The Golden Keyboard

John Haughn
Seaside Book & Stamp

          During our participation on the net, we have had many interesting problems and experiences. We are a small business, a low-budget enterprise attempting to provide an income for a small number of people. Of course many possibilities exist for small businesses on the net, most of which cost money. In addition, large automated sites are very attractive and are usually operated by growing corporations, so the small business usually has to find a niche from which to operate.

          Our first site was a gopher (anyone remember gopher?) site, which went by the way during a spate of computer problems. Our current site is a non-automated site in HTML. As we have progressed this site has diminished in importance (in terms of sales) as our net sales are generally made through several listing services for which we pay monthly or per-sale commission.

          One of our earliest encountered problems centered around currency. Until recently, we listed prices in Canadian dollars and spent a significant amount of time answering the question "How much is that in American money?" Because most of our net sales are to the USA, you might have expected this from there, but not so. We were also getting the same question from anywhere in the Americas south of the US, Eastern Europe, South-East Asia and even Australia/New Zealand. At one point after responding to a request for a used book from New Zealand, I offered up a new book of the same title and got the response, "No, I have an account with Amazon and can get new books there for less." I logged on to Amazon and placed an order (without actually checking out) and found out that our price after shipping was about half. This is what broke the Canadian dollar's back for us and we now list prices in US dollars.

          Besides the obvious problems surrounding payment (bank charges, fear of credit card interception, etc.), certain forms of payment cause additional headaches. The US has two types of money orders. The domestic variety states "NOT PAYABLE OUTSIDE THE US AND ITS POSSESSIONS" in large red letters. This doesn't seem to stop people from writing a Canadian address beside the warning and sending it. Could it be that Canada is one of those possessions?

          There are also the language problems. A good humoured customer pointed out the my spelling of the English word 'check' as 'cheque' and hoped that they meant the same. I responded with a definition of the words as follows:

  • check - a tick mark as in check the appropriate box
  • check - to review as in check the spelling
  • check - to impede the advance of an opposing player in hockey
  • check - a fabric pattern
  • Czech - a citizen of the Czech Republic
  • cheque - a financial instrument as in the cheque is in the mail

She responded with the following quotation which she attributed to Saki (H.H. Munro): "I love Americans, but not when they try to talk French. What a blessing it is that they never try to talk English." I continue to use the word 'cheque', and still use 'colour' despite the overpowering influence of our large neighbour to the south.

          In closing, please remember that it might be wise, when corresponding to an email, that you provide some point of reference in the message. It's always a nuisance when a response to a question is an email with the single word 'Yes' or 'No'. This usually leaves me thinking 'Yes' what? In addition, when sending someone a cheque or money order why not indicate, somehow, what the payment is for.


For further information, contact:

John Haughn, Seaside Book & Stamp


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