Blue Nile – not as easy as it seems
I live in Australia. I recently ordered a diamond ring from Blue Nile for my partner. I’ve always liked their brand, and it seems to make sense to make savings in jewellery by ordering from a big brand offline. To be perfectly honest, what’s the point of spending hours reading about diamond selection and poring over your choice in the stores, then selecting a local jeweller that you like, poring some more and making thoughtful sounds, hand-picking your diamond, then having a ring made to fit it… when you frankly probably wouldn’t recognise whether you were looking at a flawless diamond ring or a $10 accessory from Claire’s. Not to mention that the whole engagement ring thing is a mid-20th century invention by De Beers to sell more diamonds (and boy, did it work!). Whoever you use, you’re trusting the guy not to rip you off anyway, so why not just use a big brand that’s hopefully regulated in some way, place your order, and have the package arrive a few days later?
Well. For the engagement ring, I did go through the whole process above. But for this current ring, I just ordered online.
So… worth it? Did I make grrreat savings?
No. Jeez, no. I would have paid 50% more to NOT to have gone through this process.
Here’s what you expect:
- Great selection on online storefront; everything looks fantastic
- Save a lot of hassle
- Easy online ordering
- Arrives in the post a couple of weeks later
And here’s what I got:
Firstly, the credit card. I used a Jetstar Mastercard Platinum to pay my Blue Nile bill in Australian Dollars, to get a few extra Qantas points. Then I noticed a surcharge on my card statement.
In the small print – actually NOT in the main Terms and Conditions, but only in the small summary pamphlet they give you – it turns out that you pay 3% foreign transaction fee, on foreign currency transactions (extortionate, but fair enough), but also on AUD transactions to foreign companies! So even though Blue Nile charged me in AUD, Jetstar (Macquarie Bank) actually charged me another $40 for the transaction.
Grr! OK, perhaps I should have known (that Macquarie would rip me off wherever possible). I argued it, and I may get it back; we’ll see.
Secondly – the customs duty. Anything over $1000 (and this just about was), qualifies for GST and Customs Duty. So I get a call from Fedex saying my ring had arrived in the country, and they needed something north of $300 to release it. Again – I had kinda seen this in the delivery notes, but it really strikes home when you get the call! And Blue Nile doesn’t provide an ‘estimated total charge’, so it’s a semi-hidden extra charge, in effect.
Thirdly… The quality! Although the picture looked fantastic (not this one, btw), the ring turned out to be a lot narrower than I anticipated; I guess they show small diameter rings so that they look broader for the size. As a result, it was only around 2/3 of the width of my partner’s other rings, which looked a little wrong.
And this led to fourthly… the engraving. I had one written into the inside of the ring. A nice idea.. .but with the small size, I found it really, really difficult to actually see the letters! It was that small, that I physically couldn’t read it! The capital first letter and small following letters also led to a justification issue, so there seemed to be a gap in the word between the two.
Oh, and fifthly, it was two sizes too large. I had slightly overestimated for safety, and of course, I could easily send it back for a resize if needed… couldn’t I?
So – time to send it back. Easy?
Because when you send it back, you pay postage. So – for my initial purchase price of (say) $1,200, plus the $30 credit card fee, plus the $300-odd customs fee, I now faced another $150 return courier fee! The way it works is this. They give you the details of a carrier insurance company (G4), who will provide insurance. And when shipping diamond rings, you really want to choose the insurance company recommended by the retailer. Now – the G4 insurance charge was very reasonable – something like $8, total, compared to $30-40 for insurance of that value with someone else, if they’ll insure jewellery in transit! However – the only options they gave for couriers, were Fedex Express, or Auspost.
Fedex Express wanted $150 for return shipping. There is a Fedex Economy service – $50 – but they’re not listed on the G4 options, so perhaps insurance would not be valid here.
So – how about Auspost?
Well… that depends if they’ll take it. It turns out there are a whole load of complicated provisos on which services will take the jewellery. The most logical – express courier service with tracking and insurance – refuse to take jewellery. In fact, on the advice of the Auspost call centre, the only option was standard Airmail with Tracking (and I added insurance there as well as the G4 insurance – belt and braces!). And then the local post office refused to take the package as they said the sorting office would refuse to take it, and I had to insist, and insist, and even give them the name of the Auspost call centre employee who had told me it was OK.
So, as you can imagine, it was with some trepidation that I finally gave them the package, and left the post shop.
A few days later, I checked the Auspost website for the tracking number. “No record found”. Oh s**t!
I left it a few days, and tried again. Not found. Again. Not found. Oh, jeez, what a ‘saving’ that was! I’d paid duty and double postage on a ring that had now been lost!
However – it turned out that I was worrying for the wrong reasons – I should have been tracking it on the USPS website, not the AusPost site. I tried the tracking number there, and sure enough, it was nearly at its destination. A few days later, I received an email confirmation that it had arrived. After ‘inspection’ by Blue Nile, I was told I would be reimbursed.
I have yet to check the refund arrived (that’s next). I’ve also yet to attempt again to talk to customs about how to fill out the refund form for the duty, which I’ve had two failed starts on. I’ve yet to see if the refund arrived on my credit card, since the MacBank call centre employee told me they need a ‘particular letter’ from the retailer. And whether they’ll refund the foreign currency charge (they said, after some discussion, that they would).
So, my $1,200 ring, has so far cost around $1,700, around 5-6 hours of chasing, and around 2-3 months in total process time. And I’ve ended up back where I started.
On a positive note, a few things worked faultlessly well:
- The AusPOST international shipping clerk, who was faultlessly knowledgable and helpful
- The Blue Nile Customer Services rep, who was unquestioningly helpful and offered a refund without argument
- The USPS tracking site was great
It’s just that… well, some things, you need to touch and see before you buy them! And this is evidently one of them.