Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sat Sept 21 2013 17:50:11

Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?

By: Ina Steiner

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While we all like to think we are indispensable, that approach can be costly when it comes to running a small business. Documenting your business practices and having a backup plan can help your online retail business should you face an emergency situation such as a medical crisis.

That point was raised on the eBay discussion boards last week when an eBay seller who was hospitalized unexpectedly in July had over a dozen customers open cases against them for non-shipment.

The seller explained that she (or he) fulfilled all orders even on those she had refunded to settle the case, but said this month, eBay suspended her selling account indefinitely. But while eBay says open cases don't affect a seller's ratings, she was told they do affect their accounts.

Amazon sellers would probably face the same dilemma, as Amazon has very little tolerance for customer complaints.

Interestingly Skip McGrath just published advice for sellers who find their accounts suspended by eBay and Amazon.

In Sunday's EcommerceBytes Update newsletter, Contributing Editor Greg Holden interviewed Barbara Weltman about her new book, Failing Smoothly.

Barbara says documentation can help if owners need someone else to run the show, or if they just need to keep on top of their enterprise's financial state.

"They should systematize their processes. If they are on vacation or need to be out of town, it's possible that a spouse would be able to continue with the business. It's as simple as writing down passwords, if you want someone else to take over when needed."

Do you have tips on being prepared for emergencies, and do you have a backup plan in place?

How easily could someone step into your shoes and carry on, from answering customer emails to fulfilling orders?




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Perminate Link for Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?   Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sat Sep 21 18:44:52 2013

I've trained Mr. Basset on how to do the basics. He can ship & all that. What he is averse to is paperwork.

The spreadsheet where I keep the info for taxes gives him a deer in the headlights gaze. Partly because I warn him not to touch it or I'll tase him into next year!

I DO need to make a set of instructions that would show Mr. B how to decipher it all to relay to the accountant in the event that I keel over dead.
He'll probably just haul the whole works to the accountant & say ''here''.

Perminate Link for Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?   Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Sat Sep 21 19:32:25 2013

A person could lose all their work over an accident.

It would be in the better interests of corporations and sellers alike to allow notes from doctors, to prevent seller account terminations.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sat Sep 21 22:22:00 2013

In thinking this over,... if a seller is problematic, why wait 2 months to suspend them, once everything is on track again?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Andy Geldman
Web Site

Sun Sep 22 08:47:19 2013

Micro-businesses of all types are sensitive to the owner being unexpectedly incapacitated. Even foreseen absences (vacations!) might need a lot of planning to keep the business ticking over.

If a seller can grow their business, with a partner or one or two employees, then covering short absences shouldn't be too difficult.

Perminate Link for Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?   Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Sun Sep 22 09:43:12 2013

Things have not changed in the digital age.

The vegetable and fruit seller with his horse drawn wagon is the boat most small (individual) sellers are in.

If you have a cold, you work, if the horse has a cold & can't move even when beaten (just kidding), you're out of work for that day.

Unless you have an apprentice, and can afford one, you are SOL (Surely Out of Luck). That is the perils of being an entrepreneur/business owner.

You tie your freedom for a greater risk of unforeseen failure.

The answer to the question is YES!

When I was having my heart attack & lying in the emergency room, I had my wife's laptop on my chest getting my e-mails out saying that shipping will be delayed a little bit due to my indisposition. Was I lucky - yes, could I've prevented the potential mess by giving my wife a script of what to do - yes.

But I'll have to sit down with her & see if she could follow my script and how it plays out. It'll probably take a day or two for my simple business. As far as doing the taxes if things get really bad, probably the IRS will not be too happy but at that point it will be the Probate Court's problem.

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by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 22 17:37:09 2013

Every very small business has this problem. What about jury duty?  I have always been able to get out of it but some can't.  

The problem with ebay is the service standards are too high, one day shipping for free is a problem.

There's customer value to one day shipping, but one day shipping is the ebay standard. If one day shipping were always a charged service you might be able to afford to hire someone, or a service to take over.  Or stop offering it in an emergency, You'd lose the money but you wouldn't have to provide the service.

One day shipping takes away your margin for error. Free one day shipping like we got is not reasonable.  

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by: WhoKnewIt This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 00:09:43 2013

Plan B is essential.  I have all my passwords written down along with a list of what to do in case I'm unable to do it myself.  DH knows to start by seeing if anything didn't GET shipped and if so, ship it.  Then he can start putting the sites on vacation mode with a comment regarding when they will reopen.  Also making comments on the business FB page, Twitter etc.  If we BOTH (God forbid) have an accident my Daughter in Law has all that same information.  BE PREPARED!

Perminate Link for Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?   Could an Emergency Blindside Your Etail Business?

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 06:24:52 2013

I also,had heart attack. Lucky that my brother in law was familiar with ebay. He shipped a coupe of orders for me and shut down it for me. I was lucky that he was available and had the knowledge.
ebay, amazon etc. are so hell bent on ''positive'' buyer experience that they do not care much about sellers, especially small ones. To know how much they think of you, have your site ruined because of a medical emergency. It might cost them $50.00 to substantiate your reason-claim etc. for the emergency. Your small livelihood, peace etc. is not worth that much to them. Shows what is more important to them-$maybe the $50.00  or working with you as a business partner.
It's a shame on what the the corporate world has become. With that said, I do believe that there will come a time, when ALL of us will have to answer for all of our actions. Maybe hell is ''feeling'' the pain we have caused others.

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by: Theresa This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 10:09:31 2013

I posted my story on a closed Facebook group, but will also share here. Long story short, I was unexpextedly diagnosed with retroperitoneal sarcoma in mid-June. I had major surgery on June 24th and the gifted surgeon removed a 10 pound, 22 cm tumor from the back wall of my abdominal cavity. I am 49.

I had NO backup plan and no time to implement one. I did have time to put my ebay store on vacation and was grateful that I sell FBA as that is the only income stream I had for the three months that I was down and out. I am also grateful that I have health insurance through my husband's employer.

But of course my FBA inventory started to dry up. Needless to say, it was a rough time. I also have a brick and mortar sell and sell on consignment so my husband was tasked with notifying as many of my customers as he could to explain why there was no progress on getting their items sold.

I am the only one that has a clue how my business is run, including paying monthly bills. Moral of the story...have a plan. Write down procedures. Make a master customer list, etc. Don't be like me and learn the hard way. Having all of that extra stress certainly didn't help my recovery.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Sep 23 10:11:38 2013

I've had to think about this a lot and had to deal with it, as I have had 3 surgeries plus numerous ER visits in the years I have been selling. While Mr. Moon has been trained to take care of orders during surgeries, he hasn't done one now for well over 2 years and most likely would forget what to do. Thankfully I have one son that also sells on line and another that knows a lot of what I do. since I keep caught up mostly what would need to be done is put the businesses on hold until I can get back to them. If I was making 10 or more sales a day, we would certainly have to do something more formal, but for now we have managed those problems.

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 11:53:31 2013

Yet another instance in which ebay's unrealistically high standards and expectations (enforceable by contrary buyers who can leave low DSRs) create difficulty and complication in the life of an average small seller even if they become ill.

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by: edwatt This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 12:19:53 2013

I am a one man operation with no backup.  I had written out instructions for my daughter on how to put my store on vacation, and the best way to liquidate my inventory if that should be necessary.
This article reminds me that all this needs to be updated since I have added a web store and a dozen new pass words since those instructions were written.
If I survive the busy season this is something I will do in January, after inventory.
Thank you for the reminder.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Tue Sep 24 17:21:45 2013

I'm with @edwatt. Thanks for the reminder! I, too, am a "one-man-band", so to speak. I really need to put together a plan with all the details to hand off to my brother to handle any issues if I can't. Thankfully, he's familiar with eBay and is no dunce, so he can manage as long as I give him the passwords and procedures needed. It's all too easy for those of us wearing all the hats in our business to overlook making such a plan. Heck, we're just too busy running the show all day to think about it most of the time.

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by: Cassie This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 25 02:45:05 2013

Here is my suggestion and the status my employment. I am no longer able work in the large corporate sector due physical disease management. Per any business plan there are safe guards. Have a emergency back-up that manages if an issue strikes. And second there are federal guidelines for qualifying for temporary disability status due medical crises use them they can shelter your business entity from demise. It's called the right of self-sustainability and prevention of disability discrimination. When any one forms a business you should look into the legal application prior to access Local, state or federal programs that enable employment sustainability despite incapacity.
1) Have the paper work or forms in a folder ready at will.
2) Some are establishing living directives for your business
3) They provide you with legal presence resources alternative.
4) They extend time allocations or exceptions remain compliant in operating your business.

Both society and government shelter all business owners to remain self-sufficient as a more beneficial option then a dependent upon society. There are directives options, insurances programs and more some programs include dealing with IRS and or other administrative compliance requiring extensions as well as legal exceptions (reducing or waiving penalties). Many are based on laws that even e-Bay must be compliant to do business the trick is knowing your rights and the limits of application.

On the side I volunteer with disabled veterans, minorities, elderly and those managing medical self-sustainability (Autism, Mentally Retarded, & etc). At any given time a business owner can be reduced via disease or traumatic accident.... You must inquire what is available per your region as it varies. Why this is important? There are federal subsidies offered to a business that employ or enables employment opportunities in either tax shelters or federal funds e-Bay voided this option as they're complex to operate. Most often they don't have an effective management program or know how to exercise it for your benefit as a business owner.  

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by: sickandtired This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 25 09:46:08 2013

Just another example of how ebay's micromanaging of our businesses has put another nail in the coffin of "just a venue".....that fantasy has long been dispelled.

I am a one woman show, cannot afford an employee and my only option in the case of personal illness (was down for 2 weeks with bacterial pneumonia), vacations, death in the family, ice or snowstorms that kept me house bound more than 2 days is to put my store on vacation.

In typical ebay fashion, even that is inadequate to the situation. Better than nothing, but vacation setting does not stop a user from buying and paying immediately which then obligates the seller to ship.  When my store is on vacation, I post an explanation and a plea to buyers to PLEASE WAIT for me to send an invoice or wait till a certain date before paying.  How many do that......I'm lucky is 1 in 10 complies.

Ebay's halfass effort involves a tiny line of type....seller is away - there may be a delay in shipping...blah blah blah.

That needs to be fixed to protect those of us who are small sellers and cannot operate 24/7/365 for any reason. Simple fix.....block payment with a message to wait for seller to confirm transaction or make payment status pending until store vacation is turned off.

I know ebay could care less these days about small sellers, but my gut tells me that if they took a good hard look at the numbers, they would realize that that group is the core of the business - the biggest generator of their income.

I don't believe that the big boys (with their special deals) and casual sellers keep the place afloat - we do.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Sep 25 15:31:09 2013

@Cassie: Thanks for that info. I've been unable to get disability insurance for myself, since I'm already considered to be somewhat disabled because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. My state (MA) calls me "at least partially disabled". How's that for bureaucrat-speak? :-)

I'm in a fuzzy gray area in that regard, since I'm able to work my regular sort of day job as a contract/consulting software developer (online selling doesn't make me enough to live on yet), but can't work any kind of job requiring physical labor. When I looked into getting disability insurance for myself, the insurers practically laughed at me. I wasn't aware that there were federal or state temporary disability programs, so thanks for the heads-up on that. As a one-person show, I dread being unable to work on any of my income streams, so having some sort of Plan B is a necessity.

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by: wonderswhy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 1 04:24:57 2013

Ebay should know D well a good seller is not bs-ing if some unforeseen event happens, I'm only me, my mum had to have emergency surgery, worried sick about that at hosp all night, come home to realize I forgot about ebay, my shipping & feedback, ebay makes you a nervous wreck anymore, its no fun anymore, I have inventory to list, I used to be excited to do my listings, now I'm just not enthused anymore, its a shame



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