My (quite poor) recent experience with Chris Obert - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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My (quite poor) recent experience with Chris Obert

I have been buying Fiat parts form Chris Obert / Fiat plus for 7 or 8 years now with no issues.

However last week I ordered a couple of small items from his website and I believe I chose the cheapest shipping via UPS.

The next day I received an email from Chris saying that he wanted me to sign a form because I had chosen to ship via uninsured USPS.

That led me to do some research because I thought the shipping charge was too expensive. $38 dollars to ship a thermostat and a gasket from CA to TX via USPS (Priority Mail) seemed a lot. So I went online and checked what it would cost to ship -using Priority Mail, one of the small flat rate boxes (a box that is 11? x 8.5? x 5.5? -more than enough to fit a thermostat and a gasket), and I got a quote for $13 dollars. $25 DOLLARS LESS than what Chris was charging me!! UPS quoted me $13 for a ground shipment, same as the USPS.

So I replied to his email with all this information, suggesting he fix his system to reflect more reasonable shipping charges. And asking for a reasonable shipping charge for my $22 dollar order.

What I got in reply was not nice, his excuse for the (I believe outrageous) shipping charge was (and I quote from his email to me):

"As for what the web store charges for shipping of orders, it takes the dimensional weight that I have entered into the system FOR EACH ITEM, adds them together, and uses the web store links to your chosen carrier to calculate the shipping.
In other words, if you order 10 washers that weigh in dimensionally at 1 pound each, you will pay for a 10 pound box. Yes, we both know it will weigh less than one pound and be dimensionally only 1 pound, but that's not the way the programs calculate it.
I always tell folks that if you want to pay ACTUAL shipping, call me and place the order.
So it's not me charging you, it's the web store AND the carrier's web site that you have chosen when you placed the order!
".

It makes no sense -to me anyway.

After that he went on to wish me luck finding a "second choice" supplier and proceeded to cancel my order and refund my money. He did not reply to my additional emails.

The way I see it, is that I go on line, purchase $22 dollars worth of parts, he charges me $38 for shipping, then ships the stuff at a cost of $13 dollars and profits his margin on the parts plus the $25 dollars overcharge on the shipping.

Am I right, or am I missing something here?

Henry

Last edited by hdavis; 03-11-2016 at 06:49 PM. Reason: Clarification
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 09:06 AM
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I used to collect Abarth cars and knew Chris well. One of many suppliers.
Fiat owners were even more 'thrifty' than Alfa owners, so he had to keep costs down to keep customers. When car values started rising, this very thing became common. Also, he would split a factory part into several pieces and tripple the cost.
I no longer have Fiat related cars.....
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 09:10 AM
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The good news is you can buy from one of the euro dealers! I buy a lot of Alfa Giulia parts from OKParts in Germany or Classic Alfa in GB.
Shipping to California can be less than Centerline Alfa in Colorado and the parts arrive sooner.....
Also, fewer wrong or bad quality parts.

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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 12:44 PM
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Its always been a puzzle to those of us outside the US as to why shipping is so dear and relatively slow. We are closer to the US than Europe/UK yet parts are sent to us much cheaper and quicker than anything from the USA. I no longer even look at US suppliers unless it is unique product.
I think you are getting ripped off over there. Is it organised crime or middlemen getting a piece of the action, or strong unions raising cost, or just plain inefficiency?

Richard J
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 02:21 PM
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My understanding is that USPS will not pick up from Chris' place of business, UPS will. If you request USPS Chris has to drive into town and stand in line to mail your package. Saves postage in some cases, costs Chris a lot of time (and expense). Frustrating situation for everyone.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 02:37 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bicoastal View Post
My understanding is that USPS will not pick up from Chris' place of business, UPS will. If you request USPS Chris has to drive into town and stand in line to mail your package. Saves postage in some cases, costs Chris a lot of time (and expense). Frustrating situation for everyone.
UPS was even more expensive than that. I really don't think that is the reason, but I might of course be wrong

Henry
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 03:27 PM
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hdavis:

I read through your first message a couple of times, and I'm not getting what in Chris reply or his behavior was "not nice". As letters from vendors go, his seems quite polite.

Sure, it is frustrating to pay more in postage than the cost of the parts and it's annoying to be charged more for postage than it should cost. But Chris explained the problem to you - he is a one-man operation, not Amazon, he doesn't have a sophisticated online order system, and he offered an alternative (calling him instead of ordering online). Plus, he refunded your money without question! Where was the "not nice" part of the transaction?

Jay Mackro
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Alfajay View Post
hdavis:

I read through your first message a couple of times, and I'm not getting what in Chris reply or his behavior was "not nice". As letters from vendors go, his seems quite polite.

Sure, it is frustrating to pay more in postage than the cost of the parts and it's annoying to be charged more for postage than it should cost. But Chris explained the problem to you - he is a one-man operation, not Amazon, he doesn't have a sophisticated online order system, and he offered an alternative (calling him instead of ordering online). Plus, he refunded your money without question! Where was the "not nice" part of the transaction?
I did not post the whole message, just a segment of it. I did not ask for a refund, he cancelled the order without giving me an option. I wanted to have the parts shipped (even at the hight cost), and he did not answer my subsequent messages with my request to go ahead with the transaction. I received the refund message from Paypal 3 minutes after I received his email, he did not give me a chance to call or sort it out in any way. He was clearly unhappy with my complaint and the way he dealt with it was by cancelling the order. This is why I say the reply was not nice.

He was not impolite or offensive in any way, but he did not treat the customer the way I -as a customer, would like to be treated and the way others treat their customers.

He did not give me the option of calling him, he says that is what he tells people, he never told me I should call. I was asking for a fair shipping cost, which he did not give. I would have expected an effort on his part to make things right, what I got is an explanation as to why he charges for shipping over 3 times what te actual cost is. They way I perceived it it was either "his way or the highway".

A lot of us are business owners - I am, and when I receive a complaint from a long term customer I try to work with him or her to resolve the issue and deliver the service the customer deserves.

Again, I might quite possibly be wrong but that is the way I perceive it.

Henry
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 04:26 PM
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"After that he went on to wish me luck finding a "second choice" supplier and proceeded to cancel my order"

This seems a little terse......
He seems to think he is the only source.....

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-11-2016, 11:04 PM
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Hi,

I have an 81 Fiat 124 Spider that I am restoring ( as well as my 69 Alfa Spider) and I bought most of my stuff from Auto Ricambi or Vicks who are in Texas and shipping would be a lot less. The guys at AR are really good guys and if you call them, they sometimes have decent used stuff

Thanks, Rick
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-12-2016, 12:52 AM
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Chris seems to be referring to volumetric weight, as opposed to actual weight of the part. So I assume from this that he will not combine your parcels to reduce postage cost. I'm not sure the context of your message to him, so it's hard to be critical. In my years of experience with Chris he can be unpredictably terse, but I've never stressed about it...as mentioned above, there are a lot worse than him.
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-12-2016, 05:11 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by degruch View Post
Chris seems to be referring to volumetric weight, as opposed to actual weight of the part. So I assume from this that he will not combine your parcels to reduce postage cost.
He will most definitely combine the parcels to save on shipping, he just doesn't seem to pass those savings on to the customer...

Henry
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-12-2016, 04:24 PM
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All I have to go on here is hdavis' quote of Chris Obert's message which reads (in part): "the web store charges for shipping of orders, it takes the dimensional weight that I have entered into the system FOR EACH ITEM, adds them together, and uses the web store links to your chosen carrier to calculate the shipping....So it's not me charging you, it's the web store..."

The way I read this suggests that for orders that originate from the web, Chris uses some fulfillment service (what he refers to as the "web store"). And that company calculates postage in an unfair way and pockets the savings.

So you can criticize Chris for choosing a fulfillment service that rips off his customers, but it doesn't sound like he is getting rich off this.

Jay Mackro
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'65 Guilia Sprint GT
'67 Duetto
'91 164L
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-12-2016, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Alfajay View Post
So you can criticize Chris for choosing a fulfillment service that rips off his customers, but it doesn't sound like he is getting rich off this.
In the end, it's his business and his reputation to uphold, or to let it go into the crapper.

I've seen a lot of business fail (including Italian car parts suppliers and mechanics) because the proprietor either stopped caring, or pissed off his customers, or other high crimes.

Parts for our cars may be scarce, but they're not all controlled by one entity (like that DeLorean guy in Texas), so it is the foolish vendor that thinks he can get away with poor customer service and low quality parts for long.

Based on my experiences, certain vendors are at the top of my list, and get most of my money. The ones that are at the bottom of my list get nada. After 34 years of owning Italian cars, the people on the top of my list have made lots of money from me, and lots of money from the people that I have shared my list or experiences with- either at car shows, online, or just talking to them on the street.

The other thing to remember is that there's a rule in business- I don't recall the numbers exactly, but generally, someone will tell 1 other person about good service- but they will tell 9 people about bad service (I actually have read numbers as high as 24 for bad service).

He'll either get his act together, or he won't. We might miss him, or we won't.

The ball's in his court- let's see if he's listened to the wake-up call.

Last edited by rcmanners; 03-13-2016 at 12:24 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-13-2016, 07:37 AM
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