Sunday

PayPal Quietly Announces Price Changes

At the outset, I have to admit that I'm a big fan of PayPal. I've used PayPal long before eBay purchased them - even before they were PayPal when they were x.com. (Now you know where the PayPal X comes from). I'm grateful that they enabled me, as a small business, to accept credit cards. (They also have awesome transaction downloads that make record keeping easier). I even wrote the introduction to PayPal for Dummies.
eBay's integration of PayPal made becoming an online seller simple for millions of people.

So you can imagine, that when I went to read the PayPal blog, I was shocked. They announced, with no fanfare or apologies, that they are making "changes" to the way they handle some of their charges:
  1. Refund Prices – Starting August 10, PayPal will retain the transaction fee (typically $.30) when a seller issues a refund (U.S. and Canada merchants).
  2. **** Without eBay having a shopping cart, sellers often eat multiple transaction charges when a customer buys two items. Now, should they have to refund an entire order based on multiple sales, PayPal makes money, and the seller's already low profits are eaten up.
  3. Chargeback Prices – Starting August 24, we’ll be increasing chargeback costs from $10 to the typical industry rate of $20 (U.S. merchants only, eBay merchants enrolled in the PayPal Preferred program are exempt).
  4. **** Chargebacks are issued by PayPal when a customer calls in and complains about the merchandise received from the seller. PayPal refunds the money to the buyer and takes a chargeback fee. In my experience PayPal has been fair when making chargeback decisions, but I've heard opposing views. The complaining customer gets their refund, and is not required to return the merchandise to the seller. So now the seller is out even more.
  5. American Express Card Acceptance – On July 13, PayPal and American Express will enter into a new card processing arrangement that requires merchants to establish a direct contractual relationship with American Express. You’ll need to accept a new agreement with American Express if you want to continue to accept American Express cards directly through Website Payments Pro and Virtual Terminal. PayPal will continue to service American Express transactions.  As part of this new agreement, American Express pricing will change to be on par with their typical industry rates. This only applies to taking American Express credit cards directly. There’s no change if a consumer chooses to pay with PayPal, no matter how the account is funded.
  6. **** OK, American Express has always stood behind their customers so if sellers wish to accept American Express directly, I guess it's fair that they have to play by Amex rules.
I'm disappointed that in this economy, PayPal has to raise charges -- especially without sending emails to their customers. Customer service is what it's all about -- they could have put a kinder spin on this.

Monday

25 years of Corvette Love: 1985 to 2010

When I was growing up, I'd see Corvette's on TV and in the movies - all the cool guys had them. It was my very first dream car. One day, I saw a picture of a gold corvette. That's gold, not light bronze or dark bronze, but sparkling gold. The tri-coat paint job made that car sparkle.

So, when my business became successful in 1985, I sought out my gold Corvette. I finally found one, one of only 1,411 made that year. So I coughed up the deposit and made it mine.

I had previously driven a stunning Pontiac Trans Am -with a hood scoop but no screaming chicken decal - and then a bright red two seater Pontiac Fiero (a fuel-efficient sporty commuter car). Both cars were amazing, but they were no Corvette.

What you probably didn't know about me, is that I wrote and photographed Auto Racing for several years. I've covered all the major venues in the US and love the sounds and smells of those mechanical wonders. I bought the Corvette and proudly brought my Vette to NASCAR and NHRA events. Even got to drive it several times on the old Riverside International Raceway. I loved that car - and still do.  She's sitting in my garage today with about 45K original, one-owner fun miles.

So when General Motors asked me if I'd like to try out the 2010 Grand Sport Convertible Corvette, I jumped at the chance.

The engine is based on the legendary small block V8 that's been around for 45 years. I was amazed at how technology has improved it's power in the last 25. The car's premise is the same; a sexy low, road hugging sportscar. But technology took the 1985 "Tuned Port Injection" 350cc small block engine (through improved displacement) from the old 230 hp to 430 hp on the 2010. Accelerating at a quiet stop light is a fun experience. In 1985 0-60 mph took 5.7 seconds and today the improved version reaches 60 in 3.9.

My '85 had an electronic dashboard with an Atari-like digital liquid crystal display for the speedometer and tachometer (so very cutting edge at the time). The 2010 instrumentation display is so very now; chic and elegant. The speedometer even duplicates it's display on the windscreen (see below), in case you're too busy watching the road to look down at the dash.

The 2010 Corvette has all the luxury of the best and most famous sports cars. The interior is luxurious and the seats caress you as you drive. Crazy comfort! The car is right up there with the big guys: Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Porsche Boxster (and 911), BMW Z-4 and 6 series.

But those fancy European brands don't have OnStar. OnStar (IMHO) is one of the great inventions of the century. Knowing that I have the security of OnStar at my side, makes me a far more adventurous driver. I have OnStar in my CTS, and am never worried about getting lost or being alone on the road. (It even emails me when my tire gets low).

Did I mention that the 2010 was a convertible? What a pleasure it was to take the top down. Click here to watch how smoothly the roof retracts in less than 20 seconds. My old Corvette has a removable transparent glass roof panel which I rarely removed because it was such a hassle (plus you needed two people to accomplish the task). It was OK, though, because the glass roof was fun to look through.

One thing they don't tell you when you buy a Corvette. People who drive Corvettes are in an unspoken club. When one Corvette driver sees another on the road, there is always a friendly wave. It's like a secret club - nobody else knows how much fun we're having when we drive our Corvettes.

Perhaps one of these days I'll be able to visit the holy land of Corvettes, the Bowling Green factory. They've been assembled in Bowling Green Kentucky since 1981. I'll bet that's the place where the secret club meets.

Thursday

Problem on eBay? Get the Seller's Phone Number

What should you do if you are in a transaction with someone on eBay and you've run into a problem? If you've already tried sending an e-mail, you need to get more contact information. Remember back when you registered and eBay asked for a phone number? eBay keeps this information for times like this.

To get an eBay member's phone number, go to Find Contact Information on the Advanced Search: Members: Find Contact Information link. Fill out the Contact Info form by entering the seller's (or buyer's - if you are the seller) user ID and the item number of the transaction. Then click the Search button. If all the information is correct, you automatically see a request-confirmation page and eBay generates an e-mail message to both you and the other user.

eBay's e-mail message includes the seller's user ID, name, company, city, state, and country of residence, as well as the seller's phone number and date of initial registration. eBay sends this same information about you to the user you want to get in touch with. Most eBay members jump to attention when they receive this e-mail from eBay and get the ball rolling to complete the transaction (or solve a problem).

You can find more on this subject - and lots more in eBay For Dummies, 6th Edition. (Amazon link)