I drove down to a large department store on the coast yesterday with an Italian neighbour who was buying a washing machine . Hers after four years hard labour had burnt out and the repair was as high as a new one. Do you want me to look on line I had asked last week and she had said no straight away. The internet down here is still not widely used and certainly not a medium you would ever trust your money to. They would never honour a guarantee she told me knowledgeably and that finished the discussion despite my protests that that wasn’t true or more to the point like bricks and mortar stores in Italy they would squirm and wriggle with the best of them to get out of it. So down we drove and of course paid for the machine in cash. Money is still king here, I am still amazed at the amounts most Italians carry on their person at all times . Most workmen in my bar probably have no less than about €1,000 stuffed into various pockets and often a great deal more than that. €500 notes scare me to death but I can’t count the number of times I have seen a guy looking for change to pay his beer tab put 3 or 4 of them on the counter as he looks for a €20. Soldi is money in Italian
only 38% of Italians buy on line compared to 83% in the UK and the major purchase by a long chalk is travel especially hotels, rail travel and car hire where the booking can be made but the actual purchase is at the place of use. Just as an aside if you do book an hotel in Italy especially in the 2 or 3 star category when you check out it is well worth asking how much of a discount for cash and that you require no bill. 15-20% is the norm.
50% of Italians access the internet on a regular basis compared to 86% in the UK and Italy is one of the lowest in Europe. The EU research boys put it down to these three factors:
Broadband penetration is low and very expensive compared to the rest of Europe
There is a real reluctance by Italians to release personal data on line
There is little credit card usage in Italy, cards are expensive and have very low levels of allowable credit compared to other European countries.
All are certainly true and I would add that a lack of both consumer protection, watchdogs like Ofcom and Ombudsmen here mean the consumer is very vulnerable. I was looking at steam cleaners on Amazon Italy the other day ( must get a life soon mustn’t I ) and comparing them price wise to Amazon UK as I could bring one back in a suitcase. However what really struck me was looking at exactly the same brands in both countries that when they went wrong in the main on the UK site consumers were saying that the article was replaced within days and often if faulty again ( yes I went off the idea of a steam cleaner) then again it happened quickly. The Amazon Italy site was full of complaints that the self same company but in Italy was not interested in replacing and indeed was telling people hard luck buy another one.
What all on line sellers have had to do in Italy is also offer Cash on Delivery and charge an extra €20 to €40 for this service where the driver collects cash.
I ordered our fridge from Monclick Italia when we first got here having thought the prices in stores were unbelievable. Monclick was saving me over €180 . Everything on line worked and I was given a tracking number to follow my fridge as it moved down Italy. Things went swimmingly well from Milan and the fridge was fine till it came over the border into Puglia and then the tracking stopped. After 2 days I phoned Monclick and the charming girl having clicked away on her machine said where do you live . Puglia said I . Oh said she well it has probably been stolen we lose tons of stuff down there. However we will get Bertolini the courier company to do another search. Two days later she phoned me back and said it had disappeared from all screens somewhere near Bari and was assumed lost. Would I like a refund. Well I’d prefer a fridge said I and was firmly told that they weren’t going to have another go at sending one. Okay said I refund it is when will I get it. When we get the insurance claim money from Bertolini she said. How long is that . Maybe a year maybe more she said quite nonchalantly ! I put the phone down in a state of shock but who to complain to. Anyway that afternoon my phone rang and a guy said he was in Martina Franca and had a package for me. Bertoloni said I . No but did I want it and if so give directions. This I did and 20 mins later this white van came down the road . Inside it filling the entire small van but with hundreds of small parcels and packets packed around it was my fridge unwrapped but seemingly in good order. Reluctantly the driver who was even older than me helped move it into the house and we plugged it in.
To this day Bertoloni, Monclick nor me have any idea where that fridge came from or how it ended up on a freelance drivers truck delivering small parcels.