One of the great benefits of selling stuff on the Internet is that you never
have to deal with unhappy customers in person. But one downside of etailing,
as this week's Rogue can attest, is that some of those unhappy customers are
Way back in September 1998, a Connecticut resident named Rex Swain went online
and ordered a Dave Brubeck jazz album, Time In (the follow-up to Time
Out) from Sound City 2000, a Portland-area purveyor of "hard-to-find"
When the disc didn't arrive, Swain emailed Sound City President Linda Simmons.
When she offered a panoply of excuses and stalling tactics, he went online again,
this time with his own website, chronicling in extraordinary detail his battle
to get first his CD, and later, his $26.90 back (www.rexswain.com/soundcity.html).
In addition to the 26 emails exchanged, his site also provides links to a Better
Business Bureau report on Sound City (thumbs down) and other customer feedback
(double thumbs down) and details of an investigation by Oregon Attorney General
Hardy Myers' office.
Swain was one of 50 customers who filed complaints with the AG's office alleging
that Sound City never shipped some CDs they'd paid for, didn't refund money
promptly and charged customers' credit cards far in advance of delivery.
Last month, in a settlement with Myers' office, Simmons (who could not be reached
for comment) agreed to stop doing business in Oregon and to provide restitution.
The settlement wasn't the first for Simmons' family: In 1990, her husband,
Ladislav Hanousek, then president of Sound City USA, signed an agreement with
the AG not to sell counterfeit, bootlegged or pirated merchandise.
And, thanks to Swain, all the details are only a mouse-click away. "This turned
into a real grudge match," says Swain, who is a software developer. "Had it
happened pre-Internet, I wouldn't have had a forum at all."
Wednesday, April 03, 2002