Comes to the Rescue*
*A saga of interest probably only to those who want to set up e-commerce accounts\
** In February 2000, MindSpring merged with Earthlink.
For the time being, MindSpring can still be reached at MindSpring.com.
When falseallegations.com was ready to be uploaded to the Net, I chose Hiway Technologies as my Web host provider. Never did it occur to me that establishing an e-commerce or an electronic commercial account would be difficult or time-consuming or expensive or technically demanding. Surpri-ise!
The Hiway salesperson was pleasant and professional and quickly convinced me that to have an e-commerce account with online credit card processing, I had to buy Hiway's Plan 2, which was twice as expensive as Plan 1: $49.95 rather than $24.95. Still cheap as compared to office rent.
I was told I could download the free shopping cart (provided by a third party software company) and use that. It would connect with a company (PaymentNet) which would handle, for another $35 per month, the credit card information. The Hiway salesperson gave me the name and phone number of Hiway's "contact" at PaymentNet: Mr. C.
"Since yours is a start-up Internet business, PaymentNet would be a better fit," Ms. M said in so many words. "It will cost you less than CyberCash, and certainly less than ATS. . . . ATS is more suitable for very large companies."
Oh, yes, Hiway would provide me, at no extra cost, 11 email accounts -- POP accounts, they called them.
That's a good deal! I thought. Only $85 a month to open a new business. Wow! That isn't just a good deal. That is sensational!
When I contacted PaymentNet's Mr. C., he told me the software -- a brand new product -- would be installed at the end of the week. He would let me know.
When I heard nothing from him, a call to "my" Hiway salesperson fizzed. She was busy selling other people accounts. Other people from PaymentNet stepped in to fill the void. One in particular emailed a list of agents for e-commerce banks. I would have to pay a one-time fee between $245 and $295, depending on the agent. The credit card companies would charge a percentage of the dollar value of the transaction. The agent would charge a monthly fee, $10, for a statement of transactions. The banks would charge between 20 and 30 cents per transaction. And if a minimum amount of sales was not reached, the banks would debit the business accounts another sum.
I finally reached Mr. C. "Don't deal with the other people here," he told me. "They're not involved with this product and don't know the deal we have on it with Hiway. Just speak to me."
"Sure, okay," I said in so many words, "but you'll call me this time. I want to get this site operational."
"Just give us another five days?" he asked plaintively, adding assurances that he would let me know when the software meshed with Hiway's.
The next week I placed another call to PaymentNet. "Mr. C., please."
"Mr. C. is no longer with us." A little G-2 revealed that he had been fired.
Another phonecall, of course, followed to Hiway. "You must have a replacement company!" They didn't. . . .
Hiway gave no assistance whatsoever. No suggestions whatsoever.
Hiway did, however, have the ability to charge my credit card for six months hosting in advance.
The next three weeks I was assuaged by an articulate vice-president of sales at PaymentNet. Obviously, he merited his title. The first week: "Sorry this happened." The second week: "Will you give us another week. . . . Thank you." The third week: "I hope you'll bare with us."
He was so pleasant, I felt I had betrayed him when I felt compelled to call a halt to the entire charade by Hiway, which had failed to provide technical support or make good on its representations during the devastating six weeks..
Hiway had no toll-free phone number for technical support or customer service. When calling on my nickel, I was put on hold. A felt every one of the thirty-odd minutes I often had to wait. My phone bill was incurred mostly while I was waiting on hold.
By Six Weeks Later
Hiway's free shopping cart (by Hassan) didn't work. It may have worked but at a crucial point, its installation guide was inadequate for someone unacquainted with cgi, a programming language. Hiway, of course, had failed to inform me that to use its free shopping cart, I, as a non-cgi programmer, might have to hire a programmer. Hassan itself wanted $70 per hour to assist with its own shopping cart if necessary. Hassan would not, however,. commit to how many hours would be necessary at $70 per hour.
The cost generally, so I eventually learned from independent programmers who had assisted customers make the Hassan shopping cart operational, was almost $500.
At that point, CyberCash and ATS looked quite reasonable. But . . . I had yet to learn that CyberCash didn't provide a shopping cart. Cyber Cash takes the information from the checkout or cashier and gives it to the bank/bank agent. Other companies provided the shopping carts to bring the products to the cashiers!
And, at the end of the six weeks, Hiway had forwarded me no mail. One of the first pleasant Hiway tech support people said the email address was wrong. Someone had put an extra "t" on "worldnet." (That turned out not to be only reason why there was no forwarding.)
And, although the bank agent informed me that I was approved by the bank, PaymentNet, which was attempting to provide the payment gateway, was suggesting that I had been signed up for the wrong Hiway plan. One said the $74.95 plan was necessary. Another said, No, the $124.95 plan was necessary.
Hiway had. No comment. Although the Hiway/PaymentNet
probably more a problem of compatibility than of bad faith, as well as
a problem of management's failure to address the impact of technical
on their customers, the problem of the Hassan shopping cart felt in the
gut like a switch and bait. Here have it free, but if it
work, pay Hassan (not Hiway) $70 an hour to fix it.
I assumed that a freebie would work: If it didn't, Hiway would lose the
brownie points it was hoping to score.
It was a toss up between the Dansie shopping cart and Mercantec's SoftCart. I ran into a problem with Mercantec's. I wrote an email. Got a personalized response from an executive, Robert Zessar, and another Mercantec person. Apparently I ran into a brand-new demo and had become, inadvertently, its beta site. Rather than being thought rude or ungrateful. I was thanked for my criticism. And Zessar graciously sent a list of programmers who could help with the Hassan cart or with any other cart. He also confidently assured me that customers could impose their own Look and Feel on SoftCart. By then, I, of course, believed him. I trusted him.
"Which companies offer Mercantec?'
MindSpring to the Rescue
Relying somewhat on a newsgroup's gossip that MindSpring stood for quality . . . and finding confirmation on the Web in articles on host providers, I signed up with MindSpring. They offered integration and full support -- via a toll free number as well as the usual on-line support -- of Mercantec SoftCart and CyberCash.
CyberCash registration was professionally
and instructions so clear they almost seemed invisible.
Thawte -- yes, still another company -- provided certification that I exist. MindSpring had this process under control.
MindSpring provided on its site, a Configuration Wizard for Mercantec's SoftCart, and notified Internec of the desired transfer of my account from Hiway to MindSpring..
The transfer, which normally takes place between 24 and 48 hours after notice, took two weeks. Why? Because when Hiway had to supply Internec with my email address -- Internec procedure requires that it seek confirmation from me of the transfer -- Hiway had still misspelled "worldnet": "worldnett". It took two weeks before the error was remedied by Hiway. MindSpring or myself notifying Internec would have been insufficient . . . although it was MindSpring which eventually did help effect the final transfer.
It took yet another two weeks to get the store operational, but at all times MindSpring's around the clock (24 x 7) technical support were there and were extraordinary.
After each call -- and there were many -- MindSpring sent out a survey: How Are We Doing? Always very well, guys and gals! Always very well!
Call 1-888-932-1997, mention falseallegations.com as
and tell the salesperson you want to sign up for your commercial web
at MindSpring, Web Host ExtraOrdinaire!