Thursday, November 25, 2010

CSN vs ATG - the unbiased, unsponsored review

If you've been entering any blog giveaways lately (or following me on Twitter), you will have heard of both CSN Stores and ATG Stores.

They are both massive online retailers with hundreds of retailers, stocking just about everything you can think of. Both operate websites that make shopping easy, and shipping is free* on certain items, even to Canada. Sounds good, right? *sort of

I've had the chance to try both out, as, luckily for me, I won a gift certificate at each store. (The hard part was figuring out what to buy.) Here is my experience with both for comparison:

CSN Stores

At CSN Stores, I won a $60 gift certificate and ended up purchasing a couple of things for the nursery: a yacht mobile (not a big fan of the plastic, battery-operated crib mobiles, this now hangs over the crib)
and this crib sheet as well:These together added up to $60, so there's the gift certificate spent. I got free shipping on both items, but the "International Fees" added up to an additional $19.44 on these two items. My order was placed in late September, shipped September 27th, and I received it at the beginning of October. That's fairly fast - nothing to complain about (aside from the hefty International Fees, watch out for those!). Both items arrived in perfect condition, even the rather delicate mobile, and I'm very happy with them.

ATG Stores

At ATG Stores, I had a $50 gift certificate to spend. This came at the perfect time as we were looking into canoe covers to protect the canoe we bought this spring over the winter.

(The tiny picture is all I have as the original picture has now been removed from their website)

We found a canoe cover at ATG Stores and put the gift certificate towards that. The cover cost $79, and although it had "free" shipping, there were "Additional Shipping" charges to Canada of $36.16. This seems like a lot, but because of the gift certificate it is still less than the ones we were looking at at other retailers.

Here's how that order has gone:
October 8th: I placed my order. My credit card was charged.
October 11th: I got a message saying that the item I'd ordered was now on back order and that it was expected to ship on November 6th.
November 6th: came and went, and I didn't receive a shipping notification or email.
November 9th: I left a polite message on their "Live Chat" (because there were no customer service reps actually live chatting), asking for an update on my order.
November 11th: I received an email message saying that my order is now expected to ship on December 3rd, and "sorry for any inconveniences".
Update December 1st: I received an email message saying that my order is now expected to ship on December 11th. December 11th! More than two months since my order & payment. NOT COOL!
Update December 7th: I received an email message saying that my order was shipped and delivered to Washington. Um, Washington? I live in Ontario. I jumped on to the Live Chat and actually hooked up with a customer service rep, who told me that the source company doesn't ship to Canada, so they've had it sent to the ATG warehouse and will ship it on from there. Why send me an email saying it was shipped and delivered with a tracking number? Just to freak me out that it went to the wrong place? On the plus side, I did actually get to speak to someone in customer service, he did look into it and let me know what was going on - also at least this is progress. On the negative side, there was no apology for the wait and no goodwill offer. Also - we've now got about 10" of snow... The whole point of ordering a canoe cover in October was that it would be here in time to protect the canoe from the snow!
Update December 9th: "Your package is in the UPS system and has a rescheduled delivery date of 12/16/2010." Right. Because December 11th would be silly - only 10" of snow has fallen. Let's wait another 5 days so we can ensure the canoe is thoroughly buried and encrusted in ice and snow.
Update December 15th: The canoe cover finally arrived. It fits - after my husband spent half an hour chipping a foot of frozen-on snow off the canoe. I'm so. Done. With ATG.

Now, I get that sometimes back orders happen. This might be a weird thing that not too many people order or something - or maybe they had a zillion orders for it as fall approached and didn't stock enough. But as a customer who has already paid for my order, a two month+ wait to receive it seems a little much.

What I really don't appreciate about the experience is that I have had to follow up to find out what's going on, rather than their customer service letting me know when an expected ship date came and went without my order being shipped. I don't like that they advertise "Live Chat" with their customer service reps on the site, yet each time I have gone there is nobody on the other end. Maybe that's my timing, but really... it's not live chat if it's not actually live chat.

Usually when I have had major delays on orders with other companies, or they have problems fulfilling my order, they offer some kind of token as an apology, whether that's a discount off the next order, or a partial refund. I don't mean that I ask for this kind of thing, it just has been the standard in my experience. (Just as a recent example of good customer relations, we were at Extreme Pita on the weekend, they screwed up my husband's order, and in apology gave us two coupons for free sandwiches. Starbucks does the same if they are out of something or mess up your order. I have had non-food companies throw in freebies or discount coupons.). No such offer from ATG has been put forward.

Who knows when I will receive the canoe cover. I sure hope it's soon as we can expect snow any day now and the point was really to have the cover on there before winter hits.


Pros for both: decent prices, easy shopping
Cons for both: Hefty additional shipping fees to Canada

Pros for CSN: fast shipping and well-packed items, lots of selection (200+ retailers)
Cons for CSN: nothing besides the above

Pros for ATG: even more selection (500+ retailers), easy shopping
Cons for ATG: customer service is not as good as one might hope, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w fulfillment (on my order, YMMV)

Just FYI, this is just me sharing my experiences with these two companies. Neither has asked me to do a review or anything. I figure with a lot of us doing online shopping for Christmas, a completely unbiased and unsponsored review might be just the thing if you were considering either of these massive retailers for your shopping. If you've tried either site, and had an experience worth sharing (good or bad), feel free to comment!

1 comment:

  1. I had the same experience with ATG and a gift cert that I won. It was $100 and I ordered two items which they shipped separate and I had to pay the international fees twice because they shipped them that way (not my choice). Then because one item was valued under $20 (it was $19.99) I had to pay an additional fee to UPS when it arrived. In total I ended up paying about $60-$70 in shipping and fees. I also had CSR issues. But in the end the products were great (a book shelf and a stacking blocks toy) so I was happy.


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