Ecommerce shopping tip

Every once in a while reading my blog will payoff with important information that can be used to immediate effect to improve your life. That’s just what I do.

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.”


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.

2 responses

  1. Right! I cannot exactly “recommend” zenni optical due to this.

    I placed my order via Internet, checked up on phone & was told a FAX was actually the best way via it’s the only way a body there would check the order.

    I appreciate their candor because my RX isn’t standard. I’m all hell needing coke-bottles!

    As you already know, that shit is econmerce that is literally shipped via BOAT from China. Takes a month to get your order.

    After placing the order (co was recommended by 2 real ppl), I couldn’t get a hold of them. Started thinking I’d never get my glasses (which were promised 7-10 days).

    When I finally got a person, she said this IS NORMAL and everybody takes 3 or more weeks.

    Talking to her was a lot like reading this blog!

    I would order from them again (75% less than discount shops) but i’ll know all this stuff to begin with!


    1. Get the money. Then tell the truth. That’s the prime directive of ecommerce.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: