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When do you tell a customer "sorry, but take your business elsewhere"?

Probably fraudulent order

     
12:49 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have been selling books online for years now. I sell within a niche subject, there are no big numbers or anything. I've had two chargebacks in that time, both with paypal, they backed me up and the covered with their Seller's Protection Program. Even when a customer wasn't completely satisfied we parted ways amicably.

I recently redid my business model hoping to reach a wider audience within the same niche. The new store does not mention the years we operated under a different name, and we have a new domain and name. This makes us prime target for scammers looking for an easy victim. Unfortunately I think I've might have found the first one.

This customers places a largish order (by our standards), AVS does not match in the least, shipping and billing address is a p.o. box, telephone is a mobile, yahoo email address and to top it all he logged in in a state different from the one I am supposed to ship. I know, I know...

I emailed the customer and told him to either a)provide the address in his credit card for further verification, or b) fax a copy of his card and driver's license for a one-time verification.

Of course he refused. Whether he is legitimate or not there are reasonable reasons to refuse to fax your license to someone across the net. I understand that, he says he's moved and that's why the address does not match. He requested I ship COD. That is not really all that safe for me either.

There is a very slim chance that he is actually legit, but I am not willing to bet on it what with having a brand-new merchant account which I hope to keep clean enough to request they lower my high fees.

The question is really, is there anything else I can offer him to verify his bona fides? Or should I just go ahead and try to word a Dear John letter in the nicest possible words?

3:04 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Agree: New businesses are prime targets for online fraud. New sites should never mention that they are new.

I emailed the customer and told him to either a)provide the address in his credit card for further verification,

We usually handle security issues by phone, not email. A short chat will give you some idea about his identity and whether he is an appropriate buyer for the books. (or whether he'll just dump them on ebay, for example). You should certainly insist on knowing the credit card billing address. It's suspicious that he wouldn't readily provide it.

Tell him 'your boss' has more questions that must be answered. That gets the matter off your back.

We Google the name, phone, address (ship and bill) and email of questionable buyers and sometimes use reverse directories. We used Zillow to look up home values.

We politely reject a few orders a year if we feel uncomfortable with the sale.

9:09 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Be firm but polite, we are all conditioned to say yes to the customer.
9:38 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Tell him to sign up with PayPal.
7:23 pm on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We sell on commission for a couple of years now. Losses amount to 2% quite stable now (appr 400k euro turnover this year). The most important thing is to account for this in your overall calculation.

To my experience, if people reply to your mail at all, chances are relatively high they will pay. In addition to that, I'd second that a telephone call sometimes works wonders, because you are somewhat lifting the curtain of annonymity.

I think any new customer placing a bulk-order for more than - lets say - five times your average figures is supposed to understand, that you don't feel comfortable, and should make his own proposals on how to build trust on both sides.

You may deliver one third in a first step, and after your customer has paid this first bill, send him the rest with no additional shipping fees.

2:56 pm on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Tell him 'your boss' has more questions that must be answered. That gets the matter off your back.

Exactly, adopt the persona of an employee who is being forced by company policy to insist that the goods can only be shipped to the credit card billing address in this case. There isn't any point getting into an argument - if you're unhappy with the transaction you need to refuse it, and do so without wasting your time on it.

4:11 pm on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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-- Tell him to sign up with PayPal. --

Even with paypal there's a risk of chargebacks, and the investigations that paypal is supposed to carry out in such circumstances aren't always as thorough as they ought to be.

5:16 pm on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We used Zillow to look up home values.

Jsinger for what

6:36 pm on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Ask the customer to update his new address information with his bank/credit card co. It's a reasonable request.

If he refuses to do this, move on.

6:42 pm on Aug 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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..Even with paypal there's a risk of chargebacks, and the investigations that paypal is supposed to carry out in such circumstances aren't always as thorough as they ought to be...

No, but just the act having to sign up with them will stop 95% of the scammers.