Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Shopster Retail Agreement Part 2.

In the first part of this article we looked at the Shopster Retail Agreement. I noticed three issues, that I personally would call significant in an agreement like this. They are.

1. There is no express indication that Shopster will notify its Retailers of changes to the terms and conditions.
2. The agreement prohibits any changes in description or warranty.
3. The agreement, even the trial version, prohibits you from participating with any other drop shipper of the same products within 12 months.

I also was very unhappy with the size of the font, the contrast, and the inability to print the agreement.

I contact Shopster to get an answer, and found it rather difficult. Their phone number as listed on their web page, went to voicemail. So I looked at the Management Team page located in their About Us section.

After looking through the individual positions, I saw that Suzanne Vadori is the Executive Vice President of Operation. She appears to be the best person at the most Senior level to get an answer of my questions from. (The CEO is often not the best person to get a specific answer from. He/She will usually refer the issue to the relevant department Senior manager/VP.)

I sent her an email via the Contact Us form online. I made sure I put at the top of the message that this was to be directed to her. I asked a total of 6 questions and got an answer to three of them. (Tip, if you need a message to go direct to someone, and don't have their email address, send to the support and put ATTENTION: NAME. You can certain that at the very least they will get a copy of it.)

The answer I received was signed Suzy Vadori. So it looks as if my request made it to the EVP I was looking to contact.

She addressed the three main points I made above.

"We do consult with legal counsel when amending this agreement, and our retailer base is notified of each change." Suzy states.

So while the agreement does not expressly state that notification of amendments will be made, she implies there is a company policy to notify members of changes. If you ever get a notification of a change you need to ensure you read those changes.

With respect to the product description and warranties Suzy stated "Shopster provides all end user customer support for the products listed....If modification of
description or product warranties were allowed, Shopster would not be able to provide this service to its retailers."

While I appreciate where she is trying to go, it does not address the core of my original issue. Does this provision exclude the addition of a warranty, such as a SquareTrade? Does this prohibit the addition of a personal review?

Her answer here is incomplete, which is a concern that I will follow up on.

With respect to the terms binding "trial members" and restricting them from using a competitor who sells the same services for a period of 12 months, she confirmed that was the case.

"This agreement was designed to apply to all Retailers, whether during a free
trial or paying for Shopster services."

Where does this put you? Well if you thinking of entering the dropshipping business, as a retailer, a Shopster trial could stop you in your tracks before you get started. If you don't like Shopster, you are prohibited per their agreement from signing up with another provider unless you had a relationship with them before.

One of Shopster's main competitors is Doba. Their Agreement is much fairer on all my issues. If you sign up with Doba FIRST, then you can sign up with Shopster's trial. If you sign up with Shopster's trial, and don't like it, you can NOT then sign up for Doba.

I appreciate Suzanne Vadori's response. While it was a little incomplete, she certainly paid my concerns respect. She was direct in her response, and stated very clearly that this was a conscientious business decision. While I may disagree with some of those from both an operational and legal perspective, I respect their strategy.



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Copyright © 2009 Peter MacSweeney.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author is forbidden. Contact the author through the comment form for all inquiries, including media.


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