Overstock.com: Great Bargains or Just Junk? Well, It Depends.
Jun 3, 2005 (Updated Jun 3, 2005)
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The first time I heard of Overstock.com was a few years ago when a coworker sent me a link to a couple of sheet sets they were featuring at really great prices. I purchased one, thought the quality was "okay", not great, and didn't think much about visiting it again until I went home to see my parents last month. My mother mentioned how much she loved some items she'd purchased at Overstock, things like jewelry and more bed linens. Now, my mother knows how to shop and she knows how to find really great, fashionable items. So a site that was once just a coworker recommendation really had my curiosity piqued. I had to check it out.
As its name implies, Overstock.com sells items that are oftentimes "overstocked", and therefore offered at a discount. Overstock.com was one of many Internet-based sites to spring up during the tech boom of the 90's and has remained through the tech bust. They seem to be doing a pretty brisk business if word of mouth is to be believed. Overstock claims they can deliver merchandise at great discounts due to three reasons: Overstocked items, quite literally, which are sold to them by a manufacturer, cancelled orders which they buy when store managers stop carrying a product, and company-specific issues where companies may be downsizing or have some other reason to offload inventory.
Overstock sells a wide range of items, from the aforementioned bed linens to fine jewelry. You can buy books, CDs, outdoor furniture, decorative items, home furnishings and business clothes. If you're looking to buy something, anything, it's often a good idea to just swing by Overstock first to see if they carry the item you're looking for. If so, you can possibly pick it up for quite cheap.
Overstock even seems to be branching into the travel and auction industries, with limited success. As of this writing you can only purchase cruises through Overstock's travel tab, and I've not been impressed with anything offered through the Auction site. These are new areas however, and will no doubt develop more in the future.
Overstock's website is very easy to navigate. Its tabbed interface is immediately intuitive and reminds me of well-established sites such as Amazon.com. Navigating the site is as simple as browsing the tabs on the top or using the left navigation pane to drill down through categories and departments. For instance you can click on the "Jewelry and Watches" link and drill your way down through "Jewelry" to "Diamond Jewelry" to "Diamond Earrings" to find all the diamond earrings available at the site.
There are some flaws in the Overstock browsing process, however. The ability to search based on size or color is nonexistent. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem with a normal online store, as you can presume that most of the selections would be offered in a variety of sizes, including yours. However at Overstock, many items are limited in quantity, color and size. I have found that people who are very slim seem to be favored in Overstock's inventory selection because I suspect that quite frankly, there are very few size 2 women out there, so the surplus size 2 items make it to Overstock where the more common sizes such as size 8 or 10 get bought out, so fewer clothes in those sizes make it to the site. There are exceptions of course, but as a rule this is what I've found.
So, I have learned to not get excited about an item that comes up until I can check it and confirm that it's available in the size and color that I want. A good 60% of the time, it's not. Shopping at Overstock would be a much more enjoyable experience, with fewer disappointments, if I could plug in a size or a size range and have Overstock bring up only the items that are available in my size to browse. Same goes for color. Most of the time Overstock only has a single color of an item available, but occasionally there will be multiple available colors so if you want black cushions and click on the picture with the black cushions, it's a disappointment to find out that Whoops! They're sold out of that particular color.
Placing an Order
I've ordered sheets, jewelry and clothing from Overstock.com and it's always been very straightforward. Once you confirm that the exact item you want is available it's a simple matter to add it to your cart. If you're a returning customer you can put in your e-mail address and password and you'll be taken to your cart. If you're a new customer you will put in your information during the checkout process so that you can track your order status throughout the order fulfillment and delivery process.
Overstock will e-mail you a confirmation for your order, and they send another e-mail again once your order has been shipped.
Overstock.com frequently ships via the USPS which is pretty useless when it comes to tracking shipments. In my experience, tracking information from the US Postal Service is a joke. It's never accurate, and most of the time never even entered, until after the item has arrived at your doorstep. Additionally there seems to be a bug in Overstock's delivery tracking information. If I order three items and all three ship separately via USPS, the first two have a legitimate tracking number (although as I mentioned, the USPS doesn't really provide a useful tracking service). The final item always seems to have a malformed USPS tracking number associated with it.
All of that to say that most of the time you can't track anything reliably that Outpost ships to you. This hasn't been a problem yet. So far I've gotten all of my ordered items within a week of ordering them. If Overstock charged the arm and a leg for shipping that most companies charged I'd be more outraged. As it is, they frequently offer free, or $2 per order (not item) shipping, so you're just getting what you pay for, which is not much.
I've ordered a wide assortment of items from Overstock and I've found that some are better than others. I found the sheets from Overstock average, but not as wonderful as I had hoped they would be. They weren't very soft, even though they were supposed to be some hugely high thread count.
I love to order career wear through Overstock. I have a hard time finding the tailored, career style clothes that I like without spending a fortune at places like Talbots. Overstock has a slew of pant suits, which are my favorites, and I've been impressed with the two pant suits I've ordered from them. For $70 I purchased a fully lined three piece pants suit set and it was delivered to my door on a hanger, draped in wardrobe style plastic like you'd get if you picked it up from the dry cleaners. The packing job was so good that I didn't even have to press the suits before wearing them. I visit Overstock at least once a week to see if they have any new pants suits in.
The final item that I've ordered from Overstock is jewelry. I wouldn't order high quality jewelry from a site like Overstock but I have ordered several CZ jewelry pieces for more casual wear. I did not like the two sterling silver/CZ rings I ordered from Overstock at all. In spite of the fact that they show the rings with a ruler next to the stone, the stones still look larger (in a fake sort of way) than they did on the website. And the details that shine in the details photo at Overstock are always muddied up on the actual rings, with little baguettes looking more like pressed chips of glass than any real non-costume jewelry.
But I have had great success with the necklaces and tennis bracelets I've ordered from Overstock. Also CZ, these items weren't garish or costume looking at all. And for roughly $20 a piece, the jewelry is great as an accent and I don't have to worry about losing it or breaking it, as its easily replaceable for the price.
One downside to Overstock is that if you don't like the item you'll have to pay a restocking fee to return it. This is why I don't spend too much money at the site and if I receive something I don't necessarily like, so far I've just kept it rather than dealt with the hassle of returning it. Once you factor in shipping charges + a restocking fee on a $16 item, it's not really worth the trouble to return it.
If you're looking for Customer Service at Overstock you'll find an in-depth FAQ for customers, but not much more. If you require technical support you can find a chat utility, but providing easy access to Customer Service is not a priority at the site.
Overstock.com has some hits and misses but its hits are usually extremely well priced for the value. You won't find great customer service here, and you won't find very good shipping options, but you will find bargain basement prices on a variety of items. So far I've been extremely happy with the clothes I've ordered through Overstock, and the necklaces and tennis bracelets, but based on my experience I can't recommend purchasing sheets or rings through the site, or anything of a great deal of value that you want to have the confidence to be able to return if you don't like it.
Keeping those caveats in mind, Overstock.com is a great place for some bargains on the cheap, as long as you're willing to assume a minimum amount of risk.
What product did you purchase or try to purchase? clothes, jewelry, linens
|Response To Review from Merchant |
Re: Overstock.com: Great Bargains or Just Junk? Well, It Depends.|
Jun 9, 2005
I would like to tank you for the review on our company. I am glad to hear that most of the items you purchased were very satisfactory. I can understand the frustration when it comes to clothing to find the right size and color. I have forwarded the suggestion to our website developers to see if that change can be made or at least considered.
As you know we ship with all four carriers and yes that includes USPS and yes we do have a hard time with updated tracking from USPS. However, we are working to change this for more efficient tracking in the future. I am glad that you have looked at our two new websites. Online auctions and travel. We are working to expand our options for this and we are quite small in this area but we do have great offers for what is available. I do apologize for the lack of customer service that has been offered.
We have created a customer service call center in which the number for this is 1-800-843-2446. It is open 24 hours a day 7 day a week. Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns that we may be of further assistance. We appreciate your business and hope to see you soon to take advantage of our great deals on brand name products.
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