiciously cheap item online is coming to a consumer from a dropshipper “without the retailer they engaged having anything to do with the handling of it,” Cohen says. “And they don’t really care as long as everything is as promised.”

‘Selling really cheap stuff’

Problems arise when it isn’t.

A worker assembles ornaments at factory Xitanon village in the outskirts of Wenzhou, China. Dropshipping allows online stores to sell imported products at deeply discounted prices because they ship directly from foreign manufacturers. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Andrew Youderian runs an ecommerce consultancy and community called eCommerceFuel, but between 2008 and 2016, he ran several dropshipping businesses that collectively netted more than $1 million in annual sales.

Back in his day, he says dropshipping was a viable business plan for real-world entrepreneurs who wanted to offer more products without having to take on the risk of adding expensive inventory that has to be stored, and may not sell quickly.

“Six or seven years ago,” he says, dropshippers like him “worked with reputable suppliers and legitimate businesses.”

Now, he says a lot of the industry has just devolved to mean “people selling really cheap stuff directly from the factory to consumers.”

Amazon’s journey to becoming an online colossus played a big part in the evolution of dropshipping, first by making it harder for their real-world competitors to sell stuff themselves online, and now by working closely with third-party sellers. Some of them are legitimate retailers, but many are just dropshippers with no products or stores of their own.

As Virsunen puts it, “[Amazon] used to compete with them, but now they’re letting them on their platform.”

“If your whole strategy is trying to resell someone else’s products … it’s really hard to out-hustle Amazon,” Youderian says, which is part of why he got out of the business entirely.

But not everyone thinks the same way. One of the ways that dropshippers now get noticed is by advertising on social media feeds to try and nab bargain-hungry browsers. Once you click buy, you’re bombarded by even more ads for products, since dropshippers know you’re open to buying them.

Consumer-focused chat forums are replete with countless stories of consumers angry about being sold shoddy merchandise based on ads targeting them in their social media feeds.

“A bogus manufacturer creates a picture and body copy describing this wonderful product they’re going to make available for an incredibly low price, and the consumer opts to buy it,” is how Cohen describes the process. “Then, when they get [the item], they get a package full of sawdust.”

“They complain and discover the retailer that sold them the box of rocks is gone,” he says, “doing business under a different name.” 

In the past, consumers trusted that retailers were screening the items they were selling, Cohen says. “If they viewed the product as shoddy or substandard or not living up to its claims, they would typically reject it.” 

Prices that are too good to be true are a hallmark of the dropshipping process, as items often take a long time to arrive, are of suspect quality and are very hard to return. (Pete Evans/CBC)

That’s not happening as much any more, which is why Virsunen says he feels duped. 

“It’s kind of false advertising,” Virsunen says of his experience. He says he’s unlikely to buy on Walmart’s Canadian website again, despite the fact that Walmart said they will give him his money back.

“I ordered something off a Canadian website, I was expecting something that would at least work in Canada,” he says. “Who are these people [and] how are they allowed to just willy-nilly sell stuff?”

In an email to CBC News, Walmart said all third-party sellers it works with are “carefully vetted and reviewed before being invited to join Walmart’s marketplace community to ensure our customers receive the quality and service they deserve.”

But Zest Mall’s page on Walmart’s official marketplace sellers list is littered with poor reviews that are reminiscent of Virsunen’s experience.

Walmart says it makes it very clear on its website if any available product is being sold by a third party, as such items will have a “sold and shipped by” line next to their products. Walmart adds that customers can return any item from a third party to a Walmart store, “subject to the return policy of the marketplace seller.”

Virsunen says that’s not good enough.

Cohen says bad experiences with suspicious-looking deals online are a good reminder of the age-old retail advice: buyer beware.

“It’s like caveat emptor on steroids,” he says. “You took your chances, it seemed too good to be true and it was too good to be true.”

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St Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa: 10 reasons to avoid this dealership

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St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership have been at the centre of numerous negative reviews by customers. The dealership has left numerous customers dissatisfied with their services due to their sheer unprofessionalism and poor management.

Now, many customers are advising others to steer clear of the dealership either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

The Volvo brand is known for its high-end services, but the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership has shown contempt in how it treats customers since their management takeover. Their poor communication, inflated prices, empty promises and late delivery timelines have been the highlight of most customer reviews of the dealership.

“If I had to describe my experience with St Laurent Volvo in one word it would be ‘nightmarish’. The service I received was night and day different from any other Volvo dealership I’ve been to. It is impressively poorly run,” said Sam, a dissatisfied customer who visited the dealership.

Therefore, if you live in Ottawa and need to either buy, service or repair a luxury vehicle, here are some reasons why you should avoid the St Laurent Volvo:

  1. Poor reception

Walking into the dealership alone is enough deterrent as the reception at this dealership is far from top-notch.

Customers who walk into the dealership aren’t greeted to a warm welcome but have to wait endlessly before they can get attended to.

“First I spent 30 mins waiting for a salesman and then left. The second time I spent 15min waiting. During that time, I read these reviews and realized I was making a mistake. Even if I got the car of my dreams it sounds like it comes with the service of my nightmares,” said Rudy Dunno after paying a visit to the dealership.

When customer service representatives are not trained properly, they tend to keep customers waiting for a long time as is the case at St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa.

  1. Inaccessibility

Contacting representatives at St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa is quite very difficult due to how unprofessional their employees are.

Customers have complained about how they have to endure days and even weeks of no communication from the staff at the dealership. This is particularly frustrating for customers especially when they have already paid for the service.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton.

  1. Ignored Better Business Bureau complaint

There is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership by a customer who had dropped of their Volvo at the dealership early September this year.

However, till date, the BBB complaint has yet to be responded to, showing just how unprofessional the dealership has become.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the claimant.

  1. Dishonesty and failed promises

Making a promising and failing to keep it is one of the major fails in customer service and this dealership is quite notorious for this.

“For weeks they kept promising us they would get the vehicle checked. Cliff and Frank multiple times promised to inspect our vehicle and didn’t,” said the disgruntled BBB claimant whose car was unattended to for almost two months.

Failure to keep promises made to customers is a huge red flag for prospective customers and a sign of irresponsibility.  

  1. Late delivery times

When a problem takes longer than expected to solve, it becomes harmful to the reputation of the business. This dealership can keep a customer’s vehicle unattended to for weeks and without any form of inspection being carried out.

Ramin Mesgarlou expressed his disappointment with the customer service at the dealership after they kept his vehicle for about a year just to fix a suspension fault.

“They kept my truck for about a year to fix a suspension fault. No less than 7 times they said my truck was fixed and it wasn’t .. in fact, the first time it wasn’t even touched,” said Ramin.

  1. Incompetent technicians

There have been numerous online complaints on how technicians at the St. Laurent Volvo dealership fail to diagnose the problem accurately and end up causing more damage to the car.

For instance, Vincent Gradeau had taken his car to the dealership when he noticed some problems with his car’s alternator. After waiting for days to know the status of his car, he eventually called, and they claimed to have fixed the problem, but the car was still problematic.

In fact, Vincent’s car now had a faulty alternator belt— a problem that never existed when he took his car to the dealership.

“The next day comes, they finally call me and tell my car is ready. A few weeks later, my alternator belt started to make a lot of noise. I wait a few weeks hoping the belt will tighten up, but without luck,” said Vincent.

  1. Careless service technicians

Despite how expensive the luxury vehicles that are driven into this dealership are, service technicians are still very careless with how they handle the cars brought in for servicing or repairs.

Guy Lagace took his Land Rover for service only to end up with various scratches and dents that were not originally there when he dropped off his vehicle. Even after insisting the dealership fixed the new damage, they still show a lot of incompetence.

“One week later I again asked to pick up my vehicle and again scratches not repaired but a poor attempt on buffing it, so much it caused more damage (paint burnishing) and left my vehicle full of buffing compound,” said Lagace.

You would expect that your expensive car be handled with care when left and the dealership but that’s not the case with St. Laurent Volvo.

  1. Inflated prices

This dealership gave a quote of almost $3000 to install an after-market Catalytic Convertor that cost less than half that price ($1400) at other similar dealerships.

Failure to keep it fair and transparent with customers is a major reason why you should avoid this dealership.

  1. Suspicious practices

From resisting to issue a formal invoice to racist behaviour towards certain customers, this dealership has been shown to involve in shady practices that shouldn’t be associated with a dealership of its size—or any dealership at all. 

“Then they resisted issuing a formal invoice for contemplated repairs like they are some shady garage,” said a BBB claimant.

The BBB claimant had been requesting for a formal invoice for weeks and when they eventually issued one, they refused to continue with the repairs. Another customer also claims to have been a target of racist behaviour from the staff.

“I have never met such an insolent salesperson who keeps pushing potential customers to other stores. I guess she may have a racist attitude because I reviewed the previous comments,” said Elain Luo, who came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the dealership with her husband.

  1. Poorly managed facility

There is a clear lack of quality standards and accountability from the staff at the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership. The environment has been made very toxic for customers with rude employees and an unkempt service department.

“Wow, I must say, I saw some poor part department in my life, but this is the worst really. First, it is a dump. It was so messy, just incredible. The gentleman at the counter seems totally lost. In all, I what I am certain is, I will never ever return to this dealership,” said Claude Brunette after a visit to the dealership.

In conclusion, car dealerships always play an important role in the lifespan and ownership experience of your vehicle. Therefore, it is necessary to take your time to evaluate your options and choose a dealership that guarantees you premium services that match and exceed your expectations. 

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St Laurent Volvo: Deeps Dossanjh runs dealership into the ground with Better Business Bureau complaints

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Once the most popular and revered dealership in Ottawa, the St. Laurent Volvo is struggling to leave a positive impression on customers.

Currently managed by Deeps Dossanjh, the St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa dealership is now riddled with numerous complaints by dissatisfied customers due to their unprofessionalism and sketchy practices. This damage to their reputation by the new management is threatening to run the business into the ground as many customers are now advising others to avoid them either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

“What has gone wrong at Land Rover Ottawa! When you pay top price for a vehicle you expect a quality customer service and, until recently, that used to be the case,” said Alf, a long time customer of the dealership.

The sheer negligence being shown by Dossanjh becomes clearer in how he has willfully ignored a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the BBB claimant.

According to this claimant, he dropped off his Volvo at the dealership on Sept 1, 2020, for repairs, to later get it repainted before winter. However, for several weeks, he kept getting empty promises on when the vehicle would be checked and eventually got frustrated by the dealership.

Since Dossanjh took over leadership at the St. Laurent Volvo, the quality of service rendered by the dealership has continued to nosedive, said the claimant.

“I have been going to St Laurent Volvo for many years and experienced excellent client services.  But the new franchise owners have no respect for Volvo owners or any clients,” he noted.

The Google review section of the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership which are both managed by Dossanjh, are filled with various other complaints from disappointed customers. There are various similarities in each customer’s complaints as they border on poor customer service, terrible communication, late delivery timelines and unscrupulous practices.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton in his review of the dealership.

John Avudria, another disappointed customer, spoke of how ineffectual the service department at the dealership when he had issues with his Range Rover Evoque.  

“In 3 months, these guys could not figure a problem that seems to have been with remote key sensors. I had to call Jaguar and Land Rover head office in New Jersey,” said Avudria.

The consistent bad reviews from customers about their poor services shows that Dossanjh is incapable of running this dealership and is bound to run it to the ground if nothing changes soon.

“We just experienced the worse customer service in the history of owning a car!” wrote Victoria Wnek in a review.

Victoria recently moved to Ottawa and needed to get a first-year oil change, fix her rattled speaker and update the software on her Jaguar which was still under warranty. However, after contacting Dossanjh’s dealership, she was met with a series of disappointments—from ignored calls to utter disrespect from the manager.

Eventually, Victoria had to take her car back after several weeks of time wasted going back and forth with the manager who eventually declined to fix the car.

“He wasted our time … and sent us a message that he doesn’t want our business. After being a repeat customer of Jaguar, we are extremely disappointed. These people simply do not care!” she said.

There have also been claims of racism targeted towards certain customers by employees at the Dossanjh’s dealership. 

Elain Luo came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the St. Laurent Volvo dealership with her husband and received a very rude welcome by who she describes as “an insolent salesperson who keeps pushing potential customers to other stores.”

According to Luo, the salesperson may have equally been racist based on her attitude towards her and other Asian customer reviews she had read online.

“I reviewed the previous comments, and another Asian customer also had the worst experience with the same young lady, Alanna Noakes!!! I really felt bad after leaving there,” Luo said. 

St. Laurent Volvo dealership has continued to display unprofessionalism in how they treat their customers and this is a complete deviation from what is expected in luxury dealerships.

“I was left on hold by the receptionist for nearly 15 minutes before finally having the misfortune of speaking to a female on the service department that left me feeling my custom was an inconvenience,” said Alf in his review.

With the amount of negativity ascribed with St. Laurent Volvo, it is only a matter of time before they seize to be operational.

“We are going to ask all Volvo owners who have reported a bad experience online of St Laurent Volvo to collective report to the local Better Business Bureau,” said the BBB claimant.

There’s bound to be more complaints filed against them in the future with the BBB claimant urging more customers to report their bad experiences at the hands of St Laurent Volvo Ottawa.

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Better Business Bureau complaint shows St-Laurent Volvo is getting worse

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Some businesses assume that most customers would just ignore bad customer service and not care to do anything about it. While that may be true in some instances, more customers today are now telling others about their bad experiences online, especially with the internet being easily accessible to everyone.

In the past few years, St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa has come under heavy criticism by customers over its poor services and now, more customers are sharing their bad experience with the dealership online as a deterrent to others.

Deeps Dossanjh manages the dealership which has now been labelled as one of the worst places to buy or repair a car in Ottawa as the negative reviews that continue mount. Customers expect that a reputable brand like Volvo should have dealerships that provide timely and professional services with staff that are courteous and honest. However, that seems to be the direct opposite of the services offered by St. Laurent Volvo.

“Very bad dealership. Salespeople bad, service desk at this dealership is godawful and I would never EVER buy another Volvo again,” said Dr. Smythe, a disgruntled customer

While reviews can vary from person to person and sometimes aren’t a complete representation of what might have transpired but with Dossanjh’s dealership, the constant complain over their poor services is worth taking a look at.

The negative reviews left by customers at Dossanjn’s dealership are mostly centred around the poor quality of services being rendered and their unprofessional practices. In her review, Steph narrated how she took her few months old Range Rover Evoque to the dealership after noticing a problem with her breaks only to be treated in an unprofessional manner.

“They have to have the worst service for a high-end dealer I have ever experienced. To have to wait 6 months to get them to fix something after I purchased a brand new vehicle is ridiculous,” said Steph after the dealership stalled in fixing her problem.

“We have purchased three very expensive vehicles from this dealer within the last year and will have to look elsewhere when it’s time for a trade. They don’t care about your business after they get your money. Extremely disappointed,” she added.

For a dealership of this size, their services are night and day different from what is expected and there’s even a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the BBB claimant.

The claimant had dropped off his Volvo at the dealership early September this year for repairs and later get it repainted before winter. However, for several weeks, he kept getting empty promises on when the vehicle would be checked, leading to a very frustrating experience.

“For weeks they kept promising us they would get the vehicle checked. They didn’t inspect it until sometime in October,” said the claimant.

In Ramin Mesgarlou’s case, his truck was kept at the dealership for almost a year just to fix a suspension fault.

“They kept my truck for about a year to fix a suspension fault. No less than 7 times they said my truck was fixed and it wasn’t .. in fact, the first time it wasn’t even touched yet they charged my AMEX $3,000,” Ramin revealed.

The decline in the quality of service rendered by St. Laurent Volvo appears to have nosedived since Dossanjh took over leadership, said the claimant.

“I have been going to St Laurent Volvo for many years and experienced excellent client services.  But the new franchise owners have no respect for Volvo owners or any clients,” he noted.

The Google review section of the dealership is filled with other complaints from several angry customers, all with similar complaints on poor customer service, terrible communication, late delivery timelines and shady practices.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton in his review of the dealership.

Another customer, Kelly, equally experienced how staff at the dealership ignored her calls for weeks and never even bothered to return them.

“Called for a service and it went to voicemail and left a message three weeks ago still no callback. They will need to really start working on their customer service skills,” said Kelly.

Dossanjh’s dealership appears to be reaching new heights in bad service with one customer tagging the dealership “the worst customer service in history”. There have also been claims of racism and extortion carried out by employees at Dossanjh’s dealership. 

Elain Luo, who came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the dealership with her husband, said the attendant who welcomed them at the dealership was exhibiting racist tendencies.

“She seemed unwilling to do business with us and I guess she may have a racist attitude because I reviewed the previous comments, and another Asian customer also had the worst experience with the same young lady,” she said.

According to a BBB claimant, the dealership charged him double the rate for the repair and installation of a Catalytic Convertor when similar repairs had been done for a cheaper rate on another Volvo elsewhere.

“St Laurent Volvo was seeking to charge us an inflated price of $2800 for a convertor when I paid $1400 before on a separate vehicle,” said the BBB claimant.

The dealership is still yet to respond to the BBB complaint filed against them and has shown no signs of improving on their services. Now, customers are advising others to steer clear of the dealership either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

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