Businesses That Waste Customers’ Time

This blog earned a tiny amount of money in 2004 by accepting Blogads. I like Blogads. I wish we had the traffic to earn more from them.

I asked Blogads to send me a check, but they are currently setup to use only Paypal for such small amounts (~$60) as were in our account. Why not use Paypal then? I prefer not to. The Blogads representative asked me why, and here is most of the response that I emailed to him:

. . . my objection to paypal is based mainly on having read over the years many complaints about its privacy practices and customer service. Obviously paypal is extremely convenient, and I know that lots of people use it without problems. However, I prefer not to deal with businesses that do not communicate well with customers, or for which it appears that any problems that come up are not likely to be handled in a way that is easy for customers. For the amount of money in the small transactions for which paypal is most convenient, it doesn’t seem worth my time to use their system and take the risk that any screwup could cost me a lot in time and aggravation.

It’s similar with Google’s ads, which I signed up for [i.e., enrolled in but didn’t agree to the TOS] but haven’t used (because I won’t sign anything that I don’t understand, and for my taste it’s too much work, relative to the amount of money involved, for me to analyze Google’s over-lawyered TOS).

Also, I don’t like dealing with businesses that have agendas that conflict with my interests as a customer. Paypal may have such an agenda WRT data mining, Google probably does too, and so do companies such as Doubleclick. Blogads does not (nor does Intrade, with which I have an affiliate relationship). Nor do I want to do business on the Internet with anybody who wants to lock me in with nondisclosures, noncompetes and so forth. The TOS that I prefer are simple, clear and minimally restrictive: You use our service; if you don’t like it you stop using our service; if we don’t like you we cancel your service. Complexity is OK until it starts costing the customer a lot of time, and then it becomes another cost for him to minimize.

I’m probably an extreme case, but I suspect that a lot of people share my views in milder form.

Blogads and Intrade have straightforward business models, are easy to use, and are easy to deal with if there’s a problem or question. (The fact that the Blogads rep was interested in a small customer’s feedback on payment methods is itself a good sign.) Google’s advertising program is tempting, but Google’s terms of service are too restrictive, and my time gets wasted whenever I try to get Google to answer a question. That’s a deal killer, given the small amounts of money that are likely to be involved. A lot of people handle this kind of tension with a prospective business partner by ignoring it and signing up anyway, because the stakes appear to be low, and what’s Google going to do anyway?

But I’m reluctant to do business with people or companies that operate like Google does, because if they won’t attend to my concerns when the stakes are low, how are they going to treat me in the future if we have a misunderstanding about something that’s worth real money? I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking this way.

The error which these companies seem to make is to assume that customers on average will not respond to a high level of attention to detail and service from counterparties or middlemen in small transactions. In reality, small transactions especially require good execution and service, because if the value of a deal is sufficiently small it can be easily exceeded by the nonmonetary costs of any hassles, and because customers will tend to interpret a high level of service in small transactions as an indicator of a company’s good faith that justifies greater use of its products or services. How many more people would use Paypal, and how much more business would Paypal do, if it had a reputation for being trouble free?

2 thoughts on “Businesses That Waste Customers’ Time”

  1. I don’t deal with Paypal for a simple reason: They’re upity. My credit card company doesn’t care WHAT I buy using it, so long as it’s legal. Paypal? There’s whole lists of products, perfectly legal, for which they will not complete transactions if they realize what’s being paid for.

    Firearms related products, for instance, and I’m an NRA life member.

  2. A very well-reasoned post.
    I would add only that paypal’s programmers
    are incompetent, and their service is
    not that convenient.

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