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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reviews by Hubie Goode: StoresOnline, Inc.

StoresOnline is a company that claims to offer a full internet commerce business, training, and support to customers. They host nationwide introductory seminars in which they present folks with the idea of having their own profitable online store front business.

When I first signed up for the one day seminar, I was offered a free lunch and a free ipod just for attending. And truth be told, that is exactly what I got, although the quality of both is questionable, depending upon your point of preference.

In their presentation StoresOnline reps go through various aspects of running a business online. They touch on topics such as internet marketing, search engine optimization, and website links. All-in-all they make it seem that starting an online business without StoresOnline would be foolish and extremely difficult. But as you and I know, that’s just sales talk.

StoresOnline make themselves appear to be experts to their customers by using technical terms throughout their presentations. They then present their offer which is 3-6 professionally programmed store front websites with internet marketing support, i.e. free incoming links and SEO help.

The problem is that many inexperienced customers grossly overvalue the services provided by StoresOnline. They end up paying around $6,000 for the StoresOnline package, some have even paid close to 30k. Keep in mind this is simply for the programming, hosting, and maintenance of websites.

What customers don’t seem to realize is that the “opportunity” here is only for the software and assistance in using it. This is NOT a business opportunity, not a franchise and that is where the corner turns on the situation. You’ll find a neat marketing strategy with the seminars in that they take a baby step approach to getting a customer involved. At the first seminar you can sign up for a website for only around $40. But they don’t tell you how useless this is in light of the real offer of their involvement. Heck, I could get hosting with Hostgator for $8.00 a month and register a web site with GoDaddy for $1.99 and still have the same amount of involvement. No, what they want is for you to become involved at the Premier level, the big $6,000 dollar level with three to six websites all selling products around the world. They do offer a pro up grade, but the upgrade is not inclusive and will cost you even more money with a sort of “A la Carte” menu. And although they mention the dropshippers are integrated with the Premier package, they are not included with the Pro package and will take some effort on your part to run one down that meets your needs and then you’ll have to pay more monthly fees for the drop ship.

The presenters described a number of state-of-the-art features that I am sure many in the audience had never heard of and due to their lack of experience in the field of website design and internet marketing, it probably sounded like a true winner. Many there wanted very much to have an internet based business that would be profitable. After all, who could lose when partnered with the knowledge, experience and technological equipment provided by StoresOnline. Since many there may have worked all their life with very little to show for it, I’m sure they were very interested in the fact that an individual with no knowledge of computers or website design and internet marketing could, with the backing of StoresOnline, actually make $40,000 to $80,000 a month selling just about anything on the internet, including dog poop and tumbleweeds.

It was assured to them that even if we chose to design and build their own sites, the StoresOnline professionals would review the store front to ensure no mistakes went through to publication. The crowd was told by the speakers that within a month of publishing their first store, it would begin paying off debts incurred.

Although personally, I did not go as deep as others have, I understand something like what is described here next, is very common.

In December, I was called and told that we had been chosen to be the StoresOnline’s Texas Success Team. For $4,518, we were signed on with what I expected to be a sure thing with the Storesonline backing. For this additional investment, we were promised a lot of things, but all we actually got was 10 approximately 20-30 minute phone calls in which we were told to go to this website or to that website, learn this, learn that, buy this or buy that. Sign up for these search engines, etc.
I ended up spending another $1000 or more doing what they told me to do on top of the additional $50 to publish a new store and have them host it for $139 a year. The professional help promised was never as good as my own abilities. I designed and built 3 stores using their program; however, every time I asked for help, I was told to go to this website and you’ll learn how to do that. Or, we charge $50 an hour to do that for you. My stores went public with poor design and errors. Even when someone did look at our stores from StoresOnline, they were not critiqued too closely and improvements were never done or even suggested.

I can totally attest to the lousy customer service myself, although I did purchase a Pro upgrade in order to dig deeper, I did cancel before the deadline and I also got my money back. But even if I hadn’t been looking for blog material, I probably would have quit at that point. Using the chat help myself, I was continually frustrated by the almost complete lack of understanding by several of the workers I spoke with. Questions had to be repeated over and over as if the language itself was causing trouble for the assistants. There were several problems that kept having to be corrected and every time I spoke to a new person they didn’t seem aware of the problem. That, in itself, was a red flag to me.

More quotes from others...

The program used by StoresOnline was very difficult to learn to use and so I learned through trial and error. It was time consuming and costly. They indicated that even if you did not know what a mouse was, you’d be able to use their program. Not so. Plus when you do build a store using their program, you are tied to their program because to move your site elsewhere means to have to redesign and rebuild much of it. The Online Chat did not work for me because of my computer; however, when I was able to access the Chat Line using my laptop, I would be told to go to this website to get that help or they were completely lacking in any ability to answer my questions.

Finally getting fed up with my own lack of abilities and not wanting to pay hundreds of dollars more to StoresOnline, I hired a lady who was proficient in designing and building websites. I told her to work with the StoresOnline programmer who had eventually been assigned to more or less appease me and keep me quiet as he never actually did much as far as help on my web sites.

She was told to contact Customer Support who promptly ignored her and when the new site was completed, she had no idea how to upload it to StoresOnline. This was promised at the seminar to be easy and in no way a big problem. However, her efforts to get help with doing this were basically ignored. With this, I became completely and totally exasperated with StoresOnline and told them for about the third of fourth time that I wanted a total refund of all my investment into StoresOnline and that I would then go elsewhere. My third store, designed and built outside of StoresOnline, is now being hosted by the designer who has done a beautiful job and who also has been very helpful and supportive in my endeavors to build an internet business for a fraction of the cost that StoresOnline was paid.

I have asked that StoresOnline refund to me the $10,284 total. So far, I have heard nothing back from them. On 3 separate occasions, I wrote to StoresOnline stating how dissatisfied I was with their program and requesting a refund. The first 2 times, I received a call and was again convinced that I had not given it a fair trial and that things would be different as StoresOnline provided a lot for the money.

Almost all of the money paid to StoresOnline was paid using my credit cards, which from their point of view, would be paid off before the credit card company even began to collect interest. I want my money back and I think StoresOnline should be stopped from proclaiming success with their backing, as they provide none. I already knew or had access to much of what they did provide (a program to build a site) and information on how to market your site. All of which is available in books (I have them) and on the internet for FREE.

I concur with that, after doing my own research, I found many of the things offered here all over the net, and also the information you need is readily available. Let’s face it folks, there are no easy fixes. If you have problems today it will take some steady work and long term study to head in a direction of resolution. Paying a company like this to hold your hand and make things quick and easy is the first mistake in thinking when looking for answers.

I spoke to several of the dropshippers who also know Storesonline and they added their own two cents which confirms what we are talking about here. This company consistently asks for more and more money as you go along, and they charge for everything.

If you really want to try something like this, there are plenty of dropshipper websites that are much cheaper and they set you up with their company for a site and you sell their products. I can’t vouch for their success, and you will still need to get study of internet marketing, but the overall costs at first glance appear to be manageable if you have some capital. If you have no capital. You’ll have to work to build up some while you study.


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