Magento. Simply the Best.

Notice anything different about our website? Probably not- that’s how seamless the transition was. Of course there’s still a ton of configuration left to do so the new features won’t start popping up for several months but we are on Magento!

We recently acquired a competitor and their website was running on Magento. After using it for a few weeks it became clear that we had wasted  a small fortune building our own software. Magento is significantly ahead of where we were (and seems to be ahead of everyone).  In just the few short weeks we have been using it we’ve seen a nice bump in sales.

If you run any kind of ecommerce company and you have been using a a cookie cutter “box shop” or hosted solution it’s time to take a serious look at Magento. It’s affordable, stable, fast, secure, scalable and boasts more features and usability that any of its competition*. Our motto at work is “evolve or die” and Magento had breathed new life into our company (maybe they should change their name to “Life Cart”!).

*Some of the other ecommerce solutions we compared it to were Shopify, Yahoo, BigCommerce, Volusion, Shopping Cart Elite, Fortune3, NetSuite Ecommerce and custom built solutions on the OS Commerce platform.

Credit Charge Chargebacks Suck.

I know what it looks like. I never update this blog. But that’s not actually the case. I have written nearly a hundred blog posts for Cam on Commerce, but have kept them nearly all private. Why? Some are personal, some contain proprietary information and many are simply uninspired rants. And this post may be an uninspired rant… but I am so mad about credit card chargebacks that I just wanted to do something.

Here are work we have what I would consider fairly advanced fraud detection techniques and tools. We actually catch most fraud and we’re able to do that because there is some indication that fraud is occurring. But recently we have been hit by a string of more advanced fraud with no signs of anything amiss.

In the world of ecommerce we rely on AVS (address verification system) codes to determine if the purchase is authorized. Legitimate orders will have the correct address, zip code and CVV numbers submitted to us. When we authorize the card the AVS response (from the credit processor) will show something like “YYY” (yes, yes, yes) indicating the shipping information provided matches the info that the credit card company has on file. We then ship the order with a signature required.

If the customer later says, “I didn’t order that” and initiates a chargeback (a process where the purchase is disputed and the credit card company returns the customer’s money) we have the ability to “fight” the chargeback. We can show that we shipped the order to the confirmed billing address and that the customer signed for the package. When we have this evidence the chargeback is reversed and the money is returned to us. This has always worked well for us until now.

Lately it seems that people with stolen credit cards are changing the confirmed billing address (the crook can simply call the card issuer and add another “authorized” billing address). Then they submit the order to us and, since it looks 100% legitimate, we ship it out. When the credit card chargeback comes we try and fight it. Initially we will win but then customer tells the credit card company that the card was stolen, the billing address modified and reiterates that they didn’t make the purchase. The credit card company takes the money from us again and says our only option is arbitration.

Don’t attempt any arbitration! You will lose (we found this out the hard way). Arbitration will always rule in favor of the credit card company (who butters their bread?) and then to ad insult to injury they charge you – the merchant – a $500 fee for arbitration costs. WTF?

Are you with me here? We get a 100% legitimate looking order. We ship to to the confirmed billing address (w/ a signature required). If it happens to be fraud it is us – the merchant – who pays the price for doing everything correctly. The customer gets their money back. The credit card company charges us a “chargeback fee” (usually $15-$25). The thief gets their loot as well. We, as the merchant, have no recourse whatsoever and we have lost our inventory, our time and any profit we might have made on the item. Where is the justice in this? Where is credit card company’s accountability?

We have lost thousands of dollars a month this way and I don’t see any solution for the problem (short of  paying for a service that guarantees payment with matching AVS codes). I believe the credit card company should absorb costs of fraudulent transactions of this kind. If they let a crook call up and change the card’s billing address then I certainly feel they – not me – are responsible for this fraud.

Posted by Cam, May 23, 2010

Travel Trailer (If It Makes You Happy It Can’t Be That Bad)

Fran loves the outdoors- you know, “nature.” She’s always trying to get me to go on camping trips with her family. Sometimes I give in and go. But when I finally make it back to civilization my question is always the same: “Why?!” And to this day I don’t quite get it. You have a nice comfy home but inexplicably decide that you need to go sleep somewhere uncomfortable, in the middle of nowhere in a pretend house. But before you go you have to pack up things that will make your trip more comfortable, you know… more like the home you just left. And then when you get back you have to unload and clean everything and you utter that timeless and possibly ironic phrase, “It’s so good to be home.” But it was all worth it because you saw nature! But like I said, Fran loves it.

She has wanted an RV for a long time. One of her favorite Disney cartoons is Mickey’s Trailer (I love it too). When I watch the cartoon I can almost see the appeal. We’ve gone to the RV shows up in Sandy (she even went by herself w/ the kids once- this is a serious woman) and I have to admit that it’s pretty fun to walk through them. She’s rented RVs and taken trips too (I think in preparation for owning one).

Well a few weeks ago Fran decided that instead of an RV it would be more practical and less expensive to get an RV trailer (remember it is Mickey’s Trailer). That bee flew so deep into her bonnet I didn’t think we’d ever get it out. Day and night Fran obsessed over trailers ceaselessly encouraged by her enthusiastic sister. After weeks of searching Fran finally found one that was perfect: The Flagstaff Microlite 23LB. And when we find something perfect we jump on it (this often causes it to break and we feel silly).

Fran found the trailer while visiting Access RV, down in Salt Lake City. They were very helpful, never pushy and they gave her an excellent deal. I would recommend them without hesitation if you’re looking for an RV or trailer RV.

The floor plan is, in my opinion, very well thought out (nothing feels cramped) and he trailer can comfortably (well you know, “comfortably”) sleep our entire family. The build quality seems good and my initial impressions of the trailer are very positive. No, it’s not a mega RV with water beds and a theater, but you could almost call it practical and I think that’s part of the appeal.

Here are a few pictures of the interior. On the left you can see the bathroom in the back, part of the kitchen, the dinette and TV. The trailer has heating, air conditioning, full plumbing, and the entertainment center even comes with surround sound. On the right you can see the bed and some of the cabinetry.

Here’s a better shot of the bathroom, the three bunk beads and the kitchen (I would feel like I was playing house if I cooked there- oh wait, I totally would be!).

After we brought the trailer home we drove it over to work  (where we could plug it in) and camped in it overnight with the kids. Boy were they excited!  We ate pizza, drank Martinelli’s and watched – wait for it – Mickey’s Trailer (and The Three Amigos). It was a lot of fun, but four kids in the trailer can be a little challenging.

And speaking of challenging:  Initially we had some trouble figuring out where to keep the trailer. Prior to our purchase we had rented a storage unit but the trailer ended up being too tall.  That was for the best though- it would have been impossible to back in.  Fran ended up finding a storage place right off Orem Center Street with covered pull through parking which has been really nice. There was a lot to learn at first too and that was a little daunting. But now I think Fran’s got everything under control now and I’m really excited for her.

I still think camping is funny and I think it’s even  funnier to go “camping” in an RV. The tent wasn’t comfortable enough but it’s so important to be in the great outdoors that you bought a little rolling house. And it has a bathroom and a kitchen and a TV to make your trip a little more bearable. And then maybe when you get home you can say, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. Maybe we’ll do that again.” But you know what, if it makes my wife happy then it makes me happy. I expect that the family will have a lot of fun in Mommy’s Trailer. And maybe, maybe, one day I’ll go trailer camping with the family and I’ll find myself enjoying it too.

Posted by Cam, May 23, 2012