Seller Beware




I’ve been seriously thinking about establishing an online eCommerce presence, even though many of my customers get positively nauseous at the sight of a computer terminal. There is something to be said for making a go of it seasonally as a Florida B&M, and letting the online world be all that it was meant to be without my help. With this in mind, here’s my latest satirical piece. Well, maybe it’s not that satirical. Notice how the Coming Soon widget in the sidebar has gone poof into the night, at least for the time being.

 * * *

Consider this.

You start a store, maybe it’s just online, maybe it’s a store in the real world and the virtual one both, and some Mister Mister comes and tells you how it’s going to be.

First of all, anything you sell, he’ll take 3 per cent of that, maybe more.

That’s not counting the 3 to 5 per cent the credit card is making off you, based on some arcane tiering rules that you don’t quite grasp.  And then there’s Uncle Sam on top that. Not to mention the hefty vig you’re paying to start the store in the first place, since the bank refused to take out a third mortgage on what was left of your house after the last hurricane.

Cash RegisterNow that 3 per cent, it’s not just the retail price of the item sold, but off the top of shipping costs and insurance too.

Boy that hurts.

And if you want to list your merchandise in this so-called store of “yours,” well, that’s gonna cost you.

You see, you can’t just put things up on the shelf just like that, the way you would in a real store.  No, it’s gonna cost to do that.  Maybe it’ll be 15 cents an item a month, or maybe it’ll be three dollars. It all depends how that fella is feeling on any given day.

Whatever the sum, it’ll cost ya.  So now you are not just paying to buy the goods, you are paying for the right to display them.  It’s just like a B&M store, except that it really isn’t. In a way, it’s kind of like belonging to a condo association in a gated community, vs owning your own place on a free-standing basis.

In a condo, you have to pay those dues, and you can’t put a dish on the roof without first asking permission. So it’s definitely your house when it comes to paying the mortgage, but it’s not like there aren’t many hidden other charges. So it’s your place, yes, but only up to a point.

Okay back to our friend, the virtual mall guy.

For example, if you want to describe your merchandise in a nice font, and not some generic Times Roman one, well, that’s extra.

And if you want to use bold lettering, that’s extra too.

And if you want your images a little bigger that a postage stamp, well, you get the picture.

mc_brand_103_pngNow the thing is, this nice fella from the virtual mall is going to ask you for a credit card number that he will keep on file somewhere where it’s never going to be hacked. Your personal credit card. Not some corporate biz plastic that you may not have just yet, cuz you’re starting out, but your personal card.

And every month, he’s gonna charge this credit card basically whatever he thinks your transaction costs should amount to at any given time — and don’t forget, you already agreed to that, more or less.

And you don’t get a bill or report, if you actually do get one, except after your card has been dinged.

You can dispute it later, one of these days, maybe next Tuesday. Just call the Help Desk and discuss it with some opaque sounding guy from Mumbai called Sue Neal who agrees with you totally but does nothing except say unfortunately a lot.

And if your credit card company declines to pay, this nice fellow with the dark glasses will let the hounds loose on you. Freeze your Paypal funds. Or close down your shop entirely. Or hold off disbursing to your merchant account sales receipt funds — the ones you were counting on to pay back your suppliers with — for weeks or maybe months. Cuz you’re not one of those big cats prowling the Serengeti with your close buds, your startup’s in-house law staff.

Oh, don’t have a crack legal team on retainer?  Get a lawyer who’ll charge you 400/hr and ask for a copy of your driver’s license, SS #, and of course that famous personal credit card which he’ll be sure to ding at the first opportunity too, and if it chokes, he’ll sue you.

That’s just the way it is, corporate veil be damned. Even though it’s your very own little dream store, er, still remember that part?

Now the thing is, if you thought these customers who were buying things from you at this toll-infested virtual mall software contraption — this metered approximation of the real world where needlepoint customers don’t actually get to inspect any canvases — if you were under the illusion that they were actually your customers, well, think again.

spywareThis virtual mall gearhead actually monitors them before he monetizes them. He collects all kinds of info about them.  Ka-ching! And he is going to use that info to promo them.  He is going to try to sell them other things in other stores. Maybe even other needlepoint stores.  In the same mall…  .

Ka-ching, ka-ching!!

And there is nothing you can do about it. You see, your erstwhile customer is not really your customer at all, as it turns out. She belongs to that fella over there, the one who is sharing your customer info with any Tom, Dick and Harry willing to pay for it, and meanwhile you’re left out in the cold with a rusty tin cup.

Now that fella, the one we’ve been talking about all along, the one who is running ads inside your store and not paying you a thin dime for the privilege — you know the one I mean?

Well he gets to live large and have a nice corporate title and income to match, not to mention bennies, while you and thousands like you toil away night and day, for disappearing margins that get leaner by the minute, and you can’t sleep at night sweating it out wondering if you’re losing out to Google image search.

It’s okay though.

All of this pales when compared to the heart-warming sound of the click of your mouse every morning as you enter your store.

Your online store.

After all, it is mostly all yours, now, isn’t it?


© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016

Needle image from Visual Pharm

PD Cash Register and customized Spyware images from Open Clip Art


About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

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