Washington Apple Pi has added a Web store to compliment the Pi’s main Web site at http://www.wap.org/. This Pi storefront is hosted by PrestoBiz and is called Presto Store. For details on Presto Store, you can go to http://www.prestobiz.com/ and click on “PrestoStore.”
You can easily reach the new storefront from the Pi Web site. For example, if you click on “Member Benefits” in the left frame, a drop-down menu presents you with several choices including “Membership Application.” Clicking on it takes you immediately to a page for renewing a membership or applying for a new one.
If you want a short, memorable address that takes you directly to the store, try: http://store.wap.org. The clickable button labeled “Store” at the top of the Pi’s main page will do the same thing.
Tom Carlson is writing a Journal article about his experience using this storefront as a customer, so my intent is to fill you in on how it came to be and what we expect to gain with it.
For the volunteers who work in the Pi’s front office or respond to emails, this addition was long overdue. These volunteers handle telephone calls from Pi members and the general public, and can tell you stories that illustrate the need to improve our methods for handling membership applications, renewals or sales of merchandise.
1. Some of our members invariably send in error-filled applications or order forms. Common are arithmetic errors in calculating the amount owed. If the check payment does not match the attached paper form and the items ordered, that makes more work for the office volunteers and frustrated members. There are similar problems with Credit Card payments, but this is not as bad as we can correct the payment amount to be submitted.
2. The time spent on processing applications, orders, and extending services is far too long, pleasing neither volunteers nor members.
3. When we accept payments made by credit card, such as on a form with the numbers written by the cardholder, we have no ability to “swipe” the card on our credit card terminal machine. We rely on the card’s owner to write in the correct and full information. A volunteer must then manually re-key that information into this user-unfriendly terminal to send in the transaction information. If the information is erroneous or incomplete , the Pi is charged an extra penalty that, cumulatively, has been averaging 3% of monthly sales.
I could list more problems, but you get the idea.
On a separate front, Bob Jarecke, the Pi’s Vice President for Membership, has been working on ways to make Pi membership more attractive, and to make the mechanics of becoming a member or renewing a membership easier. When Pat Fauquet offered a suggestion based on her own experiences that we use the services of PrestoBiz, Bob and others sprang into action. With some research by yours truly and legwork by other volunteers, we submitted a proposal for the Board of Directors. They accepted the findings and authorized a group to pursue setting up a secure online storefront.
Bob Jarecke, with some help from others including Lawrence Charters and myself, worked through the many details involved in getting the storefront set up. We also worked on the payment process with a goal of automatic acceptance of credit card payments from major credit cards or through a member’s PayPal account.
Bob also contracted with PayPal to use its Virtual Terminal service so that an authorized Pi representative can enter credit card payments via the Web. If this proves successful, we can retire the key terminal machine we currently use.
It is expected that the Pi will be able to close down its current method of handling credit card sales once the two new methods, one based on PrestoStore support and the other using PayPal’s Virtual Terminal, prove their worth. This will save us time and money.
The Pi’s storefront is now open for business. We encourage you to use it in deference to any paper forms we currently provide or send out. If you do that, our ability to serve you will be greatly enhanced and you should be pleased by the experience. Two added benefits to the Pi of such “all electronic” transactions: (1) The rates charged by PayPal for credit card transactions are less than those we have been paying to our current merchant account provider, even after all interchange penalties (terminal machine errors) have been removed; and (2) The interest paid on funds left in our PayPal business account is much higher than the interest paid by our current credit card sales bank.
If you have any questions or comments about this service, please write: firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.