Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Cautionary Tale:

I first heard about the Sportlots website from reading the Squeeze Play Cards blog.  I checked it out and was soon using the site to fill my wantlists.  I had a bunch of cards that looked like they might sell on there, but weren’t really worth listing on eBay and so I took the plunge and began listing items on Sportlots.

I soon found out that the fees are pretty ridiculous unless you sell more than $25 a month worth of cards, but since these were mostly cards that wouldn’t sell any other way I overlooked that.  It seemed like some of the sellers on Sportlots padded the shipping costs that they charged to recoup these fees, but I’m not a fan of shady practices like that.

I didn’t list a ton of items on Sportlots and was only getting 3 or 4 orders to fill a month, but I sold some of my Yankee Stadium inserts and other inserts that I have no desire to add to my collection.  I placed a couple of orders here and there because you could get a lot of cards on there for eighteen cents that would cost you more elsewhere.

I had placed one order and it had been over a week since the seller said that it had been filled so I should have gotten it even with the slowest shipping method available.  I went to check on the status of the order and got a strange error message upon trying to enter the site.  I got the same error when I tried to search for cards.

Upon contacting Sportlots customer support, I was told that due to not filling an order my account had been closed, all of my inventory had been removed from the site and basically I had been banned from the site.  It isn’t even possible to purchase from the site anymore because my account has been restricted from accessing any page on the site.

My first thought was that maybe an order that I shipped got lost in the mail, but I couldn’t even check which order it was because I couldn’t access the site.  Customer support got me the information and it was an order that I hadn’t seen before.  I checked my e-mail and I hadn’t gotten one e-mail notification for this order even though the site supposedly sent them for a week.  I had e-mails letting me know that Sportlots had sent me my payment for the past month of sales and I had e-mails notifying me of the status of my purchases, but strangely I didn’t have any e-mails notifying me of the order that I had to fill.  Strange since they are all coming from the same place.  I don’t have any kind of Spam filters on the web interface of my e-mail so that rules out that option.  The e-mails just didn’t get sent to me.  I also never got any kind of notification that my account was getting shut down.

Sportlots took the stance that sellers shouldn’t rely on the e-mail notifications and rather should check into the site regularly.  That’s fine for people who might get orders frequently, but I’m not going to check in every day when I may get 3 or 4 orders a month for something like one Heritage SP that I happened to pull from a pack.  It’s a very lame way to position things and is very poor customer service in my eyes given the exorbitant fees that they charge.  Don’t even get me started on how poor the search engine is there.  The fact that there’s no secondary search by seller is ridiculous and makes it a chore to minimize shipping costs.

So, Sportlots customer service made it sound like they’d be doing me this huge favor by reinstating my account to fix an error due to e-mails never sent.  I told them to please go ahead and do so in order to allow me to shop and check on my orders, but to not bother reloading my inventory into the system (and damn it takes a long time to load that stuff in) because I was no longer interested in selling on their site.  We’ll see what happens.  No big loss if they don’t reopen my account.  It’s easy enough to delete my cookie and create a new account for shopping.  Imagine what eBay would be like if they deleted every seller’s account after their first bad transaction.  I’ve had a stellar history on eBay, but there are plenty of idiots out there and eBay doesn’t always do the most thorough of investigations.  Even though I’ve only ever had one negative feedback on eBay in over ten years of buying and selling on the site, if they had the same rules as Sportlots then I would be banned from the site.  Just a heads up to those of you out there selling on Sportlots.

UPDATE: I’ve exchanged e-mails with the person who runs the SportLots site and have a better understanding of the site.  There is a search by seller option if you click on the details link for a card.  I’m still not a fan of the way that things were handled originally, but I’m happy with the resolution.  So much so that I placed two orders the day that my account was reopened.

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AdamE said...

FYI... You can search by seller. From the main page go the the bottom and look at preferred sellers. From the preffered sellers page you can search by seller.

Offy said...

That's a little better, but it is far from ideal. To use that, I'd have to search for what I want, find the star level of the seller and then go to the preferred sellers page to start searching through their inventory. It doesn't give me any idea if that seller has more of the cards that I'm looking for at .18 than another seller.

Ideally, I'd love a search engine where you pick the set and a price point and the search results that come up are grouped by seller showing you the individual cards from that set which fit your search criteria.

Thanks for the heads up. There's no way of knowing that functionality is there unless there's some site tutorial that I missed that explains that is there. That'll come in handy if they ever let me back into the site.

The main frustration for me comes from the fact that this could be such a great site if they were to put a little bit of money into it. In this day and age where there are fewer card shops out there with many not carrying singles and card shows not coming through for older sets, this site is greatly needed. They're right on the verge, but instituting the wrong policies and failing to improve the site could keep it from becoming as big as it potentially could be.

Jason said...

The main "problem" with Sportlots is that it's basically a 2-man operation, one doing support and programming the site and one adding checklists.

I buy and sell on there and, generally speaking, love the site but it does have its quirks. They really should put more effort into notifying sellers of issues and give them a little more leeway as far as handling issues, rather than being so "1 strike your out" about it. But being a 2-man show, I guess that's what has to be done to keep up with support. They are very responsive to adding new checklists, and I've been able to help them with adding checklists for several Japanese sets.

There is a users guide for the site, but unfortunately, it's well over a year old and there have been many changes and improvements to the site since it was written, so it's not very helpful anymore.

All in all, it's a very good way for sellers to dump their commons (and other stuff, I sell mostly oddballs and minor league cards) and, obviously, the more inventory you add, the more sales you get.

It is steadily improving, but I think the lack of staff results in a site with huge potential, but not the resources to carry it out as well as it might.

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