The New PACT Act Goes Into Effect Tomorrow for all Online Shippers

Posted on July 29, 2010. Filed under: Other | Tags: , , , |

Beginning tomorrow, the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act signed into law earlier this year prevents shippers from mailing cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products with few exceptions.     Some exceptions to this law include:

  • Shipment of cigars is not prohibited under this Act
  • Shipment entirely within Alaska or Hawaii
  • Shipments transmitted between verified and authorized tobacco industry businesses for business purposes, or between such businesses and federal or state agencies for regulatory purposes
  • Infrequent, lightweight shipments mailed by age-verified adult individuals
  • Shipments of cigarettes sent by verified and authorized manufacturers to verified adult smokers age 21 and over for consumer testing purposes, and shipments sent by federal agencies for public health purposes.

All shipments of cigarettes that qualify for one of these exceptions must include a unique mark for its particular exception on the address side of the package. Additional requirements may apply.

The USPS website has more information about this new law.

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An Ecommerce Seller’s Thoughts about Punctuality, Promptness, and Exceptional Performance

Posted on September 15, 2009. Filed under: Other | Tags: , , , , |

Punctuality is very important to some people and is usually most important to people who see promptness as a sign of respect.  Personally, I make it my mission in life to always be punctual.  One lesson I have passed along to my kids is that being punctual is always important but it is absolutely critical to be on time when you are asking someone to give you something (like an interview where you want the person to give you a job) or when you are the one asking for a favor (like hitching a ride with someone who is planning on going to the mall on Saturday).

And sometimes people who place great value on being punctual themselves are not distressed when others are not so prompt.  After being an entrepreneur for more than a decade, having two children, and dealing with a partner on a third military tour overseas, there just isn’t too much that gets me upset anymore.  It takes a pretty major event to get me riled up.  So if someone is a little late for a meeting with me, it just isn’t that big of a deal.

So, how do you know when punctuality is important to someone?  Well,  sometimes they will tell you.  I once took a college course from a professor who told us the first day of class that his class started at 9 am sharp.  He informed us that class did not start at 9:01 am or 9:02 am and he ordered us to be on time every time.  The next class period we all sat in our seats and then exactly at 9 am the instructor walked into class and he proceeded to close and lock both doors leading into the lecture hall.  The first 15 minutes we could hear students outside trying to turn the door handle and come in but they could not.  One girl sitting near me was in such shock that she made a comment about not being sure the professor could do that since it was probably a fire hazard.  But the door was locked from the inside so that we could all leave if we wanted or needed to but no one could come in. 

It was rather disturbing in the beginning but I actually came to like the class and the professor very much.  Unlike some college classes where the instructor was very subjective in his or her grading and you were never quite sure what was important in class, this professor was straightforward in his requirements and his grading.  Follow his rules, do the projects he assigned, study what he lectured about and getting an A was not difficult.

I really prefer when people are very clear about their requirements.  I find it much easier to please someone who makes their preferences known.  As an ecommerce seller, unfortunately I usually don’t have the benefit of knowing what each of my customers thinks is most important about their transaction with me.  So, the only solution (for me) is to make everything about their purchase great.

To some online buyers, prompt shipping is critically important.  And other buyers, like myself, take a much more laid-back approach to the timely delivery of an item.  Of course, I remember back when mail order catalogs advertised delivery in “4 to 6 weeks”. 

And, then, there are those ocassions where I really want something to arrive in a specified time.  So, if I buy something from a seller who advertises only standard shipping rates and has a 3 business day handling time then I know to expect the item not to arrive in 2 days so I would never purchase the item hoping it would arrive in 2 days.  That would be unreasonable on my part.  But I may go ahead and include a note with my order saying something like “I purchased this item today Sept 15th for a birthday gift that I’ll be giving on Oct 2nd.  I believe that even with your stated handling time and advertised shipping method that my item will arrive in time.  If, however, you think that might not be possible then please contact me with your expedited shipping rates so that I can make an informed decision.  Thanks.”

I’m really laid-back concerning the time a seller, big or small, takes to get my item to me just as I’m really laid-back if I have an appointment and someone is a few minutes late.  But I hold myself to a different standard.  I am not late for appointments for several reasons but mostly because I never know if the other person places great emphasis on timeliness.  And I am always prompt when shipping online orders because I never know which customers place great emphasis on their order arriving timely.   

Most online buyers aren’t going to tell an ecommerce seller in advance about something that is important to them but they may complain about something after the fact.  As a successful online merchant, you don’t want to get those emails and phone calls from customers who are dissatisfied.  And the best way to avoid customer dissatisfaction is to assume that everthing is important to every customer.    You may have certain expectations as an online buyer but you can never assume that your buyers  have your same expectations.

So, as an ecommerce seller we have to be laid-back with our customers when they are a little late with their payment or a little picky about the transaction.  Stated simply, we have to overlook the small things our customers do and not get irritated easily.  But then we have to hold ourselves to a much higher standard.  We have to ship every package promptly just as if every customer needs the package for a birthday gift in a few day’s time but failed to notify us in advance of the urgency.  To do otherwise is a sign of disrespect at which some customers just simply shrug their shoulders and move on and they’ll be back again to order from you in the future.  But for others, it is an offense so egregious that they will lock the door on you and never enter your e-store again.       

Most of the time I actually breathe a sigh of relief when I get a demanding customer who communicates with me in advance.  I don’t see it as a bother but rather I view it as an opportunity to get it 100% right.  If the buyer tells me explictly in advance what is important to them then I can meet and/or exceed their expectations because those expectations are known to me.  But most online transactions don’t lend themselves to customers communicating their very specific needs and desires about each transaction.  So, in our company, we do not treat our online customers as we ourselves would want to be treated but rather we treat customers better than we would expect to be treated.  And, for more than a decade, that philosophy has served us well.

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TheBrewsNews Top 10 List for eBay Sellers who are Preparing Now for Holiday Sales

Posted on August 30, 2008. Filed under: Tips - for the eBay Seller | Tags: , , , |

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Labor Day is traditionally the time of year when eBay sellers start really getting ready for the upcoming holiday season.  There are many things that eBay sellers can do now, while sales are slower, to get prepared for the busy holidays to take advantage of the “most wonderful time of the year”.  Here is my Top 10 list:

1. Order free priority mail boxes and other postal supplies now.  After September, there is sometimes a significant delay in getting postal supplies and you don’t want to be spending your time running from post office to post office begging for a few boxes from each and/or having to spend money to purchase boxes from a supplier that you could otherwise get for free from the post office.

2. Get rid of “problem” inventory now, when you have more time to handle customer service issues.  If you have a particular product line and/or specific SKU that is known for having issues such as easily damaged in transit or fails to work often then now is the time to liquidate that product.  You don’t want to be spending valuable holiday selling time dealing with customer service issues instead of making money and you don’t want to have disappointed holiday shoppers who may be counting on receiving the item intact and in good working condition quickly.  Holiday shoppers don’t have time to deal with returns and damage and they become much more frustrated during the holiday season than they might otherwise.

3. Print box inserts now in bulk.  If you include an insert in your packages which mentions “5 star service” and/or you include an insert to advertise your other venues like your own website, now is the time to prepare the copies you think you’ll need during the holidays.  It may be significantly cheaper and less time-consuming to print one insert and then have it photocopied at a local Kinko’s. 

4. Get ready now for international sales if you offer your items to international customers.  International buyers will begin purchasing in September and October for the holidays because of the longer transit time.  Make sure you have the proper shipping supplies for international packages and make sure you have plenty of inventory on hand that your international customers typically purchase.

5. Keep stocked up on paper, printer toner, self-adhesive labels (if you use them), bubble wrap, and any other supplies you typically use.  Make sure to inventory supplies once or twice weekly to avoid coming to a standstill because you run out of any one particular item.

6. Spruce up your auction listings.  This is the time of year to make sure your items are in compliance with eBay’s policies.  Having your items removed during the busy holiday season and spending time to revise auctions at that time is definitely not how you want to spend your time during November. 

7. Prepare a calendar to keep yourself on track.  Mark important deadlines, such as manufacturers’ deadlines of when to order product for delivery in time for the holidays and special promotional pricing or free shipping offers to allow you to take advantage of vendors’ specials.  Use your calendar to avoid overcommitting to family and to your customers. 

8. Keep rested and healthy to avoid getting sick.  By not overcommitting yourself (tip #7) and by eating well, you will be better able to handle the stress and busyness of the online shopping season.  Getting run-down and sick during the holidays is not an option for any eBay seller who wants to experience the most success during the last quarter.

9. Do your own holiday shopping now.  This is the time of year to get great bargains on eBay and elsewhere.  Labor Day specials mean great deals on some things at brick and mortar stores as well.  Obviously there are some things that will need to be purchased as the holiday gets nearer but many gifts can be purchased now.  And, for the items you need to purchase closer to Christmas, consider purchasing online to save time running around to the stores.

10. Validate your inventory counts now and establish re-order points so that you don’t run out of the most popular selling items.  At the end of November, consider putting on auction any particular SKU that hasn’t sold as well as you had hoped.  Alternatively, use the eBay markdown manager which is a great tool to reduce pricing instantly, but for a short period of time, and is a perfect way to move a volume of product quickly.

At our company, we are already unboxing the holiday music to play in the office.  Listening to Andy Williams sing, telling us that it is the most wonderful time of the year, helps motivate us and get us prepared for the great sales to come.

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