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Third In Line And All The Good Puns Have Gone Already
Member Name: Tcraze84
Date: 08/09/01, updated on 08/09/01 (93 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent range of stock, consistently discounted prices, personal service
Disadvantages: Delivery times aren't quite as quick as they could've been. And that's 'bout it.
It's weird, but I'm a sucker for online shopping. Weird? Yeah. Simply because I never seem to have any money to spend in the first place. But, on the few rare occasions that I may have the opportunity to waste some hard-earned cash on yet another CD, you can bet that's what I'll be doing.
To be honest, I've never been really all that worried, or indeed - sceptical, about buying online. Card fraud has never really bothered me anyway - probably for the reason mentioned above - so I've always been relatively confident, and as long I'm sure that a site has a secure server with encryption of my details, in some form or another, I'm happy. Therefore, as you might expect, I've had a fair amount of experience with several different retailers. With that in mind then, you may not be surprised at the two names that've emerged the most favourably: Amazon and Audiostreet. Yet although these two are (probably) the biggest online music stores at present, they're certainly not alone. BOL, CD-Now, HMV are the other 'usual suspects' - but add to them all the other high street rivals (eg. WH Smith) as well as the specialist stockists, and you have a rather crowded market. Quite surprising, then, when I heard of a new name for me to add to the already-fierce competition: Musica.co.uk. In theory, it shouldn't matter to me - all my income for the month had already been blown on clubbing, but when the bait (in the form of a £10 e-voucher) was thrown in my direction, I couldn't resist.
So off I went to Musica.co.uk, fully expecting to have to add money to complement the £10 voucher. But, maybe not, as I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with: "Musica takes the hassle out of selecting and buying music CDs. Simple rounded prices. Chart CDs at £10.00. Average discount of 25% against UK retail prices."
Ooh. No 99p jobs, then? Excellent - especially if it makes things cheaper. Well, you know
what they say about first impressions. Musica.co.uk certainly did well in that aspect. My initial reaction to the site was a good one. Appearance-wise, it did seem a lot less cluttered than the somewhat disorganised homepages of Amazon and Audiostreet. A simple blue and white colour scheme was easy on the eye, and it seemed that most links were neatly organised into either horizontal or vertical menus. As we all know though, looks aren't everything (well, in most cases...); the big question was whether or not Musica.co.uk could compete with the bigger, more popular stores with regards to customer service and delivery.
What? You think I'm going to give you a verdict midway through the opinion? No chance, that'll have to wait. More about the site, then. Technically (on first impressions again) I was impressed. The site was fast-loading; probably due to the small amount of images on the page.
Essentially though, the homepage is split into three or four main sections. Lists of links to direct you around the site lie on both left and right sides of the page, with a main section centrally. Along the top of the page is a navigation bar with all the essentials, really - namely Account, Search, Basket and Checkout. Nothing revolutionary about that, but y'all need it, anyway. But you knew that anyway, and there's probably little need for me to explain what any of the aforementioned options are there for. Down the left-hand side is perhaps where you can make the most of Musica.co.uk, where a vast multitude of options await: Login, Browse, Charts, Halls of Fame, Music Magazines, Awards, Advanced Search, Find a Gig and Information. Again though, several are pretty much self-explanatory, but in the name of comprehension, I'll divulge. But you must realise that I really do hate doing all these sectiony bits within my opinions, OK?
Pretty obvious, really. Your gateway into your personalised Musica.co.uk, accessib
le by simply entering your chosen username and password. What do you mean, you haven't got one? Oh. Well, you'd better get creating, then. It's all very obvious, but click 'Create Account', fill in all the necessary information, and you're away. No need to store any card information here, though - that can be entered at a later stage. Forgotten your password? Already? Oh well. Just select the appropriate option and it'll be sent to your chosen e-mail address. If you haven't forgotten that already too, obviously.
Um, yeah. I feel silly now, 'cause this even more obvious. If you're not particularly keen on any one release/artist/style/whatever, this is the place for you. Simply put, a page-by-page guide according to style - choose from Classical, Jazz, World Music, Pop, Spoken Word, or Soundtrack.
I know, it doesn't seem like that much, actually. But it's all there. I know that many people won't be particularly happy with, er, Slipknot (for example) being put into the Pop category, but they are - as is most other modern genre. But, technically they should be, because although when we say Pop we so often mean bubblegum, Britney Spears and S Club 7, it is, of course, just an abbreviation for Popular Music. So there you go. I'm still not quite sure how Slipknot are actually popular, though.
• ADVANCED SEARCH
Again, the title doesn't leave much to the imagination, but this is merely an advanced (geddit?) version of the simple drop-down Quick Search located elsewhere on the main page of the site. I like this bit, though. Whereas most other sites give you the usual options of choosing by artist, title and/or style, Musica.co.uk expands on these, and emerges the better for it. Firstly, choose your style. Slipknot fans might be even more unhappy here though, as Pop has been grouped with both Jazz and World Music, whilst your other options are, again, Classical,
Soundtrack, or Spoken Word. Still with me? OK. Next up are six textboxes for you to play around with - you can leave as many blank, or fill as many in as you want (resulting in a more accurate search). Choose from Artist (obvious), Album (good), the slightly obscure Music Reference Number, and then, brilliantly, Track, Barcode, and Catalogue Number. Want to locate a single song, wherever it may be? Track'd be your best bet, then. Again though, not sure how many people will know the barcode of the CD they're after, but it's certainly a nice though, as is the neat Catalogue Number option.
Ironically, after all these plus points about Musica.co.uk, this section was where I found an aspect that was not quite up to Amazon/Audiostreet calibre - not tremendously important, but something that could so easily be improved: the actual CD listing themselves. Sure, whilst the multiple search criteria may ensure you locate exactly what you're after, the option of searching for an individual track, as previously mentioned, isn't much good if the songs aren't even stored on site. And whilst the stock range on-site is superb, the vast majority of items do not include a picture of the sleeve or any sound samples, let alone the all-important tracklisting. Unfortunately this can be quite inconvenient, but if you're after a more popular chart CD, it shouldn't be a problem, and you may well find all three within the result of your search.
Um. Take a guess what's in this section, why don't you? No prizes for guessing that, within each sub category, lies the necessary, but only-in-case-of-emergency-type facts and figures about the company itself, as well as Frequently Asked Questions, contact details, and so on and so forth. So then, just to save you any inconvenience:
• E-mail: email@example.com
• Telephone: 020 8743 3757 if you are in the UK
+44 20 8743 3757 fro
m outside the UK
• Fax: 020 8746 2810 if you are in the UK
+44 20 8746 2810 from outside the UK
Or, you could be traditional and add a personal touch by writing to them at this address:
49 Goldhawk Road
There ya go. All the important, corporatey stuff. Almost. Just in case you still doubt the credentials of the site - which you really shouldn't:
• Musica.co.uk limited is registered at Companies House, registration number 02028614.
• UK VAT registration number is 577 3417 15.
Still unsure? For more information about Companies House, look at their website:
For VAT information from HM Customs & Excise, look at:
There. Now go and be friendly and buy things from them, yeah? God, I'm turning into a quoting, corporate whore. I'll stop. More stuff from the Information section, but only an ickle bit. If you happen to be unhappy with anything you buy from Musica.co.uk, or it's faulty, or if it's just plain unopened, send it back. They won't mind - and will even refund the delivery costs you've already paid if it's due to a faulty item. Good, eh? Well I thought so anyway. Refund it, exchange it. Whatever, signs are that they won't mind anyway. Be nice to them though, yeah? But wait: there's more. Not content with their excellent no-quibble refund/exchange policy, Musica.co.uk seem to be putting the customer first - which is a refreshing change to some of the other online stores. You know who I mean. Quoting, once more, from their threefold customer guarantee, then:
"Shopping at musica is completely safe and every purchase is backed by our Security Guarantee. We have designed our system with the highest level of security to resist any attempt to misuse your credit card details and we
are happy to guarantee that if you ever lose any money through fraud as a result of using our site, we will refund it. It's that simple".
"We are proud to hold our customers' trust and we do not share our customers' details with other parties. Ever!"
Y'see? If every company was based solely on their corporate information screen, Musica.co.uk would, quite clearly, rock the most.
Right then. Essentially, what you're there to do is to buy stuff, right? That is, unsurprisingly, easy. Once you've located your item (through either the 'Browse', or search facilities) and made your mind up about it, simply click 'Add To Basket' and you're halfway there. From here you can either continue shopping on the site, or proceed to the Checkout to finalise your order. It's only at this stage where you'll enter your payment details - most forms of payment are accepted here. Double-check and double-check again your details and purchase, then continue - completing your order.
Another neat function of Musica.co.uk is it's innovative store credit scheme. Whereas other stores do operate a e-voucher facility, these must be used in one transaction, or if not, the remaining value goes to waste, especially if you cannot find anything else for the value you have not already used. Musica.co.uk is different. Here is a true credit scheme - technically, you claim your voucher in exactly the same way, redeemable by entering a code on your account screen. Then, when you are at the checkout, it's entirely up to you to use as much - or as little of your credit as you like - if any. Any not used will remain safely in your account until next time. And time after, if you don't use it all then. Y'see how it works now, yeah?
Good. Bad. Pleasure. Pain. You know the drill. Unfortunately, so soon after a nice, positive feature of the site was discovered, a bad on
e comes along to ruin it all. Pah. Maybe. It might just be in my situation, but after completion of my order (Ibiza Euphoria III for those interested, priced considerably cheaper than the RRP), I didn't receive a confirmation e-mail, as with other stores. This left me a bit confused, and I couldn't help thinking whether or not I'd done everything right, or whether I'd messed things up big stylee. I hadn't, but it was left to other devices to tell me that.
All was left silent until I checked the Order Tracking page - accessible via the Account page. It seemed my order had been put on hold. I enquired about this to them via e-mail, until Musica.co.uk's Jennifer Bird politely replied, informing me of an error with my card details. You see why I told you to check and double check? That'll be why, then. Thankfully, this gave me a chance to alter my previous choice of order. I therefore cancelled the standing order, re-entered my details in the usual fashion, and all was completed. Sort of. Having cancelled my order seemed to have invalidated my £10 credit. Another series of friendly e-mail exchanges followed, until 24 hours, I was yet again politely informed that the glitch had been fixed and all was back to normal. Checking my account once more, I could see that this was indeed the case.
Perhaps another downfall of Musica.co.uk is the actual time taken to deliver - at present, cannot be compared to the heavyweights in the online CD shopping division - around two weeks for a popular commercial release, such as the one I'd ordered, though this may be due to them sending out orders themselves. Thankfully, the low price policy continues throughout the site, with postage and packaging at only 75p per order, then 25p additionally. Bit confusing to me, but it won't be for you. It's cheap though, certainly - in stark contrast to the price-pushing rates of Amazon.
Musica.co.uk may not be quite up there with
several of the more firmly-established companies in the market, but certainly gives priority to exceptional, one-to-one customer service and honest pricing - and that can only be a good thing. I could add another pathetic heavyweight-type boxing metaphor here, but I won't. Because it'd be wrong. And wrong isn't right, obviously.