Archive for September, 2007

Are They One or Are They Two?

Friday, September 14th, 2007

PESA and ECMTA. They claim to be two organisations, and I’m not buying it. I’m a member of neither, for the record. I used to be in PESA, and I found that to not work for my business, so I left in Feb of 2005.

  • Late August, I’m emailed the "PESA/ECMTA Newsletter 105 – PESA 4 Year Anniversary!" If you are two organisations, why are you sending one joint newsletter?
  • The ECMTA Events page shows the PESA 2007 Fall Summit. The wording says they are co-hosting the event.
  • ECMTA’s page for that event is http://www.ecmta.org/events/index.cfm?page=sanfran2007. PESA’s website page for their event is http://www.ecmta.org/events/index.cfm?page=sanfran2007. What are the odds of two unrelated companies having the same website structure and naming things identically?
  • Their home page shows four news items as I type this. Two of them are PESA news items.

When I emailed ECMTA about possibly joining, they claimed they were not the same organisation… that PESA is more about eBay, and ECMTA is more about general e-commerce. I’m just not buying it. So I’m staying away from it for now. PESA still has more potential for harm than good in my book. Any group claiming to be a trade organisation for eBay sellers, but constantly putting out long, public statements about how eBay is getting it wrong… well, I think the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Let’s not forget PESA putting out the "Unhealthy eBay Marketplace" statement DURING eBay Live 2007. That wasn’t an accident. I can’t associate my business with one that has a relationship with eBay that ranges from flimsy to fake to "keep your enemies closer."


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13 Sep: Live Call-In Internet Radio Show

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Today is our live call-in talk radio show from 11am – 11:15am west coast USA time!

Designing Your eBay Store
Get tips on what to consider when
designing your eBay Store. Call in to have your Store reviewed live,
and your questions answered!

www.blogtalkradio.com/aswas to listen or find out what number to call to join in!


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ChannelAdvisor Acquires Marketworks

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Well, I woke up to an email saying CA had acquired MW. I had predicted a few years ago that MW would merge with somebody because I didn’t think they could make it on their own. I had guessed that they’d combine with Vendio. Vendio grabbed Andale, which I still think was weird.

We officially stopped recommending Marketworks a few months ago after I got tired of how poorly the customers we knew (and random people who called us) spoke of it. Clients literally told me that they felt they could be selling more on eBay, but the MW system and its bugs held them back. That broke my heart. It wasn’t about how much they paid or didn’t pay me to recommend them. It was the fact that I couldn’t risk my reputation anymore by recommending a service I just didn’t feel was working for people.

Here are some things I saw MW do over the years that never made sense to me, and perhaps added to them being ripe for acquisition (rather than being a company ripe for growth and acquiring others):

  • Their original CEO was famous for putting his foot in his mouth. At eBay Live 2004, he told me it was OK for MW to have bugs in the system for 30 days or so. I couldn’t imagine being comfortable with my clients having a known problem that’s my fault for that long. I remember him at one of the PESA Summits (Fall 2004?) telling the whole room that he hadn’t used his own system in about a year, so he really didn’t know what it did.
  • I always felt like MW had more Vice Presidents and upper management than people "on the ground" building and fixing their system.
  • MW always treated us like a horrible competitor. Design was not their core service (nor a strength if you ask me), but they took shots at us all the time. They took words we used in our marketing and used them in theirs, even though I wouldn’t say their work qualified for those words. At eBay Live 2007, one of our potential clients told MW they were thinking of using them but also hiring us. The guy in the MW booth evidently lost the plot, started showing this guy a bunch of MW designs, saying HE did them, and didn’t this client think they were good. That registers on the awkward scale.
  • At eBay Live 2003, I gave them an idea for their system. It needed Payment Profiles. They agreed, and thought it was a great idea. They told me they would built it in as soon as it could because they understood the need for it. It’s late 2007, and Payment Profiles never got built.
  • Anybody remember November 2005? MW had a month of insane outages and bugs. Right through everybody’s holiday selling season.
  • Anybody remember November 2006? MW users were fed up with the MW checkout defaulting to Afghanistan for the buyer’s country, having that field low on the page, and when people pulled down the menu and chose USA, the whole page cleared. Everybody I knew asked MW to default to USA, and they told me it wasn’t important enough to do right now. I knew that was one word of HTML, and I told them to quote me a price because I would personally pay whatever time it will take their staff to make that change. The change was made that week, and I wasn’t charged.
  • I always felt MW was the last Certified Provider to build in new eBay features and functions. I think it took them 8 months to get in something simple, and I’m trying to remember what it was… 2nd eBay Store category? I don’t remember what it was, but it was ONE field, and users waited around 8 months.
  • There is the very famous story of me recommending MW to one of my happy clients. I think it was in 2005. My client loved our work, and just wanted to switch software. I had recommended MW. He got one of the sales guys, who immediately started badmouthing my company. My client tried to get the guy to stop saying those things since he was happy with us. My client was outraged at this behaviour, put the guy on hold, called me on his cell phone, put the MW salesman on the speakerphone, and the MW salesman went RIGHT back into badmouthing us. I heard that MW artists are better than ours (how do you measure that?). I heard that we were brand new to this industry and didn’t know what we were doing (our company started 4 years before MW). I heard some pretty surprising things considering I was driving business to them and we weren’t in competition. Anybody who has those tactics, well, there ya go.
  • Did anybody go to the class I shared with MW at eBay Live 2007? Paul Lundy was supposed to speak, but passed this off to another staff guy, who I won’t name as I’m not looking to attack him. But I will say that I felt that staff guy was not a strong public speaker. eBay was video’ing this session to put on the web. Just in case you weren’t sending your best speaker to a large crowd at eBay Live, having it video’ed is a time to send out YOUR BEST SPEAKER. I watched as 75% of the audience left during this guy’s presentation. It was very awkward, and I doubt that video ever got put on the internet.
  • The new MW Order Management System. When MW rolled that out I think in 2005, it was announced as the shape of things to come. It was going to be the new look and new way to use MW, and all other modules were going to be redesigned in its image. I had been a MW user since 2001, and I couldn’t figure it out. I got MW to train me, and even the trainers were apologising to me about how counter-intuitive most of the layout and UI were. I stood on my balcony and cried for a minute for using MW was about to get harder, less intuitive, and more time consuming for my clients, and MW was going to redesign the rest of their site just like that. I really did cry because I hate bad decisions that affect people’s happiness and livelihoods.
  • I have had a few people tell me that they have tried to cancel MW this year, and it’s like MW won’t let them. They go through everything the site says to do to cancel, and MW keeps charging them. I even saw emails between one of my clients and people at MW. The client’s MW account had an email address he could no longer access, and he wanted to cancel. MW told him:

      "I can only repeat what I have mentioned in the earlier
      emails and will also remind you that we have processed all requests as per our
      terms of services. We sent instructions
      on closing the account to all email addresses we have on file for your
      account. Marketworks has adhered to those agreements. If you feel you need to file a complaint to
      the Better Business Bureau that is your choice, we will respond to the
      complaint with the terms of services you have agreed to for the Marketworks
      account. No refund will be applied to your card at this
      time."

    That is a quote from the email on which I was copied. Anybody who treats a client who wants to cancel like this just to have his $29.95 each month is DESPERATE. And doesn’t care about customer service or how a negative opinion can reverberate. I’m sorry, but were these people not making it clear enough that they wanted to cancel? You needed them to access an email address that’s not theirs in order to know that, and you’re sticking to that policy?

  • And let’s not forget this blog post. I didn’t want to name names at the time, but that was MW. People seemed to be leaving as fast as they were joining, or they just haven’t been joining.

I like ChannelAdvisor, and I hope that over time, they will transition people OUT of the MW system and into something like CA Merchant. Even if you lose a few people along the way, it will be worth it. I doubt CA is going to want to support the MW system long-term, and I doubt they are going to want to put resources into making it better. Besides, in my opinion, before you make it better, you need to make it GOOD. I think that’s going to take a lot of work.

I’m flagging this as "That’s Good Marketing" because I am hoping that CA will make MW better, or just make it go away so that users can finally connect with a system that will really help them flourish rather than being something that might be holding them back.


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Things I Could Buy

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

If I’m not getting a mortgage, I’ve been starting to laugh at the things I could buy with the money I will actually end up saving by continuing to rent. OK, I’m not building equity in anything, but my rent is 1/3 of what a mortgage payment would probably be for the homes at which I’ve been looking.

So if I wanted to treat myself to a few things, what could I get over the next 6 months or so?

  • A membership in the Disney Vacation Club. I’m going to Disney quite often anyway. I might as well make it more affordable.
  • Two metal Dance Dance Revolution platforms. I could use the exercise, and the foam mats I have shorted out. Cheap!
  • An air hockey table! OK, I have no room for it in this apartment, especially thanks to where the DDR platforms will go. :)

I’ll wait to buy a house, and I’ll have lots of fun things to put in it. :)


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How to Calculate for a Mortgage

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Oh, it’s been Mr Toad’s Wild Ride trying to get a mortgage during this chaotic mortgage time right now. Rates were high, down payments were huge, and it was all very unattractive… especially considering I like my apartment, it’s nearly 1100 sq ft, and I pay around $850/month.

The wackiest thing I last hear from these lenders was that if I can prove a certain amount of salary say 6 months from now, they’ll have more mortgage programmes for which I could potentially qualify. OK, that sounds promising. How much salary did they want me to show?

$7,350 per month deposited into my personal bank account.

$7,350. That means that before taxes, that would be a salary of around $12K, meaning an annual salary of $144K. Hey, I LIKE growing my company, and I choose to leave the money in my company rather than pay it to myself. Paying myself that much means nearly $5K per month being sent to the government for payroll and withholding. Think of all the things I could do and people I could hire for $5K/month. I am! I’m sure my staff like that I want to reinvest in the company and not take out as much as I can to sit in my personal bank account.

Or that $5K/month in 6 months can be my 10% cash down payment on my mortgage in March 2008. I’m still keeping lots of money in the company as I wouldn’t be paying myself all that salary.

According to my realtor, the calculation goes like this. I’d like a mortgage for $300K. 30% of that is $90K. Divide that by 12 months in a year, giving you $7,500. That’s where they get the number. So to get a $300K mortgage, they want me to show a pre-tax salary of $144K. I think that if I were paying myself that much and living in Tucson, where things cost me nearly nothing, I could just save up to pay for the house in cash. :)

So the housing market is down, and now people with good salaries and decent credit can’t get a decent mortgage. What’s going to happen with all of these homes, and the homeowners carrying two mortgages OR a mortgage and a rental payment? Some of the homes I’m looking at are taking themselves off the market and renting themselves out for less than their mortgage payment. How will that help our economy?


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No More Plastic Lampshade

Monday, September 10th, 2007

My dog had surgery earlier this month. When she came out, they wanted her to wear that plastic head collar, or e-collar, so she wouldn’t be able to bite at stitches in one of her paws. I put the collar on her, and she got out of it. Man, she’s good.

The vet had a printout about the new Soft-E from Bonafido.com. Check out http://www.bonafido.com/page6.html and http://www.bonafido.com/page7.html

These cats look very proper! These dogs look happy! I wish I had known ahead of time so I could have ordered one for my pup. Fed Ex’ing one now is probably a bit costly.

They evidently only sell through vets and their website, so buy directly from them! Make sure your pet is happy and comfortable, and forget plastic. Not good for the environment anyway!


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How To Not Get Hired By Me

Friday, September 7th, 2007

I’ve been hiring, which means I’ve been getting job apps off our website plus a few emails. It’s been a bit frustrating, so here are a few ways to not get hired by As Was.

  • Have a resume or cover letter that says that you want to be a PHP programmer, and apply for a job that has nothing to do with PHP programming. When I ask you about that, tell me you’re desperate to have any job doing anything.
  • Have no Photoshop or HTML skills for a job described as needing a lot of Photoshop and HTML, which you’d be using daily.
  • Tell me how eager you are to learn these skills, and how fast you’ll learn. Look, I’m all for positive thinking, but let’s be realistic. If these skills had been important to you, you’d already have at least beginner level with them. You also don’t know that you would be able to learn these things quickly. I’ve seen people pick them up quickly, and I’ve seen people have no chance of picking them up.
  • Have no experience with eBay, and apply for a job that requires you to be an eBay Certified Consultant. Tell me how eager you are to learn about eBay, not realising that it would take me MONTHS of daily training to get you to a point where I am comfortable putting you out there as an eBay expert who can advise even the biggest of eBay sellers.
  • Have a resume with good eBay selling, HTML, and Photoshop, but write that your target job is to be a secretary, nurse, packing and shipping guy… or Executive VP making over $120K/yr.

I need someone who’s ready to come into this job rather than need months of training in any skill. I was well spoiled with my last hire, the fantastic and wonderful Erika Barcott, and now I don’t want to spend months training someone on skills they should have for this job now.

I don’t know how people saying they are eBay experts can have zero or nearly zero Photoshop and HTML. How do they make templates? How do they clean up photos? How do they lay out listings? How have they sold on eBay or worked for eBay SO long, and never run into needing these skills, even on an intermediate level?

Oh well. I know we’ll find the right people. We always do. :)


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6 Sep: Live Call-In Internet Radio Show

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Today is our live call-in talk radio show from 11am – 11:15am west coast USA time!

Intervew with Marcia Cooper & Harvey Levine
Marcia &
Harvey are Education Specialists Trained by eBay. They’ll be discussing
the EdSpec program, what it means that Marcia is a Certified EdSpec,
and their upcoming classes. Call in to ask them or your hostess your
eBay selling and buying questions!

www.blogtalkradio.com/aswas to listen or find out what number to call to join in!


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Big Kitchen

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Also from my Vegas trip is this suggestion. Don’t eat at Bally’s "Big Kitchen" Buffet. This was the smallest buffet I saw on the whole strip. We rated the food a whopping 2 Pepto Bismols, one each right after we left.

What a misnomer.

The best food we had was the lunch buffet at the Wynn.


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Manufactured Appetizers

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Also from my Vegas trip is this gem.

We went to the NASCAR Cafe in the Sahara, just for a snack. I ordered the Thai chicken spring rolls from the menu. The waiter apologised, and said that even though the menu says they are chicken rolls, there is no chicken in there. The waiter continued on, explaining that after the menu was printed, the "manufacturer" stopped putting chicken in them.

Manufacturer.

OK, I asked him what from the menu was made fresh there. He paused. He wasn’t sure. I opened the menu for him. He suggested the quesadillas. We had those. I tipped him nearly as much as the quesadillas cost as he gave me some very valuable information.

I didn’t expect a gourmet meal. But you know what? When I go out to
eat, I expect someone to have cooked my food. From ingredients. Not
warmed up pre-made stuff.

Or re-print your menu so your staff doesn’t feel like they have to explain that the factory where your food is mass made and pre-frozen decided to change their ingredients.

PS: I also had the SAME thing happen to me here in Tucson at on of the most respected restaurants in town. I was told I couldn’t have that appetizer I ordered since the factory hadn’t sent them enough, and they were out. So everybody can respect El Charro Cafe, but I will pass.


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