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Handling Credit-Card Orders Online:
A Paean to PayPal

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Many independent publishers who have Web sites sell their products online by linking to other vendors, because few of us can afford the monthly fees that banks charge for processing sporadic credit-card sales. Recently, I discovered an alternative to sending potential buyers elsewhere. PayPal now offers credit-card and electronic-check transfer to any business

I started using PayPal for myself (as opposed to my business) about three years ago and have used it in selling several nonbook items on eBay. The signup for individuals was–and still is–free and self-explanatory, and when a check to PayPal from one of my buyers bounced after I had already mailed the merchandise, PayPal covered the check.

After that, I decided to explore PayPal’s services for companies. As you will see if you go to Merchant Tools at www.paypal.com, they are free until someone actually makes a purchase, and they include a shopping cart, buttons, invoicing, automatic payment by check or credit card, and processing of recurring payments. You can import transaction history data into your money-management software or develop a sales report directly at PayPal, which also lets you make sales with multiple currencies if you have buyers spanning the globe. A PayPal link can handle shipping fees and postage, and you can even use PayPal to transfer money by email to someone else who has a PayPal account.

Instructions for the Ignorant

Seeing all these features, I decided to upgrade my individual status to business status, a process that was free, quick, and easy. Even though I am Web-site-building-html-ignorant-gripped-by-fear-when-using-FTP-files, it took me less than a minute to add a referral link to PayPal on my site.

Adding a button to sell my book Making the Most of Your Llama took a bit longer. PayPal directs you through three pages of insertions and responses to multiple-choice questions. For each item you want to sell via your shopping cart, you begin by providing a title and assigning a number (I used the book’s title and ISBN). Next, you set a price and follow prompts to include any necessary sales-tax information on your checkout page.

Clicking Continue, you work your way through shipping information and additional options such as creating a pull-down text (which I used to offer various autographs) and communicating directly with your buyer. At my site, when buyers ask for autographed books as gifts, they can give me specific requests for inscriptions. Checkout pages can be customized to fit in with the rest of a Web site. Pages thanking customers for their purchases, or just for looking, are easy to create using menus on the setup pages.

Once PayPal gave me a preview of the features I had selected and I accepted them, the program provided detailed HTML text to copy and transfer. I opened my Web-page FTP file, found the book’s page, placed the button next to the retail price, saved, and closed. Transferring the data from my FTP file to the Web took less than five minutes.

Ta-da!

In a few hours (I had many interruptions from resident preteens), I had a Web site complete with shopping cart, credit card, and electronic check transfer.

There are no setup charges, gateway fees, cancellation fees, or monthly charges. You can apply for the merchant rate of 2.2 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, and if you qualify for PayPal’s Seller Protection Policy, the company will absorb chargebacks at no cost to you. I also noted that when sending invoices with the Quicken program, a direct link to PayPal can be included.

I know this must sound like a commercial, but my only relationship with PayPal is as an ordinary customer. The company says that one in three online shoppers in the United States has a PayPal account, and I hope and expect that mine will expand my direct sales.

Linda Beattie Inlow is the publisher of five books and the author of eight. She lives with her two children in Kalama, WA, where, she reports, she gardens, reads, writes, and continues to learn more about the Internet and the intricacies of her computer. For more information, visit www.goodbooksink.com and www.authorsden.com/inlow.

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