If you are a small business hoping to gain exposure, having a website is a must. However, there are several things to take into consideration so you don’t have to ever deal with what I have dealt with over the past six months.
I have hosted my e-commerce site through My Shop Kart for a few years. It was nothing special. Mostly I used it for my local customers who wanted to book a children’s party with me so they could check out the selection of stuff a plush for their big day. After much consideration, I decided I wanted to market my website to customers across the U.S.with my DIY Party Kits, and I wanted to expand a bit into educational toys and gifts for the family. I was told by a marketing person that I should consider moving my e-commerce site to something more Google friendly. I was starting to move up on my rankings, but I wanted to move up quicker, and if getting a more Google friendly e-commerce site was the way to do it, then so be it. What followed was such a disaster that cost me customers and potential business.
I chose to go with Homestead, an Intuit Company. They were supposed to be Google friendly and the price was inexpensive. I was familiar with the software and excited about my new venture. The first problem I noticed was that it was very difficult to put html codes on the pages. They ran two different codes on their site, and I was unfamiliar with the other code. Their solution was to hire them to do it for me. However, that was out of my price range. So I worked on the issue and figured out how to add a few basic codes to link up my blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Then I went to figure out how to SEO everything. When I couldn’t figure it out, I called for support and was told it was a service you had to pay for, and they would take care of it. I decided to try it and had a phone consultation with my representative. I was told everything would be ready in a few days. A few days later, I heard nothing. A week later, still nothing. I called. I emailed. After a month of nothing, I asked for a refund which prompted an email from the representative finally saying he was done. However, the keywords he gave were pretty generic and not related to my store. I got my refund and that was that.
When I was on the phone with them about a different issue, a representative told me how I should sign up for an Intuit merchant account, how it would give my website more credibility, how I could try it free for two months, and how they would set everything up for me. So I decided to do it. I got the account, and I called with the information. Nobody did anything. I gave up on the matter after several phone calls and emails asking to have it set up and thought the matter was closed.
Around this time, something else happened that was a huge deal. I had been contacted by NBC 10 to go on the news with a few other momtrepreneurs and talk about my business. I was nervous, excited, scared, joyful, and many other emotions as well. It was truly a wonderful experience. However, it was ruined by the fact that when I got home, I found out my website had pretty much fallen apart. It went down. When it finally went back up, it showed different things depending on what browser you used. The text was wrong. The html was wrong. It looked horrible, not professional at all. I called customer support. I was on the phone for hours. It turned out that it was a problem on their end. However, when I asked them to put everything back together like I had it, I was told no and that they charged for that. So what should have been one of the greatest experiences for my business turned into a horrible mess thanks to Homestead. I was angry and heart-broken. I put so much time into my work. I thought the news experience would be a wonderful boost to my business, but how could it considering that people either couldn’t look at the site or saw something that looked horrible and sloppy. The fact that not only would Homestead not make it right or try to console me with a credit or something,b but instead wanted to charge me to fix their mistake, just made it worse. There was a point at that time that actually made me want to throw in the towel.
I didn’t. A few weeks following the debacle, I was contacted by Lollipop Web Promotions about having a complete website redesign. There was an initial price for the design and then a monthly hosting and maintenance fee that included search engine submission and the whole works. After careful consideration, I decided to go for it. I needed to do something. This company had their own e-commerce platform. However, I decided not to go with it at this time because I wanted to move my products over to a new format as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to have to learn something new that would take time for me to catch on. So I decided to go back to My Shop Kart. I figured I would re-launch around the end of October. My new website turned out magnificent, and my new e-commerce site looked great as well. Then came the snag.
You see my domains were hosted through Homestead. I didn’t want to move them because moving them would mean moving my email accounts. Moving my email accounts would mean a big mess, and well, I was tired of messes. I figured I would just point them to the new site and be done with it. It should have been easy. However, everything kept getting screwed up on Homestead‘s end. Every time I called, I got a different answer. Each answer was wrong. Finally, I had my husband call, and everything was fixed just like that. That kinda made me a bit angry, but we will not go into that right now. Finally, I could officially re-launch and be finished with the e-commerce nightmare.
And that is where my story should end, but it doesn’t. First of all, due to changing formats and all that, I actually lost my place in my Google rankings from this spring. My rankings by moving to Homestead went down. So now, I have to work at getting them back where they were.
Finally, remember how I mentioned something about that Intuit Merchant account trial. Well right about the time of my re-launch, a new nightmare began.
Last month, I received a call from my bank that I had an overdraft. I don’t use that particular account as much as I should, however, it always has enough money in the account to cover things. So I went to the bank and tried to straighten the mess out. I had no idea where the charge came from. Finally, we figured out that it came from Intuit. I wasn’t even aware that the account was open because nothing was ever set up, and after calling and emailing with no response from Homestead or their parent company Intuit, for that matter, I assumed the matter was closed. However, they didn’t. So I called them. I was told by one person to submit a signed letter stating I wanted the account closed. I did that. Then I ended up having a conference call with a representative from Homestead and one from Intuit to discuss a refund of the charges and also money to cover the overdraft since it was caused by them. The representative from Homestead was kind enough to state that it was their fault, and they had dropped the ball on the matter, and I deserved a refund. After much discussion, the refund was approved. Finally, I was going to have some closure. Except that…
The refund didn’t come, at least not until I contacted them again. It took almost a month for them to process it. I thought the case was closed until I was doing banking the other day and saw a charge on the account that shouldn’t be there. Sure enough, they charged me again. Well I called and was told that my account was closed, and they weren’t sure why I was charged but I should leave a message for the person who handled the request and would receive a phone call on Monday (today). I did that. I waited all morning and heard nothing. I tried calling the extension. Nothing. I tried calling the other person who dealt with the issue. Nothing. I called the main line where the representative suddenly didn’t seem to have any notes on my file about this, kept putting me on hold, refused to let me speak to a supervisor, and just wasn’t helpful. I told him that I had copies of email conversations from this as well as the letter I submitted. I was asked to send everything out again. So I faxed it and left a note with my number requesting a phone call as soon as it was received. That never happened. So I called again. I finally got to speak to a supervisor who also said that my account which should have been closed was not closed. I emailed him the documentation while on the phone with him and am now waiting to hear back from him tomorrow. I hope.
The point of my story is this: just because it is a big company or a well-known company does not mean that they are a great company. I have never received such poor customer service in my life. Not only that, I lost potential customers and had a great opportunity ruined for me by the whole experience. I have just re-launched my website and am working at building my website presence. I am not writing this to slam the other company. I really debated on writing this at all, except that I don’t want any other small business to fall prey to them and lose money or time. If you are hoping to have your own e-commerce site, I suggest weighing your options and really shopping around. I am happy with the companies I am with now, and I hope to build a great business! Thank you for reading.
It has been a few days since I wrote this post, and they still have yet to call even though I was promised they would call back the next day.