Where Oh Where Are My Worms? Be On Your Toes When Ordering From Small Web Businesses

Photo: booizzy

I was hoping to be sharing my adventures in vermiculture with you all around now. Vermiculture is using worms to compost kitchen waste, and it's attractive to apartment dwellers or those of us who live in cold, snowy climates because you can keep your worm box right in your home without too many foul odors (or so says the author of the book I used to prepare my worm bin, Worms Eat My Garbage.)

Alas, I can't tell you whether my worm box is smelly or not, because the worms I ordered online never arrived. So instead I'm talking about the greatness -- and possible pitfalls -- of patronizing small businesses online.

I love the fact that small and home business are multiplying on the Internet, many with the help of EBay and the craft site Etsy.com. As local businesses close on Main Street, squeezed out by WalMart and Amazon.com, it's nice to know that you can still support the small businessperson. And in a world where nearly everything is mass produced, I love that you can get a handmade baby sling designed by a stay-at-home mom that will be different than what any other mom at the playground has.

However, my little worm problem reminded me that when dealing directly with small businesses, we can't always expect all the customer service we get from the big companies. To tell the truth, we regular patrons of large companies are spoiled rotten. When we have a problem, we know that the customer is always right and that if we are persistent enough, a large company will probably make things right. And even if they don't, things won't get too ugly because it's not personal to whatever customer service rep we're talking to. But with the small company I ordered from, things got ugly quickly, and my request for a refund ended with them sending me an email calling me a word that starts with B and rhymes with "itch." Now, if I'd complained to Amazon.com, even if I was in the wrong, I doubt Jeff Bezos woudl have called me that word.

My vermicrisis went as such: I Googled and found a Web site that sold worms. I ordered two pounds of Red Wrigglers from Best Buy Worms, cringed at the $11 shipping price but figured they needed to ship fast to keep those little buggers alive. It was the end of a very long day with the kids when I got around to putting my order in, and I remember little except thinking, "That was a little too quick and easy." What I didn't realize until too late was that the order went so quickly because the company never asked me for my address.

When I didn't receive any order confirmation, I felt a little nervous. Would I actually be getting any worms? But I did get an email from PayPal telling me my payment had gone through, so I hoped for the best.

Eventually I received a brief email from the company, saying my wrigglers had shipped. I waited. I started saving kitchen waste in a little box on my counter. Eventually the kitchen waste got smelly and I tossed it, started another box, and still I waited. I worried that if they ever arrived, the worms would be DOA.

After two weeks, I emailed the company to inquire, and asked if they had my address down correctly. They replied that the worms had been shipped, their tracking info (which they had not shared with me) said they were received, and that I must have moved because they sent them to a different address than the one I had just emailed them. The address on their form was an apartment I'd left two years ago.

After a little investigation, I realized the problem: My PayPal address was out of date. This had never come to my attention when I used PayPal in the past because most retailers -- notably, EBay, where I usually use my PayPal account -- ask for a shipping address.

I asked the company for a refund and they are resisting, saying the whole thing is my fault. Personally I feel that we both made mistakes -- they by making assumptions about where I wanted it sent instead of asking, and me of course by forgetting to update my PayPal address. I complained to PayPal, but since the company had proof that the worms were delivered somewhere, PayPal didn't help me. The company finally did offer to send me two pounds of worms for the price of one, but I replied that they'd been so rude throughout the whole process that I didn't really want to send them more money. That's when they replied, among other choice words, " Admit it, you are just a bitch!"

Wow. I felt as if I had dropped a jar of pickles in a grocery store, and the store manager not only expected me to pay for them, he called me nasty names while doing so.

Something like this wouldn't have happened with a large retailer, because they ask for and double check all the necessary information. But if it somehow had, I expect the big retailer would have replaced or refunded my order right away. After all, a good reputation isn't built on charging people for things they never received, even if the customer was largely at fault. Big retailers can afford to make things right when they go wrong.

The moral of my wormy story? I certainly haven't gone sour on all small businesses on the Web -- one potty-mouthed entrepreneur doesn't speak for the rest of them. Go ahead and patronize small merchants online, but be proactive about making sure all the details are correct. If you don't get a confirmation or tracking info or you are not asked for important information during the order process, contact the company to make sure they have the info they need. Or if you don't want to do the legwork (fingerwork?), only patronize small merchants through larger sites like EBay or Amazon or Etsy.

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Guest's picture
Gienah Ghurab

I'm a little surprised to see the entirety of this in WiseBread. I think it would be better suited to a personal blog. I don't think it's very professional to air dirty laundry and / or set oneself up for cries of libel on a more professional blog.
I think the point could have been made without the ugly details.
Which isn't to say I don't feel for Carrie.

Carrie Kirby's picture

I don't want to garner sympathy -- after all, I did mess up in this case. There's certainly no risk of libel since the vendor would agree with everything I wrote -- they just disagreed that I deserved a refund. 

 I was trying to use the experience to think about what we expect from businesses, and whether we can expect the same treatment from tiny ones that we get from big ones.

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture

Wonder how THEY felt suddenly finding a box of worms on their doorstep.

Guest's picture

I would think the company is at fault for failing to provide a section of the form to address where the package should be sent to. If anything they should ask you to confirm if *** is the correct address to ship to. Not a great job at programming...

Guest's picture

It seems like it was all your fault. They shipped a product you ordered to the address provided by you to Paypal. Then you want them to give you a refund for delivering the items according to the address on file. This doesn't sound too good on your part.

Guest's picture

While I can feel for the small buisness, no matter how many times I change my address in Paypal sometimes their system does suddenly show my old address. I don't do alot of online shopping because of shipping cost & I admit I've run into some Ebay people who were rude but, I find it hard to believe these folks couldn't have reshipped the order. Their whole sale cost isn't that much - I used to run my own buisness & I couldn't believe how cheap the whole sale cost is on stuff.
Years ago I used to work at a grocery store & I remember in some training class they had "For every customer you piss off, you loose about 20 due to word of mouth." And I've found it to be true over the years. If the person at the worm place was having a bad day then they should step away from the keyboard & reply to emails later - that's what I do.

Yes, the article is a little different from most Wisebread ones but, everyone has their own writing style & I think the overall message is good. What she talks about in the article is one of the reasons I don't Ebay anymore - I just usually do Amazon or stay local.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I guess I can see both sides in this case, although it's interesting that he decided to name call. As far as there being too much detail, I think that the occasional sharing of trials and tribulations helps us keep it real with our readers. If a major TV news anchor can share her colonoscopy with the world and Ms. Winfrey has shared similar detail of  over the years, I think Carrie can share her worm story.

She was clear above about why she is sharing the story, and it isn't to rant. She is sharing this story as an illustrative example of how we expect to interact with businesses. Several authors on Wise Bread have shared detailed examples of trials on the home front. Hey, I even shared what was going on with our sewage last winter to address the issues of composting toilets and green cleaning products.

There are many examples of personal information shared in media stories, so being critical of Carrie's choice of topic in this area seems a bit off to me.

Guest's picture

I can't believe people are so negative about Carrie's side of the story (or her telling it.) The company was WAY out of line with the name calling. It really infuriated me to hear it! A (rhymes with rich) is a word thrown at women all too often. That kind of response is never necessary, or justified.

I for one, wish she had named the company so I would know to stay away from them.

Guest's picture

I can't believe people are so negative about Carrie's side of the story (or her telling it.) The company was WAY out of line with the name calling. It really infuriated me to hear it! A (rhymes with rich) is a word thrown at women all too often. That kind of response is never necessary, or justified.

I for one, wish she had named the company so I would know to stay away from them.

Guest's picture

If I had a small business, my reputation would mean something. There's this story in "The Book of Virtues" about two brothers who were cobblers. They backed their product, even to their own loss. Since the worm guy shipped to your old address in innocence, he could say, "it's not our policy to resend", and be business like about it. His second offer was a valid option. But name calling was totally unprofessional, with that he lost all credibility.

Julie Rains's picture

It would never, ever  have occurred to me that a merchant would ship to a mailing address listed on PayPal. I just checked to see if I had even listed an address on mine (I do and it's correct). I am wondering how the fulfillment works using PayPal; did the company print the label with your address? Was there a third-party doing the fulfillment? For some reason, that practice seems odd to me.

I run a business myself and encourage clients to pay (if they feel comfortable) via credit card because of the strong consumer protections associated with credit cards.

Guest's picture

First, the error was completely Carrie's fault. I just can't see how it should be the responsibility of the merchant to ensure your address is correct for your PayPal account.

But, as Olivia said above, my reputation is more important to me than a few pounds of worms.

I have had customers provide incorrect shipping addresses and had suppliers ship to incorrect addresses. Guess what folks, mistakes happen! In both cases, I made the customer whole. Normally this meant I would reship the item to the proper address and worry about finding/receiving the improperly shipped product later. As a small business, the last thing I need is customers complaining about bad customer service.

To me, and to most customers, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong: All they know is they ordered worms and they didn't get worms.

The worm company had an opportunity to establish a strong and beneficial relationship with Carrie and they failed. Think about it: If Carrie had written an article about the amazing service she received from the worm company, even after she made a mistake with her shipping address, everyone reading would be thinking about building a worm composter and purchasing worms from these folks.

By the way, I purchased a pound of redworms from SouthernBaitWorms.com. Although there was a slight error in receiving my order, once that was taken care of, I had my worms in less than 48 hours. If you buy from this company and don't receive a PayPal shipping confirmation in a day or two, give them a call to make sure they received your order. Overall, I give them a 3 for ordering, a 5 for shipping, and a 5 for worm quality when they arrived.

Guest's picture
Joe Holyoke

Not sure if you're still in the market for worms, but I have had a FANTASTIC experience with this guy: www.greenmountainsoil.com. Kurt tolerated all my obsessive questions and shipped quickly and reliable.

Guest's picture

I think this thread is a bit out of order. Not only was it your mistake but you are naming and shaming the company for calling you a name when we don't know what you said to them in your emails, so it's only one side of the story.

You knew when you ordered it that you felt something was wrong, yet you did nothing for two weeks, why didn't you contact the company the next morning to confirm the address?

I don't see any reason why the company should issue a refund or feel the need to protect their reputation when it was you that made the mistake and have now belittled them on a wide-read blog.

Very disapointing, and my respect for wisebread has gone down after reading this.

Guest's picture

On a side note, I have found paypal to be horribly unintuitive. I remember trying to change my address and credit card info and it was incredibly difficult.

Guest's picture
Dave Ross

We use PayPal to handle payments for our online business. Any company that ships to a different address than what's on your PayPal account is taking a big risk.

When a merchant logs into PayPal to view your order, there's a section at the top that says in big, bold letters "Ship to this address:". A seller has to ship to the address PayPal gives them or they forfeit protection under the Seller Protection Policy.

We lost $200 from an order, plus the (delivered) merchandise, when we took a risk and shipped to a different address. That's never happening again.

Guest's picture

I suspect the people who are surprised it would put the PayPal address as the shipping address either don't pay a lot through paypal, or certainly have never sold anything using PayPal as a form of payment. Because the PayPal users registered address or an alternative address supplied during checkout is exactly where it tells the seller to ship it.

When you make a purchase and pay via PayPal, it says right there on the screen: SHIPPING ADDRESS, based on your registered PayPal address. You have the option to change that if you're sending a gift, for example. But if the seller ships it to ANY OTHER ADDRESS other than what is confirmed during the payment step--if the buyer e-mails 10 minutes later and says, oh, can you please ship here instead, for example--they can lose the few seller protections that exist in the system.

In other words, there is no reason for a seller using paypay's checkout to ask independently for a shipping address, and it would be a bad idea to do so.

That doesn't excuse the language, of course, but I'm also pretty sympathetic to the seller for getting frustrated with a buyer trying to get a refund for something that is entirely--entirely!--the buyer's fault. Especially if the buyer continues to insist that the seller is also partial to blame, then calls them rude when they do offer to cut you a deal even though it was your fault!

Guest's picture

I have read some of the comments and I have to wonder why are you attacking the writer. She is sharing her story on the need for redundancy in everything you do and the need for small business to respect the right of consumers. At the least she is sharing a bad customer service experience. Yes this is as good a forum as any to share her story.

She did what many of us would do. She googled a product, selected a company, ordered.

This happens everyday. The problem is the company assuming that the address on her Paypal was up to date, as well as the address she wanted the product shipped too.

How often have you ordered a product/present/gift/... for someone and wanted it shipped to your home/your office/their home/their office?

If you look at it from this point of view, then you see something different.

Yes, she should have caught on a little quicker that there was no where for the address to be inputted. I don't hold her blameless.

But she is paying not only for a product (the worms) but a service (the shipping) as well which calls for the company to be more proactive.

That still doesn't excuse the rude behavior of the company by referring to her as B(*^^%.

Guest's picture

This was Carrie's fault. The company gets an order with an address; they can't spend all day checking and double-checking. Additionally, Paypal's protection policy requires that sellers only send to confirmed addresses, so a new address would have opened the seller to risk of fraud.

Furthermore small businesses don't have the margins or volume to give product away. Carrie's insistence on free goods is unreasonable. Hence the name-calling--rude, but perhaps true.

Guest's picture
Dave Ross

How often have you ordered a product/present/gift/... for someone and wanted it shipped to your home/your office/their home/their office?

I know Amazon can offer to do this, but many small retailers can't. It's not uncommon for retailers to require that you ship to your credit card's confirmed billing address.

Carrie Kirby's picture

To those who said I made the mistake in this case, it's true. I learned a $40 lesson that when you move, you need to think of EVERYWHERE to update your address, not just the most obvious places.

The point I'm trying to make is that we consumers these days are pretty spoiled -- we are used to being "always right" and having companies make sure we get what we paid for even if they end up losing money on the deal.

When dealing with smaller businesses we need to keep in mind that individual entrepreneurs may not be able to afford to eat the loss, or don't want to. So we need to be on our toes and not take for granted the kind of information doublechecks and procedures that bigger businesses have included in their sites.

I think what I also learned in this case is that -- although I would never assume that all or even many entrepreneurs have a bad attitude and a nasty mouth -- the self-employed can't be fired and you never know what you're going to get when you venture out into the world of small merchants.

Oh, and p.s. to the person who pitied the new occupants of my old apartment -- me too. Especially since my prevoius landlords only use the place as somewhere to stay when they're in the city, so they might come back after two or three weeks to find the expired worms in their foyer. At least it's been cold out!

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture

I can appreciate the author's stated intent, but I don't think your article tracks with that intent - at all.

There as plenty of stories out there about bad customer service from large companies as well - try reading through some posts at Consumerist.

If you have an axe to grind, use your own blog to vent about it. I'm surprised Wise Bread doesn't have some kind of quality control method to avoid this type of situation.

Guest's picture

This is how PayPal works! You issue the payment, usually on a screen that asks you if your information is correct (provided by PayPal). Then the company ships to the PayPal-certified address.

You've no right to foist even a little bit of the blame off on the seller. They didn't "make assumptions." They took the information you provided and used it. That you didn't keep it up-to-date is, I'm sorry, not their fault.

It's a pretty poor way of doing it to post it under the guise of "being wary of small Internet businesses" or "examining our expectations of a business". My expectation would be that they would assume any information I provided was correct, and that I should assume any responsibility for it being so.

Guest's picture

I recently purchased an item online and paid with paypal. A similar thing happened to me with the address... my parents' address showed up. I haven't lived there or had anything shipped there since summer 2004! I caught it because the seller sent me a confirmation detailing the transaction and shipping address. I was able to email them back and they sent the item to MY house which I was thankful for, but it wouldn't have been so bad since it's my parents and not some strangers.

Based on this, I think it should be seller's responsibility to send such a confirmation to their customers if they choose to sell products online and especially if they use paypal. I think it really firms up the terms of the agreement between seller and buyer. And of course it confirms the transaction which is great not just for address confirmation, it may also aid in fraudulent activity.

I think it's completely unacceptable for anyone in retail, or customer service in general, to call a customer a b****. Way out of line. What a shame for them to have lost on a potential repeat customer.

Guest's picture

The vendor is at fault for not presenting the buyer with a confirmation of the address shipping to along with the order summary before processing the order. That is a very basic concept in online shopping carts.
Most people would not know to change or update their paypal addresses unless presented with that data.
I can understand a small business not being able to eat the costs of an order. Depending on the business it can be a significant loss. The name calling was still way out of order.

I have had problems with Amazon vendors not shipping products and not wanting to tell me why. But Amazon will step in and issue a refund if the vendor refuses to hold up their end of the deal.

Feedback on Ebay does still work to a certain extent in figuring out the bad apples.

Guest's picture

Seriously though, the name calling is not necessary.

Since this is a small company, it's possible that they can't afford the refund.

But in reality, even with big companies some of us have experienced some bad customer service. I know I have.

Thanks for doing your share in preserving our environment :-)

Guest's picture

...always use credit-cards for first-time purchases with a vendor I do not know. There is no chargeback option for Paypal as there would be with Visa or MC.

I have been burned before by using Paypal with a vendor who was out of stock on an item, then never delivered, then stopped communicating. I was out about $60. Paypal said it was not the type of transaction they protected (whatever that means).

So until I have ordered and feel comfortable with a vendor, it's credit-cards only.

The whole concept of Paypal's confirmed addresses makes the address-confirmation unnecessary. I agree with some that shipping confirmations are nice, but many smaller vendors do not have very sophisticated systems and do not provide them.

The rudeness is inexcusable, although we don't know what communication from the buyer prompted it.

Guest's picture

While both sides did make mistakes, it happens all the time!! However, namecalling is never okay! This is a business trying to make money and in these economical times ~ word of mouth goes a long way!!

Guest's picture

I have seen in quite a few eBay listings that the seller will only ship to the PayPal address. If this person buys on eBay on a regular basis, then she has seen that as well.

Mistake number 1: Kirby did not update her PayPal information on a timely basis.
Mistake number 2: When the order page did not ask for a shipping address, Kirby should have immediately emailed the seller to question how they would know what address to ship to.
Mistake number 3: Expecting a small, low margin business owner to lose additional money giving you more merchandise for free because you screwed up.
Mistake number 4: Going public in a widely read blog with identifying information about the seller, perhaps to punish the seller by depriving him/her of some business? Can you spell l-i-b-e-l ?

Guest's picture

I think if what you are saying is TRUE, then it cannot be libel.

Also, bad customer service can come from small or large companies. I like to read consumerist.com to find out about how different companies treat consumers.

Guest's picture

This reminds me of when I bought my fiance a, very expensive!, book from his wishlist from Amazon. His wishlist address was out-of-date and the book was sent to his prior address and returned back to Amazon. I was refunded, but a little upset about the book. I didn't realize until I called them, what the problem was. I felt bad, and the price had increased. They were incredibly nice and even though it was against policy, shipped the book to the new address at the old price. I for one, enjoyed this warning article.

Guest's picture

I've had family run into similar problems. They ordered a Nintendo Wii and had some issues with the customer service. Though I am all about helping small businesses, you really roll the dice when you work with one. Look for online reviews (that's what Google is for), etc... for help.

Just be careful!

Great post.

Guest's picture

The problem really started when they didn't send an order confirmation. And while the customer is to blame, it's a predictable error, and the retailer should send more worms, perhaps charging again for shipping. I suggest you live up to the name they called you and do a chargeback on the credit card you used with paypal.

Guest's picture

Right or wrong up to that point, the B-word is specifically insulting to women. Sexism is also a hate crime. I can't condone the company's language no matter what led up to it.

Guest's picture

I am glad Carrie wrote the article, and that it engendered so much discussion, because I learned so much from all of it. Although I do it more and more, I am still only marginally proficient at ordering online, still have never used paypal or ebay. I am happy to have learned everything I just did about paypal, and how it works, but to expect that everyone knows all of those ins and outs is not realistic. So although I appreciate the business owners' comments, I can understand Carrie's not knowing, and suspect that a majority of the folks, even many who use paypal, don't know the intricacies of it.

I think when you do anything where you deal with lots of people you run into glitches, and responding with potty mouth is never going to be good business practice.

Guest's picture

What are the chances of a small company calling someone the "b" word and then that person blogs about it and it gets read by hundreds or thousands of people. I think it is great. Maybe these small companies need to learn they can't treat people like this and get away with it. Regardless of who is right or wrong.

Guest's picture

I wrote the company to express my dismay over their language. I didn't get called a (*****) but let's just say... they aren't a class act and clearly aren't interested in trying to restore their reputation.

Guest's picture

I'm no expert, but I haven't seen any libel lawsuits filed against bloggers because blogs are purveyors of opinion. Besides - when I read this I think to myself that oh ... this is Carrie's opinion. I'm not turning to Carrie for the meaning of life (although I do love your blogging, dear) and I'm not mistaking her for CNN.

Having said that, I don't care if Carrie was slinging expletives at this small business, the idea that a merchant would send her an email calling her a beeatch is just ... wow. Bad business. Seriously - how would you expect anyone to ever patronize your business again when you treat them with such disrespect? Whatever happened to the adage: "The customer is always right."

I work in the service industry and if I ever said anything that disrespectful, I'd be joining many others in the unemployment line.

Guest's picture

Earlier this year I arranged separate barters with three different owners of vermicompost bins. None of them had enough to spare to give me a pound, but they all had some extra. So I got my batch of worms much more cheaply than if I'd had to buy them online and pay for shipping. Plus, no errors or namecalling! In fact, it was an opportunity to build community with other like minded people. Of course, I had to give up the instant gratification we expect as "consumers." But then your story only goes to show that the gratification ain't always so instant with a credit card either.

Guest's picture

There are some thing internet buyers need to be aware of:

1) The internet will give you access to more than just storefronts. You will often find your self on websites from manufacturers, industry specific resellers, wholesalers, and many other segments of the market the end consumer doesn't normally deal with.

There's a saying in my business: "You kiss the customer's ass to close a $5 sale. To close a 5 million dollar sale, you tell them to kiss yours." As odd as it sounds to people outside the industry, for those of us in that market, truer words have never been spoken. Business etiquette varies greatly in different segments of the market, not everyone is there to be polite and cater to your every desire. They are there to take the money and to do anything not to lose that money.

Most consumers equate online sales to retail sales and bring those expectations with them. If this company you mention deals primarily to industry, they simply may not share that view. Coarse language is only the tip of the iceberg is some industries. Still, it is the business' job to understand the expectations of their clients and accommodate. I agree, this specific case sounds like unnecessary rudeness more than a clash of business cultures, but be aware, "the customer's always right" line doesn't fly in many industries. Friendly and outgoing businesses always get put on the bottom of the accounts payable stack. They're less likely to make a big deal out these problems and everyone else takes advantage of that. Many sales people are actually trained to assert themselves in a rude and hostile manner to scare off nuisance complaints and avoid frivolous litigation. It sounds contrary to most reasonable expectations, but be prepared to encounter it online.

2) I've seen multi-billion dollar corporations with half-assed websites, and guys running small businesses out of their garage who own the definitive website for their industry. Before making a purchase, try to determine the scale of the business. It's not always obvious. Look for a line card (a link that says "About Us" or "Company History") and read it. Look at available quantities and make a judgment based on how much business you think they do. Are you the type of customer they usually serve?

In the case of the Worm guys, does he sell to home gardeners primarily, or does he service plant nursery chains, waste management companies, pharmaceutical companies, universities, etc...

Regardless of their scale, most companies will still deal with individuals for small sales. However, these small sales may actually cost the company so significantly in time and resources (especially if a complaint arises) that your patronage is not important to them. Again, this doesn't sound like the case here. A large scale company would never use paypal, and if their time actually was valuable, you'd have gotten an impersonal form letter in response detailing exactly what their policy is. Instead you got a very personal e-mail that would only encourage you to respond in a way that takes even more of their time. This is clearly a lack of professionalism on their part. Still, be open to the possibility that some websites barely break even on small sales to the general public. Many of them gain nothing by dealing with you except hopefully a good recommendation.

For example, many years ago, I worked for a manufacturing plant. We sold our product to the public through distribution firms, but in keeping with the company's local tradition, people could always come to our door and buy what the needed directly. The old-timers loved that we still did that and it made us seem more involved in the local community. Yet having people in production drop what their doing (at a $20/hr rate) and tend to a $5 sale was actually a net loss. The good PR was worth it and it generated some much larger orders, but in terms of monetary expense, it was more a charitable service than a division of our business.

Many online sellers use their websites as a front-end for sales to keep their name in industry papers, and to circulate their reputation to a pool of potential hires. This is often done at a loss.

Many people believe they are doing the company a favor by giving them their business. There is an immediate expectation of gratitude. This is not always the case. Still, the whole purpose of offering such services is to build a good reputation, something this company obviously failed to do.

3) Paypal caters to shady businesses. The dispute process is weighted heavily against the consumer as disputes cut into paypal's resources and profits as well. While they are convenient and secure, they also provide a safe haven for con-artists, thieves and bad businesses in general. If there are multiple options for payment, paypal is just there as a convenience to the customers who already have accounts. If that is the only payment option, that's a big red flag, look elsewhere to make your purchase. The one notable exception to this is eBay where virtually everything is sold via paypal.

4) Always use your own courier account. If you don't have one, get one.

Reason One: Practically everyone online these days pads their shipping charges by $3-$4 at least. If you buy 10 things online, you've payed for the account and everything past that is savings.

Reason Two: Your address info is always correct and drop-shipping can be used for gift purchases to save additional money. You can Log your tracking data on all purchases in one place and change the package destination en-route if needed. You can choose to require a signature and have permanent delivery instructions. Basically, you have control over packages without going back to the seller.

Reason Three: When you request your account be used for shipping, most sellers assume your are ordering from a business. You are now a potentially lucrative business contact to them rather than a nuisance order. What you order may only be a few dollars right now, but for all they know, it may be the first of many larger orders. The level of service you receive will be much greater. Many sellers will send you free samples of their other products, offer additional discounts, basically anything to get your return business. You may have to call them on the phone to request the change in shipping method, but it's a common practice amongst businesses to require that of their vendors so don't by shy about asking.

In this case, the appropriate action for the business would have been to send an e-mail stating the following:

"We are sorry to hear of this problem with your order. Your business is valuable to us.

As the package was delivered to the address we were provided, we are unable to refund the cost of shipping. However, we recognize the good faith you have showed us in choosing our company. As such, I have been authorized to resend your order at our wholesale cost {estimate here}. Please place order code: XX1234 in the instruction line of your next order and I will apply the discount. We will expedite your order immediately upon it's arrival.

If you have further questions you may contact me via e-mail {address@here} or phone 555-555-5555.

Thank you again for your business,

Notice, the letter is fair and accommodating without using words like "I apologize" or anything that would imply the company was at fault. The company would be out no money, and most customers would be willing to accept those terms. Simply stating that you appreciate the customer's business goes a long way. I've done it 3 times in that short letter.

Still some customers believe they are entitled to be the beneficiary of any and every mistake, regardless of where the fault lies. Many people would harass the business with followup e-mails, trying to negotiate better terms or a refund without returning the product. In one section of the letter I say "I have been authorized..." that implies there is someone else the customer can speak with. Hand the phone off to some one else and have them paraphrase the same letter. The customer may see things from your perspective, or just get frustrated and give up. Either way, problem solved. In some rare circumstances, the customer will persist in calling and writing the company. Even then, don't start name calling, especially not in an e-mail where they'll be armed with a written record of your lack of professionalism. Think what you will about people, but don't say it, it gains you nothing.

Guest's picture

Of course cursing at a customer is never ever warranted.

But the error was made by the buyer. Paypal sows you the ship to address during checkout. Then after you purchase you'll get a receipt that also shows the ship to address. I don't think the seller is to blame for not asking that the information the buyer gave them is what they really meant. Given that the buyer made the mistake I think asking for a refund isn't fair and you shouldn't expect one.

The customer is not always right.

Guest's picture

Okay, sure, use the default address on Paypal. But at least advise the customer that THAT'S the address you'll be shipping to. A company should always confirm a shipping address, ESPECIALLY if they are shipping something LIVE. Give me a break.

Guest's picture

Sounds like an unfortunate collision of mistakes on both sides, but you would think the business would want the positive word-of-mouth for fixing the mixup, rather then the negatve word-of-mouth they got with this post . . .

If you go up againest the system or big business, here are my tips: http://divorceddadfrugaldad.com/2008/12/03/if-you-face-goliaths---.aspx

Guest's picture

It is truly unforunate that carrie failed to state what REALLY HAPPENED and what REALLY was said. carrie was EXTREMLY aggressive and threatening to do, as she has done with her blogs, a smear campaign from the very beginning of discovering that she provided the wrong address. I followed EVERY possible road with her VERY politely and even offered up the complete dialog and tracking numbers for people who think they should be involved to see for themselves ALL the facts. Carrie edited them with a hachet!

My ONE comment at the very end of our ordeal and extreme frustration was to say that "I give up, you just don't get it, you were wrong and yet we still tried to please you. I guess there is no pleasing you. I guess you are just a bit.. I knew after I pushed send I should not have lost my cool, but she is NO sweet,calm, quiet, home Momma.My apologies to my sisterhood, but in her words,it's not libel if it's true!

Guest's picture

You provided the wrong shipping address by not updating your paypal. How is this the companies fault? Sure they could have sent an email asking for confirmation but the point of using paypal is that YOU provide the shipping address so that steps like that are unnecessary. Carrie this mistake is 100% on your shoulders, and when you post things like this it makes you look petty and stupid. Sure the business owner shouldn't have name called but I'm guessing there is a side to this we aren't seeing, like you're emails to the company in question.

Bottom line you're mistake, you should have paid again. If it were my company I'd have met you half way maybe with free worms if you paid the shipping just to keep some customer satisfaction.

I'm really surprised this is on wisebread. This is something for a personal blog especially considering the fact that it's the writers fault!

Tisha Tolar's picture

I got so wrapped up in this post...I just had to comment.

What it comes down to is customer service. Right or wrong...complete or incomplete addresses and orders - the whole ball of wax comes back to the company. As a small business owner I could never even conceive of treating any customer or client in such a manner as these worm people have done. Regardless of what transpired, this company''s so-called management team have just embarrassed themselves beyond repair. While they may be disgruntled at the feedback they recieved concerning their business practices, they had absolutely no right to get personal. Name-calling was just the additional proof that this company is not capable of handling business without getting personal and will not be able to provide good customer service when some waves are made. They can claim good ratings all they want but the proof is in their own emails.

If a company can not provide and does not promote good customer service over a box of worms, how can any other consumer expect fair treatment or (god forbid) quality customer service at any point? while I also can get frustrated with clients that don't pay or the constant complainers, I remain dignified and polite and then vent to my business partners later in private. It sounds like these wing dings couldn't get past proving some moot point to anyone they thought was listening.

Geez louise - I am sorry you had to go through such crap.

Guest's picture

"Don't call people names" is pretty basic manners. Other people are in charge of whether they're rude, you're in charge of your response, is how we explain it to our preschooler.

Unfortunately, part of the "character" of local business and small business is that they are mostly good at what they do, not at customer service. I patronize them anyway, but the level of rudeness and general crazy from our local used bookstores, farm supply stores, and corner stores would *never* fly in Corporate America. On the other hand, they return more of their dollars to the local economy and make our neighborhood safer just by existing. It's a tradeoff.

Guest's picture

I've totally had this problem more than once when paying via Paypal. Specifically, my shipping address is different than my billing address because I cannot receive UPS and FedEx at my home. So click, click, and suddenly I realize that something's going to the wrong address. The last time, I *immediately* sent an email to Moo - which they replied to after they'd already shipped my business cards to my home address. Luckily, they were coming via the US Postal Service, so I lucked out and received them just fine.

I have tried to train myself to be extra vigilant when paying via Paypal, but it's just really easy to miss that you need to make sure Paypal is sending the correct shipping address - And yes, it's because you think that the vendor is going to ask for your shipping address and then after you complete the order you're like, Hey! Wait a minute...

Carrie Kirby's picture

In case anyone is still stumbling across this post, I wanted to link to where I posted all my emails exchanged between the company and me. The emails are in the comments section:


The reason I'm putting this up here is because I just noticed that Best Buy Worms found this post and is mischaracterizing our communications. 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture

I came across this as I was googling Best Buy Worms. Made me chuckle, all this chatter. I have bought from them several times over the last year as I am transforming my old backyard wasteland into an English cottage garden and there was not a single living thing in the soil - their garden variety is the best, lots of worms and healthy soil now - and I used Paypal. Every transaction was smooth. I like using Paypal for the very reason you don't have to enter all that information every time.

Guest's picture

I have a very similar issue. I sell and buy things on ebay every week. I recently moved (prior to begin selling) and did everything I needed to do correctly. I placed a mail forward with USPS before moving out, I updated my addresses with my banks, employers, credit card companies, ebay AND paypal. I applied for the Paypal debit card (top save myself 3-5 days each time i wanted to access my paypal funds as cash) and an account limit was placed because a debit card I once had on there was no longer valid. It was no longer valid because I had lost it and had to order another one, and the address (the old address) on THAT card didn't match the NEW address I was requesting my card be sent to. So I call them and they ask me a ton of questions to verify my identity and my address. I even added a NEW credit card on my paypal account to update my address and clarify and remove the limitation. Once settled in to my new house, I begin making several ebay purchases (7) things for myself, my 18 mos old son, my husband etc. Days go by and I haven't received anything yet. I am pretty busy for a young mom. I work full time, Go to school online full time, support and care for my family, home, and my ebay side business of clearing out my closet. None of my packages have arrived. I check the tracking numbers, they have been delivered. I contact the seller, I contact USPS, I contact paypal, I contact ebay. Apparently, after SEVERAL requests to change my address, when sellers buy a shipping label, paypal provides them with the address of the card that DOES NOT WORK on my account and have asked for them to remove and they havent since. Claiming it has been done. Paypal says its MY fault for not checking the ship to address. okay, maybe it IS my fault- but when I print up 4-5 labels DAILY and my RETURN ADDRESS is my new address, WHY IN THE HELL would they ship to my old address? and If I had done everything I needed to do, why would I even think of double checking the little section only a few shades darker (a light gray) if my shipping address is correct? I had already made the request to change it several times online and over the phone. Now I'm out hundreds of dollars in merchandise, paypal refuses to take responsibility and in fact tried opening a case against a seller in my behalf to refund the money on an item not yet received. At this point, I've filed a police report for my "lost" packages, submitted a complaint to the California Attorney General's Office against paypal and have begun an investigation with USPS as to why they haven't FORWARDED my mail from the last address If I provided them with my CC# and the $1 fee it takes to make these changes online. So frustrated right now. Good lck wth your worms