So you want to be in the mail order business. Whether traditional “brick and mortar” or hanging out your shingle online, you have decided to ask the same question: How easy is it to rip me off?
Mail order is a retail system where fulfillment takes place at a remote location outside of your field of view and control. Think of it as the fog of war. By definition you are operating with less than full information. By design. Remember, this was your choice.
You might as well go in a dark alley and roll some dice. You might get better odds.
Here’s a typical scenario:
- Customer/criminal visits your website and loads up on plastic crap made in China. (Let’s be honest, that’s all you sell.)
- Payment is made with a credit card.
- You rub your hands together in glee, shout “Squee!” and box and ship the crap.
- Customer/criminal fiend receives the crap.
- Customer/criminal fiend then claims crap was never received and “disputes” the charges with the credit card company.
- The credit card company (aka The Vig) is, in this situation, the sole arbiter of truth, justice and the American way. You agreed to this policy.
- You submit all of your detailed records regarding the transaction including: customer order, shipping receipt, emails, phone records, retina scans, DNA samples and a electronic facsimile of thumbprint.
- The credit card company says, “Well, there just ain’t no way to know!” and decides in the
customer’scriminal’s favor. There’s a giant sucking sound as the money is extracted from your account.
Let’s review. What just happened? The customer isn’t out one single penny and the customer has your stuff. Bazinga! And there’s no magical fairy in the universe that’ll ever do one thing about it. Welcome to your new reality.
Those of you who watch Orange Is The New Black may recognize this tactic as employed by the criminal mastermind Lorna Morello during her pre-prison flashbacks. People really get caught for this? No. Remember, OITNB is fiction.
The bottom line is that shipping product mail order to a customer is a supreme act of faith. You’re basically hoping it’ll all work out. And when it doesn’t, there’s isn’t too much you can do about it.
The point is that when this happens the boss is furious and that, of course, is hilarious.
I can’t stop thinking about Bush
Alas, for most of you who clicked this post based on the subject line, disappointment will be your friend. This post is political. (The subtle hint was the capital B in Bush.)
A website that is full of hot air tried to convince me recently that Obama is the undisputed king of debt or something to that effect.
So I did a little experiment.
Continue reading →
My bad reputation
First I had bad credit. It seems I wasn’t consuming in quite the right way.
Now I’ll have the opportunity to improve on that. Woots for me.
WTF is credit, anyway? I like to think of it like this:
Your neighbor sits on his porch and writes down every time he sees you do something. What a douchebag. He writes down when you pick up your newspaper, get the mail, mow the lawn, leave for work, get home from work, and anything else he might be able to see.
He’s not breaking any laws. He just sits on his porch and records information that you’ve chosen to share with the public. You know, by being alive and doing things and shit.
Additionally, he’s doing this for every house on the street within his field of view. He can’t see everywhere, though, so he hires people to do it on every street in your town.
He does this every day, 24/7, 365 days a year.
All of this data he has collected gets fed into a massive computer and creates something he calls your “file.” If you pay him a fee, he’ll allow you to look at it. If anyone else pays him a fee, he’ll allow them to look at it, too. He’s not discriminating as long as you bring the green stuff.
And that’s pretty much credit. A sleazy, greedy neighbor recording information that is, by necessity, considered to be “public” but is really none of their bloody business.
But that’s old skool. Old and busted, Experian! (One of the “Big 3” credit bureaus and the wonderful folks who bring you shitty mortgage ads on the internet and sneaky “free” credit report commercials on TV.)
What could be newer than credit?
Consider the world that eBay brought us. (Now a little old and busted themselves.) The feedback world.
If you were buying and selling on eBay, how in the world could you know who to trust? After all, these were strangers, not stores.
Those little feedbacks (positive and negative) became a reputation system that enabled people to determine if they could trust each other – or not.
Reputation and identity on the internet is about to become a very big deal. I’m guessing your online persona along with your avatar and publicly-identifiable information (harvested by the likes of Google, Facebook, and their ilk) will form your new “file,” a reputation “credit” score for the future.
Want to participate in the next big thing, like co-ops that share cars to produce organic crops used to produce gluten-free beer? You’ll need to bring your online reputation if you want to play well with others.
Imagine. Your every status update, blog post, and tweet will be recorded and live on. The record you create today will be online and last longer than it would take for Yucca Mountain to be a vacation spot. And the way you perform on every social media, barter, buy, sell, trade transaction will become a part of your permanent reputation file.
Remember the joke about trying to buy a pizza but the debit card knew your cholesterol score? That’s going to seem like small potatoes.
Gee, I wonder. Should I give a flying shit about my online reputation or not?
Anyone have examples of this reputation thing coming down the pike? Share it in the comment section below…
You shall not email
One of the primary functions of an ecommerce company is to take orders over the phone. These orders are placed by people who are too chickenshit and/or stupid and/or obstinate to do it themselves over the internet.
A common theme among these people is that they don’t like to tell you their email address. As if that could somehow be used against them in some terrible way or as if just a single extra piece of spam would be the tipping point to ruining their lives.
So these folks call up on the telephone to place their orders. And thus begins what I like to call a dance that leads to the creation of order records that are rife with errors. Did you say F or S? M or N? Another commonality these people have is that they like to speak quickly and don’t like repeating themselves. One thing is certain: By the time we’re done transcribing what was said there are errors.
Then we ask, “Can I have your email address? That is where we’ll send the order confirmation and the tracking number so you can track your own shipment.”
“What do you want that for?” the customer will ask warily.
Sigh. We’ve been down this road a million times. “I just explained all that.”
“Will you spam me? Will you sell it?”
“No,” I say for the 27th million time in my life. “We only send you emails pertaining to your order. We never sell, give away or lease email addresses to anyone. Ever.” The truth is we’re too horribly inept, unorganized and understaffed to do anything proactive like work our email lists. So by default your email is very safe with us whether you trust that or not.
“Well, you can’t have it! Won’t tells you, we will. Never!”
Fine. Whatever. Shut the hell up, okay?
The email enables, among other things, the order confirmation. This is a little bit of info, sent to the email address, that confirms things like what’s in the order, the amount charged, and where the order will be shipped.
Not once in my illustrious 10-year ecommerce career has a customer ever received this order confirmation, carefully checked it, then called in to report an error. At least not before the order has shipped. They’re real good about doing so the next day once it’s too late. “Wowie! You guys sure ship purdy fast.”
The order confirmation email is a vital part of the process to find, intercept and fix costly errors before an order has shipped. Before we ship fixes are free. After we ship fixes are expensive.
Then, these same people who claimed not to have an email address will call us every day for an update on their stuff. “Where’s my order now?” they’ll demand to know.
“If you provide your email address I could send the tracking information along and you could track it real-time all by yourself…” I helpfully suggest.
“No. We do not wants that! Just tell us where our precious is located now. Track it for us, you will. Yesssssssss!”
Nothing says job satisfaction like extra phone calls from idiots made possible through customer paranoia. All over their oh-so-sacred email address, of all things!
What gets me is that when you ask for the credit card information, they have absolutely no problem with that. They’ll hand it over like it’s a red-hot potato. They’ve been well trained to be efficient customers in the consumption machine. They know we need the number itself, the name on the card, the expiration date, the billing address, and the “security code” on the back. Har.
And they’ll willingly line up to hand over this information to a complete stranger on the phone. Yeah, like that’s any safer than transmitting the information across the internet.
A lot of customers call in out of fear of putting their credit card information into the computer and/or the internet. So they give it to us over the phone. We then promptly do two things that would probably fry their bacon. First, we write it down on a piece of paper. (Everything required to complete a credit card transaction on one handy document. Isn’t that nice? Which would never have happened if they just ordered themselves.) And the second thing: We then punch all of that credit card information right into that same damn computer and/or internet.
Ha ha! And they thought they were being safe. Not only did we just do the one thing they had hoped to avoid, but it passed through an extra human along the way. Talk about safety!
So here’s to you paranoid customers! Keep being magnificent.