If you are thinking about using Paypal for your craft business (or any business whatsoever for that matter) then you need to read this article.
Now this article is written based on a very frustrating (and costly) experience that we had using Paypal to take payments on our recent launch of our software program Craft Maker Pro.
We have used Paypal multiple times for numerous other websites and never had any real issues. Until now.
So here’s a brief rundown of what we were doing, what went wrong and some important steps to take if you ever sell anything online that we had in place which actually helped us.
What We Were Doing:
We launched our new website a couple of weeks back to sell our new inventory and pricing software Craft Maker Pro.
At the time we actually put the site live we didn’t do any sort of promotion at all because we wanted to ensure that everything worked ok in terms of the systems we had in place for payment processing to the membership site and also our support systems.
We had already done as much testing as humanly possible with beta testers for our actual software program Craft Maker Pro, BUT we had never setup the membership payment gateway system we were using this time so we only wanted to run a few sales through to make sure everything worked ok.
So, that’s what we did.
The site was live for around 10 days. We made a handful of sales from the small amount of traffic that was just coming through anyway.
Everything was hunky dory, payments went through, the systems linked up fine, our support desk worked wonderfully.
Everything was roses so we thought it was time to send out an email to our database and let them know about Craft Maker Pro.
As we usually do because we are based in Australia and our customer base is 80% in the US we pre-set our emails to go out between 1am and 3am our time which is mid to late afternoon time in the US depending on the area.
What Went Wrong?
So waking up on Saturday morning expecting a pleasant inbox of orders I found that we had indeed had around 20 orders.
Then they had just stopped.
And there was an email from Paypal saying:
What on earth did that mean?
The message in our account said that we were limited but that we could still receive or request money. So why had the orders stopped?
A quick check on our site showed that when you went to try and checkout you couldn’t actually process your order and instead got this error..!!!
At this point I’m pretty stressed.
We’ve sent out an email to almost 15,000 people, we already know that they really wanted to get Craft Maker Pro because we did a little competition on Facebook which received over 220 comments in less than 48 hours.
People loved the idea of Craft Maker Pro and were telling us that even if they didn’t win they wanted to buy it.
What We Had Already Done To Verify Our Paypal Account:
We’ve used Paypal before, loads of times so we had already setup our bank accounts, verified them etc etc according to Paypals verification process:
What Paypal Didn’t Tell Us:
So being verified is all well and good but if you receive too much money into your account in one go then they will limit your account anyway, even though you are already verified.
Since we had already done the verification steps according to them to make sure that there were no sending, receiving or withdrawal limits on our paypal account we were pretty surprised about this.
The Major Problem:
It’s Saturday. No body is in the department that we need to help us get this limitation lifted.
Sure we can upload the documentation they require, which we have done, but who knows when they will check that.
We could talk to someone on the phone, and we did, but they can’t help us as they don’t have the authority to access what’s required.
Doing Damage Control:
So now we are stuck, we can’t take orders. An email has gone out to 15,000 people and we already started getting emails from people telling us they are trying to order but couldn’t.
So what to do?
The only solution we could take was to try and make sure that we let people know that there was a problem BEFORE they tried to order and also give them a way to get notified of when things were fixed.
We simply created a page that explained in very short terms that we were currently experiencing issues and the page had the option for people to leave comments on so we could respond to them when things were fixed.
Then we used a 301 redirect to point all our order buttons to this page instead of to the checkout. In a nutshell that means anyone who clicked on the order button got sent to our “sorry we can’t take orders right now” page, instead of going through 90% of the checkout process and finding out they couldn’t order anyway.
This helped us in two ways.
- We captured people who really wanted to buy as they left us comments and we could reply to them later.
- It saved frustration for people who wanted to buy because we told them upfront there was an issue before they wanted time trying to checkout only to find they couldn’t.
While this was a very annoying and costly experience for us we did find that most people were very understanding because we did everything we could to tell them up front there was an issue.
The Takeaways & Lessons Learned.
- If you are using Paypal and expect to have more than a couple of thousand dollars go through that account, even in a period of a few months, make sure you get it fully verified.Just doing the normal online steps may not be enough so get copies of your company documentation and personal id’s scanned. I would recommend that once you have setup your paypal account that you contact Paypal and tell them what sort of sales values you expect to be going through your account.Ask them what they require on terms of documentation and then give it to them, quickly, before you run any sales through.
- Don’t do a promotion on a Saturday! This was probably our biggest error here because there was literally nothing we could do while we waited for Paypal support to be available on Monday. For a multi billion dollar company that serves global business’ I am pretty surprised that you can’t get 24/7 support. As a small business ourselves we do the best we can and even answer customer queries on Saturday and Sundays at times. I would expect more from a company such as Paypal, but there you go. So, if you’re planning a sale, newsletter, special promo or anything where you are expecting an unusual number of orders don’t do it at the weekend.
- If you have a problem, find a solution as fast as you can in the best way you can and take action. By making sure that we changed our site and closed the order process off and alerted customers to the error we saved those customers that were going to try and order the pain of getting to the final stages of checkout only to be turned away as the order would not process. We also got direct contact with a whole bunch of customers who left comments who we immediately followed up with once we were live again and saved a lot of sales.
- Don’t stress on what you can’t control. In the first hour of this happening I was stressed out, trying to get a resolution as quickly as possible, looking up other payment gateway options etc etc etc. When I couldn’t find an instant fix I knew I had to make the best of it and do whatever was in my power to do the best damage control I could now. I still worked really hard to manage the situation over the weekend and get everything ready to re-launch as quickly as possible.BUT, I didn’t let it ruin my day, weekend or life (just that one hour). Stuff happens, it goes wrong and we just have to do what we can sometimes. Getting overly stressed will kill you quicker but wont get solutions quicker.
So there you have it.
One weekend that just cost a lot of time, effort and money but gave us some very valuable lessons.
I hope that when you hit hurdles in your craft business you take action and learn from your mistakes.
Don’t let them get you down. Roll with it and move forward because life’s a journey, not a destination.