Building an online shopping site for which I will not kill you

I’ve done a fair bit of shopping online recently, and I’m just about ready to kill everyone. Here’s how to not be on the hit list:

  1. Let me compute shipping costs without having to give you my name, full address, email, phone number and chosen password. If you’re an Australian site, you can work it out from my cart and my postcode. If you’re international, my cart and my country. I know full well that you make a ludicrous amount of money from ‘shipping’ and I’m factoring it into my price comparisons. I’m getting to the stage of assuming the worst if you make me sign up before revealing shipping costs and I’m bypassing your site. No really, I am, I’m not buying from you any more, because 5 minutes signing up is 5 minutes too long.
  2. If you sell electronic equipment, be upfront about whether it’s grey market and if so, where the warranty holds (ie, in the event of failure, do I have to have it couriered to some other country to be fixed, or is it an Australian warranty?) If it’s in any way unclear, I am also assuming the worst.
  3. Ideally, debit my credit card at the time of shipping, rather than at the time of placing the order. (I’m usually not big on waaa waaa doing business is hard, that’s why it’s hard to buy from us, but you should anyway because capitalism means you have to buy things but I’m kinda sympathetic to avoiding credit card fraud, so often you get a pass here.)
  4. If you only have a web form for customer contacts, make sure damn sure it works. And by works, I mean the mission critical kind of works too, because it sure is annoying if the last POST-PAYMENT phase of the order fails and I can’t contact you about it.
  5. When I do file a support request through your web page, how about automatically emailing me a copy of it, ideally with some kind of tracking number? That way I have some reasonable assurance that it at least made it as far as your server. If you put up a generic ‘Thank you for your request, we will eventually respond’ page, I don’t know if my actual request got through. Especially if a payment just failed…
  6. I know you get a lot of dumb support requests. But please, please, don’t put up that page, you know, the one that goes man, you guys sure are dumb. This website is infallible and yet all the time waaa waaa waaa customers can’t order because customers can’t read our info even though they somehow were literate enough to apply for a credit card. Don’t blame us if we’re cranky about your dumb complaints. You’re lucky we even have this non-functioning web support form up at all. Because one day your third party gateway will ACCEPT A CREDIT CARD and your clever clever system will fall over before inserting the associated order into your database and then your contact form will also fail and then you will look rather stupid for talking to the customer about how dumb they are, won’t you?

I suppose I should mention some good systems here, shouldn’t I? OK. If you buy contact lenses through Net Optical Australia you’ll get so much feedback from them about your order status that your mail server might keel over. Glasses Online is fairly good in that respect too (they’ll even phone you to double check your weirdo prescription, if you have one). The good people behind the Nine Inch Nails album were very fast with their help despite however many million calls for help they were dealing with.

I should mention the bad system here too, but my understanding of Australian libel laws make it kind of dangerous. How about you guys just take the chargeback on the chin and we’ll call it even? (I will say though that unfortunately having clear-cut statements about shipping costs and warranties apparently does not totally correlate with a functional ordering or support system.)