Monday, November 04, 2013

Review: BitcoinShop.US


The usual up-front info and disclaimers: I received no payments, perqs or (so far as I know) special considerations from BitcoinShop.US for writing this review, nor is this an "affiliate link"/commission type review. I always let you know when that kind of stuff is involved; in this case it is not and I am writing the review completely on my own initiative, to recommend or warn against) a product or service.

The short and sweet: I highly recommend BitcoinShop.US, primarily on the basis of exceptionally courteous and accommodating customer service.

The longer version:

When shopping online, I'm less worried about always having a problem-free experience than I am about dealing with people who solve the problems with the experience. Because no matter how good you are at what you do, there will occasionally be problems. I can have 99 problem-free experiences with a product or service. It's that 100th experience -- whether it gets resolved, how it gets resolved, and how quickly it gets resolved -- that tells me how good you are.

In the case of BitcoinShop.US, two problems arose during my first transaction with them, and both problems were resolved with elan, with aplomb, and in my (and other users' -- you'll see) favor.

As the web site name implies, BitcoinShop.US is a place to buy stuff using Bitcoin. What kind of stuff? All kinds of stuff, but the emphasis seems to be on electronics and computers, which is what I was looking for when I went there.

To be specific, I decided to buy my family an early Christmas present, one of those new-fangled flat-screen high-definition television sets (I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but the family as a whole watches some, and we watch movies, and the kids game, and all of our reasonably sized TVs have been old-style CRT monsters).

I found what looked like a really good deal on a fairly large (42") 1080p TV. I checked my Bitcoin balance, saw that I had enough, added it to my shopping cart, and headed for checkout.

PROBLEM #1: BitcoinShop.US prominently advertises "free shipping." I knew there might be a sales tax requirement at checkout, but that was the only difficulty I anticipated. As it happened, there was no sales tax component ... but there was a 10% "BitcoinShop.US surcharge." Er ...

I wrote a nastygram to the site's support, noting that I had just about enough Bitcoin to pay the purchase price, not enough to pay 10% extra, and that it struck me as dishonest to advertise one price and then jack it up by 10% with a "surcharge" rather than honest shipping fees or government-imposed taxes.

SOLUTION #1: I received a prompt and courteous reply, not only giving me a 10% discount coupon code to bring the price down to the advertised price, but agreeing with my contention and saying that they would change their price advertising system ASAP so that what you see is what you get. And they did -- now when you shop at BitcoinShop.US, the advertised price is the shopping cart price. How cool is that?

PROBLEM #2: Shortly after my order went in, I got another email from support: So sorry, but that item is out of stock, and they'll be happy to refund my Bitcoin (that kind of thing probably can't be automated very well, since it's not obvious that the wallet address Bitcoin came from is the one the customer will want it refunded to).

SOLUTION #2: I decided to throw out a counter-offer. While there weren't any other 42" 1080p televisions in anything like the same price range, there were several smaller models (of more reputable brands) in that price range. I picked a Samsung 32" model priced at about $10 USD worth of Bitcoin more than my original choice and asked by reply email if I could substitute. The reply was almost immediate: Of course, and they would match the price of my previous order instead of asking for more Bitcoin.

That was the middle of last week; the folks at BitcoinShop.US had to handle everything manually, and told me they'd send me a tracking number when they had one and that I could expect the TV by the middle of this week. This morning, I sent a note asking about that tracking number ... and about 10 minutes later, before they had a chance to reply, the TV arrived. Just finished setting it up.

Very, very cool. The BitcoinShop.US folks quickly, courteously and effectively fixed every problem I ran into and got me the goods quickly and at a reasonable price despite those problems.

Some additional thoughts:

I really, really, really like Bitcoin, but the obvious problem with it so far has been "how do I use it in normal, everyday transactions like doing my Christmas shopping?"

Yes, I know a few outlier merchants will let you order pizza, domain names and whatnot with Bitcoin, and that a number of worthy causes accept donations in Bitcoin format, but in order for it to "arrive" as a full-blown alternative to politically-approved, state-issued fiat currencies, you need to be able to use it in "everyday commerce."

In my opinion, BitcoinShop.US fills a big hole in that need. I doubt that its available inventory is as large and diverse as, say, Amazon.com's, but it looks pretty large and diverse.

And even if they are drop-shipping via other vendors in the background, as I suspect they are, they're letting you shop in Bitcoin denomination instead of having to go through a "middleman" process where you price something in fiat currency, transfer Bitcoin in exchange for a gift card and so forth. I think that's an important step.

So, to reprise my short and sweet version, I highly recommend BitcoinShop.US.

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