Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Testing Paypal and purchasing light and lamps online

I have a grouse. I have a Paypal account and some balance in the account. I appreciate their service in providing a convenient way of sending and receiving payments via email. However, Paypal only allow withdrawal to local banks in certain countries, and mine is not included. For me, I can only withdraw to a US bank account. As a non-US resident without a social security number, there is no way for me to open a US bank account. Sure there are people offering information on how non-US residents can open a US bank account. Some of them charge quite a bit for their information. I did manage to find someone offering an e-book containing information on how a non-US resident can open a US bank account on eBay, the parent company of Paypal. I found I could "Buy now" for $0.99 and I bought it immediately via "Buy now". What I got was an email telling me I could open a US bank account with a certain investing and trading company which also happens to offer banking service. No e-book. I wrote to the bank. They replied saying that I can use their other services, but to open a US bank account, I need to be a US resident or have a social security number. I lodged a "dispute" with Paypal. To Paypal's credit, they ruled in my favour and I got my $0.99 back! Well, $0.99 is still money.

I found out that China residents can withdraw by check. I wrote to Paypal many times asking about withdrawing by check, but usually got a standard reply that Paypal is actively seeking to expand their services, but because of the "complexities of global finance"? no time frame can be given. Complexities of global finance? If it is EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer), I can understand. But what is so complex about writing out a check to send oversea? Google and other US base companies can do it, why can't Paypal do it, I asked. I have even received and banked in checks from US, Argentina and United Kingdom for work done with no problem. Without exception, I never get a response to this question about Paypal withdrawing by check. There was one exception. The support person suggested I used my balance in Paypal to make online purchases. I wrote back that that is as good as forcing Paypal customers to make online purchases and I considered that unethical. I never got a response to that.

It is fortunate that I have a niece, nephew and a sister-in-law in the United States and once enlisted my niece to withdraw my Paypal balance. But I hate to trouble them and I am now looking at how many merchants are willing to accept payment via Paypal. I live in a 30 plus year old house and some of the light fixture and lamps need to be changed. I found a site that sells lighting. I found that they have fine art lamps. I like fine art, so I thought I would try that. I found something I liked: A Midsummer Nights Dream Chandelier Moonlit Patina. Chandeliers are expensive in my country, so I thought I would try that. Unfortunately they never state what form of payments they are willing to accept, so I have to complete the rest of the steps of filling in the name, address, phone number, etc., to see if they accept Paypal. I found out they only ship to US and Canada, so I put a California address. This will be how much that online purchase will cost me:

Chandelier: $ 7,380.00
Shipping: $ 1,734.30
Total: $ 9,114.30

Their contact information indicated they are located in Florida, so I supposed that is where they will be shipping from. Shipping charges turned out to be 24% of the cost of the item. Looks like for e-commerce to really take off, some bright spark got to solve this problem of high shipping costs.

It is only at checkout time that I found out that they only accept payment my:

American Express credit card
Discover credit card
Mastercard credit card
Visa credit card
Mailing of Faxing Payment
Call me for Card Information

I suppose the last two are for sending credit card information by means other than using the Internet.

Now that I know how much shipping will cost for high priced items, I want to check shipping charges for lower priced items. I tried forecast lighting. This item Handcrafted Red Cirrus Glass Shade Only don't look too expensive. It says the price is $46.80 and ground shipping is free within Continental US. Well, perhaps e-commerce is not doomed after all.

I decided to look at one more: sea gull lighting because I was curious how a sea gull lighting would look like. Turned out they were just the normal range of lighting fixtures and Sea Gull is just a brand name, like "Apple Computer". Just as you can't eat an Apple Computer, you would see your money flying away after you spend your money purchasing Sea Gull lighting fixtures and installing them in your house. Your investment is safe.

Looks like there are not too many online merchants willing to accept payment via Paypal, other than peddlers of downloadable goods like PDF books. In any case, I doubt I would be willing to accept the shipping charges for tangible goods to my country even if they accept Paypal. So looks like I will continue to pester Paypal support or trouble my relatives in the States again.

1 comment:

Marvin Economies Mind said...

PayPal offers a fantastic, free-to-set-up shopping cart that is great for lower volume sales. A percentage of each of your sales goes to them as fees. In addition, you can automatically take major credit card payments without setting up credit card merchant services. This saves you $300-$400 right away. However, for high volume sales you may pay less by opting for a shopping cart vendor that charges you a monthly fee rather than a percentage of your sales.