Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Not Amazon.com


I'm writing a post today in frustration. I know that's completely wrong and a professional person shouldn't be doing it. But by gum, I'm doing it anyway.

My website, while cute, is giving me a headache. And from the sound of it, it's probably giving you all one too. As a lot of you know, I do it all myself. And it's a bit old-school - meaning it doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles that a lot of people who buy stuff online expect. I wish it did. But I can't afford a web designer and all that fancy stuff. So I do the best I can with a little host company and their standard template-type options, some of which do not fit my own unique business.

When you order from a big name online site - say Amazon.com - by the time you hit "submit" it's already charged your card, printed a packing slip and the robots in back are packing your box. When you order from me? Um, no.

What happens is this: you place an order - clicking all the right buttons and typing in all the information. The site sends you a confirmation which is totally doodie. The site sends me an email with all the order info. Then I process the order here on my end. I do all the math. I type out an invoice. I pack the goods and box it up and ship it off.

The confirmation is doodie, like I said, because it pretends it's all already done and gives you an invoice amount. But it has no idea what the real invoice amount is, because the shopping cart flunked math class. It can't calculate sales tax (which is a Washington state thing, but don't get me started on that.) It can't calculate the shipping charges, because I do the shipping according to a flat rate chart, not by actual weight of each item. There's a long explanation for why I do that, but basically it's for simplicity so that folks who want to send a check to order can still do that. And the shopping cart also can't calculate the volume discounts, or coupon discounts or anything else I advertise to give you guys a price break.

So the web site confirms nothing, but confuses everyone. The invoice is for goods only, but not at the discount price. I've yelled at them a lot. But it doesn't do any good.

Most of you dear hearts have ordered from me before and get all this. But some are new, or didn't figure it out at first. And I have had to explain, and explain and explain it - they get their confirmation and don't see the discount, or think I've cheated myself of taxes or whatever. It's frustrating.

Not because I hate to do it, but because I shouldn't have to. The goal is to make this as easy as possible for you all. I WANT more new customers, and I don't want them to think I've got a little backwoods operation over here that isn't up to snuff.

So I've discussed this endlessly with smarter web folks. I've added special instructions, simple, and with color, and with bullet points -- to all the main pages. I've tried different ways. I added text to the ordering process to explain it. I've added links from other places to a whole explanation page. I guess I'm still not quite getting the message across.

It's clearly a work in progress. Maybe I need to change the site to another server that works better. Oh, the headache that would be.

There are all kinds of web pages out there - from single page business card styles, to the full-blown Amazon and everything in between. I'm clearly in that "in-between" thingie. And it looks like it should do it all - I mean it looks good, doesn't it? So I'm working on getting it right - by either explaining it better up front - which is super hard because all the studies say that people only read a few quick words, less than 20% of the text on any given web page. Or by finding a new way to work this whole online shop. We'll get there together. But it may take a bit more time. I've only got so many minutes in the day.

And today, I'm still answering a bunch of questions. Please! don't read this and think I don't want to explain it again if you don't get it. I do. And I will. I'm not kidding. My biggest wish is for this to be easy peasy for you to order from me. Not confusing. So I'll chat with anyone for however long it takes to get it straight. Just give me a jingle or shoot me a quick email. Really.

Oh, one more thing. I realized just this morning that the comment/special instruction box was suddenly missing on every single item page. Seems like a simple thing, right? Just one click or something to turn it back on. No. It took me over an hour to retype/paste the text into every single item page to get it back. They don't know what happened. I realized it after I got a couple of calls yesterday, in which people said they couldn't find a place to type in a message. Yikes. Could it have happened on a better week? Just a few days after the newsletter goes out and the whole world is looking at my site? It's sort of like walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe. I'm embarrassed, and sorry for the confusion on that front too. I caught it today and it's fixed now. Again, argh.