My wife and I were driving around the big city on a Sunday morning. It was almost lunchtime. We had skipped breakfast.
“I could go for some kibble,” I said.
“Actually,” she replied. “Me, too.”
I was a little surprised but excited, too. We were going to eat out. But where? We took out our daggers and prodded each other, as we are often wont to do.
“Wherever you want,” I said.
“No,” she replied menacingly. “Wherever you want.”
Clink. Clink. Clink. The cold steel of our daggers danced their elegant dance.
“Let’s go to the bar you wanted to try. The one with the fried chicken.”
“The hell you say!” I turned the car around. “We’re going to that coffee shop you mentioned the other day.”
“All they got is coffee and baked goods.”
“Excellent,” I emoted, channeling Commander Kruge, the asshole Klingon from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. “Perfect. Then that’s the way it shall be.”
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Boo freakin’ hoo. To my way of thinking that’s like worrying about one turd shitting on another.
Still, I thought it might be a good idea to reminisce a few moments about the proverbial good times of ye olde mom and pop. The good old days and the “little man” of Alan Jackson lore.
Brick and mortar? Mom and pop? Who the hell is in charge of naming this shit? Dr. Seuss? Family jewels are found in aisle 42. Bait and tackle in aisle 69. That reminds me: “Clean up on aisle 69!”
I’ve already written quite a bit about Mr. Online Entrepreneur. He’s slippery, slimy and makes jackals and amebas seem like highly evolved life forms. He lies about everything including – most especially – that the product you want is “in stock.” Then he gets your money and you wait weeks to find out if you’ll ever get the product he just totally lied about or if you’ll ever get your money back. Good times.
How about Mr. Brick Mortar? How does he compare? And who is this guy?
Does the plethora of dings on the side of your car give you any kind of freakin’ clue?
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The Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Eve. Just enough time to get in one more shot of negativity before the day the shit steps off and I pause my normal routing to give thanks.
Tomorrow brings my annual benediction of hope and light. In guru parlance it’s known as the blind spot. But I’ll be back to form by Friday in time for hottest shopping day of the year.
May you shop until you drop.
And now, sing with me, won’t you?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Some things overheard in the office last week:
Hint: That’s the sound of my boss hocking up loogies and them plopping them into the wastebasket under his desk. In other news, I stopped by Staples today, picked up a new wastebasket for under my desk and will never again touch another wastebasket besides mine. Ever.
See? If I had marked that item as out-of-stock I never would have talked them into that other product.
Said by my boss after cross-selling a customer on a product our web site has listed as “in stock.” Recently customers have become increasingly combative when us innocents answer the phone, check the shelves, and say things like, “Nope. We don’t seem to have any.”
What do you mean you don’t have any? Your web site says they are in stock!
The petulant sounds of my boss when on the phone with one of our suppliers. Oh, sweet karma! It’s not often you get that up close and face-to-face with unmitigated gall.
Of course we have a retail store. We’re not an internet-only outfit. Check our web site. You’ll even see a picture of our store there.
That was my boss on the phone talking to a supplier who wanted reassurance that we don’t sell only on the web, that we have an actual retail store. (You’d be surprised how many suppliers really care about this.) In actuality the picture on our website is a photoshopped fake, our location is office space only, our shop doesn’t have any signage or even our name on the door, and there is no display merchandise available for customers to look at and there is no cash register or other means for them to pay.
No. Do not come over here. We’re not a retail store. We do all of our business on the internet. Go to our website if you want to place an order or see what we’ve got.
That was my boss on the phone talking to one of our international repeat customers who just happened to be visiting our town and wanted to stop by. From the sound of things he was rather offended by the less than warm welcome. We didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.
I wonder what goodness I’ll hear at the office this week?
If you are lucky enough to be reading this, prepare to enjoy yet another payoff.
I’m here to help you!!!
I’ve operated in the murky underworld of ecommerce business for almost 11 years now. Thanks to WordPress and the power of the blog, my misery and suffering can be milked to benefit others. Perhaps there was a reason for this after all. Perhaps my suffering wasn’t all in vain if someone can benefit from my hard-fought experience.
I’ve frequently told anyone willing to listen the myriad ways of evil wrought by ecommerce companies. The litany includes how they flat-out lie on web sites, fake “in stock” status, bogus customer reviews, and inventing how many customers they have right out of thin air.
It’s time to start putting that knowledge to use. And that brings us to today’s topic:
How to spot ecommerce companies you should avoid
Today I’ll discuss one simple yet powerful method that can effectively save you a lot of hassle. I won’t beat around the bush. Here is my technique:
Never place orders with any ecommerce company that is willing to accept orders by phone.
–Tom B. Taker
Short and sweet. Powerful, too, if you really think about it.
It works like this: Most small ecommerce companies have very limited staff. In some cases, it might even be a single guy in a nondescript strip-mall office generating $2 million yearly in revenue. I’ve personally seen this, and I’ve also seen the way that operation worked. (Not very well.) In other cases, like the last place I worked, there may be four employees and a couple of owners (husband and wife). At my current job there are two employees and two owners (again a married couple).
The specific numbers aren’t what’s important. The part that matters is that all of these employees have full time jobs that they are already overwhelmed with. Order fulfillment, shipping, inventory, maintaining the web site, pricing, purchase orders, production, retail floor and counter, etc. There is never staff dedicated to simply watching the phones. In fact, there is no employee given phones as a primary task. It’s lumped on as a bonus task for the rest of us. And, it goes without saying, that the phone is the ultimate thing all employees are forced to whore on no matter what.
My first ecommerce job was a small firm with four employees and one owner and five phone lines. That’s a one-to-one relationship of phones to employees. My last two jobs have had two phone lines each.
The main point is that when that phone rings, someone’s job just got put on hold. Period. Once a phone rings the only thing that matters in the entire universe is whoring that call and landing the fish. Period. End of story. Nothing matters except that next sale. And as soon as the phone hangs up, that order goes in the shitter when the phone rings again, because it’s no longer important. Only that next call matters.
This is fine and dandy when you are the customer and on the phone. For that brief moment in time you are the alpha and omega to us. You are a god. You have our full attention and commitment. You are the only thing that matters.
Phone calls are the Rubik’s Cubes of the ecommerce business. They require you to run around to all corners of the office, weighing things, opening boxes, looking up information in books, and solving riddles worthy of Sherlock Holmes. All for a theoretical chance at a sale.
There is no situation known to mankind where an ecommerce owner won’t hear a phone ring and say, “We’re too busy at the moment. Let it go to voice mail.” We’re talking about nothing less than the fate of the entire universe here. The Earth itself would crack in half and disintegrate into small pieces if a phone call went unanswered.
You can get where this is leading, right?
God help you if your order happens to fall into the category of “one we’ve already taken.” Once you’re off the phone with us your order becomes nothing more than a steaming pile of shit. It is essentially something we’ll try to squeeze in, if we can, between the phone calls that came after yours.
Elegant simplicity, eh?
Since we have no staff dedicated to answering phones, the only people who will be answering the phones are the ones who could actually be working on your order. Seriously, I can’t believe people get paid to invent business models like this.
Since every customer expects al a carte treatment, orders become a veritable cornucopia of sticky notes, handwritten scribbles and notes typed in a computer (that never get read by humans, of course). This guarantees that when your order actually gets processed by bitter, harried, multitasking drooling idiots who are dancing with the phones, the subtle little nuances of your order’s needs will be lost in the shuffle. It is inevitable. We are guaranteed to suck.
How come no one ever seems to remember the quintessential wisdom of the movie Lethal Weapon 2? You remember the part where Joe Pesci famously says, “They FUCK YOU at the drive-thru, okay? They FUCK YOU at the drive-thru! They know you’re gonna be miles away before you find out you got fucked! They know you’re not gonna turn around and go back, they don’t care. So who gets fucked? Ol’ Leo Getz! Okay, sure! I don’t give a fuck! I’m not eating this tuna, okay?”
That’s why I never, never, never ever order “off the menu.” Ever. I order the “number one” and in the standard configuration. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing special. Ever. I don’t care if it comes motherfucking loaded with peanuts and I have an allergy to peanuts that will kill me. Ordering off the menu simply isn’t worth it. You show me someone who says “no pickles” and I’ll show you someone with an order that is fucked up.
Placing an order with an ecommerce company that slaves over their phones is the exact same concept. If if explained myself properly above, hopefully you already know this now.
Real Life Example
Let me preface this story with this. I am not making ANY of this up.
Last Friday a guy called repeatedly trying to get a hold of the boss. Every single time the boss was already whoring on the phone so I was the lucky one who got to take the call. (Ah the beauty of the multi-line phone system.) I don’t know why, but he specifically asked for the boss.
Mondays and Fridays are pretty much pure cluster-fuck for us. They are our busiest days. People will do things like email inquiries, wait about 15 minutes before getting angry they haven’t had a reply yet, then pick up the phone and redial until they get an answer. We’ll answer those calls, thus preventing us from responding to emails, and thus guaranteeing that the cycle continues ad infinitum. The true beauty of this, of course, is that later, when we do get some time, some idiot spends time responding to emails where we’ve already talked to the customer! I call this phenomenon service clobbering.
So, each time this customer asked for the boss, I’d offer to help and/or take a message. He always said, “No, I’ll call back in a few minutes.” Fine. Whatever fuck face. Not once did he ever bother to mention what it was regarding or give me his phone number.
Finally he called again at 4:15pm and the boss was still on the phone. Our shipping deadline was 4:30pm and we weren’t going to make it. (No point in satisfying the orders we’ve already taken, right?) That’s because the boss was the only one there who could print shipping labels and he was on the phone. And I was the only one who could ship packages and I was on the phone. (See how this works yet?)
It was getting ridiculous with this guy calling umpteen times. I finally convinced him to give up his name and number. I took a message. I set it aside until shipping was completed. The FedEx guy only had to wait 20 minutes for us this time.
Once the FedEx guy was gone, I handed the sticky note to my boss. “This guy has been trying to call you all day. He didn’t say what it was about.”
Fast-forward to Tuesday. It’s the middle of the day and I happen to notice the sticky note on the his computer. The boss never called the dude back! Worse, the boss isn’t even aware of this because, like the rest of us, he is too damn busy and whoring the phones. Nothing is organized and nothing gets done. Everything is an ongoing game of stimulus and response. Only work on whatever beeps and jumps in your face.
Naturally the phone rings again and I’m the only one around to take the call. (The boss was four feet from my desk imitating a whoppie cushion on the toilet.) Naturally it was my old friend from Friday. Only this time he was mad as hell.
The customer had purchased an $800 item from us and wasn’t happy. He knew the boss had shipped him the wrong stuff on purpose. He knew that the boss had been deceptive with him. And now, he knew the boss was avoiding his calls. Oh lucky me, I’m the one that gets to take this call.
The customer told me he was livid. He told me he was calling our manufacturer to turn us in. He told me that he was going to be putting a chargeback on his credit card purchase. He told me a lot of things.
I told him that the boss was “out of the office” and would call him back. Gee, just like I had said on Friday.
Somehow, against all odds, I got the guy to hang up.
When the boss came back, I handed him the message and said, “This is the guy from Friday. He really wants to talk to you.”
The boss picked up the phone, called the guy, and said, “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding. I never got your message.”
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT!
That’s what I like to call “team building” but that’s another story.
I hope the above anecdotes and information serves to make my point. Never place an order with an ecommerce company that accepts orders by phone. Ever.
I’ve given you a glimpse behind the curtain. Now you know how it works. The rest is up to you.
Quick. You have to quicheck this quiout before it is too quilate!
Hurry, there are only a matter of seconds left. Act fast or you will lose!
Are you ready for QuiBids???
Johnny, tell ’em what they are playing for!
Product: Nikon D5000 Camera & Lens
Description: “The D5000’s 24-fps HD D-Movie mode with sound captures video clips with amazing clarity–offering new and exciting creative opportunities.”
Value Price: $699.00.
Opening Bid: 2 cents (Holy mother of God and WTF?)
What in the name of an aborted eBay is going on here?
Yep, just when you thought shopping was too easy and simple, along comes QuiBids, to capitalize on shopping excitement and cash in on basic human traits like addiction, compulsion, greed, and competition.
If you haven’t heard of QuiBids before, here’s how it works.
First, you sign up as a member and fork over your credit card data and purchase a “Starter Account” consisting of 100 “bids” for $60.00. This entitles you to visit the QuiBids site and click the “Bid” button 60 times. In other words, each bid costs you 60 cents.
If you bid on an item, like a iMac computer, for $35.54 and no one outbids you, you win the item. QuiBids brags about auctions like this iMac and the “95% saved” right on their web site. Just go pay the amount of the winning bid, in this case $35.54, and a shiny new iMac computer is yours.
Whoa! Hold on. This isn’t your grandparent’s eBay. Things work just a skosh differently on QuiBids.
First, win or lose, every time you click that “Bid” button you are spending money. You are giving up one of your pre-paid “Bids.” Think of “Bids” like poker chips in a casino. Just like a casino, QuiBids wants you to disassociate your actions from how you would feel if you were paying real money. Imagine if that “Bid” button read “Pay 60 Cents” instead. That wouldn’t do at all, would it?
Second, actions never end until 20 seconds have elapsed without bids. And every time you click the “Bid” button new seconds are put back on the clock to give other people the chance to outbid you. If you are a veteran auction sniper then QuiBids is a wet dream for you. The entire system is based on sniping.
So, let’s take a look at how a typical auction works.
The one that caught my eye today was that Nike D5000 Camera. I stumbled across it when the auction was at $22.00. QuiBids had my attention (to say the least).
I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, though. I smelled danger. If something seems too good to be true it usually is. I went looking for the catch. There always is one.
The catch is the two points I just explained above. Each bid costs 60 cents and each bid extends the clock. Additionally each bid raises the new bid amount by the increment for the item, which is shown in the corner of the image. On the Nikon D5000 the bidding increment is 2 cents.
It has now been hours since I first spotted that camera. The wife and I literally showered and went downtown for lunch and came back home. The action is still running!
The current bid amount is $91.24. Still a good deal on a $699 camera, right?
Ah, my favorite part the post has arrived. It’s time for some math!
According to the QuiBids video I just watched, all items are listed at $0.00 and have a bid increment. Let’s say we want to calculate QuiBid’s profit on an item. After all, they are entitled to a little something for services rendered and managing the auction, right?
SOLD PRICE / BIDDING INCREMENT * BID COST = PROFIT$$$
Let’s plug in the numbers for the Nikon D5000 I’m watching right now. Yes, it has gone up in price as I composed this post.
$93.00 / $.02 * $.60 = $2,790.00
Profit??? Indeed! Not a bad amount to collect in fees on an item that retails for $699.00. Don’t forget that the wholesale cost for the item is probably closer to $400. (That’s a wild ass guess on my part.)
QuiBids has got to gets paid, yo. Skillz to pay the billz.
Let’s look at one more auction that just closed. The item is “Dragon Cinch Sunglasses.” The so-called “value price” is $74.95. The bidding increment was 2 cents and the item sold for $1.52. Even on this laughably puny auction QuiBids still pocketed $45.60 in bidding fees. Wow! (The wholesale cost on the item might have been around $45.)
But Wait, There’s More
Even if you lose the auction, QuiBids isn’t content to let you, the bidding fish, off the hook so easily. So you can apply the value of your bids wasted in a losing effort towards “Buy It Now.” In other words, if you entered 10 bids on an item but still lost the auction, just go buy the item and convert those wasted bids into a $6.00 credit off the retail price. A win-win. Or, as QuiBids describes it on their web site, “This way there is no bid that is ever wasted on QuiBids.” Of course that assumes every auction loser goes and pays full price.
Basic Human Pyschology
I previously mentioned human traits like “greed” and “addiction.” How does QuiBids push these buttons?
First, every bidder has a username and a cutsey little avatar to represent them in this QuiBids version of Tron.
Each time you click the “Bid” button your name gets flashed on the screen as the “Current Winner.” Oooooh, I just “won” something? Yes, the right to see your own username on your monitor for 1-20 seconds or so. Exciting, eh?
The current high bidder is always referred to as a “winner” whether the auction is over or not. I find that to be rather insidious.
When QuiBids says someone is the “Current Winner” they are hoping (and knowing) that people will key on the word “winner” even though in the context “Current” is the only word with any actual meaning. 99% of all bids will be outbid and that’s the moment when “winners” become “losers.” Gee whiz, for the life of me, I can’t imagine why they don’t flash that on the screen. D’oh.
To emphasize even more that QuiBids is merely a game there is even something called “Achievements.” You’ll find this word gets its own real estate on the site’s main menu bar. Once clicked, you’ll be taken to a page with subtle hints like a giant scoreboard (is QuiBids a sport?) and the word “Gameday” written on it. Using the achievements system you can earn little graphics called “Badges” that your competitors can see with your online profile. This allows QuiBids customers to identify which competitors are the biggest idiots. But the pyschology at work is still significant. “Let’s turn spending bids on QuiBids into game.”
This is sounding more and more like a casino, isn’t it. Perhaps QuiBids should be legally required to disclose that bidding is for “entertainment purposes only.” Just like a stripper pole, only there you actually get something.
Closing Thoughts – A Peek Behind the Curtain
In the end, QuiBids is just another form of gambling. Somehow online casinos are outlawed and even games like Holdem Poker have to be hosted on shady criminal islands so that compulsive Americans can illegally gamble. But QuiBids has found a way to make it all legal. I think. I’m not really sure if it’s legal or not. The fact that it’s online doesn’t prove shit.
Welp, I’d like to say that I’ll see you all next time but the truth is I’ll be gone from the blog for a while. I’m investing next month’s rent check into QuiBids. Wish me luck!
P.S. That Nikon D5000 auction is still going and at $103.96. I bet it goes longer than the Energizer bunny!