Thursday, March 12, 2015

Do NOT Shop at Optics Planet

In the five years I have been writing I have never come out against a company per se.  Even Gerber has received good review scores from me.  But after some incredibly deceptive business practices I have decided that I need to warn people about Optics Planet.

In the past they have been one of my go to site for flashlights, both personal and review samples, but over the past 24 hours they have behaved so poorly that I am tempted to call the authorities in their home state.  The funds have been returned, so its not worth my time, but notifying you all is clearly worth my time.

Here is what happened.

I have been waiting for the Surefire Titan Plus for release for a long time.  I would search once a week and nothing came up as a hit.  Then, suddenly, yesterday, March 11, 2015, I found a place that had the ability to sell the light--Optics Planet.  I added the light to my cart and then paid for it.  Strangely, they were the only site to have the light available for purchase.  Everyone else listed it as out of stock.  The light was $99.95.  I paid and received a confirmation email.

Then a few hours later I found a price listing on LA Police Gear for $89.95 (with an out of stock listing).  I grumbled about the price difference, but oh well.

Then I waited for my ship email.  It never came.  I called Optics Planet and they said that they would check on the order.  Only then did they tell me that the wait was 2-4 months.  They did not say that on the product listing page or the confirmation email.  If you checked through on a link labeled "Availability" it was listed as shipping in 2-4 months.  The site still lists the product as being able to add to the cart.

I explained to Mike, the guy on the line, that I would have liked to know that the product wasn't shipping and he told me that it was on the product listing page.  I went to the page with him on the phone and told him it wasn't there.  He then directed me to the link about availability.  I told him that the ability to add to the cart, typically means that the item was in stock.

At this point I am pissed, but there has been nothing deceptive here.  Its just a poorly designed website.

Then I noticed on the product page as of today it was listed at $89.95.  My bill was for $99.95 (compare below).  I asked Mike why there was a difference.  He demurred and asked if I was, for sure, cancelling the order.  I confirmed that I was and then when I said yes, he hung up in mid-sentence.

Here is the screen cap from Optics Planet:

Here is the data from my order confirmation email:

Make sure you get our emails! Add to your address book.
7AM - 8PM CST Mon - Fri
9AM - 5PM CST Sat - Sun
Your Order Confirmation
Dear Mr. Sculimbrene,

Thank you for ordering from! We're sending this email to confirm your order. We'll start working on getting it out to you as soon as possible!

Reference #:

Order Date: Mar 11, 2015

Description    Qty    Price    Item Total
SureFire Titan Plus Ultra-Compact Dual Output LED 300 Lumen MaxVision Beam, Nickel-Plated Brass Titan-B    SureFire Titan Plus Ultra-Compact Dual Output LED 300 Lumen MaxVision Beam, Nickel-Plated Brass Titan-B
Share this item:

1    $99.79    $99.79
Subtotal    $99.79
Value Shipping    FREE

Grand Total    $99.79

Suffice to say, the price difference and the misleading inventory information makes Optics Planet a place to avoid.


  1. Hello Tony-

    As someone who has spent the last 5+ years working for OpticsPlanet, it pained me to read your post. I feel terrible for the way your were treated, and am so sorry you had to go through this experience. Our #1 goal as a company is to ensure complete customer satisfaction, and it is very clear in this situation that we missed the mark. For that I truly apologize.

    While it certainly won't change the past, I thought I'd at least try and explain a few things so that you may understand how things got as screwed up as they did.

    #1 - Our Customer Service Representative should have never, ever ended the call so abruptly with you. I promise this is being addressed this morning as we speak.

    #2 - While every one of the million+ product pages on OpticsPlanet does indeed have a "Check Availability" feature that lists our most current ETA's from manufacturers, you are not the first to mention that this could in fact be much more prevalent. This feature has gone through several different iterations since launching a few years back, and it's something that is always reviewed to see if it needs to be adjusted from a user experience perspective. I've already added this post to our Developer's Log so they can see first hand how it can be missed and lead to poor customer experiences such as your own.

    #3 - In regards to being able to add a product to cart before its arrival, I believe this is something we and all other online retailers struggle to find a balance with. For every situation such as yours, we have other individuals that plead with us to be "first in line" so to speak, even if a product is not arriving for a few months. For example, one of our top riflescope optic brands Vortex is releasing a highly-anticipated scope in late summer. As many Vortex fans know that initial quantities will be limited, hundreds of people have already gone and ordered the optic on our site, knowing it will be a first in, first out situation. These individuals want the ability to check out months in advance, because they want to ensure they're first in line when it comes out. It's the same reason I was able to check out on LA Police Gear this morning with the Surefire Titan though it won't be available for months - I imagine they have many customers that react the same way and want to be first in line.

    #4 - The pricing concern is incredibly legitimate. Again, I apologize for the rude and abrupt disconnection from our Rep. However I can assure you that in situations such as yours, if you had intended to keep the order, we would have done everything to remedy the price discrepancy.

    I am sure with your experience you are well aware of dynamic retail pricing, but just in case some of your readers are not, I'll try to explain how and why the price can change from one day to the next. Easiest comparison to make would be the grocery store. Last week I bought 3 12-packs of Coca-Cola for $10.00, and this week that same 3 pack deal was $12.99. Brands like Surefire operate the same way - where they leave pricing decisions entirely up to the retailer. Thus these products will see a fluctuation in price based on our automated pricing models, which are always trying to ensure we are offering the best possible deal to OpticsPlanet customers.

    While it certainly doesn't make up for your poor experience, hopefully this helps explain the situation a little bit. While I certainly hope we can find a way to make this up to you and win you back, I certainly respect your decision to no do business with us in the future. Do know that we are taking active steps to remedy what happened with your order, and ensure that it does not occur to any other customers in the future.

    Thank you once again for the honest feedback. Have a great day!

    -Kelly B.

    1. Great to see you guys respond. I would suggest the current wait be listed on the main page, or as a mandatory screen on thecway through to the checkout, so it separates the queue-ers from the buyers.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I am doing some research for a longer reply, but the dynamic pricing thing is a problem because when I mentioned it to the employee there was no reference to it at all and that was the last thing I said before the call was terminated. But more on this when I have more data.

    4. Yes, great response. I agree w/ Tony that the availability should be made much more obvious, so do hope you change it to make it readily apparent. (You wrote "prevalent," Kelly, but I think maybe you meant "apparent.") You provided a good reason for making the product available for purchase (being on a waiting list), but most customers would expect that an item available for purchase is available for purchase.

      The price change sounds fairly reasonable. Amazon too, changes prices quickly. So I'm not sure what Tony meant in calling that "deceptive." Maybe he could explain.

      The hang-up does sound like a very bad lapse of judgment on the part of the employee.

      (reposted w/ a couple minor clarifications.)

    5. Response plus reasoning is now up, found here:

  2. @Kelly. It's refreshing to see a candid, honest, sincere apology and explanation. Maybe it doesn't change the author's perception of his initial experience, but it's nice to see an acknowledgement of a screw-up that's not shrouded in corporate doublespeak.

  3. This is a reminder to check reviews of customer experiences online before ultimately shopping with a vendor. Cheap thing no good and good thing no cheap.

  4. I admire their response. I too have erred. Availability could be made clear up front, though. It would put everyone in the picture.

  5. I would be unhappy too and this similar exchange happened to me many times at various online stores/businesses. Unhappy employee would not care and in this case it shows that he doesn't. The guy that get paid the least has the most to interact with the unhappy customer - disaster recipe for good business.

  6. Not to seem nosy, but I noticed in your screen cap you have a tab open of the Zero Tolerance 0900 - are you gonna be picking one of those up? My interest in that knife has been steadily growing.

  7. I've been fooled by OP as well. A month or so ago, I bought (or, tried to buy) a $10 beam diffuser for one of my Surefire flashlights, from Amazon (fulfilled by OP). Well, the diffuser never shipped. Amazon finally sent me an email stating that "the vendor hasn't shipped the item in the required timeframe". Sure enough, OP didn't have the item in stock. BUT IT WAS STILL FOR SALE ON AMAZON. I got my money back, for sure, but I no longer trusted OP after that. And now, with your experience, that view has been confirmed.

  8. I've been fooled by OP as well. A month or so ago, I bought (or, tried to buy) a $10 beam diffuser for one of my Surefire flashlights, from Amazon (fulfilled by OP). Well, the diffuser never shipped. Amazon finally sent me an email stating that "the vendor hasn't shipped the item in the required timeframe". Sure enough, OP didn't have the item in stock. BUT IT WAS STILL FOR SALE ON AMAZON. I got my money back, for sure, but I no longer trusted OP after that. And now, with your experience, that view has been confirmed.

  9. You have been waiting for the Titan plus for 'a long time'? Seeing as how it was just announced as a future product in January I think your sense of entitlement may have gotten the best of you here. Also, your failure to read and just blindly clicking the I want it now button doesn't appear to be OP's fault, it's yours. I 'ordered' from a similar retailer in the first week of February and still have not felt the need to throw an online temper tantrum because I have not yet recieved it. May I suggest a Maratac aaa to attach to your Prius keys until the Titan plus is released?

    1. So I have never really taken someone to task in the comments section, but its well past due, given what was said here.

      First, don't hide. What's your real name Mr. Anonymous?

      Second, I have been waiting for the Titan Plus for a long time. Yes, the Titan Plus debuted in January, but its predecessor the T1 and the T1A were introduced more than five years ago and went out of production about two years ago with promises from Surefire that they'd revisit the idea later. So yes, it has been a long time.

      Third, the add to cart feature is something that many folks have complained about. Look at my response to Optic Planet's post and you will see widespread problems. In fact, if this were a physical retailer there would be problems with consumer protection laws in many states. Their practices are just deceptive.

      Fourth, I am glad you have time to spend waiting for things. Unfortunately I am too busy to do so. Additionally, as someone with a readership and an obligation to keep folks informed of intelligent ways of spending their money, I felt like I needed to write that post. If, however, you have enough time and money to give a company your hard earned cash and have then collect interest on it, then go ahead. Few of us do though and you should bear that in mind.

      Finally, I am not going to replace my Peak Eiger with the Maratac AAA. Why downgrade when the Surefire Titan Plus looks like an upgrade?