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Buyers beware!
I have many tales to tell about being ripped off but I am not paranoid and do not assume all Iranians are out to get me


December 27, 2005

I have always believed in giving my business to Iranians and for the most part I have been satisfied with the results.

I hear complaints from most of my friends about their Iranians clients who use the same old expression, which basically means, “What is my price”. I have never asked that from an Iranian business owner. But, I am sick and tired of those who have prospered (thanks to Iranians community supporting them by giving them referrals or conducting business with them) yet they bash Iranians when they get a chance.

My philosophy has always been very simple. I need this service and as long as the Iranian business owner treats me fairly and with respect, then she or he gets my business. I go a step further and that is, hopefully I will not get ripped off since this person will run into me sooner or later.

Invention of Internet was God sent for someone like me. Let’ me explain why.

In the old days I would use the Iranian adds from newspapers to call the stores for books, music tapes, etc. I can write a book about some of the comments I would get from the men who had no idea about what type of person I was and would want to tell me their life stories. The most memorable one was a call I placed to a storeowner in northern California. I had heard a song but did not know its name or the singer. I simply said the first few lines of the song. From the tone of the man’s voice I could tell he was an opium addict and probably had just had his fix.

He said in the most sincere tone: May God scarifie me for someone like you who listens to my aragh khori song (vodka dirking)! 

I tried hard not to burst into laughter.  I placed my order. But always was apprehensive about calling to buy something over the phone.

Well, with the invention of Internet I was in heaven because now I could order with a few strokes of the keyboard.  My Iranian friends were hesitant and cautioned me but I am an honest person so I assume everyone lese is the same. 

The first place I did business with was a site which I ordered books. I was really impressed at how fast they processed the order, sent me the confirmation and once I realized my books were shipped from Iran, I was even happier.

Everyone in the community where I live sends me e-mails asking me for places and people to recommend (I would never recommend one that I would not use).

I buy most of my CDs from local Iranian stores but I found a site that had a large collection so I sent them an e-mail and told them that they should lower their shipping charges. The owner whom I could tell was a typical shrewd merchant sent me an e-mail stating that his policy would not change (no doubt because I was Iranian).  His site is impossible to find because he is not savvy enough to place an easy link on the net.  I pay him back everyday by not giving him business because I get much e-mail from music fans ( that ask me where to buy albums. I give them another site. Why?

An Iranian director gave me the phone number of the owner of one site I did not know.  This man (Bijan) was polite, and professional who took my order and asked if he could place the link to on his site so visitors could sample the music. When I got my package (I bought many books) he had enclosed a book of old songs free of charge. I did not need a freebee but I was touched and now give his number out everyday as an Iranian who is a true businessman.

Well, ebay was another story.  My ex-husband (who is American) loves Iranian things one day sent me a link asking me about items listed and whether the prices were fair.  I told him no and suggested a place he could get those items much cheaper.  Then, I went to one of these sites and placed a bid for a little rug (10" x 20") at $10.00, which I thought, was fair. I became suspicious when within seconds the message came up “congratulations, your have won the-----”. I went ahead and read the rest of the requirements so I could pay. I nearly fell of my chair at the shipping cost of $50!

I immediately realized these were some bad Iranians who are ripping people off by their unethical business practice so outraged, I did not order.

I got an e-mail telling me I had to pay and politely I answered $50 was unacceptable for such a tiny rug. With their mediocre English they replied that it had to be shipped from Iran!

I lost my temper and wrote a nasty e-mail telling them to go and pray hard I am letting them go because they were Iranians and disgracing them would be a spit in the air (and in my own face). I warned them to stop this nonsense because soon they would have tons of complaints about their deceiving manner of doing business.

I am a big movie fan (foreign films) and work with two local International Film Festivals, which grants me the opportunity to see many movies. I have a habit of having to own what I like so I always buy these movies when they become available.

Most big bookstores order the movies for me and I had found one Iranian movie house, which I bought some movies and one Googoosh DVD (for my son). However, their shipping charges were pretty high. Despite the cost of shipping I always gave their name to anyone who wanted to buy Iranian movies with subtitles. Somehow they even have my personal e-mail and always send me news of the latest arrivals.

I do not know about you all but I am one of those people who are very curious and adventuress and love to surprise themselves by finding new things. So one rainy day at lunch hour I searched the word “cheap movies” and similar words and sure enough I found a site to explore.  I had been waiting for the movie “under the moonlight” to be available for two years. An Iranian director who gets all sort of goodies told me that he had just received the movie and would gladly send it t me but I refused and thanked him.

The first thing that caught my attention was the “no shipping” at this site so I looked for some of the movies I had been looking all over the net such as Wings of the Dove, Thief of Baghdad and Wuthering Heights (the newest version with Ralph Fines). This site had them all. I was elated. Then, I decided to see if they had a foreign section and sure enough they did. It was a bit hard at first but I got around and was shocked to find Iranian movies.

I just about fainted when I saw the cost for the movies of my favorite Egyptian director was a fraction of what I had paid at the big chain stores.

I opened the Iranian site as well so I could compare the prices of Iranian movies, and sure enough the cost of the movies I had selected were the same.

I was so excited I told another Iranian movie buff that sees every movie produced in Iran and sold here. As a typical suspicious Iranian he said: Azam Khanoom, I only buy my DVDS from the big chain store. I laughed and explained to him that a movie is sold to one company, which then distributes the merchandise to many outlets. He had met an Iranian director whom I did promotional work for his movie through the American company, which bought the rights to the movie. But he still seemed unconvinced and thought these may be inferior quality!

A week later my package arrived and I opened the box. I was shocked to see the Iranian movies actually had the address of the Iranian site on them! I did not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that owners of Iranian site were smart to know that non-Persians do like Iranian movies, which have been sown at the Film Festivals so they were selling the movie through American sites not realizing that a curious Iranians like me will find out sooner or later.

My dad always tells me to confront people politely and give them a chance to redeem themselves when I come across these situations and not to get mad or jump into conclusions.

Keeping that in mind, I sent them a very niece and polite e-mail from my work with my title and phone number attached (to show I was a serious person).

In my e-mail I politely explained that I had found another site, which sold the movies at the same price but without their high shipping charges. I attached the confirmation of my order from the non-Iranian site which showed the name of the movies, the cost and when they were shipped (so they knew I was a reasonable and professional Iranian who likes to back up everything with facts).

I wrote that I would really prefer to buy my Iranian (or other movies since they carry non-Iranian movies also) from them if they drop the shipping charges because I had saved over $20 for the last two orders alone.

Sadly, they never replied. In the past they always replied within 24 hours (if I asked a question) but a week has gone by and no reply from them!

Have they got a bug up their ass because I am a smart consumer and want the best bang for my buck? Or, is it because I am Iranian?

Any bets that if an American wrote to them and offered them the same proposal they would grab it and be grateful but just because I am Iranian they think of me as a smart ass wanting a discount?

I did not ask for any favors or discounts, I simply asked them to offer the same service as the non-Iranian site and they could have my business. Now, I do not feel guilty and am giving the link to the other site, which has a great selection of Iranian movies as well as other foreign films with no shipping charge to everyone. The Iranian site has lost my business and the potential to earn money doing business with others as well.

I do not think I was out of line or unreasonable. Our money is hard earned and we spend big. Most smart Iranian business owners know that we are fair and square but we are smart enough to know when we are getting good service. 

I had no problem recently telling an Iranian store owner (his whole family is very close to me) that I do not buy classical Iranian CDs from him because the other Iranian store owner changes me $5 less per CD and I usually buy ten or more CDs. With substantially better pricing the other store gets my business.

It is time for all Iranian business owners to wake up and realize the potential of the amount for money they can make by ignoring a few nuisance ones who “bargain”, and stop this practice of loving our money but criticizing our characters. I have stopped referring patients to an Iranian friend of mine (and she is like a sister to me) why? The majority of her patients and customers (she sells supplements also) are Iranian but she is always complaining (by using nice words such as “God bless them”) about those who annoy her.

Well if our money is good then you better learn to overlook a few ignorant ones and not put us all in the same pool.  I was royally ripped off by an Iranian mechanic (his lack of care could have cost me my life had I been in a car accident) but I do not assume all Iranians are like him (thank God he moved away and now he is in the waste management business).

I have many tales to tell about being ripped off but I am not paranoid and do not assume all Iranians are out to get me. It is about time we all stop bashing the entire population for the shortcomings of a few. As for those merchants who may make a few bucks in the short run, beware, smart consumers will find out what you are about very soon and you would be out of profits and business.

As for fellow shoppers just beware and do not be trustworthy like me and assume everyone is honest. Give your business to Iranians who are proud to do business with you, acknowledged your contribution to their prosperity and value you as a good customer.

Happy shopping.

For letters section
To Azam Nemati

Azam Nemati




Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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