November 2013 has been perhaps the worst month I've been through in more than twenty years online.
I am stuck in a nightmare I can't seem to get out of.
As you might recall, for our most recent print sale, I set up our own web page with a shopping cart, called "topprintsandbooks.com." I did everything through a service called Volusion. Volusion, Inc., is based in Austin, Texas. I found them online; they seemed to check out, as far as I could tell. Naturally, since I don't know much about that sort of thing, I set up everything through Volusion: the domain registration, the shopping cart page, the credit card processing, etc. I did exactly what they told me to do.
And—of course—I explained to them completely honestly exactly what our business model is, what we wanted to do, and how we wanted things to work. Three products; sale lasts five days; we make the prints to fill the orders; the usual. We've had more than a dozen sales in the past and this one was not appreciably different. It was our third sale with this artist.
I received every assurance from Volusion's representatives that everything would be fine. At no time was I told that there was even the possibility of a problem.
And then we had our sale.
At that point—AFTER THE SALE WAS OVER—Volusion decided they didn't like my business model. They decided I was untrustworthy. They said I was a risk to them. And they informed me they weren't going to hand over the money.
That is, they refused to turn any of the credit card payments they had collected from TOP's customers over to me.
The next question (after I recovered from my shock) seemed obvious: If they weren't going to give the money to me, what were they going to do with it?
They said they were going to return the money to our customers.
At first they wouldn't say. When pressed, they finally said the funds would be returned within five to ten days.
And then they kept the money.
And kept it.
And kept it.
Ten days passed. Nothing.
Meanwhile, I was trying to arrange alternate methods of payment with our credit card customers (which I'm still working on—if you haven't had a second email from me yet, you will very soon). But, quite naturally, people wanted to wait until they got their first payment back before they sent a second payment.
The bottom line is that now, finally, some of our customers have gotten their money back from Volusion.
But not all.
Volusion took the last credit card payment from OUR customer on OUR behalf on November 4th. It is now November 25th and as of this morning, not all of our customers have their money back. Volusion is still keeping it. In one specific case, a payment made on the morning 10/31/13 has not yet been returned. What am I supposed to tell that customer? He trusted me. And I've let him down. He's looking to me for customer service that I cannot provide.
I pressed Volusion again about it this morning. Still, their representative refused, repeatedly, to give me a solid answer.
I'm not quite sure I understand why all this is happening, but I do know one thing: it isn't Volusion's money. They have no right to keep it. It is either my money, and they should turn it over to me, or it is our customers' money, and they should return it to our customers. It doesn't belong to Volusion. They don't have the right to keep it. That's the one thing that seems clear.
The stress of this situation is practically making me physically ill. My heart palpitations, which I thought I'd beaten with diet and exercise, are back. I have been through one of the worst extended bouts of insomnia I've ever endured, and with me that is saying something. (Where's Michael Jackson's doctor when you need him?) And this has triggered my depression. It has been truly miserable, although the stress comes and goes.
I will be working on this situation again today. All day.
I apologize for burdening you with all this, but I do sort of want to keep you in the loop in case I decide not to do any more print sales. At least you'll know why. And I sure wish I had encounted a post like this one two months ago, when I was Googling "Volusion" to see what people thought of them.
To all our credit card customers this time, I can only say that this is entirely my fault, and I'm truly, truly sorry. If worse comes to worst I will reimburse you out of my own bank account.
I wish I had never heard the word "Volusion" in my life.
After this nightmare is over, I hope I never hear it again.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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