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10 Complaints From An International Shopper


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#1 JohnMu

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 08:09 AM

I live in Switzerland. I love the web - it lets me get things that I would never ever find locally. Well, usually.

In case you want my business - here are the ten things that bug me the most. Get these covered and you can count on me taking your shop into consideration when it comes time to buy something. As a bonus, you can also get all sorts of other non-US customers (aren't the majority of the web users non-US?).

1. Tell me up front if you don't want me as a customer.
Search, shop, pay -- and sorry! we only send to the continental US + Canada! Duh, I should have known (if you would have told me ANYWHERE on the web site). Worst offenders are the small shops that let you order, send you a confirmation and then email you later to tell you that they don't sell internationally. A simple link with "International shipping information" or even a text "no international shipments" would suffice.

2. Get my name right.
Yes, I have an UMLAUT in my last name, That's a "U" with two dots on top. It's not katakana :wacko: - but it could be. If you let me enter it, please use it, don't change it to "?" or to some other symbol. If you let me sign up on your site with it, please let me sign in with it. Yes, that goes for forums as well.

3. Get my address right.
No, I don't have a 5-digit postal code, I don't live in some "state" (other than the state of confusion, in your shipping form), you won't match my postal code with your state list, my street number goes after the street name and yes, please get those umlauts right again (or tell me not to use them).

4. Exorbitant shipping fees
I don't live on mars, why do I have to pay $100 for a small item? Give me some options or tell me why it's so expensive. I'm not a cheap skate, but I don't like to be forced into something I don't want. Again, if you are going to double the total cost with shipping, tell me so up front.

5. Send the stuff to my location.
I live in Switzerland (that's like in Europe). Not Swaziland (that's like in Africa), nor in Sweden (in Europe, but not close enough to pick up on the way home), also not in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. I've had shipping companies get it wrong (customs stamps from Africa, lol), but it's often the shop itself that sends if off incorrectly.

6. You European shops --- if you promise to send to "Europe" then I will take your word for it.
Yes, I am geographically in Europe (like in the middle). No, Switzerland is not in the European Union. If you say you'll send to Europe, I will assume you mean the geographic boundaries, not some constantly changing political border. That covers you eBay'ers too. Grrrr!!

7. Give me a tracking number.
I know it's not going to get here tomorrow or the week after. That's life. I know it will get stuck in customs. I just want to know that it's on the way and I want a way to find out where. Yes, I've had packages not-delivered because the delivery man "couldn't find me" and then it landed in some storage for 2 weeks (no notification to anyone). This can happen anywhere, but when it goes international there are ways for the transport company to mess up along the way.

8. Metric numbers are a world wide standard.
Yes, I don't care if you drive "55" but I do care if your measurements are imperial and you do not state it anywhere. Oh an drop those fractions - what is 3/4" - 3 to 4 inches or 0.75 inches? Give us some metric numbers for the standard information, at least where it's not clear and where it's important. Even the "National Geographic" has metric numbers in most of the articles. You don't need to drop the old measurements, just add the metric one next to it - doesn't your shop software do that automatically? - 'diameter: 3/4" (19mm)' is easy and simple.

9. I would love to give you a date but I don't know how.
I don't know if this is really always so clear in the US, but outside of those borders we have many different date formats. A field for a date-entry needs to specify how you want those numbers (or text). "10.2.2007" is like February to me, it could be October to someone else - both would be valid, but which one would the server use? Tell me. And make sure that I can read the results in a way that is absolutely clear. If I enter "10.2.2007" then tell me that the shipping date is "Saturday, February 10, 2006". Or at least use popup-calendars.

10. Let me read your site the way I want to.
If you have the shop available in multiple languages, let me choose which one I want. My browser might be telling you that I'm German, but I might still want to access the English version of your shop. Language is no barrier - bad translations are. Don't switch language automatically, I will choose German if I feel like it.

and ... one in general that always gets on my nerves ...

Don't let my cart expire with your server's session.
I might take an hour to finish my order, answer the phone in between, eat some fondue, put the kids to bed, but I still want to continue my order. Let me do it at my own pace and don't force me to start over when I get back to it.

I'd love to buy more online. I'd love to spend more money in all those shops. I know there are a lot of non-US users who feel the same. Don't ignore me if you want more business.

Through SEOigloo's site I spotted a cookie company that had vegan cookies. My nephew is allergic to all sorts of things, including eggs - I would have loved to buy a boatload of them. But I can't. On Etsy I spotted some neat handmade jewelery, I would have loved to get it as a present for someone. But I can't. I would love to bring my company's business to smaller shops in the states instead of going to the giant distributors. I can't. Why does nobody want my business? Is my money not as good as Billy-Bobs?

Take advantage of the world-wide part of the web -- open your business to it!

John

Edited by softplus, 21 January 2007 - 08:10 AM.


#2 Wit

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 08:22 AM

</rant comment=LOL>

But well said. Most* shop owners seem to be unable to think "out of the box"...

* oh yeah I said "Most"

#3 Respree

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 09:02 AM

I empathize with you, John.

Information flows freely and seemlessly on a global scale on the Internet. However, there are logistical challenges in getting products from place A to place B, when an E-tailer contemplates global distribution.

From an E-tailer's perspective, one of the biggest challenges and deterrents to doing business internationally is unusually high freight costs. Objectional freight cost are already among the top reasons why people don't buy online - and that is domestically. Now multiply that three or four fold for international shipments and you can start to see the problem. Understand the high cost of shipping these costs are not controlled by a merchant but by freight carriers, such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. They're all the same, charging an 'arm an a leg' for international shipments. I strongly suspect that the prices that these couriers charge is not a conspiracy to gouge their customers, but reflective of the both the high costs of fuel and man-power needed to move a package thousands of miles, over land and sea. Most E-tailers won't ship internationally for this reason alone. From their perspective, they ask themselves who in their right mind would spend $10 on a pair of socks and want to pay $25 for shipping fees -- and then the answer as to whether to ship internationally becomes clear.

The second strong deterrent is the financial risk related to the lack of international banking standards. In the US, we have effective address verification systems which can pretty much reduce the risk of a fraudulent transaction to an acceptable tolerance. You enter your address and zip code and more than 100 fraud checking mechanisms verify your delivery information with the credit card information of your bank. Internationally, this mechanism fails to do an effective job. "Oh goodie, I just got an $4,000 order to be shipped to Nigeria. Hmmm, wait a second. I've heard there is a lot of fraud on orders for this country. How do I know for sure that this person is who they say they are and they're not using a bogus credit card." The problem is, you don't. You could ask the person to fax you their drivers license, passport and photocopy of their credit card, but then you become an inefficient, man-power intensive mail-order company, losing all of the efficiencies and advantages of being an E-tailer. Can you imagine calling or waiting for a response back from each international customer, who probably says 'forget it, I don't want to go through all that hassle to get my $10 socks AND pay $25 freight on top of that!"

Everyone wants to ship to the biggest market they can, but I think the two issues I mentioned above make it extremely difficult to do business internationally - or perhaps I should say "do business internationally profitably."

I'd love to hear from some E-tailers out there who do ship internationally to get their perspectives.

#4 bwelford

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 09:18 AM

Even getting some of those things right on simple web pages is hard enough. Just think of the challenges if you're working with 'out-of-the-box' ecommerce software. :wacko:

#5 DianeV

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 09:36 AM

I'd love to hear from some E-tailers out there who do ship internationally to get their perspectives.


So would I.

Here in the U.S., I order high quality cat food from a company across the country. If I want to receive it within five days (and, remember, cans of cat food are heavy), that adds $29USD to my $60USD order.

But, as Garrick points out, international shipping is more expensive, and it's harder for us to verify credit cards.

Edited by DianeV, 21 January 2007 - 09:37 AM.


#6 JohnMu

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 11:11 AM

I have no problem if a shop does not want to sell internationally -- but they should state so somewhere highly visible. You have no idea how frustrating it is to finally find a shop selling whatever you're looking for, picking products, putting together an order that is large enough to be worth it, only to find out at checkout that you just wasted your time on nothing. Grrr!!! I know I'm not the only one with this problem -- and it's sooo easy to solve: just put your shipping policy online where it's visible.

The other things are almost as bad, only you might still get my business. If the shop can't be bothered to get my information right, to let me enter it in a way that makes sense (not just for me, but for the shop owner: if I can give him my address in the right format, it will likely get shipped better and I'll be happier).

To me, even if a shop will ship to me but does not get things right, it appears as if they do not want to treat me with the same respect as "normal customers" (=US-based). If a shop does not want to treat me with respect, I will not feel at home, I will think twice about ordering again and I certainly won't recommend it to others.

Yes, I know, if you have a default shop setup that does not support any of this, then it will be a big problem to get it to work right. But how much work does it take to add a short comment to the checkout: "If you wish international shipment, please excuse our US-centric forms and enter your data where it fits best.".

It does not take much, but if you treat international customers with respect, they will overlook a lot of small issues :wacko:

John

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 11:23 AM

It's not just the United States and the rest of the world - While I was living in Vienna, I certainly had experiences where I wanted to order something from a .de site but couldn't enter my Austrian address, or where I completed signing up for a service just to THEN be told that it was only available in Germany. (I think I was trying to sign up for a Netflix-like service...but I don't remember what it was called.)

I mean, Austria and Germany are contiguous - how hard can it be?

You're absolutely right, John - the worst thing an e-tailer can do is to not tell you that they don't serve you until you've already waste your time. Finding out at the end of an ordering process that you're outside their service area is extremely disappointing. Definitely doesn't leave a good taste in my mouth.

#8 bwelford

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 12:39 PM

I guess all this shows that ecommerce site owners don't do enough quality assurance/usability testing on their websites. :wacko:

At least if they had a prominent place to send a message about problems you had, you'd know they did care.

#9 eKstreme

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 12:57 PM

Great list John. I have one more thing to add to it:

Make some discount coupons available worldwide. The biggest offenders are AdWords and AdCenter. All the coupons I've found were for US residents only.

I can't think of any legal reasons why they can't offer promotional coupons for international customers. They're happy to take my UK Mastercard.

Pierre

#10 JohnMu

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 01:31 PM

You're right, Pierre. I hate that as well :). And I'm usually not a negative person :wacko:. You fill out some questionnaire, they ask for data on everything including the color of your underwear, get a coupon code and then when you try to use it -- "sorry, you aren't good enough" (=living in my country).

I don't think it's normal quality assurance, Barry. I think it's just the normal nationalistic way of thinking - something which is especially found in the large countries. I know the home market is gigantic, but the web is more than just your own country. It's more than just your city (I've seen sites that are city-centric, but don't mention it anywhere, not even which city, unless you dig a lot).

How many companies are serving just half or a third of the total market they could have? How many companies are frustrated that their international sales are so bad (when they are really just disrespecting all international customers)?

Looking back at my list, it's all about usability for people who "do not think like you do" (though it's hard to imagine those problems, if you do not experience them first hand) and it's a lot about respect.

If your shop does not offer international shipping (as an example), you could care less if someone tries to put in an order or not - they won't get it - they won't be your customer - you don't have to treat them right. But you could. And who knows, maybe some time later, when you do offer international shipping, you would be happy to have them as a customer. Show respect to people who use different character-sets, who have different address-systems, who have trouble with getting "neat stuff" -- and you'll get respect from them as well.

John

#11 Cath

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 02:13 PM

And I'm usually not a negative person


Just having a bad day eh? :wacko:

I've had the same problem with ordering stuff online, luckily I don't face some of the problems you do with regards to postal codes etc, but it is annoying when you've filled in a long form only to discover that you live in the wrong country. I make a point now of searching a site for shipping policies before I attempt to buy.

You're right though, the shipping policies should be more visible, it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack sometimes, and as people are willing to pay the extra charge for shipping a product they want, I don't understand why people only want to sell to people in their own countries, they are definitely missing out on sales.

#12 JohnMu

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 02:39 PM

"More visible" is not even necessary -- it would be great if all shops just had some information at all. I have come to the point where I actually throw something in the cart and try to order it just to see if I could get it (and discard it before paying <_<). So many shops out there assume that nobody outside of their country could possibly be looking and trying to buy something. You're sitting there with your credit card on the table, ready to "click & buy" but then you luck out. "Sorry, we don't want your dirty Swiss money (can't send you this item)."

I ran into the same situation on Amazon just before Christmas. One of my employees really wanted some DVD in english (I don't remember which one it was, lol, but couldn't find it in amazon.de or .co.uk). I've ordered lots of things on Amazon.com before, I thought it would be no problem to just grab it, stuff some books in the same order and have it sent. They would not send me the DVD and only told me that when I went to set the shipping information. Huh?! I just spent an hour in your shop and you finally tell me that I can't buy the most important item I came for, which is in-stock -- only because I'm not in the US? I discarded the whole cart. Will this make me a happy Amazon-shopper the next time I need books?

I lived in the states for about 10 years -- there are a lot of things I'd love to have which just aren't "european-friendly" enough to get here. There are shops all over the web offering those items, why do I have to search like a maniac to find one of them that will actually ship it to me? I know the logistics are tough but I'm willing to pay for all of that, I'm willing to pay extra if you need to do something special to get it here. Do I have to get on my knees? (No, I don't actually live in Alabama, I just had to select a state because the form wouldn't post otherwise)

Shop-owners world wide: consider that some of your visitors are from other countries. Treat us with respect, even if you don't want to sell us anything at the moment.

John

#13 JohnMu

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 02:54 PM

PS No, not really having a bad day (a great one actually!), but I somehow get the feeling that many people with web-shops don't even know that this could be a problem. <_< Usability and accessibility, screen-readers for the seeing impaired, is something that is right outside your own house. Them Forennurs are not even noticed if they are scared away or treated badly. Them Forennurs could be sending a lot of money your way, if only you were to treat them right.

How many of the internet users are in your country? click and click

#14 Cath

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 04:04 PM

I do the same shipping search with Amazon.com, if I want an item I go to the profile of the seller and look at their shipping info first, most have them. Yes, it's a pain but I find that better than trying to buy it and finding out at the last minute I can't. One day those pesky americans or normal users as you call them will realise we have money and want to spend it with them :crossfingers:

lol @ dirty swiss money! and again at forennurs <_<

Edited by Cath, 21 January 2007 - 04:06 PM.


#15 yannis

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 04:19 PM

John

That is a great list. What is actually needed is for the rest of the world to catch up with e-stores. I have lived most of my life in some strange places (from an American perspective!) but somehow I have managed to keep buying my books and magazines either by mail-order or Amazon. Bought some stuff from e-bay but gave up after hassles with Paypal. PayF$%% I must say. Every time I had to move they pick my new IP address and ban me!

Swaziland by the way is really a beautiful country don't get offended. There is also Lesotho in southern Africa which is called the Switzerland of South Africa and there is also a Little Switzerland in the Dragensberg in South Africa.

Yannis

#16 cre8pc

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 07:08 PM

It's a great list John and fantastic reminder <_<

It can be odd the other way around too. When I was shopping for wedding gifts for Dave Child (ILoveJackDaniels), who was one of our moderators for years, he pointed me to his Amazon Wish List to make things easy or to get ideas.

It never occurred to me that it would be a different Amazon! Because he lives in the UK, his list was in the Amazon UK site. Everything was in UK pricing, so I had no idea what I was spending, LOL. Before I could place an order, I had to register. Well, I AM registered with Amazon, but that didn't carry over to the UK one.

Now I receive promotional emails from both Amazons. :(

#17 SEOigloo

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 07:09 PM

Hi John,
I'm so sorry about the cookies! <_< I feel really badly about that.

If you've been at our portfolio lately, you'll have noticed that company is no longer listed among our clients, due to some lack of organization on their part. It's a shame...their cookies were great, but they couldn't commit to the work they needed to do to get rankings. Nevertheless, I apologize to you for a disappointing experience connected to anyone with whome we ever even worked for awhile!

I think your post is absolutely fantastic. So many small businesses (our client base) seem to have a fear of international shipping. They think it will be too much of a hassle for them, or that rates will be so high noone will want to buy from them long-distance. Your post is truly an eloquent plea for a more sensible approach to this. At the very least, we should all be making sure to make it REALLY clear on the shipping page of sites we design that the company does or does not ship internationally. You deserve that courtesy.

I really am sorry about the cookies...
Miriam

#18 Respree

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 11:47 PM

Search, shop, pay -- and sorry! we only send to the continental US + Canada! Duh, I should have known (if you would have told me ANYWHERE on the web site).


I think this is inexcusable on the part of any E-tailers who does not ship internationally. It shows a blatant disregard and disrespect for people's time and reflects badly upon one's site and business if you're not up front about what you will and will not do. Of course, one cannot stop international visitors from clickon onto your site, but I think Etailers should take responsibility for minimizing the amount of time an international visitor could potentially waste shopping around for that perfect product by prominently posting their shipping policies.

It never hurts to ask. One suggestion I can make for all international shoppers who find themselves absolutely having to have Product XYZ (that they can't get locally) is to simply ask the E-tailer if they'd be willing to make an exception. After all, the worse they can say is, "Sorry, I"m afraid we can't."

While I don't ship internationally for the reasons I described earlier, I have shipped many orders outside the US. If they've taken the time to write to me, and if the order doesn't 'smell' suspicious, I typically grant them their request by a sending them an e-mail that explains our position and the terms of the sale.

Something like:

Greetings from Respree.com and thank you for your inquiry.

We are not actively marketing our products outside the United States at this time. The primary reason for this policy is due to expensive delivery costs and long delivery times.

If, however, you don't mind paying a little more and waiting a little longer, we are happy to accomodate your special request for a non-U.S. shipment (art prints and posters only). We do want you to first understand the terms of the sale before making your purchase decision. Our shipping charges are US$29.00 and it will take 3-4 weeks to reach you. Please note that this is a flat-rate shipping charge good for up to 15 prints. You are responsible for any applicable local customs and duties charges.

Since we have a flat-rate shipping charge, many of our international customers like to purchase multiple prints in order to reduce the shipping cost per unit.

If these terms are acceptable to you, you may go ahead and place your order on our website. Our systems will charge you a $5.95 domestic shipping fee, which is based on a "U.S.-based delivery." We will then charge your account for the $23.05 international shipping fee surcharge (which will be processed 'behind the scenes.').

If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Thanks for visiting our store and have a great day.


I realize I'm still taking a risk by not authenticating the customers' identify, but I theorize a thief is not going to go and open a dialogue with their prey. Of course, if the order amount is beyond a tolerable risk, I'll ask them to prove who they say they are. In a few instances, they never responded back and I assumed that they determined the order was not worth the hassle or they were trying to pull a fast one. Either way, I've been lucky and not had any orders go south on me using this method.

#19 JohnMu

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 02:32 AM

Thanks for all your comments!

Don't worry about the cookies, Miriam -- I expect that I would never have gotten them anyway, those customs dogs are constantly hungry :) (not to mention that it's probably not even allowed to send food around like that, I think). I have resorted to baking my own cookies :D

You're right, Respree - it never hurts to ask. And when there's really no alternative, I do ask. But my normal response is to continue on my way and search for it elsewhere, and if I can't get it anywhere, I'll put it off until I really, really, really need something (which is very seldom). On larger sites asking about something special is frustrating and often does not get answered at all (That's not just on shops) -- the only safe answer an employee can give is "we don't do that" if the site states that they don't do it. It's sad, it's frustrating, it is not a good shopping experience.

If you go to a real store, you can talk to an employee, you can find some manager and chat with them - they see you, you see them - you can ask them special questions and they can't hide from you. On the web, it's easy to ignore someone who you think might never be your customer anyway (and then it'll be true: they won't be your customer, you got rid of them).

John

#20 JohnMu

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 03:37 AM

PS I can't imagine how tough it must be on people like Yuri - who in addition to the normal "not-from-here" abuse are living in a country which has a more or less bad reputation... Or for Yannis, who just happens to be living "anywhere" :).

#21 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 04:57 AM

Well, I can say that I do find places to buy and get shipped, but only because I look for those places actively. For instance, I had a $170 order shipped to me from REI. However, I had to fill in their PDF (!) form and fax it to them (and I don't have one, so I had to use an e-fax). Yes, I needed the item badly and I got it.

I have to say that for people from distant countries such an etailer behaviour is common and they are used to it. And a shop with all information obvious (like Amazon) is an exception, not a rule.

In most cases, however, I just don't get something I want. I've lived for most of my life without the Internet, so I haven't got used to having it (yet) :)

#22 loki

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 01:09 PM

excellent post softplus!

(another hassle, getting booted to another language when buying software because they assume as you are physically in <insert country here>, you will want their software in <insert country's lingua franca here>.)

#23 eKstreme

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:40 AM

Hi all,

MS is at it again. They have a new Vista test drive site, and when I tried to us it, I was told I am outside the right geography. To get to that "error", I had to sign up and install an ActiveX control.

I got so angry, I blogged about it:

http://ekstreme.com/...e-the-usa-smell

Pierre

#24 justguy

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 05:01 AM

The issue of fraud is often quoted by US retailers as a reason not to take overseas orders. When digging further, I often find it is a perceived threat rather than based on real data ; for some reason many smaller (and some larger) US vendors have a mentality that equates Nigeria with the UK or France. Huh? Bizarre but it was the sub-text in a conversation the last time I was over at a SEO conference.

Ironically, most of the fraudulent transactions I encounter here in the UK are with US customers.

Perhaps the CC companies could provide information on zones of safe trading - most EU/European countries might rate 10 out of 10 (the same as the US) with countries having notable fraud being rated 1 out of 10. This would allow vendors to set acceptable risk strategies based on their goods and likely customer profile.

And let's not even get onto protectionist trade policies like Amazon not being allowed to ship electronics outside the US :)

#25 DaveChild

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 07:05 AM

Now I receive promotional emails from both Amazons.


Sorry Kim! If it's any consolation, the cookbook is getting a lot of use!

#26 cre8pc

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 10:46 AM

Sorry Kim!


ROTFL

Dave, you were worth it!!!! :)

#27 send2paul

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:28 AM

Yes - good thread :)

And I read through it all and didn't come across the major bone of contention I'm having with one affiliate organisation at the moment whilst signing up to receive my well earned money direct into my bank account(!) - SWIFT CODES......

In the USA, I believe, there are 9 digits in the SWIFT code, and in the UK there are 8. But try telling this to an automated form on a website! :)

Paul

#28 JohnMu

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:48 AM

Right, Paul! What about IBAN? And ... those darn checks (affiliate sites) ... it seems the bank always wants a larger share of my (small) affiliate income, for doing nothing :(

John

#29 rynert

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 08:18 AM

Good post :)

On my shipping page the first line is : 'Currently we only ship to the United Kingdom'

We have only just started so wanted to keep it simple for a while. However, we use a company to store and ship out orders and are at their mercy with shipping rates (for now) - and frustratingly I can't even ship to parts of the UK, such as Isle of Man, Isle of Wight and far North of Scotland without changing my P&P from £4.95 standard to £27.50 - a huge amount and far more than if I just went to the post office.

So, to add in Europe / rest of world would be very expensive!

It's frustrating as I either have to say I don't ship there (which is bad) or simply state that shipping to these regions is £27.50 (which is bad). I opted for the latter on the basis that it is better to explain why (and annoy) than not explain (and annoy)!

#30 JohnMu

JohnMu

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 04:56 AM

Amazon can handle internationalization, right?

I got a nice present from my wish list (thanks, Emile!), from amazon.de - it was sent to my address as it's listed online: instead of my last name, "Müller" (ok, umlauts are almost as exotic as katakana) it was sent to "M|ller"

The message he added was filled wrong character sets as well (still from amazon.de, no less): "Danke für den temporären ... (similar several times) ... GruÃˇ Emile"

You'd think... amazon.de would at least be able to handle the german character-set? Nah, it's not that important.

I don't want to know how they would handle messages in really exotic character-sets :) .... Do I feel at home with Amazon knowing that they don't care enough to try to get a message in a gift-card right?

Note to web-shop owners: small things matter.

John



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