Secrets of the website update
As the keeper of a company website, you often have a tough row to hoe. Instructions to perform revisions can be, shall we say, ambiguous.
“Add the SKU to the product title.”
Okay. Where do you want that? Before the title? After? Somewhere in the middle? Sure, you could have mentioned it or even provided the pertinent text to be revised, but that would be too easy, right? By making me guess what you want, you guarantee two things: I’ll be wrong and the task will have to be done at least twice.
You’re very clever that way.
So I put the SKU where I think it makes sense. You then tell me it’s wrong and make me move it. Thus, you have demonstrated your power and that you’re the only one for miles around that can make real decisions.
“Make the product sound more exciting.”
Ah, the quintessential request to get me to write your copy for you, even though you know damn well I don’t do copy. Why don’t I do copy? Because it never works out. Nothing I can produce will ever be up to your exacting standards. Just yesterday I lived through this and it only pertained to a single sentence. Not even a sentence, really. Just a bit of text preceding an input field. Luckily you were there to direct me at the level of editing a single character at a time. Who knew that you don’t need a space between a word and a beginning parentheses. “I like that,” you say. “Welcome to amateur hour,” I say.
“Insert these phrases into the hype on the product page.”
That’s pretty damn open-ended. At first I thought the phrases were bullet points, and those are easy enough to insert, although I’ll do it wrong and then there will be an editing phase where, one cycle at a time, we play with the friggin’ order of the bullet points. Somehow, though, I knew these weren’t bullet points. So I wrote back and asked for clarification. “Please provide insert points. Provide context for where the new content is supposed to go.”
Next thing I know, the page was edited without me. And no courtesy of a reply. They cut me out. And there it sits as an open item on my list of things to do. Even worse, their update included shitloads of <FONT> tags, the scourge of real HTML.
Thanks for, once again, wasting my frickin’ time. You know, the time you want me to “prioritize” and keep time sheets because I’m too stupid to manage my day.
The Anatomy of a Recent Update
I was recently tasked to add a new product to an existing page that already contained a shitload of products. (Yeah, that one product per page thing is for the birds.) We want our products carefully arranged on pages taller than the World Trade Center.
My instructions included a new SKU, a link to a product photo, a source product, and the bullet points that were different. In other words, I copy that source product, add a new section to the page, and edit what’s different to make the new product.
Piece of cake.
I was told that the new product was to be labeled “coming soon” but that the add to cart button should be active. (Which means it can be ordered.)
I completed the work and informed my boss. Like always, I included a link so he could review and make sure things were correct. I took the extra step of verbally advising the boss that since price wasn’t included in my instructions, the price for the new product was the same as the price for the old product. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said dismissively, as if I was a fly trying to land on his steak tartare.
A few weeks later and a customer orders the product. Oh holy shit! We got problems! First of all, the price is “wrong.” It’s supposed to be $200 higher! (No wonder it sold fast, eh?) And how the hell the was the customer able to buy this at all?
Outcome: More redo of work already done because of a lack of instructions and, I have this in writing, I’m the one who was “wrong.”
The boss and I chatted about ambiguous instructions recently. His point was that if he has to explain what he wants to the level I can understand what he wants, then he might as well do the work himself. This is the same boss who admits he’s never had a single hour of manager training. In my training, things like communicating the task, setting expectations, and checking for understanding were all heavily stressed.
As I listened to the boss explaining his philosophy, all I could think was: Where is the leadership? Where is the inspiration? How are you encouraging me to do my best?
Do you ever meet people who are so dumb that they actually think they are smart? They don’t usually understand that they are the missing link in the room. And yet, more often than not, these are the assholes in power who get to tell you what to do. I call them “bosses.”
Frankly I’m amazed our company can even exist.
This post is IN STOCK
Ha ha ha ha! You just fell for it. Sucker!
I’ve now worked for three different ecommerce companies in the last ten years. And I can tell you this: None of them gave even the remotest flying shit about accurate information on their web sites about products being “in stock” or not.
All three of them simply listed products as “in stock” — no matter what.
No actual effort was expended to make sure a product’s availability status was accurate. None.
In some cases, the words “in stock” were simply hard-coded right into the web page.
So how does the shopping “experience” work in cases like these?
- Shopper visits site.
- Shopper selects a product page to view.
- Shopper is told the product is “in stock.”
- Shopper gets excited about the product and thinks, “I want to consume this shiny thing.”
- Shopper adds item to the cart and completes their order.
- Shopper pays for the item.
- The company says, “Ha ha ha ha ha! Now we have your fucking money.”
- At some later time shopper is informed of the “unexpected delay” with their purchase.
That’s it. Now you know the secret “magic” that takes place behind the curtain. Fun, huh?
At all three companies I went to the owner of the company and expressed this overly-simplistic thought: “Shouldn’t we consider being honest with our customers?”
Wow. Talk about getting an earful in response!
All three of them expressed it the same way. “If we say a product is out of stock then people won’t give us their money!” (Try to imagine the magnitude of whining here. Plain text simply doesn’t do it justice.)
No shit, Sherlock.
In other words, the paradigm is this: Being honest about the availability of products will hurt sales.
Sales is a god. For some, despite overt protestations that they abide by different religious beliefs, it is the only god to which they will bow down in prayer.
The object of the game is simple. Separate the customer from his wallet in the shortest period of time and with the smallest possible amount of effort. Period. End of story. Game over. Any means, fair or otherwise, will be employed in pursuit of that objective.
Get the money. Then do whatever it takes to maintain the sale. Try to switch the customer to another product. Talk them into waiting. Whatever. But, no matter what, avoid them canceling their order. WE HAVE THEIR MONEY!
Now, be honest. If you knew this was the kind of person you would be dealing with, would you even place that order in the first place?
Lucky for you I’m here to help. I’m going to teach you how to identify these assholes so you won’t become their latest mind fuck. Pay attention now, because I’m only going to say this once.
Here is how you can identify this particular breed of asshole ecommerce retailer:
Their web site lists products as “in stock.”
See? It’s just that easy. Avoid these motherfuckers like the plague!
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Sorry, you lose! Ha ha ha ha!