December 06, 2009

Miserable buying experience

It's a basic rule of commerce: Make it as easy and pleasant as possible for a customer to give you money.

I've bought a lot of things online over the years, and most companies understand this principle. RACS certainly does; doing checkout there is very straightforward and the only time I ever had a problem it was my fault. (I entered a field wrong and my credit card didn't validate when they tried to charge it.)

I have just had the most miserable purchasing experience that I have ever experienced online. I am trying to purchase a product called "Sothink SWF Quicker" from their online store. They have two ways to pay, and I preferred the one that allowed me to use my credit card.

In fact, they're using the same payment system that RACS does, through Yahoo. But it's loused up somehow; when I tried to connect to it, it hung forever. I used the HTTP sniffer in Proxomitron to see what was going on, and it was a series of SSL connection attempts that timed out and failed.

So I thought it might be a transient glitch. I tried it again an hour later; same thing. Next day; same thing. I sent them an email describing the problem. Couple of days after that, I tried it again; same thing. Also, no response from them.

Tonight I decided to try their other payment option: Paypal. Now I have in the past been able to use Paypal without creating an account there, but not this time. So I tried to create the account, and got told I already had one. I dug into my records (I didn't remember it) and yup, there it was.

Long story short, I have spent the last couple of hours trying to get Paypal to use my credit card. It let me enter the damned thing. But when I go through the checkout process from Sothink's online store, it invariably asks me for the routing number for my checking account. And if I give it that, it needs to go through a validation process where it makes a couple of tiny charges and I prove I'm me by seeing those charges in my checking account transaction record and telling it how big they were. That's a process that takes several business days. (And they keep the money, as far as I can tell.)

Which is beside the point: I don't want Paypal to have that information.

Fact is, I didn't want to deal with Paypal at all. And I've given up on this product, too. Until and unless they get their problem with Yahoo straightened out, I'm going to live without the fucking thing.

It seems they don't want my money enough to make it easy for me to purchase. Screw 'em. Usually when I purchase online, it takes at most 10 minutes. With Sothink it's taken most of a week and I still haven't managed to buy successfully.

UPDATE: The strange thing about all this is that I purchased something else from them a couple of years ago, and it was fast and easy.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Daily Life at 09:05 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 523 words, total size 3 kb.

1 I validated a checking account with PayPal about 8 years ago.  IIRC, there were 2 sub-$1.00 transactions.  There might have been a debit and a credit so the actual net change was a couple of pennies, but I can't remember.  And of course, that was 8 years ago, so who knows how it works now.

Posted by: RickC at December 07, 2009 09:28 AM (5X+If)

2 The PayPal bank account verification actually involves them making two tiny deposits into your account, not withdrawals from it.  I get that you don't want to give them that information anyway, but at least it's not quite as bad as them just taking money out of your account.

Posted by: AnthonyDiSante at December 07, 2009 09:44 AM (xJ4r5)

3 One of the reasons that Paypal wants your bank information is that it changes how fraudulent charges work.

If they have a credit card number, and they do a big fraudulent transaction, money isn't actually deducted from your account - it's just a charge on your credit card bill. The credit card companies are quick to stop fraudulent charges (they have to be, since they don't want you to quit using the card!) Moreover, since there are only a small number of credit card companies out there, each one has a lot of pull with Paypal - if Mastercard dropped Paypal's credit account, it would kill the service, for example.

(With your bank card, you don't quite have the same set of legal protections, but most banks have policies that are more or less equivalent in place, for much of the same reasons. You might be on the hook for $50.)

In either case, the credit networks can charge the money back and force Paypal to foot the bill for the fraudulent charge.

But if Paypal has your bank account number, then it's not going through one of the credit networks - it's a direct withdrawal from your bank account. In those circumstances, Paypal can hang on to the money while steadfastly asserting that the charge is legitimate. The bank may eat the loss and try to go after Paypal (but they don't do the volume of business that the credit companies do), or they may just stick you with it ("sorry, but that was an authorized deduction from your account").

Maybe I'm just jaded from having had friends and family get zapped by Paypal. They could just want the lower fees associated with direct electronic withdrawals...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at December 07, 2009 12:47 PM (pWQz4)

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