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Shipping and Payments for Online Sales--Business of Lampworking extras

I’ll start off with saying we’ve been selling online for over ten years and while we have received many phishing emails, we have only come close to being scammed once. So lets start by talking about what kind of payments you’ll be taking for online sales.

Number one biggest and safest is Paypal.

There are protections afforded to the buyer and the seller.  The buyer is protected because the seller has to prove they mailed the item within seven business days with delivery confirmation. For sales over $250 the seller must send the item with signature confirmation. If the item does not show up the buyer can then file a claim with paypal.

Now, if the seller has shipped to a confirmed address, sent the item with delivery confirmation, and the tracking shows the item arrived, the seller has done their job. Even if the buyer opens a claim, they will be protected. However, if they missed any of the steps, ship within seven days of payment, delivery confirmation, and a confirmed address, the buyer can and likely will win any claim dispute.

In the US, this is fairly straight forward, and it’s easy for sellers to comply to be protected. If we are shipping overseas, there really isn’t an affordable way to purchase delivery tracking. Neither Priority Mail or First Class International have a way to track packages once it leaves the US. So for those of us who ship overseas, we really are taking our chances. Insurance isn’t really a viable option with the USPS on international either. So I use a third-party insurance company, Shipsurance, to insure large value packages, just for my own piece of mind. I have used their service and it’s very easy. Fortunately for me, I have not had to file a claim, so I cannot comment on that end of the business. With all that said, overseas is more risky. But it’s worth it. We send stuff out of the country multiple times a week. We’ve had a few take a long time or go missing over the years, but not nearly enough to offset the thousands of dollars worth of sales we would have missed out on.

Credit Cards

I accept all major credit cards. It’s actually a lot more risky to accept CC than it is Paypal. All it takes is a call to the credit card company from the owner to get a charge reversed. If you make sales in person, you get their signature, so you are protected, but online or over the phone, not so much. I use Propay and customers can check out from my website using their card, I can send them an email for them to click to pay, or I can call them and get the number over the phone. I rarely get credit card payments online. Most people use Paypal.

I do get a lot of credit cards at shows though. Side note: For shows lots of people are going with the Square that lets you run credit cards through your iPhone or Droid. I, however, have not pony-upped for a smart phone, so I am still using Propay, which is actually a lot cheaper for me since I don’t have to pay a data package. However, if you have  an iPhone or a Droid already, I believe the Square is a cheaper option to go with over all. Do some research. Another side note: Etsy sellers get a discount with Propay. When you sign up or renew, just ask and they’ll take care of you.

Personal Checks and Money Orders:

I still accept both of these. First of all, I don’t have to pay any fees for this type of payment. It isn’t as fast or simple as an online payment, but if people want to give me money in these forms, I’m happy to take it. I just deposit them as soon as I get them, and then wait ten days to be sure they clear. If it’s a regular customer, I usually don’t even wait. The items just goes right out. It’s important to be sure these payments clear because checks and money orders can hit your account and appear to be cleared, but then a few days goes by and they might show as insufficient funds. It takes a few days for the banks to communicate. So be aware that just because it showed up in your account, it might still need some time to clear. In  my opinion ten days is a good amount of time. If your spidey sense goes off about anyone paying this way, do a quick google search to be sure they aren’t passing bad payments.

Are you scared yet? Don’t be. We’ve been doing this online thing for eleven years. I’ve had three checks bounce. One was taken care of by the customer ASAP. The other two were by the same person and my spidey sense was going haywire due to the details of the transaction. As a result, I never mailed the items, and I was only out the bounced check fees and some aggravation.

I have yet to have anyone open a Paypal claim. I’m sure that is partly because we have a 100% guarantee policy that anyone can return anything for any reason within ten days of receiving it. Also, if something goes missing, we either replace it or refund the amount. Don’t get caught in the it’s-the-Post-Office’s-fault trap. Think about it. If you order something and it doesn’t show up, do you care whose fault it was? All you know is you ordered some goods and they never arrived. You’re not likely to reorder from that store again are you? Take care of your customers and they will be customers for life. I promise.

Online Payments--What to accept?

For most online lampwork sellers (and all kinds of other sellers) the preferred method of payment is paypal and for good reason.  Paypal gives both the seller and the buyer protection against the sale and purchase.  As a seller, if I ship my item within seven days of payment, with delivery confirmation, I am covered if the Post Office confirms my item has been delivered (as long as I shipped to a paypal verified address).  As the buyer I have 45 days from the date of payment to open a dispute if I haven’t received my item or there is something  wrong with it.  We have a mediator and for the most part if I follow the guidelines I am covered both as a buyer and a seller.

But what about checks and money orders?  I have a handful of customers who pay by either check or money order, or on a rare occasion they send me cash in the mail.  I know there are people who don’t like to do banking type stuff online and that is fine with me.  But what about the scammers out there?  You know, the people who knowingly write hot checks.  In my nine years of doing business online I have only had one instance of a person trying to scam me via check.  That was last week.

I have to admit, I was weary from the start.  This particular person ordered over $200 worth of stuff out of my artfire store.  The amount on this sale isn’t so unusual and I was running a sale, which brought it down closer to $160.  I sent a paypal invoice, to which she replied she would be sending a check.  This is where I start to wonder, as I haven’t ever done business with this person before.  On Artfire, one does not have to sign up to purchase, therefore there isn’t a user name or a way to track their activity at all, unlike etsy or ebay.  Then two days later, the same person ordered $400 worth of stuff from my website.  I sent the revised invoice for my BOGO Half off sale, to which she replies she has already sent the money and just add more beads to make up the difference.

Warning Bells!  So I goggle this person.  I find nothing but a closed etsy account.  My husband tells me to stop being so pessimistic.  Still, I have no real reason to believe this person is trying to scam me, so when the two checks come I run them down to the bank and wait for them to clear.

Here is the tricky part.  Two days later they did clear and the funds were sitting in my account.  But wait!  If you know anything about the banking system, you know a check can still bounce later all depending on when the two banks communicate with each other.  A day after the checks cleared my account I was scheduled to be in Tennessee at Bead Camp, so I put the whole thing on hold and told myself I would deal with it later.  I emailed the customer and told her I was going to be out of town and I’d ship her items when I got home.

No response.

Six days later I returned home and checked my account, to find they had indeed bounced, with a ten dollar fee to me for each one.  I am now out $20.  Great.   The next day I received the scanned checks in the mail confirming they were written on a closed count.

I emailed the person to let them know I would not be sending the product and I am not surprised I received no response.

At least I didn’t send her any product.  Thank goodness.  I am just one person and $600 worth of inventory is a good week worth of production. A day later my friend pointed me to a thread on Lampwork Etc, where one of my fellow lampworkers was scammed by the same person.  You can read it Here.  So sellers please beware if you receive a request to pay by check from a Ms Tonya Pendley of Jasper, Alabama.  I don’t know if this is a case of identity theif or not, but a person is going around the internet writing checks on a closed account in that name.

So do I still accept checks?  Yes, I do.  And money orders, which have their own issues.  The biggest money order scam out there is when someone wants to pay by money order and over pays and asks you to send them the difference back.  This is always a scam, please do not fall for it.  The money orders bounce later just like bad checks when you deposit them.

While I still accept checks and money orders, I am careful to do my research on the buyer if I haven’t dealt with them before and I listen to that little voice in my head when it tells me something is amiss.

It’s a tough economy and we are working harder than ever.  It’s easy to get excited about a large sale, but be patient and deligent and don’t let the scammers scam you.  Good luck!

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