Play.com is most well known for selling DVDs, music and games, but it also stocks books, mobiles, gadgets, clothing and electronics. It is an online-only store and the stock is generally vast. The site also operates PlayTrade, which allows independent sellers to sell products, while Play.com handles all the advertising, credit card processing and customer service.
Navigation is fairly straightforward. Menus for each category are clearly labelled and the search function works well. I was initially looking for a specific DVD (Breaking Bad Season 1) and it was the first option in the search results. Product pages are laid out in an easy-to-use fashion with image, lowest price, basic details and rating all towards the top of the page. Below this information is a list of the sellers which have this item on offer. If the item is available from Play.com this features at the top of the list. Additional items were also well publicised and easy to find so I ended up buying a further two products in addition to the DVD I initially went looking for.
There are several elements to Play.com’s returns policy. If the product is sold by Play.com consumers are first asked to go to ‘view order history’ to access their order details and select the item(s) they would like to return, which must be done within seven days. Although Play.com offers free delivery on all products, users do have to pay for returns. They can either print off a personalised pre-paid returns label (the cost of which will be deducted from their refund) or pay for the postage themselves. The site does offer free 30-day returns of selected clothing and sportswear though. If customers want to return a product purchased through the PlayTrade platform they need to contact the seller directly to organise the return.
The customer services page is fairly easy to use. Potential questions such as ‘I have not received my order’ or ‘forgotten your password’ are grouped under headings including ‘help with you order’ and ‘help with your account’ which makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. Contact details are also listed at the bottom of the page. I ordered one item from Play.com and two from PlayTrade sellers.
On completing my order on 20 October 2012 I received a confirmation from each seller immediately, which was reassuring. All items were due to arrive within three to five days. I received further correspondence from Play.com and FRDirect (one of the PlayTrade sellers) on 22 October 2012 letting me know my items has been posted.
Delivery for all goods was free. Surprisingly the item from FRDirect arrived on the same day (22 October 2012) as the dispatch email, so there must have been a slight delay in sending the email out, but I’m not complaining as the item arrived promptly. The item from Play.com arrived the following day. I never received any further correspondence or update from the third seller ‘The Hut Outlet’ to let me know whether my item had been processed. Despite claiming the item would arrive in three five days I had still not received it after 12 working days so contacted the seller - I waited so long as I was aware of other customers who had complained that items took a while to arrive so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I received a reply the following day advising me that “from time to time items do go missing in the post” but that the cost of the item would be refunded if it didn’t turn up.
The bottom line:
The service I got from Play.com itself and PlayTrade seller FRDirect was as I would expect, although I am less impressed by The Hut Outlet, particularly after doing further research. Users can leave feedback for PlayTrade sellers in a similar way to Ebay. After my item did not turn up I checked out other feedback in more depth for The Hut Outlet and only 68% of customers were positive about the experience, many of whom complained about items not turning up or taking a considerable amount of time to do so. The item which I purchased ‘Calvin Klein Men’s Polo Shirt (Black)’ was also supposed to be the last one in stock, however despite my item supposedly being “lost” the exact same T-shirt in the same size is still for sale on the site.
As the experience was vastly different from seller to seller I would like to award Play.com and FRDirect 5/5 and The Hut Outlet 1/5. If I had to give an overall rating it would be 3/5.