Archive for the ‘E-Commerce’ Category

Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Say so

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.

Taxing

I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

TaxFirst thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

USPS self service and binI used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?

 Cross street please turned

 

Service of More Born Every Minute

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Suckers

Sorry to have to share more scams for suckers but it’s important to get out the word.

Moving right along

Did you hear about the Douglas County, Georgia family that hired a moving company through Craigslist and with the exception of one box, lost all their worldly goods?

Moving van plainThe movers had stolen the U-Haul truck [that the vehicle didn’t have the name of a mover painted on the side would have given me immediate pause]. According to Richard Elliot of WSB TV, after loading the truck the movers “appeared to be heading to the family’s new home in another county. But along the way, the homeowner said, the movers ditched her and vanished.” Estimated loss: $75,000. The box was recovered on a sidewalk by Cobb police two days later.

The homeowner was grateful. She’d said “If I don’t get anything back, I want that box, because it has all of our social security, birth certificates in it. It has death records from my mom and son,” she said, as well as the family Bible. The iPads and phones were missing from the box.

The naïveté of the customers made me sad: Most would have kept small electronic items and personal papers with them or stored them with friends. No wonder they were easy marks. I have to give it to the movers: They cleared the house in four hours. That’s lightening fast. Given my recent experiences in moving, I’d guess they didn’t pack or protect much; they must have tossed the furniture and other belongings in the truck.

Vote by hanging up

Telephone town hallHave you been invited to attend a town hall meeting on the phone with a political candidate? Take care warned Catherine Fredmen on www.Consumerreports.org where she shared intel from David Dewey, director of research at Pindrop Security, a firm that sells anti-fraud detection technology to call centers and others.

If you’re enticed by scammers that take advantage of the season and you give your credit card number to donate to your favorite pol, “Not only have you handed over money to an unknown entity, you have opened the door to identity theft.” She advises if the call is unsolicited, don’t play ball.

Not playing around

V TechWrote Fredmen, “Scammers are after more than your credit card number. Instead, they glean personal information to build detailed profiles that can be used for sophisticated forms of identity theft that may not be immediately obvious.” Her example is VTech, a toymaker. She continued: “For example, scammers could exploit the VTech data breach, which compromised the profiles of 6.4 million kids around the world, to hack identities for years. Because kids have no credit history and their parents generally don’t check their credit reports regularly, the theft might not be noticed until the kids grow up and apply for a credit card or financial aid for college.”

Mobile wallets on the move

“Dewey put the security of mobile wallets to a little test,” such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and PayPal, added Fredmen.  “First, he secretly copied credit card numbers and expiration dates from a few colleagues at Pindrop. A little Google investigating revealed the answers to ‘secure’ identification questions (such as a colleague’s mother’s maiden name) needed to activate the colleague’s card under Dewey’s mobile wallet account. Within minutes, Dewey had strolled over to Whole Foods and bought lunch for the office—paid for by his unwitting colleague. (The colleague was reimbursed.)”

Are you familiar with these scams or potential breaches? Know of others?

Android pay

 

 

 

Service of Online Sales—Such A Deal Or Not

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Great deal

I had to buy Oreck vacuum cleaner bags online and was surprised to see the price range, from $15 plus postage on the brand’s website to $9.69 plus postage on Amazon.com to $9.12, no postage, at Wal*Mart. [I really wanted to find a store near my office that carried them but was unsuccessful.]

My experience with this product was the opposite of most according to David Streitfeld’s front page Sunday New York Times article, “An Online Deal Just For You (Oh, and Everyone Else, Too).” He wrote about the public’s perception that they get bargains online because the asking price is much less than the “list price, suggested price, reference price or manufacturer’s suggested retail price.” He observed that “hardly anyone is charging” these.

Le Creuset skilletOne of his examples was a Le Creuset 11 ¾-inch iron handle skillet in cherry [photo, right] which Amazon claimed was $200 due to a $60 discount off list. At the same time everyone else was charging $200—Williams-Sonoma.com, CutleryandMore.com and AllModern.com, with posted list prices ranging from $285 to $250. Meanwhile the brand’s website was charging $200.

Another was a Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus Processor [photo below, left] that on its site costs $40 but that Amazon claims costs $75 and you can get it from them for $40. “Mary Rodgers, a spokeswoman for Cuisinart, said the $75 list price was ‘the highest price you could actually see the product being sold for.’ She said as far as she knew, no one was selling the processor for that price,” he wrote.

Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus ProcessorStreitfeld quoted pricing strategy expert professor Larry Compeau of ClarksonUniversity, “Everyone expects a deal on the web. Nobody wants to pay retail. Some sellers are now willing to deceive consumers to make the sale.” He said list prices are meaningless.

Overstock.com may be paying the price for deceit. According to Streitfeld, the company is appealing a $6.8 million fine in California for false advertising. Just one example in the case: A customer paid $450 for a patio set at a supposed 55 percent discount from $999 list but the same set cost $247 at Wal*Mart.

Wrote Streitfeld, “Overstock said it followed ‘standard industry practices’ to come up with its reference prices. Internet retailers including Wayfair, Walmart, Rakuten (formerly Buy.com), Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma employ list prices to varying degrees. Amazon, the biggest e-commerce player, uses them extensively and prominently.

“If some Internet retailers have an expansive definition of list price, the Federal Trade Federal Trade ComissionCommission does not.” According to the Code of Federal Regulations, he wrote, “To the extent that list or suggested retail prices do not in fact correspond to prices at which a substantial number of sales of the article in question are made, the advertisement of a reduction may mislead the consumer.” Translation: You can’t say that a pen that everyone charges $7.50 for originally cost $15, when it never did.

Streitfeld reported that originally, the list price was to protect consumers who might see one price on a box and a much higher price at the cash register. We’ve come a long way from those days for sure—and not in a good sense.

Do you always compare online prices before punching in your credit card number? Are you enticed by what appears to be a deep dish online discount?

typing in credit card

 

Service of Free Shipping & Returns

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

delivering package

Loretta Chao wrote “More Retailers Offering Free Shipping on Returns,” which caught my eye because I’m spoiled by online retailers who swallow the cost of shipping back and forth instead of foisting the charges on me. She wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “About 49% of retailers now offer free return shipping, according to a new study released this month by the National Retail Federation, underscoring how companies that had long been resistant to footing the bill for returns are being forced to do so by their customers.”

I see shipping as an e-tailer’s cost of doing business just like rent in often expensive neighborhoods and the salaries of sales associates are costs that standard retailers shoulder. I’m irritated when an e-tailer asks for a minimum purchase that’s too high–like $100–to qualify for free shipping and I pass on the opportunity if I only need $39 worth of goods. If there’s a generous sale involved, I can accept a minimum order without gripe.

ecommerce fulfillmentThose in e-commerce would do well to guarantee free returns, even if they charge for the initial shipping, or people may increasingly be reluctant to buy more than commodities. Sizes of clothing and shoes are zany and the vase you thought Aunt Irene would love may not be a fit. It’s inconvenient enough to repack a box and deliver it someplace without adding the insult of another charge.

“The added costs will put a strain on retailers gearing up for the peak holiday season, which historically is followed by a surge in returns,” wrote Chao. “In January, returns were up 15% over average return rates for 2014, and the volume is growing, Mr. Jindel said.” Satish Jindel is president of SJ Consulting Group Inc. and shipping data firm ShipMatrix Inc.

Another industry expert, Chris Dunn said that in the past e-tailers thought people simply wouldn’t return things so they didn’t have to worry about offering the service. Chao quoted Dunn: “‘They’re starting to realize that you’re still going to return, and you’re not going to buy from that retailer again.’”

Do you pay attention to shipping costs when you buy online? Have you ever balked when you’ve seen what the shipping costs will be even after taking the time to identify what you want and fill out all the charge and address information? If you’re buying something that needs to fit a person, a bed or a window, or a gift that someone might want to exchange, do you cancel an order if you, or the recipient, must pay to ship the return?

 carrying package

Service of Holacracy

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

 

Confusion

“Holacracy is a radically different management system that changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed. 300+ organizations are already running with holacracy”– http://holacracy.org/

 

 

zappos 1The policy at Zappos, according to Rachel Emma Silverman, has been to pay a month’s salary to any new hire who wants to quit because Tony Hsieh, whom Silverman called “the leader,” only wants employees who are “truly excited” to work there. From one to three percent accept the offer. Now, for the same reason, he’ll pay at least three months severance to any employee who isn’t comfortable with a change in management structure and 14 percent—210 people–accepted the severance. Zappos is an online retailer, originally headquartered in San Francisco and now in Nevada, that sells shoes and clothing.

In her Wall Street Journal article “At Zappos, Some Employees Find Offer to Leave Too Good to Refuse,” I first heard about Holacracy. Silverman wrote: “The exodus comes amid the company’s transition to an unusual management structure called Holacracy, in which employees essentially manage themselves, without traditional bosses or job titles.”

Leaving the companySilverman continued: “The company has acknowledged that the transition to this new form of self-management has been a difficult one. In March, Mr. Hsieh sent a 4,700-word memo to staff stating that Zappos, an independent subsidiary of Amazon.com, was taking too much time switching to this new management structure.” That’s when he offered the severance.

On May 20th, Silverman wrote a front page Wall Street Journal article, “At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion,” which goes into the concept more fully. In the second article Silverman quotes 26 year old Brironni Alex: “I am managing the work, but before I was managing the worker.” Silverman continued: “Ms. Alex says the changes give her more time for a workplace diversity committee and to perform on the Zappos dance team.” Alex is also on the team to convert the company to the new management system.

The article was illustrated by a wall of cut-off neckties because of the retailer’s “no neckties allowed” policy. I saw this at a steakhouse in Dallas, Texas some 20 years ago so I was surprised a company that tries to distinguish itself by being hip fell for such a tired idea.

It’s unusual enough to motivate employees to stay by paying them to leave. It will be interesting to follow the success of the self-management style which is great for self-starter types that most people claim they are during job interviews. Entrepreneurial types would also excel.

Have you heard of Holacracy before? Do you know anyone who has worked in such a management system? Have you instituted a new system or worked at a company that did? What was it like? Do you think people make such changes to keep employees alert and on their toes?

confusing management chart

Service of Small Town or Spooky

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Small town

I was born and brought up in NYC where life is as anonymous as you want it to be so I’ll never forget my first adult small town experience. I’d just moved into temporary quarters in a North Dakota town—population 300– north of Minot Air Force base and went to do laundry in one of the few businesses. A woman approached me and said, “Are you the wife of the Air Force lieutenant who just moved in to Sheriff Avery’s apartment?” I was. We’d been there one day. Shudder.

bike with boxA year later on an Air Force base in Turkey, a neighbor asked me: “How was your party?” “What party?” I asked. She explained that she’d seen me riding my bicycle with liquor boxes in the basket so she’d assumed we were having a party. Wrong: I needed the boxes, which were empty, to ship home Christmas gifts. Tremble.

apt mailboxThat old familiar uncomfortable feeling is back. We moved three months ago. I was diligent in letting friends and family know our new address as well as the post office, motor vehicles bureau and businesses that send bills. So when I get advertisements and catalogs from businesses from whom I’ve bought nothing, addressed to me or my husband at this address, I wonder: Who sold this information? I can run but I can’t hide.

I also feel stalked when I see something I researched on the Internet haunt me every time I open Facebook or in emails from a website like Amazon that sells the category of item I was looking for or maybe just researching for a work project.

Is what I interpret as intrusive really someone being friendly? Are businesses simply making me feel at home, trying to be nothing more than a helpful pal? Do you think it makes sense for some regulatory body to limit invasion of privacy whether virtual or actual?

Stalking on the Internet

Service of When it is Good it is Very, Very Good: Amazon.com at Its Best

Monday, February 16th, 2015

very good

My confidence in large companies was restored when I responded to a notice Amazon.com sent me because my credit card information didn’t work for an order placed three months before. They needed a new one to ship it.

My response was more complicated than “here’s the new number.” I easily found on the Amazon website how to contact someone. Most large companies make you work for this information and often you fail to find it. Amazon gave me a choice.

emailingI chose email.

I explained that:

 

  • 1) I no longer wanted the book. I’d ordered it early in October and received a notice in November that if I didn’t again hear from them by December 15, the book wasn’t available. Meanwhile, I later saw a paperback of the book, ordered it and received it from Amazon early in January.
  • 2) My credit card number had changed since early October, I wrote, because of the hacking at Home Depot requiring millions to get new cards and numbers. I noted that Amazon has my new number, as I’d made several purchases since October.

In minutes I received a gracious email response from Pratik K saying he had cancelled the order. I thanked him, and he again responded and when I took 20 seconds to fill out my satisfaction-with-the-correspondence survey linked to his note, and wrote how remarkable and fast the service was, I quickly received an email from Khay C.

Khay wrote: “Thanks for writing back with your kind words. I’m glad to hear that my colleague, Pratik K., was able to assist you, and I’ll be sure to forward your message. We want to provide service on a level customers will remember, and it’s great to know we’ve succeeded. Your comments are greatly appreciated, and I thank you for choosing Amazon.com. We look forward to seeing you again soon!”

Has your confidence in customer service been similarly restored recently by a comparable instance?

Confidence 2

 

Service of Art Advisors: Artsy.net, Artspace.com, 20×200, Etsy & Amazon.com

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

My Art 1

Art advisors–personal art shoppers–are nothing new. Bernard Berenson, who died in 1959, was one of the famous ones. He guided Isabella Stewart Gardner to make her picks of old masters. With the exception of a few that were stolen and never found, you can see them in her home, now a well known Boston museum [photo below, left].

Like a medical second opinion, when you’re spending $zillions or know nothing about art or have no time to look for it, or you’re buying merely for investment, such counsel makes sense. Corporations that invest in art hire their share. Like a stock broker or financial advisor there are no guarantees that the guidance of an art advisor means an investment is sound but then, where do guarantees exist?

My Art 2And while art advisors would no doubt feel insulted by being mentioned in the same breath, all over the country art shops and framing businesses are called on to fill the walls of new homes with work that complements the decor that decorators chose and put in place. According to the experience of a friend who had been in the framing business, in these selections homeowners seem to be largely out of the picture.

Richard Rothbard, my client and co-founder/director of the Contemporary Art Fair NYC that will again take place in March, mentioned an on-line art advisory–http://artsy.net.

According to its website in a memo signed by founder Carter Cleveland, son of art historian and collector David Cleveland: “Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. We are an online platform for discovering and collecting art. Our growing collection comprises 75,000+ artworks by 15,000+ artists from leading galleries, museums, foundations, and artists’ estates. Artsy provides one of the largest collections of contemporary art available online.”

I don’t know if Artsy’s partners, such as museums, art fairs and galleries, pay for the privilege. They may not need to as this company, as are online art auction houses like Paddle8, has generous backing of big money and endorsement by the high-profile.

Isabella Stewart Gardner MuseumBack to Artsy.net, according to Wikipedia, which reports on 2012 information: “The business model is commission-based where gallery partners pay Artsy a sales commission that averages 3% of the sales price.  Artsy operates on an honor system, relying on the galleries to report the sale.”

And the website is well done. I imagine that some buyers would consider it added value if something they are about to buy is silently endorsed by inclusion in a bigger entity with partners as prestigious as the Guggenheim Museum.

The concept intrigues me. I’m a proponent of anything that encourages interest in art and artsy promotes prominent art fairs and encourages attendance.

In “Giving the Gift of Art,” Anna Russell writes in The Wall Street Journal about other e-commerce art resources such as Artspace.com, 20×200, Etsy and Amazon.com: “In the past, the online art market suffered from concerns over provenance and authenticity that kept online purchases mainly to lower-priced works, says Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics, a research and consulting firm that studies the art economy.

“‘This ceiling is gradually shifting upwards as new generations of art buyers increasingly demand to transact in art in the same way they purchase elsewhere,’ Ms. McAndrew said. Online art sales are generally concentrated around midpriced artworks, ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $100,000, she said. ‘Some buyers are graduating up from the lower end of the market, and others have moved down as prices in the high end become increasingly bizarre.'”

However, it’s one thing to admire an image on a screen and pin it on Pinterest and another to see it in person. Like an Oriental rug or a textile in an image, a watercolor, photograph, oil or mixed media picture can look quite different on your wall, up close, from across the room and in different lights. Does it still haunt you?  Perhaps if a print, poster or image is well known, some of these considerations don’t exist. And if merely for investment, who cares.

In addition, it’s tough to grasp the size of something in the real space of your home or apartment even if the dimensions are clearly stated. Once we bought a piece of Mexican folk art from a photograph where it appeared to be huge. We had just the vast place for it. When it arrived it was so small it fit nicely on the mantel.

Does buying on line save time? Unlike returning a cashmere sweater that disappoints because it feels more like cardboard than a warm and comforting garment, wrapping and shipping art is a pain. I’m being small-minded: A person who writes a check for an online purchase in the $100,000 to $1 million range has someone wrap up and ship the work for them.

I wonder if most clients of an online art advisory service buy art for investment rather than to enhance their home or office. If money were no object, would you enroll the assistance of an art advisor? Do you enjoy seeing art on line or do you prefer seeing it in person?  Have you bought art online and are you tempted to?

 My Art 3

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