Lessons Learned: Buying From Amazon Isn't Always Buying From Amazon.

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
lessons learned buying from amazon isn t always buying from amazon

I don’t normally do the “consumer awareness” stuff here on TTAC — we have plenty of very competent contributors for that — but I thought I would share a recent experience with all of you and perhaps save one or two of you a few bucks in doing so.

In the course of our extremely dilatory SOHC-to-DOHC switch on our Plymouth Neon NASA racer, we here at Green Baron Motorsports realized we needed to replace our old TTI longtube header with one designed for the DOHC head. The smart thing to do would have been to call TTI and order their DOHC longtube header — after all, we’d gotten solid service for years from the old one — but somebody in the team who was not me had the bright idea to order a header from a company called “OBX”.

A quick search for “OBX headers” revealed that they were sold through Amazon. I’m an Amazon Prime member so this decision made itself. I ordered the header for two-day shipping.

When the header arrived, I realized that it was not a longtube header. Instead, it was the model that was designed to be used with a catalytic converter. That’s no good for us, and it was my fault for ordering the wrong piece. Time to eat the shipping and trade with Amazon for the OBX-R longtube variant. Right?

Wrong. When I initiated the return process with Amazon, I was referred to a page detailing OBX’s return policies, which are not the same as Amazon’s. Rather than a thirty-day no-questions-asked policy, the policy was five days. Not a problem; this was Day One. Also, OBX must issue an “RMA” via email. Again, not a problem. I didn’t want my money back. In fact, I wanted to buy a more expensive header. OBX was gonna make out. But when five days went by without a return to my email inquiry, I decided to call OBX directly.

That’s when I found out that OBX doesn’t list a phone number anywhere. They do business via email, because as far as I can tell, they’re simply a cloaca for a Chinese tubing factory. What to do?

Our next step was to try to sell the brand-new header for 33% off on the various Neon forums. It was there that I was primly informed, no doubt by a sixteen-year-old living in his mother’s basement, that all the smart kids knew you could get the OBX stuff from another importer at half price. I checked it out… yeah, that seems to be the case. Our $165 header was really worth $69.99. I got one offer from a Neons.org forum member: $45 if I paid shipping. I checked out the shipping cost: it was $28.

The header’s sitting in our shop right now, waiting for the day one of us buys a roadgoing Neon with a catalytic converter. Five days ago I called TTI. My header arrived today. Oh well. Sometimes it costs money to learn something. This is what I learned: Amazon.com can be a great place to buy car parts, but it can also be a lousy place to buy car parts. Read the fine print. And make sure you caveat a bit when you’re being an emptor, okay?

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  • Marcus WK Marcus WK on Sep 10, 2010

    Jack - get your parts on eBay - I built a Civic race car (car included) off of eBay for $2,500 total. As long as the steel is mandrel bent and stainless, as long as the tubing is the appropriate diameter, and as long as its for your car and fits properly, you're good to go for dirt cheap.

  • Christopher277 Christopher277 on Sep 24, 2010

    This isn't really a fair article. It may be true that there are other dealers on Amazon with completely different return policies. But Amazon does not allow it's sellers to just not respond to email inquires. All you would have had to do is file an A-to-Z claim. Amazon would have then given the seller about 10 days to respond, and you would have either had to return the item to get your money back (Amazon would have enforced this), or if the seller didn't respond amazon would have refunded you and let you keep the item. Amazon would have taken care of it. Believe me, I know. I have been selling on Amazon for several years. Please make sure you have all your details correct before you put out negative publicity about a company.

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  • ToolGuy "At risk of oversimplification, a heat pump takes ambient air, compresses it, and then uses the condenser’s heat to warm up the air it just grabbed from outside."• This description seems fairly dramatically wrong to me.
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