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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

6 Steps to Protecting Yourself When Shopping Online This Upcoming Holiday Season

Monday, November 14th, 2011

It’s holiday season again and I’m sure people are already starting to shop for gifts. If you’re buying online, check out these 6 tips to help you out and increase your chances of having a “safe” shopping experience:

  1. Research the company. Who are the owners? Is it a successful businesswoman from Texas or a teenager living in China? Take a few minutes and check out on the website who is actually behind the business and who operates the website.  Click to the “About Us” page or “Contact Us” page and see if there are some actual names listed on the website.  Then drop some of those names quickly into Google or Bing and search on those names.  What comes up about them?
  2. Find out where their servers are located. Are they based in France, but have a server in Ohio? (You’re probably alright with a company like this) or are they based in England and have a server in Somalia (this should send up a red flag.)  Also, make sure to check out where their website is hosted. Here is a great tool to use to look up domain owners here. It is called Domain Tools. I use it all the time when I am shopping.
  3. Check their website thoroughly. Is there anything in their wording that seems fishy? Are there typos on the website or does the footer of the website say copyright 2002? Does calling that phone number give you someone asking for your pizza order? Confirm that the business is legitimate before buying that scarf for Aunt Joan. Perhaps this post on how to make online websites look credible will help you see what to look for when you are reviewing the four corners of an online store or service business?
  4. Is the business on any Social Networks? Being on social networks like Twitter and Facebook can show that a company is willing to have some transparency when dealing with customers. What type of personality does the business have online? Does it come off as a company that you don’t want to do business with?  Check their Twitter stream or Facebook page and see do they respond to customers or is there just a username set up and just “dead air.”  If you see some level of engagement, that is a good sign.
  5. What are people saying about the businessonline? Most companies will have some type of reviews of them online.  What are people saying about them in these reviews? How about their products, customer service and delivery times?  Can you really trust those reviews? If the reviews sound fake, you might want to check into the company a bit more. Remember our post on how to spot fake reviews? It’ll help!
  6. Do they have a trust seal or an ssl certificate? When you are reviewing a website you are about to buy from check out whether they have an SSL certificate meaning that your communications of your credit card information is encrypted from your browser to the company’s browser.  Also look to see if the business has any trust seals and in particular click on those trust seals and see what they say about the business.  The sites that have trust seals that actually give you more information about the business management team, their track record of financial health and information on customer service, return and privacy policies will give you even more transparency into who you are buying from over this holiday season.

Good luck and stay safe when shopping online!  Also let us know if you have any safe shopping tips.

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

Is this a Bubble or a Buble?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Every day, I check TechCrunch.  It’s sort of a must-do type of thing.  First, you have to do it to see what the latest trends are for start-ups and funding.  Secondly, if you’re involved in a tech start-up and you don’t read TechCrunch, well, you’re seen as a bit of poseur.  And it’s not one of those things where by not doing it you seem even cooler….like not owning a TV.  For some reason, if you don’t own a TV. people think you’re really smart.  But is that really that smart?  T.V. and the internet are the main sources of news and critical information.  It’s like going back thousands of years and saying “I don’t fire” and expecting people to really respect you.

Ok.  Back to my original thought.  I’m reading TechCrunch and in the last 6 months, at least once a week, there is news of a small startup getting large funding or being acquired by a larger strategic player.  For those of us old enough to remember the late 90’s (and who could forget Ace of Base), it’s getting a little scary because it’s feeling like a bubble.  Irrational exuberance.  High Valuations.  People are losing their F&^%$#*!  Minds. 

But is this latest round of investment and acquisition really a bubble?  Or is it logically investing.  I mean, where else should you put your money?  Real Estate?  Corporate Debt?  Blue-Chip Stocks (with 4% growth).  Recent technology investments are based on profitable companies or scalable services that a larger player would rather buy than build.

I guess what I’m saying is this seems more like  Buble than a Bubble.  By that I mean a pitch-perfect time for technology.  Also, I just love referencing Michael Buble.

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

What our Business Blog is Learning from Charlie Sheen

Friday, March 11th, 2011

We’re a small group at KikScore and I’ll be the first to say that writing a blog post at the end of the day sometimes isn’t the first thing on my mind.  But every week we put out new content and (Raj) works the Tweet machine thingy every day.  We research topics, think of fun entries and find funny photos to associate with our content.

All of this has lead to a steadily growing readership and followers.  We’ve found integration partners and new customers.  Heck, the blog has been called out by the New York Times.  But let’s be honest.  Charlie Sheen got 1 million followers in 25 hours, and over 74,000 people want to be his intern.  Charlie Sheen is killing us in the use of Social Media.  His torpedoes of truth have hit our hull and unless we change course, we’ll sink.  We surrender, Charlie.  We’re now learning from your lead:

1.  Blog Drunk or Otherwise Be Wildly Entertaining:  I haven’t missed a single blog steam of Charlie’s.  Is it because I’m mad at CBS or the producers of Two and a Half Men?  No.  I hate all CBS comedies and that stupid show in particular.  Look, it’s a nerd and his fat son living with a swinging bachelor.  Hee-larious.  No.  The reason I watch is because I love seeing how irrational Charlie acts.  It’s a new car wreck each night. 

2.  Stick to a Theme:  Mr. Sheen is not waxing poetic about politics or international relations.  He has a very narrow focus…”Charlie Sheen” [read in strangely intense voice].  He owns that topic and lives in every nuance.  Just like the blog Calculated Risk owns Macro Economics, Charlie owns the effects of massive amounts of money and drugs on a coddled, half-wit celebrity.

3.  Less is more:  If Charlie sent constant updates about what was on his iPod right now, I would stop following him on Twitter.  No.  Charlie gives a random “Du-uh” and something odd about “Trolls” and “Warlocks” (by his usage I’m assuming Trolls are bad and Warlocks are good) and the readers eat it up. 

4.  It Doesn’t Hurt to Seem Completely Unstable:  Not a lot of analysis here.  Just stating the obvious.

 So look for KikScore to do some wildly erratic things in upcoming posts and then bask in a wave of undeserved or logical attention.  We’re counting on you, America.

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

Unless You're in Minnesota, Trust is Important

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Minnesota is many things.  The birthplace of Bob Dylan, Prince, and Kevin McHale.  Home of the Vikings (and Brett Farve).  It is also my home state and I just returned from a 10 day visit home.  Why 10 days?  Because when you have one vacation each year you want it to last as long as possible.  And nothing seems longer than 10 days in Minnesota.

Now to my point.  When visiting the Land of 10,000 lakes, it’s striking at how accommodating and polite everyone is (whether they actually are sincere is another question and not something that really matters).  But tied into that is how trusting everyone is.  Repeatedly I noticed people leaving their computers at the Starbucks table and my parents don’t lock their doors when they are gone all day.  Trustworthiness (or at least the absence of mal-intent) seems to be part of their DNA.

This seems to extend to e-commerce.  I was quietly watching my mother shopping online.  She was looking for some odd knitting equipment (did I mention there is nothing to do in Northern Minnesota?) and she had no hesitation visiting unknown sites.  After I explained the dangers of blindly visiting sites without any security software (and this may be the reason why her computer runs slowly) she seemed shocked that anyone would be less than honest.

As with all things related to Minnesota, the awareness of online danger will spread — probably in about 3 more years.  To give you an idea of the information delay, Minnesota still seems to be getting over the grunge look (I had to tell a few folks that Soul Asylum wasn’t a “with it” band anymore).  So, unless your target market is selling deer tick spray online, promoting trust on your site should remain a top priority.

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

What does Online Trust & Lebron James' Free Agency Have In Common?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I am still frankly in some ways recovering from what I knew was going to happen all along.  Lebron James was going to leave Cleveland. I actually predicted it in this post about lessons small businesses and startups can learn from Lebron James after his flame out in Game 5 of the Celtics/Cavs series earlier this year.

So his departure got me thinking about a few things.  As we all know, his departure was a complete PR spectacle.  But there are some serious lessons learned.  Even strangely  I see some commonalities between how we all viewed Lebron James (especially Cavs fans) and how we decide whether we should trust someone online.

1.   People Change – Cavs fans, and frankly many in the media, thought they knew Lebron. Heck there was probably good reason for the belief, they watched him grow up in my hometown of Akron, watched him get drafted and become a global icon in Cleveland.  Many people thought that they knew Lebron to be “one of us” because he was from Ohio and knew the long frustration of Cleveland sports fans.  Boy were they (we?) wrong. Many people say something changed with Lebron in the last few months, even reporters that have covered Lebron since he was 16 and back in high school. It started with the complete collapse in Game 5 against the Celtics where he looked clueless and uninterested in playing in front of 20,000 crazed fans in a series that they should have won. And it continued to this summer where Lebron blew off the owner of the Cavs not responding to one of the owner’s calls or voicemails.  Wow, did he indeed change and change at that very quickly!

Lesson Learned: You may think you know someone online (and maybe even offline), but you need to be prepared for the unexpected. The only thing you can do to protect yourself is a) get as much information as possible about a person and business and b) always be cautious for the unexpected to happen because it will.  Also the person or business you know one day may be very different a few months or years later.  So always keep your information gathering up to date before you decide to do business online.

2. Do Not Trust Labels, Trust Actions – Lebron repeatedly said so many times he puts a premium on loyalty.  He said he is a loyal guy and that he will always be that kid from Akron.  The fans, media and even his teammates bought into that card.  Heck, I even bought into it.  You have to kind of grow up in Akron to understand it but there generally is a common bond of many people from NE Ohio that ties us together for some of the events, sports nightmares and generally ribbing we have endured.  Again, we were so wrong. You can literally have the word “Loyalty” printed on your chest like Lebron does, but it means ZERO if you do not live up to your word.

Lesson Learned: When you are online, people and businesses will say all sorts of things to get your business. They will say that they guarantee certain things, that you can trust them, that their website is safe.  Make them prove it to you by having them show you their trackrecord of reliability, trustworthiness and success.  Heck, that is what the KikScore seal allows you to do as a small business.

3. Look for Hints of Information to be Wary:  So in some ways I can say myself and the rest of the city of Cleveland/Akron feel blindsided.  But that would be naive.  There were many hints of information and actions, though small and isolated instances, that should have made people wary of what Lebron was going to do.  There was the lack of commitment to the team last year when he had the opportunity to resign, there was his space cadet look and play in game 5 of the Celtics game, there was the lack of engagement with the team after the season and then maybe the most glaring one is when Lebron constantly referred to the fact that he needed to consult “his team” for the decision.  No that would not be his Cavs teammates, that was his marketing team and his bunch of his fellow St. Vincent, St. Mary high school friends and agents. I should have known, I went to Walsh Jesuit the arch rival of St. V’s. We could never trust those guys……but that goes back nearly 20 years now.

Lesson Learned: Transparency is key.  If a person or business is transparent and gives you information about themselves and their actions, first that is a good sign because they are comfortable enough to give you that information.  But more importantly, in order for you to make that online trust decision you need to analyze that information in way that allows you to feel comfortable.  To help, here are 7 items to look for from in stores that sell online to make sure they are legitimate,  5 safe online shopping tips and some help with finding contractors you can trust online.

There probably are many more.  Please let us know which ones you think there are.  I am sure you probably heard that the Cavs owner last night had a nuclear response to Lebron breaking his trust and the city of Cleveland’s trust.  We all should learn a few things from this free agency experience so that we do not end up having to send a letter like that to a person or company you do business with online because you did not take the steps to protect yourself.

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Is March Madness Good for the Office?

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Every year corporate efficiency wonks (or as I like to call them, the Fun Police) estimate the many billions lost by employees following the NCAA basketball tourney.  People take off work to watch the games, they talk about upsets (likeNotre Dame’s stunning loss to Old Dominion), and I’ve heard that people even participate in office betting pools.  Those sound fun…I should that out some time.   

Admittedly, focusing on college basketball isn’t business focused, but I think March Madness is good for business for a few reasons:

1.  Office morale: Betting on basketball games is an office equalizer.  The CEO is no smarter than a sales rep on who is going to win the tourney — and taking money from the bosses, if you do win, is a sweet thing.

2.  Enhance your ability to make small talk:  often when talking with customers (or potential customers), you don’t have anything in terms of small talk.  For the next several weeks, you have endless amounts of small talk (how you’re doing in the office pool, your favorite team getting beat by Old Dominion etc…etc..).  It’s the same reason why I like People Magazine, it gives me material so I can talk with anyone.

3.  Improves your project management ability:  anyone who has ever run an office betting pool will tell you that it is a nightmare unless you’re organized.  What better way to break in your new project manager than by throwing him an illegal office pool.

What’s your thoughts on the NCAA tourney?

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Posts Tagged ‘shopping online’

Running a Business is Tough, But It Could be Worse, We Could be Olympic Curlers

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

As the t.v. ratings indicate, U.S. audiences are caught up in Olympic fever.  I’m not exactly sure why this Olympics is so different than the Torino games in 2006.  It may be due to the fact that these Olympics are in North America and we can, generally, watch the events as they happen (not on tape delay).  I really think it’s because the U.S. is actually winning.  If we had a guy who could ski and shoot well, I guarantee that the biathlon would be a national craze.  I’m not saying this because I’m any different…I’ve never cared so much about hockey until the U.S. was playing for gold (hockey to me really is soccer on ice, and soccer is boring on grass). 

But unlike hockey players (who are professionals and merely taking a two-week Olympic vacation), and Shaun White (who is a millionaire and video game inspiration), most of the Olympic athletes work a patch-work lower paying jobs that provide them flexibility so they can train during the 3 years and 50 weeks they aren’t competing for medals. Take a member of the U.S. Curling team as an example.  According to a recent CNN article, it costs $150,000/year just to train for qualifying events.  They must use all their vacation time (and additional non-paid time) to travel to events…and oh yes, they have to train 5 hours a day.  The only upside in being an Olympic Curler is that it appears to be an in-demand activity for Wall Street traders(so they may have a future career in providing outrageously expensive lessons to overpaid quants).

All of this comes down to a point…I swear.  For entrepreneurs and small business owners, the passion is creating and growing a business.  Overtime, the business grows or at the very least the owner gains valuable business experience for the next venture.  But an Olympic Curler, after 4 years and thousands of dollars is left with little media coverage, no endorsements, and, if it’s the US team, no real shot at a medal.  That’s commitment.

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At What Point Should a Small Business Call in the Lawyers?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.  It’s a oft-repeated phrase from Henry VI (and from many former clients).  Love them or not, at some point, every small business is going to have to work with (or against) a lawyer.  Some do it early, some later.  Think about just setting up a business.  Do you do operate as a sole enterprise, and LLC, a corporation or (if working with others) a partnership.  What are the implications of these decisions? 

You get past formation, now does your business have a special product or process that should be protected with a patent filing?  Is your business name something you want to protect (or at least prevent your competitors from using) — if so, looks like you’ll have to consider filing for a trademark. Your website is up and running…do you have a site agreement, terms of use, etc?  What about a privacy policy?  Where do you get a good and enforceable service agreement?  Now your business is growing and you must hire employees and contractors to help, what agreements do you need in place and are you aware of the relevant employment laws and regulations.

I’m not making this post an advertisement for the legal practice, but with all the potholes out there, it’s scary.  If your business is fairly straight-forward, you can take advantage of commercial forms (take a look at LegalZoom).  But that won’t get you all the way there.  For example, we here at KikScore have a couple of lawyers as part of the team (myself included).  You’d think we wouldn’t need to hire outside lawyers for our start-up.  Well, it may be because we don’t have the brightest lawyers on staff (myself included), but we have a patent lawyer and an outside corporate lawyer helping us out.  I’m not saying this is the way to go…I’m sure because of our backgrounds we over think a lot of the decisions.  In fact, my dad has operated relatively lawyer-free for the past 30 years and has handled most of his business disputes in small claims court.  But he’s also heavily armed, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

What’s your opinion on when to call in the unfrozen cave-man lawyer?

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Small Biz Thankful List

Thursday, November 26th, 2009


In honor of the day, we are doing our KikScore Small Business Thankful List.  These companies, tools and sites have been helpful for us or other start-up businesses we work with.  Clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list (and feel free to add your own in the comments).  So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we here at KikScore are thankful for:

1.  MyBusinessAssistant.com — helping out small businesses manage their, well, their business — via their virtual assistant service

2.  Shustir.com — creating a unique online marketplace and community for new and small businesses.

3.  Design2Print — did a great job on our marketing gear.

4.  Freeconference.com — Free and Conference, need I say more.

5.  WordPress — allowing small business to create an inexpensive way to spread the word.

6.  Twitter/Facebook — I’ll start talking about it soon enough, but social media has been wonderful for KikScore and Small Business in general.

7.  YouTube — allowing Small Biz to create and distribute their own commercials without buying a slew of server space.

8.  Google — providing research resources that 20 years ago would have cost thousands of dollars.

9.  iPhone — providing Small Biz a reasonable excuse for dropping calls (and it’s a pretty handy tool).

10.  oDesk — providing some relief to our development team, with providing a marketplace for Tech contractors.

11.  Minnesota Vikings — because Small Businesses love a winner (okay, i’m throwing that in there to see if anyone is actually reading this).

12.  MicroSoft BizSpark — providing KikScore and a lot of startups, a lot of free software (we really like groove…check it out)

Here’s hoping you’re having a great holiday…we’re most thankful for our readers and customers.

Team KikScore

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