Archive for May, 2008

Doing Some UK Biz

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

We’ll be in the UK 17-21 May, flying out on the 22nd. We’re looking to meet just about anybody who wants to meet us for business purposes. Sorry, no dates please. :)

Let me know if you’re in London or can get to London! Thanks. :)


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Making People Jump Through Hoops

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I use Sprint for my cell phone service. Been with them for years. I like them! But an experience trying to call customer service today made me think about what companies are doing to customers.

Sprint has different phone pricing on their website than in the stores. You may or may not qualify for any of these prices, but they don’t tell you that up front. Whether or not you can have the advertised price is a mystery to be solved later! The store said to call customer service because they’ll give me the advertised price, but the store won’t.

I know I could never get away with this stuff. I couldn’t advertise services for a fraction of what they cost, and when people call, tell them that they don’t qualify for that price.

So I call, and I get Sprint’s service center in Asia… I think it’s in the Philippines. I ask the guy where he is. "Australia," he barks at me in a non-Australian accent. Other than his barking, I can barely hear him. I ask him to connect me to someone else because I can’t hear him. I get another guy with a similar Asian accent. I can barely hear him either. I ask him to connect me to someone in America. "No," he tells me. Really.

I ask him to connect me to the International Department, who handles international roaming. I need them anyway since I’m going to be in England, and I know this department is in the USA. The guys tells me there is no International Department. Really. I told him he was shitty, and I hung up.

I called back from my Sprint cell phone. I got the International Department. They can’t give me the cell phone at the advertised price either. This is just getting stupid. I ask for the Account Recovery department because if they’re not going to sell me the phone that roams in England, then I have to buy something from AT&T or T-Mobile.

I get the Account Recovery. Holly in Albuquerque rules. :) She understands what I’ve been through, and long story short, she offers me the phone for LESS than the advertised price I saw. Well, holy crap. Not only was that easy, but it worked out even better than I thought since now, I’m going to pay LESS than I had hoped!

And it got me thinking.

What if the first person who picked up the phone had the power to sell me the phone for the price I had seen? What if the guy in the store could sell me the phone for the price has had written there? Why is a new cell phone $549 for some people, $219 for others, and $179 for others? Same phone, all for Sprint customers.

But it’s not so much about the money. It’s also about the process. Why does Sprint (or any cell phone company) need to wait for my 2nd call or the 5th rep I’m talking to to try to give me something reasonable that I want? I have to look at bottom lines and working efficiently. I can’t imagine setting up call centres and tiers of ineffective, powerless people who can’t really give people what they were promised.

What if the American companies gave their American call centres the real power to fix things? Why was the Asian call centre lying to me, barking at me, and basically refusing to help… while the Americans I spoke to were ALL friendly and tried to help, and those who couldn’t happily transferred me to the department who could.

What about the customers who don’t bother calling for resolutions, and just call to cancel? Could we have helped them better along the way? I like to think so. I think we could be doing so much better than we are. And today, I’m looking at you, Sprint… and I like you!


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I Will Not Be Used

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Following from the Please Don’t Lie To Me post, we have today’s Please Don’t Use Me post.

The #1 reason to not use me is that I always figure it out. You are not fooling me into thinking we’re great friends or business partners. I know when I am being used, personally and professionally. And then guess what. You end up on my poop list, and good luck getting something from me later.

I would respect people so much more if they were honest with themselves and/or me. I’d like them to know they’re using me, and I’d like them to know that I know!

OK, enough said.


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The Idea That eBay Set Fire to a Nasty Crowd of Angry Sellers

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I got a comment in this blog yesterday basically saying that by making the changes eBay has been planning and making, they have set a fire that they refuse to put out, which has only left the community to be a nasty, rioting, angry bunch.

I don’t exactly see it that way.

To me, eBay made changes that needed to be made. I don’t 100% agree with all changes or how they’re being executed, but as a frequent buyer, I completely agree that standards need to be raised. Most buying experiences I have are negative ones. Sellers tend to be slow, poor communicators, and assume that I have habits and processes that I don’t. I DON’T read every email you send me. I DIDN’T read all of your 5 pages of policies in your listing. I DO expect you to be friendly and act like you’re glad to have my business. If you read my blog, then you know that each one of my buying experiences has been bad enough to turn any regular person off eBay. That’s BAD for sellers and for the marketplace. If I were to stop shopping on eBay because the guy who sold me my MP3 player is a loser, you just lost me, and you didn’t even do anything wrong.

I have been saying for YEARS that buyers are raising their standards. You can no longer get away with a picture, some bullet points, and some good feedback. People used to tell me that’s all you need to sell successfully. Well, no, that’s not all, and especially as buyers become more savvy, and especially as buyers raise their standards. Remember when we bought from any online website that sold because it was amazing? And eventually we started having standards, buying from some but not others? I have been warning sellers for years that buyers are raising their standards, and sellers need to raise their game. eBay is saying the same thing, but to make sure sellers listen, they’ve attached punishments and rewards.

I am glad that eBay wants to give people the "change or die" message. No other messages seemed to work. And those messages were out there. Sellers didn’t change when I emailed them with issues about how I felt they dealt with me. Sellers didn’t change when people left them neutral and negative feedback. They seemed to not hear the comments and just see bad marks that hurt them. Those marks are there for a reason, most of the time anyway. Not everybody who left you a bad mark is a jerk who didn’t do the right thing as a buyer.

Many sellers STILL don’t want to see how not great they are. But to me, if sellers had listened to ANY of the messages buyers and eBay had been giving them along the way, eBay wouldn’t have had to make the changes the way they are making them now. If people had been open to change, eBay wouldn’t have had to force them
to change. Now that eBay is forcing people to change, people are mad.

It’s like every time you go to your doctor, he tells you to stop drinking and smoking, and you don’t. You like drinking and smoking, and you don’t want to change. Your health start deteriorating, and your doctor tells you again to change your habits. Your spouse suggests you change. Friends suggest you change. Now the doctor wants you to lose weight too. You make no changes. Eventually, the doctor might give you the "change or die" speech. If you don’t change your habits, you are going to be seriously ill or die. What do you do?

Whatever you do, you probably should have listened to that advice the first, second, or fifth time it was given. Many eBay sellers didn’t. They didn’t see feedback as actual feedback on what people thought of dealing with them. They saw it as a "will someone hurt me or not" thing and then "what can I do to undo or hide any bad thing someone says." I knew sellers getting lots of negs and neutrals, and when they admitted to me that many were valid, I asked how they’re going to change. They weren’t going to. They were going to try to get rid of the feedbacks, or bribe the people into mutual withdrawal.

So I don’t see the current backlash as totally eBay’s fault. I know eBay is unleashing a heap of changes at people seemingly all at once, and that’s tough. But if sellers had been listening to buyers or me anywhere along the last few years, they’d be sitting pretty now instead of scrambling to change or leave eBay.


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No, I’m Not The Same Old Email Scam…

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Drop in an American name, and guess what. It’s still an unpolished turd written by a non-English speaker. Don’t forget to send money to a "greedy woman" who wants to help orphanages and suggests you stop weeping. Please have your motherless babies contact her. Who believes this stuff?!?!?!

From: Mrs Judith Williams

Dear Friend,

My name is Mrs Judith Williams am 75yrs old of age, i stay in new york city, USA.I am a good merchant, I have several industrial companies and good share in various banks in the world.I spend all my life on investment and coporate business. all the way i lost my husband and two beautiful kids in fatal accident that occur in November 5th 2003. I am a very greedy woman with all cost i dont know much and care about people, since when I have an experience of my it difficult to sleep and give rest. later in the year 2004 Febuary i was sent a letter of medical check up,as my personal Doctor testify that i have a lung cancer, which can easily take off my life soon.I found it uneasy to survive myself, because a lot of investment cannot be run and manage by me again. I quickly call up a pastor/prophet to give me positive thinking on this solution, as my adviser.He minister to me to share my properties ,wealth, to motherless baby/orphanage homes/people that need money for survivor both student that need money/ business woman and man for their investment and for future rising. So i am writing this letter to people who really need help from me both student in college, to contact me urgently. so that i can make available preparation on that.especially women of the day, who are divorced by their husband, why they cannot survive the mist of feeding theirself. please contact me and stop weeping. probably let me now what you really need the money for, and if you can still help me to distribute money to nearest orhanages homes near your town. now am so much with God, am now born again. May you be blessed, as you reach me,please to remind you, dont belongs to scammers or any act of fraudlent on internet. I will give more information to you as i await your response immediately. Best Regards Mrs Judith Williams


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Response to Libel in AuctionBytes Blog Comment

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Someone calling herself "Lynette" has libelled us in a comment in an AuctionBytes blog post. The post was about eBay Live being cancelled. I suggested our RocketPlace conference for anybody looking for an event that is positive-focused and aimed at helping eBay sellers. After all, with our track record, I know we can help eBay sellers.

Lynette posted something completely false and libellous about us, so I’m responding to it here. I’m not sure it deserves a response, but I hate lies, and I would rather dispel them than ignore them. I would challenge Lynette (and anybody thinking the same types of things) to come up with any evidence or proof of what she’s saying. You won’t because these things aren’t true, and in that sense, it’s morally and legally wrong to broadcast them. It goes beyond opinion and free speech when you are stating lies as facts when you have no proof, and you are looking to defame my business. I don’t sit idly when I see that.

Lynette’s post is in bold.

Ms
Levitt, your rocket company is now an affiliate of ebay’s and will be
advanced/advertised as a service to be used by all the sellers on ebay
who wish to spend the thousands of dollars that it will cost them in
order to "keep up with the (ebay) Joneses". Correct?

No, not correct, Lynette. Not even close.

  1. RocketPlace is not a company. It’s an event.
  2. It’s not an affiliate of eBay.
  3. It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. Early bird registration is roughly $300, and even less with discount codes.
  4. RocketPlace is not about keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about growing businesses and improving profitability. I want people to change and innovate, not just keep up. "Just keeping up" is definitely not going to cut it, and eBay’s made that clear!
  5. It is not being advertised as a service. It’s not a service. It’s not a product. It’s a conference.

Although we
all know the answer you will give in advance: "oh we are not affiliated
with ebay, we are a separate identity", this is not true.

Yes, you knew the answer I would give in advance because my answer is the truth. We are not affiliated with eBay. They own 0% of us. They have not invested in us or lent us money. They do not share in any revenues or profits we receive. They do not control us. They do not run us. They don’t sit on the board I don’t have. :) We are a separate company. In fact, if you researched anything you said before you said it, you’d know that I started As Was years before eBay existed. I got the d/b/a in New York in 1991, and started being a full-time website company in April 1995. eBay was AuctionWeb in September of 1995. We were first!

The site you
maintain is linked in the sellers’ community pages, and is linked with
all the ebay promotions every time they encourage sellers to sign up
for them.

We are an eBay Certified Provider, and eBay promotes us to people who could benefit from our services. So we are a recommended vendor in a sense. We should be recommended… we do great work! :)

You are here to pad yours and ebay’s pockets, and it is no
secret to some of us.

Shame on you for saying this. All I have done for years is run a company to try to help sellers improve themselves. If I make any money, it’s because my company is good at what it does. If we didn’t help people, we would have gone out of business a long time ago.

Our business is like your accountant. He/she makes money advising you on tax and certain business issues. He does your taxes and maybe your payroll. So he advises and performs services, and he gets paid. You can choose to not use him at all. You can keep your own records and do it all yourself, and you might be fine doing it all yourself. But if you want a professional helping you, using his advice where he has expert advice and experience, or doing some heavy lifting for you, he can be well worth what you pay him. That’s As Was in a sense. If you want our help, we’re here, and I’d say nearly all of our clients would say we were worth more than they paid. If you don’t want our help, you don’t have to hire us.

I am not here to pad anybody’s pockets. eBay makes nothing when I run RocketPlace. They are not investors in it. RocketPlace comes out of my pocket, and if it makes you feel any better, so far, it’s operating at a huge loss. But I’m going to keep doing it because eBay sellers need help, and I don’t see anybody helping. I don’t see any other company or conference stepping up to the plate to give eBay sellers the help they need to improve their eBay businesses.

I’d love to NOT lose money on RocketPlace. That’s no secret. :) But even if I lose money, I will keep doing it because I am driven by a need to help people.

So to you and your "some of us" pals, please stop making things up about me and my company.

So why not be open about it and discuss what
will happen to those sellers who do not plan on spending thousands upon
thousands of dollars on a business store front manager such as the ones
you sell?

Huh?

  1. We don’t offer a business store front manager. I am not even sure what that is, but you can check our services page… we don’t offer a business store front manager.
  2. It doesn’t cost thousands upon thousands of dollars because it doesn’t exist.
  3. The minimum it costs to hire us is $950. That’s not thousands upon thousands of dollars. In fact, and you can look this up if you don’t believe me, it’s actually less than one thousand!
  4. Our average client spends around $3,000 with us, and says that our work paid for itself on an average of 2 months. We have a great track record of happy clients who grow their businesses. You don’t have to hire us if you don’t want to, but I’m not sure why you would go out of our way to crap on us when all we want to do is help people.
  5. What will happen to seller who don’t use a business store front manager? Again, I’m not even sure what that is, so that’s a hard question to answer. You’re asking me to "open up" and discuss this, but I don’t understand the question. So please feel free to comment here and enter into a dialogue with me so I can address your concerns.

All in all, it looks like Lynette is clearly some sort of upset person who has enough time on her hands to post false and libellous comments about us without asking questions first or doing any research. That’s really a shame. I don’t know her, so the only thing we could have possibly done to make her this angry is make her competitors better.

To Lynette or anybody like her, I welcome you to post here and ask questions about our company, conference, and services so that we can make you better informed. Since we’re talking libel, if you’re going to be posting about us, you’re going to want it to be not libellous. I’m no attorney, but I think that’s good advice. :)

Lynette, maybe you should hire us. :)


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Trusted Selling Is Not Big Brother

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

http://www2.ebay.com/aw/core/200804141145212.html

I saw a blog complain that eBay’s new Trusted Selling initiative is Big Brother, and eBay is watching and monitoring people too much.

You wouldn’t say that if your account gets taken over somewhat frequently. You might be glad that eBay is doing more to prevent that.

Saying that eBay’s initiative is Big Brother is like saying that the alarm company who monitors your house is Big Brother and invading your privacy. The alarm company is paid to monitor what goes on at your house, especially if something extraordinary happens. A window breaks. Someone comes in and doesn’t punch in the right code. Were we all better before we had such alarm systems? Were we safer? Happier?

Are we open to trading a bit of our privacy for more safety? Some are. Some don’t want to, and they’re allowed to feel that way. But not everything eBay does is automatically bad and wrong as many sellers seem to think. If eBay is doing something that saves sellers from account takeovers, I can’t find a problem here. The less fraud there is, especially in the names of good sellers who are not committing that fraud, the better it is for all of us.

This is just eBay being like the company that alarms your house.


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How Many Chances?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

How many chances do you give something you’re trying?

Last weekend, someone signed up for our EverySeller Research tool. He had a problem logging back in after signing up, and it turned out we needed to purge some old data. So it wasn’t down, but it was admittedly quite slow, which we’ve since remedied. :)

He had emailed me saying he couldn’t log in, and I had emailed back saying I would have our programmer look into it.

Before my programmer got the chance to look at it, the guy called me. He expected me to know who he was. I had no idea who this guy was calling me until he explained that he was the person who had been emailing me about not being able to log back into ESR. OK. He basically called to chew me out.

He was telling me how horrible my customer service was, and how he knows about these things because he starts and runs a lot of companies, and I really need to do something about the service. I told him we were working on fixing his problem, like I said in the email, and I’m not sure what else we can do until I hear back from my programmer. I told him that the problem were resolved, I’d personally call him to see if I can address anything else. That wasn’t good enough. He kept chewing me out. There was nothing I could do to make him happy, and he was still barking at me. OK, thanks.

I sent him a follow-up email apologising again for his experience, explaining the core of what my company does, and hoping that we can help him. Despite how he treated me, I wanted to be nothing but nice, interested, and helpful because that’s me. :)

I woke up the next morning to an email from him wanting to cancel a service he hadn’t seen yet, and an email from my programmer explaining the slow performance and how that was fixed via an overnight database purge. The cancellation email had a jab or two in it, so I guess this guy wasn’t done.

And it made me think.

How many chances do you give something or someone? One? Do you judge something or someone by the one worst thing you’ve experienced with them? Do you give something a few tries? If you’re in a free trial period, are you likely to give something more chances because it’s not costing you anything yet? If someone emailed you that they were working on your problem, would you call them up to chew them out and tell them how much better you are than they are?

I tend to give things a few chances. I’ve been known to give too many chances. But I know that I wouldn’t want to be judged by someone who saw me on my worst day. I would want the chance to be seen again when I’m having a better day. So I extend the same courtesy to other people.

Think about how many chances you give and how many you get. I bet many of us get fewer chances than we give, and some of us may want to give more chances. I sure hope I meet my new penpal at an eBay event. :)


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Who To Blame for eBay and Buy.com

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

eBay and Buy.com just announced a relationship where buy.com will be listing heaps of stuff on eBay. Sellers are understandably going wild about it as they’re afraid that they will lose sales to buy.com, and maybe eventually to other big retailers/etailers.

I was wondering why eBay would do this, and I came up with a theory. Just a theory. Nothing to back this up. But it makes sense to me.

I wonder if it’s because of the boycotters. Let’s look at this logically. eBay wants items on their site. They want them from sellers who will not randomly strike, and they want them from sellers who won’t crap on them in their listings, About Me pages, discussion forums, blogs, and the media. Hey, we all want that. We all want clients/buyers/whatever who don’t crap on us. Some of you say eBay deserves it… well that’s going to be subjective since not 100% of sellers go through what you go through.

So let’s say you’re eBay and you want more items on the site. The sellers you’ve counted on might be leaving. They go to conferences that basically tell them to leave eBay. They join "trade associations" that put out 3-page negative statements about eBay, and tell investors that eBay is bad-o-rama.

What would you do?

You might try to find partners who have inventory that’s in demand, who can deal with it and ship it, and who want to put it on eBay. A partner who isn’t going to pull it because they don’t like the latest announcement. You may have to offer them something nice to get them on board, but you’d probably be looking for people/companies like that. After all, your core keeps telling each other to boycott, and the media keeps telling buyers and sellers to stay away.

When someone keeps taking their ball and going home, you’ll probably start choosing a new field. It may not be a level field, but it’s a field where you think lots of people can still win.

So, boycotters, eBay hears you. And the message seems to be to find sellers who won’t treat them this way. I say the boycots don’t help. You probably didn’t boycott USPS through any of their recent rate changes. Did your rent go up and did you refuse to go to the office for a few days? Did gas prices go up so you refused to drive for a week? A boycott is not solution focused, and eBay needs to be solution focused right now to turn things around for themselves. If your boycott is meant to threaten that if eBay doesn’t do what you want, you’ll leave, then

you

just

blinked.

You told eBay that you’re so unhappy, you’re willing to shoot your own livelihood in the foot to make some sort of point, a point eBay already knew. Maybe eBay will take a second shot at your foot too because you’ve made it clear that shooting at your foot is just fine. Sellers, vendors, and organisations tried very hard to hang eBay out to dry, especially in February… media interviews, investor calls, statements, conferences, discussion forums, boycots… so much aimed at hurting eBay, getting their attention, or "teaching them a lesson." And how did Q1 look? Not so bad. Not so hurt. Not so destroyed.

The eBay marketplace doesn’t work without seller success and buyer
satisfaction, but the eBay marketplace can work without the boycotters. Don’t make eBay prove that to you because I’m sure they can. Now can you please stop with the boycotts?


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My Fake Email

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I spoke to a tech support person a few weeks ago who told me something I never thought of, so I’m telling you.

You know how when you sign up for things, so many companies want your email address? I usually just don’t give it. She gives it, but she created a "fake" email address she doesn’t check, and she gives them that. I won’t use her real name so you don’t spam her, but let’s say her name is Jenny. The email address she uses is jennysfakeemail AT gmail.com. And she actually says this to people. :)

The interesting thing would be to see how marketing ripples out. What if you gave each company a different email address, and then tracked what you got from whom? Assuming you gave those addresses to nobody else and didn’t put them on the web or biz cards, each company would be the only one with that email. Then see who emails you. Just that company? Other companies? Spammers? Who sends you what offers?

I think that would be damn interesting. Has anybody done this and pointed out which companies are selling/sharing emails even when they’re claiming they don’t?


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