On-line shopping frustrations…

Recently my wife and I spent a few hours in several stores looking for a bed skirt (dust ruffle, if you prefer) with a 20” drop. We raised our bed so that our dog Sadie could crawl under it easier when she gets scared by fireworks or thunder.  So now we need a 20”-drop bed skirt. Try finding that in your general purpose stores like Walmart or Target or Kohl’s. They carry all sorts of standard 14” and 15” drop bed skirts for all sizes of beds, but not 20” drops.

Unlike many people who I know, I generally like shopping for things on-line. It’s really amazing how you can find even the most obscure stuff for sale somewhere by someone. Sometimes that can be a problem, especially since you have no idea if those someone’s are honest or not or whether they will actually deliver the product or stand behind it if it needed to be returned.  That’s where big, trusted aggregators’ sites like eBay and Amazon come in. They supposedly create a trusted shopping environment that takes care of things like payments and returns and disputes.

So, off I went on my on-line search for 20” drop bed skirts. Just type that into Google or Bing and you’ll get lots of responses. Many of the sites that popped up I the results didn’t really have bed skirts with 20” drops, just lots of regular bed skirts. That’s one drawback of the search engines – they don’t always do a good j0ob of filtering out things to match your exact search input. After some human filtering I found what looked like a good deal on what I was looking for on eBay. They had 20” drop bed skirts in the size that I need in stock and at a reasonable price.

I tried to buy the bed skirt, but had to end up abandoning the shopping cart (hear that eBay, another abandoned shopping cart) because the eBay shopping cart application insisted on not allowing me to check out unless I acknowledged that I had earlier set up an account with the same email address that I tried to use this time.  I vaguely recall signing up for an account many months ago, while trying to buy something else; but, I have long since forgotten what password I might have used. Besides that, I checked the box that said that I wanted to check out as a Guest and not using my account. I left and the bed skirt went un-purchased (hear that eBay bed skirt purveyor).

I suppose that I could have gone back and checked out as a Guest using another email address (like many people I’ve ended up with 3-4 email accounts), but the point was and is that eBay’s system is not customer friendly. If the app asked me on the way into the checkout process if I wanted to check out as a Guest, it should have allowed that, no matter what my email address. Had the shopping cart app even given me another chance to refuse to sign into my account and check out as a Guest, instead; I would have completed the purchase. But, because the eBay Shopping Cart app insists that I sign into an account that I really don’t need or care about any more and will not let me proceed unless I do; I will find my bed skirt elsewhere.

There’s a lesson in here for eBay and other on-line sites. You still need to provide a customer-centric shopping experience, not one that forces the customer to bend to your needs or rules. I appreciate that you have a record of my last visit in your database and that I might have even signed up for an account at some time in the past; however, this is now and I just wanted to get in and out and be done with this shopping trip as quickly and easily as possible (sort of like at a real store). If you keep throwing up a bunch of roadblocks just to meet your own needs; as they say in New Jersey – Furgetaboutit!

I get Website Magazine, because I’m a Webmaster myself for five informational sites (as opposed to the transactional sites that I’m writing about here). The latest issue talks about shopping cart abandonment as the biggest problem facing internet merchants. According to the story in Website Magazine 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before the transaction is completed. I wonder how many are abandoned for something as stupid as my experience with eBay. Have any of you had similar experiences you’d like to share?

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