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The Sentinel
The Sentinel Vol. 1, No. 2: Proposed Function, Rules & Methodology

Introduction

The reality of today's electronic marketplace is for the vast majority of computer enthusiasts quite satisfying. Literally thousands of transactions take place monthly with most consumers being quite happy with the outcome. While there are no true figures to back up how many dissatisfied customers there are, we feel a conservative estimate would be in the 3% - 5% range. Of that number we estimate that 40% - 50% of the customers in this group undergo varying degrees of dissatisfaction resulting from some type of misunderstanding of their vendor's policy(s).

The misunderstandings of which we speak are generally split into one or more of the following categories:

  1. The sales process
  2. The shipping process
  3. Warranty related matters, including RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization)
  4. Vendor liability as opposed to manufacturer's liability after the sale

It should be noted that in most of these cases, it is the consumer's failure to read and more importantly understand the vendor's policies prior to consummating the sale that lead to difficulty after the sale. In the consumer's defense quite a few vendors' policies are not easy to understand even for those with a good grasp of the "King's English". Why? Because they are not worded general everyday language that takes into account the lack of understanding of "legalease" on the part of the consumer.

There are also those situations that are now happening even more frequently where the rules in effect when the sale occurred were not the rules in effect after the sale was completed. These changes are covered under some disclaimer written generally in fine print that goes something like this: (Vendor's Name) may change our policies/rules without notice to the consumer at any time thus superseding any previously published policies/rules.

In our first article of the "The Sentinel" series we discussed some of the precipitating events and the rationale behind our focus in creating "The Sentinel" as a consumer advocate for the computer enthusiast. We also gave our readers a brief overview of our ideas on how this advocacy program would function. We have spent the last month having a number of discussions in an effort to firm up our plans for this venture. As a result, today's article will concentrate on the form, function, and rules we feel necessary to help make our vision of this dream come to fruition.

How Will It Work

First of all, "The Sentinel" is sponsored by ABXZone; this will in no way preclude any non-member of ABXZone from availing themselves of this service. In short the Sentinel's services are available to any computer consumer that presents a legitimate need for consumer advocacy.

Our current vision of the process is as follows:

  1. The computer consumer makes us aware of the dispute he/she has by filling out the information on a form found on our site and emailing it directly to The Sentinel. The form will contain the following necessary information:
    • Consumer's name, address, and telephone number
    • Method of payment: Credit card, Debit Card, Pay Pal, Cash, Check, Money Order, or other means
    • A detailed description of what transpired
    • A statement by the consumer as to what outcome he/she desires
    • Attachments including any correspondence the consumer has had with the vendor and any other documents the consumer deems as important
    • An affirmed statement that the facts contained in the form are truthful and accurate to the best of the consumer's knowledge
  2. Each case will then be reviewed by a committee to determine:
    • Does the dispute have merit?
    • Is additional information required before making a decision?
    • If the case has merit, what is the best path to take to resolve it favorably for the consumer?
  3. The consumer will receive a copy of the committee's findings and proposed resolution plan within 10 days of it's receipt by The Sentinel
  4. The consumer will then have the following options:
    • Accept the plan as written and authorize The Sentinel's advocacy
    • Seek reconsideration of the decision by the committee if the dispute is found to have no merit
    • Accept that the dispute has no merit and either drop the proceedings entirely of pursue alternative sources (non Sentinel related) to resolve the problem