HmmmOrdering picture frames online responsibly ? What’s the responsibility for, or about, most folks would say. You place an online order, you pay, you get your stuff and that’s it. There are no duties, obligations or responsibilities, right? Wait, not so fast, we would respond. While not a face-to-face personal interaction, ordering online is a human activity that does carry some responsibilities. This is because we approach and interact with others asking them to do something for us, even if it’s electronically and not personally. And when interact with others under any circumstances, it pays to be nice, doesn’t it? Have you ever found that in life, the nicer you are to others, the nicer they are to you?
We certainly have and we find that not only it make our Customers and ourselves better, but that it’s also good business. Some years back we took a bit of gamble and decided to invest in developing an online store and to make our picture frame available online.
Well, since then we have learned a lot and this is because our Customers taught us a lot. The sum of these lessons and experiences is detailed below as a small compendium of etiquette of online ordering. While not everyone might agree with our observations, certainly vouch for them.
a) Be nice and polite in your communications. We teach our children the basics of good manners such as, please, thank you, may I, excuse me, etc., but this is often strangely lacking in online order, notes, emails and messages.
Peremptory and blunt orders and commands, rather than polite instructions, such as: “If you can’t deliver on Monday don’t bother” , “Must deliver to Mailroom in 14th floor” , “Has to be here by Friday” , are becoming all too commonplace.
Perhaps the fact the writers of these commands can do so remotely and impersonally, rather than being close and personal, may be factor in this impolite habit. Be that as it may, we feel that it is simple common sense that if everyone treated others as they themselves would like to be treated, there would be greater co-operation, efficiency and better Customer experience all round.
b) Respect the Online Store’s Terms and Conditions. By respecting, we mean taking notice of and heeding what an online store can or cannot do. But many Customers do not do this or take any notice of store prompts or warnings. A good instance of this is when a Customer orders our A0 Frame, such as the one in Raw Oak below:
Once the frame is added to the Shopping Cart, the shipping option becomes unavailable, and instead, the large, red text, Customer warning which is shown below, displays:
By the way, the reason we cannot ship these large, window-sized frames is that it’s impossible to deliver them safely. Either the glass , the frame or both, get damaged or broken in transit. We tried shipping these many times in the past and it just won’t work, no matter how much we package or bubble wrap the parcel.
In addition, none of our Couriers and freight contractors will accept this huge, glazed frame for shipping. Now, we believe that any ordinary, reasonable Customer would understand the above Shopping Cart warning message clearly and unambiguously, as we are sure anyone reading this post also would.
But about 20% of the Customers who buy these large A0 Frames, apparently don’t, because soon after the purchase, they either email or telephone us requesting delivery. And these are some of the reasons they straight-facedly give us:
1) They do not have a car or do not drive, 2)They have a car but don’t want to risk breaking the glass, 3)They have a car abut it’s too small to accommodate the big A0 frame, 4) They can’t drive to collect the frame because of COVID-19 lockdowns, 5) They did not see the Shopping Cart warning, so our online store must have been faulty,
6) The Shopping Cart showed no shipping cost or charge, so it must be have been a free delivery purchase, 7) The frame is so “expensive” that purchasing it must include free delivery, 8) Amazon gives free delivery to all their online purchases, surely we do it as well? 9)The husband, the wife, or both are elderly or frail and cannot put such a big frame in their car.
We could go on but enough is here to evidence a rather sad state of affairs where some Customers cannot or will not accept an online store’s rules and seek to ignore or avoid them. This hardly augurs good, working Customer relationships and is often a cause of problems, misunderstandings and disputes.
Another common ordering error is the ignoring the minimum ordering quantity required to make orders eligible for shipping. Take for instance our popular A3 (29.7x42cms) Black Wood Shadow Box Frame (mat fits A4 21×29.7cm pic) clear glass below:The above shadow box frame is one of several, larger frames, which, in their product description, prominently display the below red text warning on yellow background. Regrettably, in perhaps 40% of all orders, this warning either goes unnoticed or is disregarded.
Our closing remark and suggestion as to this and other similar ordering problems is to read the the online store's Terms and Conditions, heed any warnings or prompts, and abide by them. This will make for a better and more enjoyable shopping experience all round.
c) Enter a valid and complete residential or commercial shipping address excluding Post Office boxes. Generally speaking, online stores developers design billing and shipping forms with particular care and a great deal of thought. Webmasters also know that they have to keep these forms simple, easy and efficient to avoid or lessen cart abandonments.
However the basic information fields such as house number, street name, suburb or town or postcode must always be correctly filled in. At the same time, a Shopping Cart's form’s verification script will usually check the submitted fields and suggest, or try to prevent most errors with messages, prompts or warnings.
However, when Customers omit some essential information, or proffer invalid and, or, incomplete addresses such as 1 Main St., Richmond ( no State or Postcode ) we have to contact them to seek clarifications or an updated address.
While this is part and parcel of normal, commercial, online Store's Administration, it has the potential of delaying parcels, which is always a negative Customer experience. Going forward, if a full, valid and deliverable address is the single, most important factor in parcel deliveries, a close second is the Proof of Delivery Signature (POD) protocol.
This protocol is so critical that most online stores, including ours, will not deliver to addresses where a POD may be unobtainable. These locations usually include Post Office Boxes, Parcel Lockers, Mail Boxes Roadside Mail Boxes where Customers are likely to be absent or unavailable to provides their PODs to Couriers.
This is why when a Customer enters a word or words which include “Post Office Box” , “ PO Box” , Mail Box, Locker, Box, or similar, our Shopping Cart displays the below Customer warning:
The POD system is a vital and integral component of parcel deliveries which must be observed, maintained and enforced. It has almost eliminated lengthy and costly delivery disputes and is of enormous benefit to both Merchants and Customers.
Merchants like it because it prevents inattentive or forgetful Customers from claiming for undelivered parcels, when their delivery signatures are on record. Customers also like it because it prevents negligent Couriers from claiming that they delivered parcels if they cannot produce Customers’ signatures.
Nevertheless the occasional Customer still try to circumvent this rule by adding invalid Post Office delivery instructions to an order’s “Special Shipping Notes” .
A couple of these that we have had to query and rectify are: “if not at home deliver to XYZ PO Box “ or “ If not at home Thursdays & Fridays, take to the at local Post Office”. A last observation we need to make about Post Offices is that many Customers seem to feel or think that Post Offices are public, benevolent institutions that accept, help or otherwise facilitate parcel deliveries to anyone whenever they may be.
Alas, nothing could be further from the truth. In the main, Post Offices are franchised or licensed postal office businesses licensed by Australia Post with around 2900 throughout Australia. All of these entities are profit-making commercial enterprises with the principal concern being of running at a profit, or making money.
You can take it as gospel truth that no Post Office Manager or Licensee will accept, sign for, forward on or deliver parcel who are not Australia Post‘s or its affiliates. And if you think about it, why should they? They’re in the business of making money for their franchise and their principal, and not for their competitors.
d) Don’t lowball, be a cheapskate, or ask for discounts from online store with published prices. Online stores price their products keenly, always eyeing competitors and very conscious of economic conditions and market forces. They generally offer very competitive prices with regular sales, periodic specials and quantity discounts. A good example is our A2 Natural Wood Poster Frame below:
Discounted at $16.64 ( x12 ) each, these A2 Frames are most likely the cheapest of their kind in Australia, yet some people still ring us with questions such as ” I’ve seen those at a Salvation Army thrift Shop for $5 each, will you match the price ?”
Quite apart from the unreasonableness, if not downright absurdity, of such queries, our sales staff processing orders or answering discounting enquiries generally have no control or discretion over hard-code, product prices. Customers insisting to speak to a Manager because they are buying half a dozen or a dozen inexpensive frames, or in “bulk”, are really wasting everyone’s time, including their own.
And so are the requests of wanting to buy “wholesale” from an online retail store because the inquirer is an artist, craftsperson, sole trader or has an ABN. We will also add to this uneligibilty list the unsolicited, but regular and insistent phone calls from charities asking for donations of free picture frames or poster frames because it’s for a “good cause”.
Worse still is the disappointing miserliness displayed by some Customers. We have had Customers agreeing with us that a certain price for a particular picture frame was the cheapest that they could find. Yet, the same Customers blithely and brazenly asked for a still lower price or a further discount. All we can say is that our Sales Staff always deploys much skill and practice to remain calm, courteous and polite during such sales inquiries.
e) Reading and replying to an online store’s, messages, warning, emails and notifications. We have had several confused or angry Customers demanding to know why we failed or cancelled their orders. Yet, and this goes without saying, sales are the commercial lifeblood which sustain our business and we never cancel orders easily, lightly or nonchalantly.
The most common cause of an order cancellation is a Bank’s declinal of payment authorization. Whenever this happens we sent out a copy the order together with the below notification:
|Notification : Your Action is Required : Payment Declined for Order #123456|
We regret but Payment was Declined for this order. The supplied Card details are below under Special Note to Customer for your review. If there were insufficient funds, please check with your Bank. If incorrect Card details were submitted, kindly update us by using our safe and secure Contact page. We will continue to re-submit the given Card for 7 days. If payment declinal persists, this order will fail and be cancelled. Please save this email for your records.The Customer Service Team.
As well as sending out the above notification we also text the Customer to check his or her inbox and to reply. When we receive no email, phone call or reply of any kind, then, and as advised above, we fail and cancel the order. Not infrequently we get an annoyed, and sometime abusive phone call, demanding to know why an order was cancelled.
Another example of Customer not reading our notifications is their almost habitual request for refunds after orders cancellations. Whenever we cancel an order we send out the below, explanatory notification, which many Customer either fail to read or take little notice of:
|Notification : Failure and Cancellation of Order # 123456|
We regret but we could not process this order and we failed it because of one of these reasons: a) It included unshippable products, b) We received no reply to our email notifications, c) The Customer requested it, d) We did not receive payment, e) We could not satisfactorily fulfil or ship it. Note that no refund is owing as we did not process this order nor did we charge anything. If this was an error, there is no need to ring us, but simply place a new order as we can no longer access the Card details. Please save this email for your records.The Customer Service Team.
Yet another inconvenience is Customers wanting for orders to be delivered after receiving the below notification.
|Notification : Completion and Collection Details for Order # 123456|
Thank you for this order which we have now completed. This Customer Collect or Store Pick-Up order is now available at our business address shown below awaiting your collection. It is unpackaged and unwrapped and can be collected by you, or your delegated agent, who can provide us with the details of this order.Customer collect orders ought not be collected by couriers or freight carriers and we will not be responsible for any transit loss or damage. Please save this email for your records and come back soon!The Customer Service Team.
The notification is sent after an order has been processed by a Customer who opted for the Customer Collect or Store Pick Up option instead of the Shipping option. Since Customers receive copies of all notifications, and why they should then want free deliveries after they opted to personally collect their order, is a source of puzzlement to us.
Another store and shopping cart warning frequently overlooked by Customers is our minimum order value requirement shown below:
It’s not uncommon for Customer to ring us complaining that they only want 1 or 2 frames and they don’t like being “forced” to buy more. They sometimes insist to speak to the Manager wanting to know why we can’t we just take down their phone order, go to the Post Office and mail them their frames.
We do try to explain that we send out hundreds of parcels and that our dispatch, shipping and parcels management system does not and cannot rely or work with ordinary letters, mail, or post. We do not send employees in trucks with bags or trolleys to Post Offices, instead our Couriers come to us for daily pick-ups, but in many cases our explanation fall on deaf ears and we just get hung up on.
Yet another administrative difficulty is dealing with Customers who do not read information readily at hand. As an instance, let’s take our A4 Black Wood Certificate Frame (suits 21×29.7cm paper) with (CG) Clear Glass and Stand below.
We have Customers contacting our Administration and asking question such as a) Is the material wood, b) is the glass real glass or plastic, c) do you have stock, d) do you give discounts c) how thick is the frame, just to name a few.
A review of the product page contents above shows that the requested information is already readily available in the product's page, its description, and that each and all of those questions are answered simply by reading the information provided.
It suffices to say that if buyers and Customers were more attentive to their emails, phone texts, communications and online information most if not all of these issues would simply disappear.
f) Check and abide by an online store’s payment methods. Online stores are very specific and exact on how and with whom they want to be paid. Most, like our own store, offer all the main, recognized and nationally accepted, Credit Cards, Debits Cards, as well as Electronic Funds Transfer, or Bank Deposit, payment methods.
All these options are present, evident and highly visible at the Checkout’s Payment Page. Yet, some would-be buyers stop at that page and ring our Office wanting to know if they can pay by COD, Paypal, Western Union, China Pay, or some other unknown, obscure or foreign payment methods.
In common with other e-commerce sites, we give a lot of thought and put a lot of hard work to successfully integrate with payment gateway and partners. If we do not offer a particular payment method, there’s always a very good reason for it. For instance, we don’t offer Paypal because that facility mostly suits smaller Merchants who don’t have their own Merchant EFTPOS facility, but we do so, we don’t need it.
We don’t offer COD either becauese all the Couriers we use and know of, are transport professionals whose job is to deliver parcels, none of them collect money or goods payments if any kind. As for Western Union and the rest, why would use slow and expensive third parties to receive payments when our own Bank can do it for us faster and at a cheaper price?
g) Don’t ring online stores asking them to hold back, keep aside, or reserve goods without wanting to pay for them. This seems to be an issue common with a lot of e-commerce sites that sell home wares and household décor items such as picture frames and poster frames.
From time to time we get callers who don’t want to buy our frames. They just want us to “put them aside“ for them so that they may come and look at them as some future date. Well, this is a big no-no with most stores, especially with e-commerce sites and online stores. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first one is that often, the callers often never become Customers. By that we mean that they never show up to order or pick up the frames we put aside for them. The second one is that we pay to advertise online with Google Adwords, Bing Ads, eBay and other media and search engines.
We pay so that users may click on our ads to be taken to our online store where they will hopefully convert their visits to purchases. However there are times when we may have limited stock of a particular frame. Say for instance that we have only 10 or so left of our very popular 12"x18" White Wood Poster Frames below and a caller rings us asking to put those last 10 frames aside.
But if we do that what the caller wants, we will be unable to fulfil any online orders that may come for those frames. That means not only that we can lose online sales, but also that we’ve wasted our advertising dollars for that product. We rest our case.
h) Take notice of shipping costs. From time to time we get Customers either emailing or ringing our Office complaining that we charged them “too much” for shipping. In all honestly, we can't accept, or for that matter, understand, these complaints, and here’s why.
When Customers order our picture frames or other products online and want them shipped, it is quick and easy for them to ascertain the shipping cost. F or example, below is the Shopping Cart screen showing the shipping cost for an AFL Football Display Case to Sydney, NSW, 2000.
As it can be seen from above, all Customer has to do is to fill the Postcode field, wait for the Suburb or Town to populate and the click Estimate Shipping for the cost to display. He or she can then decide whether to continue to Checkout and complete the order, or to simply leave the store.
i) Asking for a free and immediate picture frame replacement after a transit or shipping damage. Our A3 Black Wood Ready-Made Picture Frame (suits 29.7x42cm paper) & Clear Glass below is one of our most popular and top selling poster frames.
We pack and ship this frame almost daily and it gets delivered pretty much all over Australia. Unfortunately, no matter how well we pack and bubble wrap parcels there will always be some that get damaged. Some Couriers stack parcels about 3 metres inside high roof vans, and when a parcel containing a frame with glass drops to the ground from that height, the glass often cracks.
When that happens we receive a claim for the glass breakage, which is fair enough. But some Customers expect, demand and insist for a free and immediate picture frame replacement. But this is something that we do not do and have never done, for a couple of good reasons.
The main reason is that it is pointless to ship out a glass replacement which could also get broken transit and would leave the Customer better off. Our policy to make good a Customer’s loss is to refund the Customer for the damage incurred. This we do readily and regularly.
The other good reason is that we explain this policy of ours to all Customers before they complete their online purchase. We then advise them not to submit their order unless they understand and agree to our Terms and Conditions , as shown in the below screenshot:
As evidenced by the above information, Customers insisting on being shipped free replacements, have either forgotten or are disregarding their earlier acceptance of our Terms and Conditions by which they had already agreed to purchase with us
j) Collecting orders instead of abandoning them. Part and parcel of responsible online ordering is picking up any click-and-collect orders that Customers place online. We realize that a busy life or life events can often impact our commitments but it's never a good idea of simply not collecting, or forgetting about Customer Collect orders.
There are several good reasons why this is so. The first and most obvious one is that Customers risk losing their goods and the money they have paid for them, as our laws go by. Legally, Consumer Affairs Victoria has jurisdiction over our trading because this online store's trading address is in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The Consumer Affairs Victoria's website gives guidelines with regard to abandoned, or low-value uncollected goods, worth less $200, which is the majority of our uncollected orders. These require our store, or any vendor or merchant for that matter, to contact Customers advising them, and giving them notice of an intention to dispose of any uncollected orders or goods.
It is our policy to always contact Customers after orders remain uncollected for 6 months or more. We email them a Disposal Notice urging them to come and collect their orders or, at the very least, to get in touch with us.
If their orders still remain uncollected, and we do not hear from them after 30 days, then we dispose of these. In most cases, we simply donate the goods to the local charity or Salvation army thrift shop. Thank you for reading this post "Ordering picture frames online responsibly".