This past December, 2005, I was in the market for a php-mysql database server script to mass produce a series of marketing sites.
After much exhaustive research I settled on a script that looked as if it could work called MiniSite Manger (minisitemanager.com) a $50.00 purchase, promoted by someone who calls themselves Host Agency (hagency.com) & (hostagency.net), supposedly Paypal verified, which means nothing without a customer-based rating system. Why Paypal hasn't adopted the Ebay model is beyond me and pure stupidity. It would for sure eliminate a lot of this crap.
Although the promoter of this program went through the trouble of listing the software with several shareware promotion sites, the fact that customer reviews were literally non-existent, should have been an indication of a problem.
After ordering the program through Paypal and receiving my Paypal verification email receipt. I waited for an email from the seller providing me the ftp site to download the software.
Responsible software sellers have automated systems that handle all of their order fulfillment automatically, 24 hours a day, without any intervention on their part. Especially when the buyer is a Paypal-verified premier customer like myself.
Email, by its very nature, is notoriously unreliable and depending upon your email provider, can be blocked from certain banned/blacklisted known spam IP addresses, before it even gets to you, at the provider level.
Novice internet-preneurs selling intangible products, specifically ebooks and software do not have the skills or knowledge to engineer their business process to be hands-free and they handle order fulfillment manually.
Due to the fact that this seller had no buyer feedback whatsoever on any site in which their software was listed, coupled with the fact that they were spending a lot of money to advertise in the top position on adwords, screamed novice!
After waiting the first couple of hours, without so much as a "thank you we're processing your order" email from the buyer. I mentally prepared for "manual processing" and gave the seller the customary benefit of the doubt.
After waiting a considerable amount of time, I sent an email to the address listed on their site, asking them if they sent the ftp download information and if so, I did not receive it and to please send it again.
With all of the sever level spam blocks in place, it is not uncommon to not get an email and very common for a seller to have to send it again. Experienced sellers know this.
Not only did this seller not respond to any of my emails, not even to say, "I sent it and I'm NOT sending it again." There was absolutely NO communication. Bad business, a scam business or both.
So like a good Paypal member, I went through the entire Paypal complaint process from start to what they told me was completion.
Now, Paypal does have buyer protection insurance, but not on intangible products like ebooks and software. So they provided me with a ruling in my favor and said they would put a notation on the sellers account of the incident, but indicated they could do no more because it was an intangible product.
When I told them I didn't care to have my money back, I just wanted the product delivered. They indicated they also "would not" and "could not" ask the seller to resend the original ftp product download information.
Although the seller would have had to communicate with Paypal during the complaint process, at no time did the seller EVER contact me. This issue could have been easily resolved at that level with just simply providing the product I had ordered. Still nothing.
My only recourse at that point to potentially get the attention of the seller was to contact my bank to apply for a chargeback on my credit card, because Paypal refused to do anything further.
This policy of Paypal's is surprising because many other large and established merchant account providers, like Clickbank.com and 2checkout.com aggressively work to resolve product fulfillment and customer support issues.
This hands-off attitude of Paypal's with regard to intangible products is a sore point with a lot people and is increasingly costing them marketshare as people change to merchant account providers who provide a higher level of customer service.
While continuing to await some type of response from the seller "apologizing for the oversight," I did a whois look up on their domains and left a message on the voicemail of the phone number that was listed. Still no response.
During the process of completing the chargeback with my bank, However, we began to suddenly receive an onslaught of email spam. This, to an unpublished, rarely-used email address dedicated for online purchases. Of course the only person to have recent knowledge of the address was the seller.
Since I own the domain and assign email addresses based on use, pinpointing the spam culprit was easy.
Email harvesting is big business. Especially if you are getting paid on both ends. This might explain why, if an email was sent by them, it was not received, because in all likelihood they are in the business is selling email addresses and we were not the first to complain. We got so much spam, I retired that email address completely. We're talking hundreds of emails per day. It was unreal.
When making online purchases it is typical to get a couple follow-ups or a conservative number of new product promotional emails from sellers, but the professional sellers are very careful as they know how easy it is to "bite the hand that just fed them," and they want to be able to come back to that well for another drink later.
If this person is paying adwords say $0.25 per click, and they have a click-thru-to-sales ratio of 1:50, at $50.00 per/sale they still have a gross profit of $37.50. To give an example of how profitable the email harvesting business is one email address, depending upon whether it is double op-in and has names, home addresses and phone numbers with it can sell for $1.00-$5.00 per/name!
Most email harvesting companies will sell one name to more than one person. So, one name sold in an email marketing package, sold only ten (10) times can make a harvester anywhere from $10.00 to $50.00 PER/NAME.
The better, more legitimate email marketing companies may only promise to sell a name 3-5 times. They make sure the people have double-opted in and are not unknowing passive participants, that the promotion is germane and it is not sold to more than one person marketing a product with the same company.
It was obvious from the trash spam we received, that they were scraping the bottom of the barrel. We got everything from porn to fake "Contact Paypal about your account" messages.
I Googled for other software alternatives for the product I needed, I came across several shareware products some of which had the name Mini-sites, Minisites and other variations of that name in their title.
One such obscure site was a non-english one written in what appeared to be some kind of Islamic language. It was quite plain, not as professional. It had no resemblance whatsoever to the polished English sites at the urls mentioned above. If these two sites were related, one would have no way of knowing that since the pretty website does not give any indication of islamic ownership or relationship whatsoever. Neither were there any links to this website from any of the seller's urls shown at the top of this post. There were very few English words on the entire page, as shown in the Google cache, of which I've saved a copy in case these links disappear.
The hyperlinked words downloaded a file which looked like some sort of shareware trial demo of Minisites Manager that appeared bootlegged or corrupted because it did not function properly.
My bank completed my chargeback within the initial week. That along with my favorable ruling and a "closed issue" email from Paypal, I went on with my life.
However last month, April 2006, four (4) months later, I got an email from Paypal, stating the seller wanted to challenge my chargeback!
Can you believe this seller spent the energy to communicate with Paypal again, but has yet to contact me. Even though I changed the email address after the spam, as a party to the transaction, the seller always has the ability to contact me through Paypal.
Because Paypal's email was from a nameless/faceless "do not reply" email address, the only option you are given is to reply through the internal message system in your Paypal account panel.
So I replied to Paypal and informed them that they already ruled in my favor four (4) months ago and after telling me they could do no more, I got financial resolution through my bank. Although their resolution form states "refund issued," they did no such thing.
Non-receipt – Case ID: PP-128-143-011
Status: Case Closed
Transaction ID: 8HP715301R777934U
Seller Name & Email: hostagency.net, email@example.com
Transaction Amount: -$49.00 USD
Transaction Date: Dec. 10, 2005
Package Status: Order was digitally delivered 0n 12/10 and 12/13 tracking #via email
The Dispute History Log displays all actions related to your claim.
Date Actor Action Details
Dec. 27, 2005 PayPal Case closed
Dec. 27, 2005 PayPal Refund issued
Dec. 27, 2005 PayPal Refund initiated
Dec. 27, 2005 PayPal Email sent to Seller
Dec. 22, 2005 PayPal Case in Review
I got another automated email response from another nameless/faceless "do not reply to this email address," requesting that I reverse the chargeback.
So I called Paypal on the phone and got some lady sitting in a phone room informing me that since the seller is contesting my chargeback they (Paypal), are representing the buyer…. against me.
So I asked her why four (4) months ago when I needed their help to get my product delivered they couldn't and wouldn't (and still won't) ask the seller to deliver my product, but now they CAN ask me to give him his money back? She didn't know. Can you believe that. They can ask me to give him money, but can't ask him to give me the product!
She went on to say that she didn't have access to any other details on her screen and could not provide me with the names, phone numbers or even an email address to a real person that I could communicate with. The only thing she could do was to make a notation on my account that I called but that I should communicate again through their internal messaging system.
So I called my bank and mysteriously, she (the accounting department) said she had no knowledge of Paypal contesting anything and that my chargeback stood.
Even still my bank has an internal messaging system and has not to this day sent me any email or posted any message in my account management panel regarding this issue, which I would see immediately upon logging-in to check my account balance, which is quite often.
I went back into my Paypal account panel and pressed the other option available, in an attempt to get a different response, which was to begin a chargeback reversal.
Would you believe I then got an email from the "PayPal Chargeback Team" with a "real email address," and a "real fax number" asking me to sign an affidavit to complete the chargeback process. So now I know Paypal will only communicate with you when they think you are going to comply with their wishes.
So, to the "PayPal Chargeback Team," Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 402-537-5731, this is my reply to you.
Now the bigger question is, what in the hell is Paypal doing colluding with Bellsouth?