Beware of

Today I did exactly the right thing, I learned a lot and the tuition was free. I went to a StoresOnline seminar and I walked out without buying anything.  

The company markets online and with direct mail tools to opportunity seekers that want to make money on the Internet by selling “something” online. In today’s economy, and with success stories of vast fortunes made in months online abounding, every unemployed, underemployed, employed but frustrated or retired person in the world wants to make money online. 

The hotel ballroom was filled with about 250 middle-aged to retirement age people. The speakers were excellent and polished, the presentation materials refined, and the promise was that for $6000 one-time, you could have an unlimited number of e-commerce websites, all integrated with search engine optimization technology so they come up at the top of the web search results, products for sale which are drop-shipped  from companies just waiting for your orders. Just follow the instructions and the money will roll in fast. If you don’t have $6000, they will finance for you, no problem. So there is no excuse. You came, you saw, you should buy before you leave. If you don’t buy at the seminar, it will be much more expensive later. 

The sales tactics are high pressure. I felt like I was at a time-share presentation. It’s difficult not to pull out the credit card, since they make you feel like a loser if you actually come there, sit through a seven-hour seminar and then walk away like all the other losers the world over, dreaming, wanting, but not acting. What are you waiting for? Do you want to be successful selling on the Internet? Then buy this product right now. Or do you just want to go back home and continue being a loser?  

While the message was compelling, I followed my instincts and the three rules of buying big things: 

1. Never purchase from the Infomercial. No matter how good the deal seems, no matter how urgent the opportunity is, no matter that the price will never be this good – there is always another angle. If the product is legitimate, and if you really want, and need, the product, it will be there tomorrow and the day after. What’s the difference between yesterday and today? Another day does not matter. Never buy from the Infomercial. 

2. Never buy if something can’t be had the next day. There is something fundamentally wrong. If a product is worthwhile and valuable, why would it only be so at this one event? If the company has a worthwhile product, they should not care about when you buy it. They should be glad to sell it to you anytime you are ready. Never buy anything under time pressure. 

3. Never buy anything without checking the reviews first. You consider a car, check the consumer reports and read the repair report of the unit you are considering buying. The dealer will hold the car for you overnight. If you buy something as complex as an e-commerce software product, check the testimonials from real users and customers. Are they mostly good or mostly bad? 

The high-pressure tactics will try to get you to bypass all three of those rules. 

When I went home and started typing into the Google screen the word “StoresOnline” this is what the type-ahead lists showed up with: 

Google's Top Searches for StoresOnline

Oooh, that does not look comforting. The words ‘scam’ and ‘fraud’ and ‘rip-off’ come up way to many times to be comfortable doing business with that company.

As I proceeded to read people’s blogs, comments and articles, and even some websites specifically created to warn consumers about StoresOnline, I found an overwhelming amount of absolutely horrifying information.  There were, in a half hour of reading, perhaps two comments that were neutral, stating that the company is not an e-Business company but a software company selling tools, that’s all. 

However, everyone else was telling horror stories about their experiences with StoresOnline. Most ended up never getting any websites even running, others had sites that didn’t sell any product, many wanted their money back and didn’t succeed. Those that had financed their purchases and stopped making the payments  were chased by collection agencies. Some had hired lawyers to get their money back.  

Many people spent their savings, or went into debt, to make money online, only to find out that all they got was more debt and no way out. The product they thought they were buying didn’t deliver. 

I am a computer programmer and I run an Internet software business. I know what it takes to do business and make money online. It’s hard, difficult work and it takes time, creativity, innovation, persistence, money and luck to succeed. There is no shortcut. Many of the folks buying this product surely didn’t realize the severity of that, and as a result they bought something that simply was over their head. StoresOnline didn’t seem to care. Their business is selling packages. 

The speaker was excellent. To show what the tool set did (or should do) he certainly illustrated the problems of e-commerce and some of the solutions and issues to worry about. So I learned a lot and I walked away motivated to take action. I suspected one of many outcomes once I got home and started my research: 

1. The product was good and it delivered, with many positive testimonials. In that case I might have gone back and bought the package, at the best price I could get. 

2.  The product was good, but there were several other firms that competed with them that I should first check out and do some comparison shopping. 

3. The product was good, but overpriced, and I could easily buy some of the tools one by one for a fraction of what they charge for their package, and I could write some of the stuff myself. 

4. The reviews were bad and there were many unsatisfied customers. 

What I found was much, much worse than my worst expectations. Just read this one example and the comments.

I did exactly the right thing, followed my own rules, and on top of it I learned a LOT about business online. I have no regrets and I consider myself fortunate.

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