What a Busy Week

So it’s been a few weeks since my last update.  There were several times this past week I wanted write something, but I just couldn’t steal an hour to do it.  It’s Sunday night, Eliz is sleeping and the kids are both away.  Here is my chance!

I’ve been wanting to go to Affiliate Summit East in New York since I learned about it a few months ago.  My one big problem was how.  If Eliz went with me, how would we run ForYourSalon.com and ship orders?  And, more importantly, even if we conceded that there will probably be few orders since it is the middle of August, what would we do with the kids?  Also, since Eliz was going to assist me, I didn’t think it would be fair to have to pay for her.  If I could go on my own, I would.  (The last time I did something like this on my own was in January 2001.  I flew to Miami for a Taylor Rental event – we were interested in purchasing the one in Media and my prospective partner bailed on the event two days before we were to leave.  I went anyway and had a very tough time getting around the airport, hotel, and event, even though my vision was substantially better than today – between 20/80 – 20/100.)

Fortunately, after an email to #ASE10, I was able to work something out on entry fee for Eliz by providing a letter from one of my eye doctors.  Conveniently, I had an appointment with Dr. Ayres, the cornea specialist this past week and he agreed to write the letter for me (more on the appointment later.)  I’d like to thank Amy from Affiliate Summit for all her help!

The big question was about the kids.  Do we take them and let them take in the sights of NYC on their own?  The Museum of Modern Art is across the street from where the event will be held and 5th Ave is only a block away.  The bottom line was that we didn’t feel comfortable with that and thought it would be too great of a distraction for us.  We’ll take the kids back another time.  Eliz’s mother (Grandmere to the kids) will sleep here the two nights we won’t be here.  She’ll also grab dinner for them.  As she says, she’ll supervise not babysit.

So, along with doing my normal routine of communicating with customers, updating shipping status’, and helping Eliz with the heavier deliveries, I was also constantly checking  Hotels.com (Hotels.com by city, dates and number of guests) for a place to stay since I missed out on the good deals through the event at the New York Hilton, where the event is being held.  I just couldn’t pay $400 per night plus taxes to stay there… So, the post is sponsored by Hotels.com.

I also had a few things to do for Digital Graphics Design. The main item was end of the month invoicing. We had picked up a couple more hosting accounts, plus Dan had completed some updates for current clients. While my title is president, my actions are primarily as bookkeeper… Dan did get a lead for an e-commerce, so Dan, Ken, and I kicked around pricing for that after doing some research on what the prospective client wants. Keep your fingers crossed… In other spare time, I’ve been helping a friend who just opened a shop by creating a logo and working on a website for her. I really miss doing that, but I don’t feel my work is up to par to actually charge for it.

This past Wednesday afternoon, I had an appointment with Dr. Ayres, as I mentioned above. There wasn’t much of a change. The eye chart seemed a bit blurrier than at my appointment a few weeks earlier with Dr. Garg. I could read the E, but the S in the SL line was difficult for me. I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to read it if I didn’t know what it was. Dr. Ayres had a look and we spoke about the fluctuation in my vision. He had Gordon do some sort of scan to measure my cornea. They used a machine they were trying out and he hoped that he’d still have it at my next appointment to get another scan at a different time of day. Looking into the machine, I saw what looked like one of the flowers on the Mystery Machine. Zoinks! While I was having the scan done, Eliz asked Dr. Ayres about writing the letter for the Affiliate Summit. When we returned to Pod 2 (I still don’t know why they don’t call them EyePod 1, 2, and 3…) Dr Ayres and I talked about the letter. He told me to continue on the eye drops and come back in six weeks, in the morning. So while there weren’t any miraculous breakthroughs on why my vision can’t get back to where it was just after the surgery in mid-April, I wasn’t really expecting too much and my IOP remains stead at eight, which is good considering it could get wacky (cuckoo bananas?) because of the drops that I’m on. As promised, Dr. Ayres had the letter to me by the next morning.

It’ll be interesting to see if this week is as frantic as last week. Since both kids are away, it will certainly be more quiet here.

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Crime Pays

We launched ForYourSalon.com on 15 June 2009, about nine months after I had hoped to launch it.  If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know why it took so long to get it up and running.  If you don’t know, the short answer is my vision deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t do much with the site (because of my sight.)  Once we launched, it took a week or two before we had a sale.  Then another week before the next one.  Now, we are up to a few sales per week.  Some big (24 shampoo bowls to a customer in Texas,) some small (a pint of developer to a customer in North Dakota – shipping was over four times more than the price of the product.)

On 24 August, a customer ordered four flat irons (BABNT2091 if you must know.)  We shipped them out the next day to an address in Doral, FL.  PayPal processes our transactions and everything looked good from their standpoint; even the CSC (card security code) matched.  That is important, because only the card has that on it.  On 1 September, the customer ordered four more.  It is not unusual for something like this to happen.  A couple of stylists get a new tool, the others try it out and want one for themselves.  Everything is good with PayPal.  The CSC matches, etc.  We had a problem on our end as we only had three of the four the customer wanted.  It was late in the day, so I phoned the customer to see if we could substitute a pink model that is otherwise identical.  The customer wanted the blue and asked if he could have a larger size.  We had the BABNT2094 in stock, which is a 1 3/4″ from the same line of Nano Titanium irons.  Same price, so the customer was happy.  We shipped them out that day.  Over Labor Day weekend, the customer ordered four more and added a note that said we could substitute the BABNT2094 for the BABNT2091 if the 2091’s were out of stock.  When we went to the biz on Tuesday, 8 September, I checked the PayPal info and again saw that all was good.  We shipped out the order that day.

You know what is coming…  On 13 September, I get three emails from PayPal stating that the customer is disputing the charges.  We had a chargeback of about $1235.  Ouch.  I started to look into further.  The shipping address and billing address are different, but that is not unusual for us.  We have a couple of current clients locally that have a billing address that is not local (one has a salon in Wilmington, DE, but the billing address is in North or South Carolina.)  The billing address for my online customer was in Utica, NY, while the shipping address is in Doral (Miami-Dade,) FL.  I googled the customer’s name in Miami and got nothing.  I googled him in Utica and found that he is a well-respected professional, with about twice the education I had.  Now I’m feeling even dumber…

Ken and I spoke on the phone about a few policy changes.  The biggest, of course, has to do with different billing and shipping addresses.  The security I had with PayPal and the CSC number matching pretty much meant nothing.  I am disappointed to be out over $1200, but still believe we can sell on the internet and make a living.  I fill out the information about the transactions and submit it along with the tracking numbers for the three shipments.  At about 1:00pm, I get another email from PayPal.  This email tells me of limitations place on our account.  The biggest limitation is that they will not process our transactions, essentially shutting down our site to anyone looking to make a purchase online.  They asked for a multitude of proof to back up who I am, where I live, and invoices from my vendors to show that we are, indeed, a legitimate business.  The email was curt and made me wonder who’s side they were on.  I felt like we were being victimized again.

The only human contact I have with PayPal is our “Territory” Manager, Rick Lancaster (he’s got a Nebraska phone number and Colorado fax number, and we’re in southeastern Pennsylvania – now that’s a large territory.)  I phone Rick and ask him what to do and why are they not processing our transactions.  He feels bad for me, but it isn’t really his thing, this fraud stuff.  He tells me he’ll make some calls and see what he can find out.  An hour later he calls and tells me the chargeback percentage is way too high, that is why they stopped processing for us.  He told me to get them as much info as I can and they’ll see about lifting the limitations.  I spend the next few hours looking for and scanning documents to submit to them.  By the way, no PDF files, they only take .jpg, .gif, and .png.  Now I’ve got to take time converting the PDFs into .jpgs.  UGH.

I submitted about three or four things on their checklist before leaving for the day.  By the time I get home and fire up the computer, I’ve received an email from PayPal saying that the tracking numbers for the last five transactions I’ve submitted have not all arrived at their final destination.  Really?  No kidding!  Two of our last five transactions were heading out west to Texas and Montana.  Lindsey, from PayPal, must have had trouble with geography in school.  Texas and Montana are not close to southeastern Pennsylvania.  I’m serious, they’re not.  Since they shipped on Thursday (10 Sep) and it is only Monday (14 Sep,) and they going ground (lets not forget that UPS only does special deliveries on Saturdays – while these may have been special to the customers that ordered them, they were shipped plain, old ground,) they couldn’t possibly be at the customers salon’s yet.

First thing on Tuesday (15 Sep,) I reply to Lindsey and cc Rick.  The reply to Lindsey bounces back.  There’s a shocker.  Ken and I try to figure how we could still sell stuff on the site.  Ken created an info “box” at the top of each page explaining that we have technical issues with our payment system.  Fortunately, we could keep the site up so our SEO (search engine optimization) doesn’t get hurt.  There was no further communications from PayPal.  I filled out and submitted additional info to them.

Today (16 Sep,) I filled out even more info and submitted it.  I transferred funds to cover the chargeback even though they hadn’t asked for it.  I thought it might help get us back making sales online.  Ken updates the message on the site to include a pitch for calling your order in to us.  He does the same on twitter and Facebook.  At noon, we make a phone sale (a 403 vacuum breaker from Belvedere) to a plumbing supply company in West Palm Beach, FL.  A short time later, I phone Rick at PayPal to see if he can get us up and running.  He makes some calls and gets back to me within an hour and a half.  One of the limitations has been lifted!  We can now sell online again.  We don’t have access to our money, mind you, but we can resume selling on the site.  Once the chargeback is “cleared up,” we will have full access to our account.  I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see the $1235, but if they want me to believe they are trying to help me, fine.

So what do you think happens within two hours of us being able to sell online again?  C’mon, this is an easy one!  Yes!  The same jackass placed an order for one 2091 in one transaction and six in another transaction using a different billing address (in Denver, CO) and a slightly different shipping address (same zip code, but about eight blocks away.)  How do I know it’s the same perp?  He phoned our toll-free number, which then gets forwarded to either my or Eliz’s mobile.  I was busy, so I put it through to voicemail, but, as in the past, he doesn’t leave a message.  I can’t see the display on Eliz’s mobile, so she reads me the number.  It is the same number he gave me before.  I check “his” new account.  The number is from Harris County, TX.  Did he make a mistake by calling on the same mobile as previously (which has a Fort Myers, FL number, by the way?)  I don’t know, but I want this guy caught.  I’m sure we’re not the only business he is ripping off.  And, yes, businesses are the only losers in credit card fraud.  The card holder doesn’t lose.  The issuing bank doesn’t lose.  The business’s credit card processor doesn’t lose.  Just the business comes out on the short end of the stick.

I quickly shoot an email to Rick at PayPal (who has put up with a bunch from me.)  He calls back and suggests I call the PayPal fraud department.  I do.  The call is first handled by a woman who’s native tongue is something other than english.  When I tell her the story, she immediately elevates the call.  I’m getting excited.  I’m thinking they are going to catch this guy.  Amanda takes my call.  I tell her the story.  She notes it on my account.  I ask her if I should call the police (and if so, which police,) the FBI, who?  She then tells me that while I may pursue this matter outside of PayPal, PayPal cannot offer any advice on what to do.  I ask her a few more questions and thank her.  She was pretty helpful and understanding.

So who do I call?  First, I call the Folcroft police.  Call back after 4:00pm, the detective will be in then.  Then I try the FBI.  I figure they could set up a sting.  I could UPS about eight pounds of nothing and they could stakeout the address for the UPS truck and bust the guy once he signs for the package.  Evidently, I’ve seen too many movies.  They didn’t seem too interested.  I was given a different number to call.  There was a recorded message that told me I had to go to a website and fill out a claim there.  Next, I speak to Ken.  He suggests that I call Miami police.  They could nail him.  So, I call Miami police.  I tell the lady that answers the phone after about eight rings a brief synopsis of the fraud and she says I’ll transfer you.  Click.  She disconnects me.  I find another number for Miami police.  I call it and get someone with a New York attitude.  She asks for the shipping addresses.  I give her the first.  “That’s Miami-Dade police.”  I give her the second and get the same answer.  She then gives me the number to the Miami-Dade PD.  I call there.  “Hi, this is officer so and so, can I help you?”  Finally, this lady seems like she is really going to help me.  Finally!  I explain what is and has happened.  She mumbles a bit and asks me to hold.  When she get back on, she informs me that the office I need has closed for the day.  At 4:40pm?  She then tells me they’ll be back at 8:00am.  I will phone them once I return from the glaucoma study at Wills Eye in the morning.

So, as it turns out, we are all suckers.  We abide by the laws and rules of the land and it gets us nowhere.  Our good name and our word means nothing.  In this day and age, the good guy will never win.  Thoughts?

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