Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shipping Overseas... my two cents

The vast majority of our overseas customers are the most loyal customers anyone could ask for. But in the next breath, we've had some less than desirable dealings with a select few. In my early business years, I was burned financially by those select few and resolved to never go down that road again. Hence, I drafted a company policy requiring wired bank funds on international orders over $300 (especially if it's a company or individual with no order history). Alarms go off whenever I receive an order from an international customer that is

1) of excessive value, and

2) the customer has no order history

Just this week, I received an order that set off all the bells and whistles. It was a new customer wanting to purchase a large number of fragrance oils to the tune of $2803.80 (this was before shipping cost). The shipping address was Cote D'Ivoire (also known as the Ivory Coast), a country situated in Africa. This country isn't even listed with our shopping cart vendor (that in itself made me somewhat wary). In the past, Cote D'Ivoire was considered the "Paris of Africa". However, in recent years, this small country had been a site of political unrest. In fact, the US Dept of State (Bureau of Consular Affairs) has a TRAVEL WARNING posted urging Americans to defer non-essential travel to Cote d’Ivoire.

To make a long story short, I emailed the above customer explaining our wired bank fund policy. I wasn't too surprised when I received the following response,

"Dear, My bank we not honor the transfer cause this is also our first transaction with you company..."

My response,

"No problem, order cancelled."

To some this may seem a bit harsh, but I'm guessing you've never been burned finanically by fulfilling a large order only to find the purchase wasn't authorized by the card owner. I point this out to new business owners because you can often be blind-sided by a big dollar order. All the warning signs are there, but poor judgement is used based on the order's value (you're thristy for that FIRST big sale!). Credit card terminals are unable to verify the billing address of international cardholders. The order may be approved, but it could come back to haunt you (or should I say your bank account) down the road.

History has been my best teacher in learning that new legitimate international customers are willing to pay by wired funds on large orders. As a business relationship is established, credit card payment can become an alternative payment method. Obviously, GoPlanetEarth doesn't require wired funds on orders falling within a normal dollar range.

For the record, I appreciate and value our international customers. But, as a business owner, I am cognizant of any order warning flags that read "DANGER or PROCEED WITH CAUTION".