Free, Only If You’re Disloyal

I’ve been running a couple of e-commerce shopfronts for a company on some of the biggest platforms in Japan for the past year and very much dislike one of the platforms, regarding which I shall not name.

Let’s call it R =X.

This particular platform R charges a monthly fee to operate a shop on their e-commerce site and the fees are not cheap. Further, there are several additional costs for the most ridiculous features such as to upload products using CSV, when their rival Yahoo! Shopping offers it for free for obvious reasons. How an e-commerce site can think to make money off this feature is beyond me. What more, Yahoo! Shopping does not charge any fees for using their platform. Yes, you can run your online shop for free on Yahoo! and only pay commission for sales.

R is also particularly difficult to use and sets mind-numbing rules to how you should create your shop design depending on the plan you are using. It has a lot of unnecessary links to separate what should be grouped together and several link names that do not tell what settings they are until you click in to see for yourself. In short, non-intuitive UI.

I’ve spoken with former staff members of the company and learnt that the system was created very long ago when there wasn’t any particular standard to how it should be structured. It has since gotten so big, nobody wants to meddle with the design although I feel that they have the resources to create an improved version. But I can’t verify if this opinion is accurate.

About a year ago, when we were considering whether or not to use R and eventually decided not to, due to the costs involved. However, we were contacted by their staff regarding a cheaper plan that is not released to public. The plan while cheaper has many more regulations to how certain things should be set, and also charges a higher commission fee and so, we decided to give it a shot. We got decent sales right from the start but gradually lost all of the sales when they decided to update their algorithm and the sales never came back. Our shop also does not return in the search results anymore despite offering the lowest price and yet does not show even when you sort by price in ascending order.

After using it for a year, we decided it’s not worth operating a shop on the platform and called to terminate our contract since it’s due to end soon. Little did I expect, their staff called again and said they have a secret plan which is free to use and does not cost any monthly fees at all. I felt disgusted at the idea. If you had given free trial in the beginning to let people decide if they want to use it after the trial is over, that’s perfectly fine. But how can you charge so much and then offer free use only to those who want to abandon your shop? That doesn’t sound very ethical to me.

It seems like you only get the best deal by not being loyal. And if I were paying the full fee, I’d be pretty pissed.

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