Fall is here and there is a chill in the air. Small business everywhere are excited and looking forward to an upswing in Holiday sales. Even though a lot of us are struggling to be or stay in business we still have to put our best self forward. I know it is hard but think positive and keep setting goals for yourself, your place of business and your life.
Most of all beware of phony Internet scams and phony orders. I recently had an experience that was a real eye opener. When times are tough we need business and most of us are prepared to do just about anything to get it. Well be careful when it comes to sales that seem to be too good to be true.
I hate to say it, but if it seems too good to be true, that is probably because it is.
I am fairly optimistic and it has been brought to my attention that I am a bit of a risk taker. So, when I received an email asking about my gift baskets from a company that appeared to be from California. I was excited. I was thinking this is just what I need to put a cap on my first year in business and take me to the next level.
I checked out the website and it was legitimate. This made me very happy. Several emails went back and forth with my contact at this company and all appears to be going well. He (I think it was a he) is very pleasant, professional and easy to work with. I always thought Martha Stewart would be the first one to contact me... (see my stuff online and put me to work, HEY ! you never know !) Anyways, it wasn't Martha but I was so excited. I have been thinking about how to go about getting just this kind of sale. I make my own gift baskets. I shop for the components and put them together myself. So, I can tell you exactly what is in them and where the items come from. In my secret heart of hearts I know that someday this will matter to someone. SO, I get an email with a possible order for 97 of the same basket. I hadn't thought of this. I was thinking 8-10 of a few different baskets. I haven't sold 97 of anything to the same person. So, I get to work ! I contact all of my vendors and find out that I cannot get most of the components for the basket. I am nervous. Back up plan into effect: I put together a few other possibilities in different color schemes for the same price Phew ! I hope he goes for it. He does ! Am I lucky or what ?
Or What.... we will get to that later.
So, moving right along suddenly I realize that I have no idea how to ship this many items and am scared to death. I contact him again (thinking o.k. Vicky this time he is going to cancel) and let him know that I have never shipped this large of an order and will have to have all of the particulars in order to avoid an error. And I figure now is the time to break it down: I also need half of the money up front and the other half before the order ships and by the way how will you be paying ? Because I will need to verify your payment.
He is so helpful. He emails me a contact that will actually come and pack the items and ship them. So, I contact them, they also appear to be very professional. Except for one thing; when I get the quote back it is for $2800.00 to Ghana ? Where the heck is Ghana ? I'm a city girl and little bit of a ding dong, I'm thinking it might still be in California ! But, I do start to get suspicious....
I call my bank first and ask them have they heard about this sort of thing ? Not really by my description. How are they paying ? I tell them by Credit Card. She tells me most of the scams she has heard of are by Cashiers Check. My hackles are still up.... She thinks Ghana is somewhere near Russia...
I call the local city center and get kind of the same thing. They haven't heard of anything, and small businesses need to take risks to get ahead. She tells me that some companies order items like this to donate. By this time my radar is going off big time and as my husband can attest once it does Good Luck getting it off.
I call the Attorney General, and end up talking to various other agencies. They are not so sure, I should try talking to the person on the phone and see what I think. I am thinking this could put me out of business and anyone can be anything over the phone. That isn't going to cut it.
I am thinking this order is looking good but my intuition is in knots.
I made a last ditch effort and got on my computer and put in "basket scams Ghana" or something like that. And there it was entry after entry of all kinds of scams. What I learned by these listings is this: even if you really need the sale don't ever take a credit card over the phone unless you already know the client. If you do YOU are liable. And many businesses have lost thousands of dollars from doing this.
There is no shipping company. It is the same people that contacted you in the first place. So if you did a transaction like this you would be out the entire amount plus whatever you put out for the inventory. One business man said the first two transactions were legit and then they got him with a big order. I am guessing that the poor people whose credit cards were used, never noticed so it was never reported. So, the transaction never came back to the bank.
It is the holiday season ! We should be having fun decorating our websites, shops and fan pages. So add this to your "arsenal" and don't do it ! Check into it. If it still sounds fishy, keep checking. If you cant verify information let it go and look forward to that big sale, it will come if you are smart and still in business ! It cant come if you aren't. And anyways I really wanted Martha to be my first big contact anyways....