The Internet and World Wide Web hold great potential for both learning and profit. However, there are those who believe that they can achieve both but end up with neither. E-commerce on the Web is a major calculated risk, not a “sure thing.” Simply building and posting a retail sales site does not automatically guarantee overnight wealth, as can be demonstrated here.
Our case subject shall remain anonymous. Under the threat of legal reprisal, her real name and physical location will not be divulged. She will henceforth be known as Mrs. Ratbag.
Mrs. Ratbag, through one of her many registered domain names and websites, promotes herself as a motivational speaker (ratbaglectures.com). The qualifications she lists, however, are not sufficient enough to support this claim.
Her educational background, which includes graduate and post-graduate degrees, are shared by literally thousands practicing professionals around the world. This, in and of itself, does not qualify an individual to be a motivational speaker.
Mrs. Ratbag also purports to have been working on two separate books that should have been published late last year. The title of the first book is a common phrase found in many different publication and websites. This common phrase can be found in WordPress and Blogger sites, as well as academic papers and other publications.
The title of the second book that Mrs. Ratbag claims to have written was published by a different author in September of 2007 and has been assigned several ISBN numbers. The title is also a registered dot ORG domain name owned by yet another completely different author.
The only actual published book by Mrs. Ratbag has absolutely nothing to do with motivational speaking and is currently out of print. This publication has not been assigned an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), but carries instead an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) assigned to it by Amazon.com. Amazon.com lists this 2004 publication as, “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”
To date, neither of the two books Mrs. Ratbag claims should have been published last year can be found for sale at any major book retail seller, including the one that sold her one and only prior publication. Even the local public library in the town in which Mrs. Ratbag has lived for years does not have a copy of any of her supposed publications.
It is clear from background research that Mrs. Ratbag does not possess the necessary qualifications or experiences to call herself a motivational speaker. Her website, on the other hand, is a prime example of what information not to put on the Internet. This site includes Mrs. Ratbags real name, home address, cell phone number, home phone number, the names of all the colleges she has attended, and all the names of her immediate family. This information makes Mrs. Ratbag ripe for identity theft.
Brick and Mortar Do Not A Website Make:
Mrs. Ratbag fulfilled her life-long dream and purchased an established brick and mortar specialty boutique. This retail mom-and-pop store is located off the main thoroughfares in a moderately populated large city. Her store is in direct competition with two other well established mom-and-pop boutiques, as well as three major national retail sellers that carry the exact same merchandise.
Mrs. Ratbag changed the name of this boutique to a relatively common name that can be found as a registered dot COM domain name by a completely different individual (established 8-years prior), a Blogspot website owned by yet another completely different individual, as well as a Pinterest page (which has absolutely nothing to do with Mrs. Ratbag’s retail store), and other various websites and unrelated retail stores around the country.
Having a unique, original and recognizable brand name is essential to establish a strong web presence. A business’s entire identity is linked to their brand name. Everyone knows the name Walmart, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Chevrolet, Ford, and so on. These names, which represent established companies, help to connect to and motivate buyers, as well as instill a level of trust and confidence in consumers. They also ingrain themselves in our collective culture. They become part of our communal identity.
A uniquely identifiable brand name also ensures that search engines, like Google, can find your e-commerce site. There is little or no point in paying for web hosting if your site is buried deep with search results. If your e-commerce site does not appear within the first ten pages of a Google search, you don’t exist.
On the Web your nearest competitor is one click away.
Mrs. Ratbag failed to take any of this into account when selecting a name for her business and subsequent e-commerce website. Her lack of knowledge and research hurts her business. Just having a physical brick and mortar building does not automatically ensure a successful e-commerce website.
Another error was committed when Mrs. Ratbag registered a dot CO domain name, posted the e-commerce website and then later changed her mind due to the fact that she could not get the dot COM domain name of her retail store and registered another completely different dot COM domain name, and posted another completely different e-commerce website. So now she has two completely different websites linked to her brick and mortar boutique, the first of which appears to have been abandoned and a second website that carries a much longer version of her retail store’s name.
To elaborate: Mrs. Ratbag registered the name ratbagboutique.co because ratbagboutique.com was already taken. She built and posted an e-commerce site using that domain name, which she later abandoned but did not take down. A few months later, she decided to register another longer version, ratbagboutiqueshop.com, because she wanted a dot COM domain name. She again built and posted another completely different site using this dot COM domain name.
Google, however, returns the abandoned site as the first result when searching specifically for Mrs. Ratbag’s e-commerce site. If you abandon a site, any site, remove it from the web hosting company’s server. An apparently abandoned site makes your business look as if it no longer exists. Intelligent customers will not purchase goods or services from such sites.
The Business of Being Irrational:
With a brick and mortar organization comes employees. How an employer treats their employees is strong indication of the quality of that employer’s character and moral fiber. Mrs. Ratbag possesses neither.
Mrs. Ratbag employs approximately six employees, all of whom are female.
One particular employee, Miss Kay, was an employee of the previous owner and stayed on with the boutique after it was purchased by Mrs. Ratbag.
On a Friday when Mrs. Ratbag was not working at the boutique, Miss Kay became ill. She called the boutique prior to its established opening hour and informed the employee in charge that she would not be able to work that day. The information was acknowledged by the other employee and the store functioned adequately without the assistance of Miss Kay.
The following Monday when Mrs. Ratbag returned to the boutique, she noticed that Miss Kay did not work her assigned shift the previous Friday. Mrs. Ratbag questioned the employee who was in charge that day and was informed that Miss Kay did indeed call in sick, but that the store managed nicely without her.
Mrs. Ratbag, however, demands that any employee who calls in sick must call her directly, despite the fact Mrs. Ratbag did not schedule herself to work that day. And because Miss Kay did not directly contact Mrs. Ratbag on that particular Friday, Miss Kay was fired the following Monday.
Miss Kay promptly applied for unemployment compensation, which Mrs. Ratbag was forced by law to pay. So now Mrs. Ratbag is paying another employee to do the work left vacated by the fired Miss Kay, while paying Miss Kay to not work.
Some time after the firing of Miss Kay, on a Friday morning when when Mrs. Ratbag was the first to arrive at the boutique, she noticed that the person closing the store the night before had forgotten to lock the front door.
An employee, call her Miss Que, was the next to arrive that same morning. Miss Que did not work the previous day and was therefore no where near Mrs. Ratbag’s boutique at the time of this incident. However, since Mrs. Ratbag was so enraged by the fact that the front door had been left unlocked overnight, she proceeded to chastise Miss Que for the error, even though Miss Que could not have perpetrated the act.
The 29-Hour Ordeal and Beyond:
No one ever died wishing they had spent more time at work… Except Mrs. Ratbag. Unfortunately, Mrs. Ratbag believes that her employees should have this same attitude.
On a Saturday afternoon in late April when the boutique was closed, Mrs. Ratbag mandated a staff meeting that she scheduled to run for 29 consecutive hours. This meeting included meals and overnight accommodations at a local hotel at an estimated cost in excess of $1,000.00 to the boutique. Refusal to participated would result in termination.
The employees, however, were only paid their regular hourly wage for 16 of the 29 mandated hours.
None of the employees were ever asked by Mrs. Ratbag if they wanted to stay overnight in a hotel, even though they were only a few minutes drive from their own homes. None of the employees returned home that evening.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at approximately noon on Saturday and end at 5:00 pm the following day. No employees were allowed out of Mrs. Ratbag’s proximity during the duration of this mandatory event.
Nowhere in Mrs. Ratbag’s written employee guidelines is there any mention or even a hint of any requirements regarding this 29-hour ordeal. In fact, quite the opposite is true. According to her official written employee guidelines, employees can expect such staff meetings to take place during regular business hours. The 29-hour ordeal took place when the boutique was closed.
The 29-hour ordeal was not even Mrs. Ratbag’s idea. She stole the idea from a voluntary (not mandatory) practice that had been implemented previously for years at Mrs. Ratbag’s husband’s place of work.
Mrs. Ratbag justified the 29-hour ordeal by claiming that it was all done for the benefit of the employees. Monopolizing an employee’s off-hours only benefits the employer.
Employees do not live in a vacuum. They do not cease to exist during non-business hours. They have lives and they have families. What Mrs. Ratbag failed to take into account is that she not only monopolized her employees’ time, she took 29 consecutive hours away from those employees’ families. The families were never offered compensation for their sacrifice. They were never asked if monopolizing 29 consecutive hours of their loved ones’ lives was agreeable to them.
Mrs. Ratbag’s thoughtlessness only resulted in anger and resentment on the part of some employees and their families. One employee, Mrs. Vic, resigned shortly thereafter rather than incur an impending divorce as a direct result of Mrs. Ratbag’s decision to make the 29-hour ordeal mandatory. Again, Mrs. Ratbag maintains that this was all done for the benefit of the employees. Keep in mind also that Mrs. Ratbag promotes herself as a motivational speaker.
Mrs. Ratbag’s assertion that her actions and policies are for the benefit of the employee are proven false by her “No Overtime Pay” policy. Although not illegal in the state in which Mrs. Ratbag conducts business, the practice of not paying overtime is a poor business decision.
The boutique pays employees once every two weeks. If an employee works less than 80 cumulative hours within those two weeks, they are entitled to no overtime compensation. This means that an employee could work for 50 hours during the first week in any given pay period, work for 30 hours in the second week, and still receive no overtime pay.
An employer cannot hope to keep competent, well-trained employees under these conditions when their direct competitor is offering more pay plus overtime and no 29-hour ordeals. Employees and potential employees have no incentive to work for Mrs. Ratbag. They can find better working conditions at a higher rate of pay for the same job elsewhere.
One of the schemes proposed by Mrs. Ratbag during this 29-hour staff meeting was designed to take real and potential income away from the employees and put it back into the boutique’s profits.
Some of the employees act as independent consultants at the boutique. They collect a fee directly from those customers who register in advance for specialized seminars. However, Mrs. Ratbag proposed doing away with such independent activities and mandate that certain employees provide this service as part of their normal duties. Henceforth, they would only get paid their regular wages for conducting these seminars, while the customers would still be charged the full consulting fee. And yet Mrs. Ratbag maintains that this is all done for the benefit of the employees.
Mrs. Ratbag also set sales expectations for the following fiscal year during the 29-hour ordeal. Since the time of the previous owner, the boutique’s total gross sales (not profits) has been approximately $500,000.00 per year.
It is not unreasonable for any company to set sales expectation at about 20% above the previous year’s sales figures. Most companies, however, may get an actual increase between 5% and 10%. Mrs. Ratbag’s sales projections for the next fiscal year is $2,000,000.00. A 400% increase above and beyond any sales figures in the history of the boutique.
A 400% sales increase over last year’s sales is completely delusional, especially for a brick and mortar store that is less than 5,000 total square feet.
Mrs. Ratbag is pinning her hopes on the Internet for a 1.5 million dollar increase in total sales over the next year.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
The Dot Com Gold Rush of the late 1990s gave rise to the Dot Com Death Watch of 2000. Many venture capitalists lost small fortunes investing in e-commerce start-up companies. They thought that all they had to do was to build a dot com registered website and the money would just pour in by the truck loads. They, like Mrs. Ratbag, were sadly mistaken.
Amazon.com, the biggest online retailer on the Internet today, launched their website in 1995, but did not turn its first profit until 2001. This means that Amazon had to bleed money for 6 years before they finally made any profit. And yet Mrs. Ratbag, with only a minuscule fraction of the variety of merchandise sold through Amazon, thinks that she can quadruple her sales in only a single year.
This humble blog has a higher SEO rating than Mrs. Ratbag’s registered domain e-commerce sites. That means that more unique visitors will view this article than will ever visit her sites.
“Homework” assignments were also routinely required by Mrs. Ratbag. Employees were given several display projects to be completed at home during off-hours with no additional pay or compensation. Most, but not all, of the materials needed to complete these displays were provided by Mrs. Ratbag.
In addition to the 29-hour ordeal, Mrs. Ratbag scheduled several mandatory staff meeting dinners at the most expensive and exclusive restaurant her city has to offer. These mandated meetings were conducted after regular business hours. Employees were provided with a meal, but no pay for the time they spent at these meetings.
Mrs. Ratbag also scheduled mandatory breakfast meetings to take place once monthly. These required meetings were held prior to regular business hours. Again employees were provided with a meal but no pay for the time they spent at these meetings, even if the meeting fell on an employee’s scheduled day off.
Both the breakfast and dinner meetings violated Mrs. Ratbag’s own written employee guidelines concerning staff meetings that were only to be held during regular business hours. Couple these meetings with the homework assignments and the 29-hour ordeal and it becomes obvious that Mrs. Ratbag routinely monopolized her employees’ off-hours, while continuing to insist that everything she did she did for the benefit of her employees.
Mrs. Ratbag has said that she plans to continue monopolizing her employees’ time, which includes making the 29-hour ordeal an annual mandatory event.
Mrs. Ratbag Is Not A Virgin:
In addition to three registered domains listed throughout this article, Mrs. Ratbag also owns another e-commerce website that was posted 8 years before she purchased the brick and mortar boutique. This site, ratbagtemplates.com, has been on the web for nearly a full decade. The annual cost of the domain name registration combined with the monthly web hosting fee well exceeds any profit that Mrs. Ratbag has made from this site.
The SEO rating of her site is a mere 3 percentage points higher than this blog. After nearly a decade of e-commerce failure, Mrs. Ratbag still believes that building and posting more e-commerce sites paves the road to riches.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
Lessons Learned From A Ratbag:
Before building and posting an e-commerce website, research.
Choose a unique name for your online presence.
Do not expect to become wealthy overnight.
Do not promote yourself as a motivational speaker or anything else, unless you have the credentials and experience to support your claim.
Never post personal information about yourself online.
Having a brick and mortar store does not insure a successful e-commerce website.
Register one primary domain name for your website.
If you abandon a website, remove it from the web hosting company’s servers.
Treat employees fairly and honestly.
Firing an employee may cost you more in the long run.
Never blame one employee for another employee’s mistake.
Never monopolize an employee’s time during non-business hours.
Employees have families, too. Do not upset the family members of your employees.
Always follow your own written employee/business guidelines.
Always pay overtime for any hours worked over 40 hours during any given single work week.
Set realistic sales goals and expectations based on past sales records.
Building and posting an e-commerce website does not automatically guarantee success.
Always conduct business in a moral and ethical fashion.
And The Moral Of Our Story:
Learn from other people’s mistakes. Even if they don’t.
Mrs. Ratbag’s original website, ratbagboutique.co, has now expired. The domain name has reverted back to GoDaddy.
Her second site, ratbagboutiqueshop.com, is still accessible. However, it has been abandoned and much of its content removed.
A third site for her brick and mortar store, ratbagboutiqueXX.com, has now been posted. However, this site, if you can call it that, is a sparse, single-page billboard containing nothing more than the name of her store and phone number, plus links to Mrs. Ratbag’s email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org), Google Maps (directions to her brick and mortar store), and her Facebook page.
Paying for a domain name and hosting service for a static web page that does absolutely nothing is a foolish waste of company funds.
Mrs. Ratbag is no longer selling online through her store. This means that she has abandoned her dream of achieving $2,000,000.00 per year in sales.
A generic Google search of all the similar specialty boutiques in the town where Mrs. Ratbag’s store is located does not display her new website, even though this site has been up and running for four months (as of April 2013). In fact, none of her previous sites shows up within these search results.
The SEO rating for her new site is zero. Constantly changing sites and domain names is not a good SEO or business strategy.
After nearly a decade of e-commerce failure, Mrs. Ratbag still believes that building and posting more e-commerce sites paves the road to riches.
Each new website that she posts is more pathetic than the last.
Sources have also confirmed that most, if not all, of her employees who were forced to participate in the 29-hour ordeal have either quit or been fired.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone…
Except the perpetually clueless Mrs. Ratbag.
Mrs. Ratbag has sold the property that housed her original boutique and has moved her business into a much smaller rental venue.
The downsizing of her operations quashes her dream of ever achieving sales figures of $2,000,000.00 per year. As the late comedian Robin Williams once noted, “Reality… What a concept!”
Disclaimer: No actual names, dates or locations where used in the creation of this dissertation.