Make Sure You Answers Enquiries

The other day I posted about a site where I was going to buy a product, but they only offered Google Checkout payment method. I emailed them to ask if they take other forms of payment – specifically Paypal.

As of yet, 4 days later, I have received no reply. Which ain’t good.

Do you have a contact us form? Email address? Postal Address? Do you get enquiries? I’m sure you do. It doesn’t make sense to offer these things if you are not going to respond.

I suggest that a MAXIMUM of 24 hours is more than enough time for a shop owner to respond. If you are away on holiday set up an auto-responder. If you can respond in less than 24 hours, so much the better.

There surely is nothing worse than an uncommunicative shop owner. It shows a lack of business acumen and a lack of respect. Don’t go there!

Blacklisting a Customer in osCommerce

The other day, one of my cliets approached me as she has been having major problems with one particular person signing up, buying and doing a chargeback. Of course, this is not desirable, so we had a brainstorm to see what could be done about it…

Blocking the IP: not really, as people can still get dynamic IP addresses.
Deleting the customer account: not really as the person could just sign up again
Making note of his CC number and not allowing him to use it: no, as it’s not allowed to store CC numbers

The only solution we could come up with that works to any satisfactory degree is to simply not aloow this person to log into his account anymore. Of course, this is still not a perfect way to do things as the person could just make a new account, but at least he cannot make a new accoutn using the same email address.

With that decided, I went on the hunt for a contribution that would allow this and came across this one. It’s a bit of a clunky coded contribution but seems to do the job OK – and as I was pushed for time I thought it would be OK to install this.

A new client

Yesterday, someone else asked me to do the same thing – and as I had a little time on my hands I decided to have a think about doing things a different (and better in my opinion) way. I really like the “green and red” on/off buttons in the category/product pages in osCommerce admin – so I wanted to use those to allow the Shop Owner to ban or unban a client.

Here’s a screenshot of my idea;

Those customer with the “red dot” are banned. If they try to login, their session is destroyed, their cart is destroyed and they are redirected to “login”. I haven’t coded most of this up (yet), but envisage it takeing next to no time to get working. My idea is also to have a date setting to show when a person was banned, as well as showing the latest login attempt.

Should be an interesting coding challenge, I reckon it’s doable in less than 20 lines of code from start to finish…of course, it then needs testing which takes some time!

Allow Buyers to Pay You

It seems obvious that when you run an online shop you need to make sure that people who want to buy from you can actually pay you. Have you thought about it?

Yesterday, I came across a site and was ready to buy the product – after getting halfway thru the checkout process I see that payments on this particular site are offered only via Google Checkout. Now, I love Google as much as the next guy – I use the Google search engine loads of times per day, I use Gmail, I use Picasa, I use Google maps, I use Adsense and Adwords and so on. But I don’t want to give Google my financial details, thank you very much.

So, I emailed the site asking if they accept other forms of payment, specifically Paypal – as yet I’ve not received a reply. Online I always use Paypal – I’ve had an account for years and there is always some “spending money” in my Paypal accout. It’s quick and easy. I suspect that lots of people have Paypal accounts as it is so integrated with eBay.

So, let’s have a think about it, you need to cater for at least two sorts of buyers;

1. Paypal users. Easy – just accept Paypal payments.

2. Non Paypal users. Not so easy. I suppose that you really need to accept Cards, so you need to find a good processor. In my opinion, there are only two that are worth looking at (though I’d be happy to see comments/recommendations from anyone using any others). The two that I have used are; Worldpay and ProtX. Both these can handle Debit and Credit Cards easily.

On top of these you have loads of other 3rd party processors, I’ve already mentioned Google Checkout, how about 2checkout, iPayment, Chronopay and so on.

I suggest to you that if you don’t offer Paypal as a payment method you are losing out on a good chunk of business. I also suggest to you that if you only offer Paypal as a payment method you are losing out on a good chunk of business.

So, with this in mind, are you able to increase the payment options open to your customers? Have a think about that…

I was ready to drop a couple of hundred £ yesterday – but I didn’t. Can you afford to lose customers by not offering a suitable way for them to pay?

Quick Tip

Somewhere in your site, PLEASE list the payment options that you offer – there is nothing more annoying than going through the checkout process to find I can’t pay because you only offer a payment method I prefer not to use. If you got some icons on your site somewhere, I know immediately that I can buy from you…

Regarding osCommerce Templates

Vaibhav emailed;

I can design my own template and I have one with me. But my problem is that how should I integrate it with Ecommerce? Please help me out for this.

Really easy for me to answer this one. As you already have the design (I guess in HTML format) the best option for you is to use STS (Simple Template System).

I wrote a tutorial on STS which can be found at, and I am doing a very good special offer for readers of this blog.

Here’s a comment received today from someone who bought an eBook from me yesterday;

At first glance the book is just amazing! Simple, efficient, easy to use and for sure useful. I couldn’t resist to make some immediate changes to boxes:) Thank you very much, or as in my country said “NajlepÅ¡a hvala!”. I’ll contact you again when the shop is finished so you’ll see what you made me do;)

Version 4 of Coupon Discount System

STOP PRESS: This contribution is now updated to Version 5 and has all sorts of cool extras. Please see the latest post about this.

I’ve been slowly but steadily working on this contribution when I can find time in my schedule to do so 😉 Seems as though there are a lot of requests but hardly anyone is willing to help further this modification by donating to the project…

V4 – Admin Side:

Able to add a “use once” or “use multiple” voucher.

Able to add a “fixed amount” or “percent discount”.

Each Coupon shows the date/time of the last use (linked to the order) and the total number of uses.

This link enables you to quickly see every use of each voucher.

This list shows each use of the voucher. Each use is linked directly to the actual order made.

You can disable coupons easily by clicking these buttons.

Version 4 – Shop Side:

The Coupon Input box is now in the shopping cart page. This means that other contributions such as “FEC” should work OK.

Inserting a valid coupon code changes the value of the cart contents appropriately.

The “remove coupon” link does just that – it removes the coupon from the order.

The checkout_confirmation.php page shows the details of the order as usual, including the coupon.

And the same information is shown in the admin page for the order.

V4 – under the hood

Version 4 has had quite a lot of code changes – mainly to deal with the fact that coupon discounts can now be placed outside the checkout procedure.

V5 – in the pipeline

Minimum Spend per coupon.

A “use once, one time” coupon. Once that is done, I can then look at the flip side of discount coupons, which is “gift vouchers.

Stripping the Languages Box in osCommerce

Jan asks;

I’ve googled for a solution for my problem and found your web site, so I’m wondering if you can help me. It’s about Oscommerce of course:) I’m trying to move language icons (not the full ‘languages box’) to header but so far no succes. I’ve managed to move the whole box with frame and background and so on, but I can’t strip it down to images of flags only (like you did in this example: ).

Jan – it’s pretty straightforward. Assuming that you are starting from a stock languages box, all you need to do is find this code:

[php]new infoBoxHeading($info_box_contents, false, false);[/php]

and add two slashes in front of it (so php does not parse it), like so:

[php]// new infoBoxHeading($info_box_contents, false, false);[/php]

Then scroll down and find this code:

[php]$info_box_contents = array();
$info_box_contents[] = array(‘align’ => ‘center’,
‘text’ => $languages_string);

new infoBox($info_box_contents);[/php]

and change that to:

[php]echo $languages_string;[/php]

Now you should be able to see only the language icons and not the surrounding infoBox. You can now move these anywhere you want as part of your design.

I actually cover this in more depth in one of my eBooks, called “Designing osCommerce” (there is a sample chapter freely available by download). At this moment I have an excellent special offer available, see here.

Does that help? Cheers, Gary

Asking for One on One help

The reason I use Open Source is because most of it is Free….
Sorry but it sounds like your selling this , since it’s definitely not a 1 minite Install !!

This quote is part of a message I received today. The person had tried to install an Admin Template that I uploaded to the contributions area at osCommerce. It didn’t work due to user error (as there are loads of shops running the template without problems), so naturally, the user came to me to ask why. As I don’t give 1 on 1 help, ever, without payment, I gave my standard “I offer an installation service” reply.

There is quite a misconception about Open Source, and that is to do with money. Open Source does not mean Free of Charge. When I have to spend time hunting for a users mistake I charge for it. I wonder if this user will be giving away the products via his osCommerce shop, or whether he will be selling them 😉

Anyway, I like receiving messages like this, it confirms that osCommerce is very much still alive and kicking!

Sales to Canadians only

A question found on one of the freelance sites;

Hello, I am seeking an OSCOMMERCE programmer to adjust our shopping cart so it will only accept orders from Canadian customers. The shop only ships products to Canadian addresses at this time.

However, at some future date we will allow the shopping cart to ship to USA customers.

Thus, we need a solution where we can easily enable and disable shipping to other countries.

Solution we are seeking

(1) Plugin or module or configuration to easily enable and disable orders from customers in designated countries (i.e. Canada Orders Only).

(2) Plugin or module or configuration to easily enable and disable shipping to designated countries (i.e. Canada Shipping Only).

(3) Customers should not be able to choose any other countries when signing up. Canada should be the only selection for now. But we want to be able to easily enable orders from other countries in the future.

Completely obvious – all that needs to be done here is remove all the countries (except Canada) from the countries list. This is done in the admin section of your osCommerce shop, or can be done very quickly using PHPMyAdmin. That’s 10 minutes work via Admin or 30 seconds work via PHPMyAdmin.

When America (or any other country) is needed to be added, just add it back into the same list. That’s 30 seconds work.

Garys Comment

I’m surprised that people try to look for solutions that are not easy. If you always choose the simplest option, it will cost you less, it will be easier to fix when things go wrong and it will be easily portable when you need to update you shop.

osCommerce Diary for w/c 20 October

Monday AM; install coupons for Client A
Monday PM; start makeover for Client B

Tuesday AM; finish makeover for Client B
Tuesday PM; Free

Wednesday AM; finish makeover for one of my own sites
Wednesday PM; Free

Thursday AM; Coupon & featured products install for Client C
Thursday PM; Free

Friday AM; Free
Friday PM; Free

If you need any help with your osCommerce store, contact me to book out one of my free slots.

Credit Crunched? Special Offer for readers of clubosc

I’ve made a special “Credit Crunch” offer over at

BUY ONE, GET ONE (to equivalent value) FREE! Times are hard, so if I can do something to help with people getting started correctly with osCommerce then it can only be good.

My suggestion would be to go for the STS and Designing ebooks (both updated for 2008), as these take you on two separate journeys to design a good looking osCommerce site – and will give you enough knowledge and experience to make almost any design work in osCommerce. And you can now get them both for the cost of one!

In addition, as a special offer only for readers of Club osCommerce, I will also give any buyers the “localhost” package as a bonus. This is an installation of PHP, MySQL, PHPMyAdmin, osCommerce and osCommerce STS in one download, and it works on your home computer! One click and it’s all up and running…the package also includes instructions of how to get your live site mirrored onto your own computer hard drive.

OK, so if you are interested, all you need to do is get yourself along to and purchase your chosen eBook – it’ll be an instant download. Then email me and tell me which eBook ( to equivalent value) you would like) and I will send it to you – if you also quote code clubosc001 I will send you the “localhost” package too.