's Creator Kim Dotcom is Imprisoned

A man known as Kim Dotcom (real name, Kim Schmitz) is a 38-year old computer programmer that is best known for creating one of the most popular downloading websites in the world. operated as a one-click hosting service that allowed users to upload files for sharing worldwide. Unfortunately, the majority of the files available were pirated software, music and movies. On January 20th, 2012, Kim Dotcom was arrested on copyright infringement charges in New Zealand. Today, he was imprisoned and denied bail due to being an extreme flight risk.

Anyone who has ever downloaded something illegal has probably used Megaupload at some point. The service provided storage space online for small fee. Uploaders would store bootlegged movies, music, tv shows, ebooks, software, games and anything else under the sun. The links to this content would then be mass-distributed to the world via websites that offered little to no value to the web community and were usually plastered with seemingly endless advertisements. As a downloader, you could take anything your heart desired. Where Megaupload made its real money was by providing “faster” download services for a fee. As a free user, you were limited to a small number of downloads per day, but most importantly your maximum speed was capped.

Megaupload Stats

Being number one in anything can be difficult, but being number 1 on the Internet (and staying there) can be next to impossible. Although never reached the coveted rank of the number one visited website in the world, shows that at one point it was the 13th most visited website. Currently it rests at 74. In short time, it will likely fall off the face of the Internet faster than it took me to write that.

At one point or another, this is what Megaupload was pulling down:

  • Unique visitors: 81 million
  • Pageviews: > 1 billion
  • Visitors per day: 50 million
  • Daily reach: 4%
  • Members: 180 million

It was also estimated that at its peak, Megaupload was responsible for over 4% of all Internet traffic! Not bad for a website started in 2005. Among the other sites that Megaupload Limited operated were websites for videos (, photos ( and porn ( All have currently been shut down and now display the infamous FBI anti-piracy logo:

FBI seized website

The Seizure

All the websites and domains associated with Megaupload were seized by the Megaupload Indictmentgovernment a few days ago and as you can plainly see, when you access any of these sites, you are greeted with a friendly reminder that they no longer exist. The charges laid out to Kim Dotcom and Megaupload Limited stem from years of pirating anything digital. While sites like YouTube have solved similar legal issues by installing teams of people with the sole purpose of finding and removing copyrighted videos, Megaupload has allowed its users to upload and share anything and everything.

As a result, New Zealand Police arrested Kim Dotcom and three other Megaupload executives in Auckland on January 20th. The FBI has requested that these four individuals be extradited to the United States. Kim Dotcom was denied bail for fear that if he made it to Germany he would escape extradition.

The indictment indicated that Megaupload differed from other online storage business in a number of ways, in that Megaupload relied heavily on users to download files rather than actually store anything. This was because the vast majority of users did not pay for the service, thereby making Megaupload rely on advertising dollars from ads shown to free downloaders.

The Future

Once this guy gets his sentence, I’m sure the domain and all the business assets (what’s left after the seizure) will be sold off to some other corporation so they can breath life back into the brand. And just like Napster, they will attempt to take the “legal” approach to file sharing. However, the damage is likely done. Those of us who have used it will miss its free and open business model, while those of you who will discover it for the first time in whatever new light is shined on it will never know how great it used to be.

My Two Cents

Kim Dotcom was able to use his business-savvy skills and computer knowledge to create one of the largest file-sharing networks of all time. I remember using the site a few times and always had that first thought of “Why didn’t I think of this?!”, but as I thought more about it, I kept asking myself how websites like Megaupload can exist when it’s crystal clear about what its purpose is—to provide copyrighted material to the world free of charge.

I was reading an article on Yahoo! about Kim Dotcom being arrested and someone left a very interesting comment that I just had to share:

Megaupload was shut down, WITHOUT the need for PIPA or SOPA… Imagine that, the copyright holders using the legal system and EXISTING LAW to bust pirates instead of censoring the internet…

It brings up a very good point and it’s the exact reason I have been so against PIPA and SOPA ever since the new legislation was introduced. The idea that we need more and more laws to combat a problem like this is ridiculous. We have what we need to prosecute people like this and the take-down of the entire Megaupload network is proof that this process works…even in other countries.

Selling Products Online – Amazon Seller Central or eBay Auctions?

As an eBayer since November of 1999, I had the chance to watch eBay grow from a very basic auction site with hardly anything for sale and even less buyers to a full-grown e-commerce super site. Not only do they still offer standard auction style sales, but now you can open your very own eBay Store and populate it with as many items as you see fit.

And then there’s Amazon Seller Central. For years now, Amazon has opened its doors to sellers wishing to unload their new and used products to anyone wishing to buy. I have recently started using Amazon for this very purpose, so today I’ll explore the basics of both.

Continue reading

How to cheat Google AdWords and make thousands per day!

That title is right! However, it’s very sarcastic in that I’m not going to show you how to do it any more than I’ll be exposing how it’s done. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but what I mean is that this article is an exposé, not a guide. The intent here is not to defame anyone specifically, but to expose a truth about things that are really happening that I don’t completely agree with. And for the record, no, I’m not bitter about not being able to perform these “tricks” myself. I’m just a blogger who actually chose the straight and narrow path of creating a website with actual content that I feel will help users—this article being one specific example.

To help illustrate where I’m going with this, we need to take a little history lesson. First I’ll explain how it used to be, then what it became and then how it is today. Let’s get to it!

Google AdWords

This wonderful service from Google is the exact opposite of AdSense. With AdSense, publishers (like me) can place ads related to content on their website(s) in hopes to make some money from publishing useful and valuable content. Take a look at the banner to the right and at the bottom of this post to see what I mean. Google AdWords is the service that actually places those ads there by allowing advertisers to buy ad space. This service also allows advertisers to buy ad space on Google search results pages (sponsored results). This article will focus mostly on that form of AdWords.
Google AdWords
Every time you search on Google, you’ll see three sponsored search results at the top and a whole list running down the right side of the page. This is a dramatic shortcut for companies and individuals to get their website placed on page 1 of the search results page, whereas without this service, they might be lost hundreds of pages into the results and probably never found by any visitors. Of course this can come at a high price as most companies are paying high dollar amounts for every click that Google sends to their site. So remember that next time you click on a sponsored link—somebody, somewhere has paid for that click.

Affiliate Marketing

In its simple form, affiliate marketing is a way where a company can have you promote their products and give you a % of the revenue as incentive. For example, every product I promote, I will get 4% of its selling price just for sending you over to the site to buy it. I do this constantly and I make no attempt to try and hide this fact. This website costs money to run and in order to offer it to you for free, I try to make what I can by promoting products and services people buy anyway. It costs them nothing to buy things through my site if they were already going to purchase it.

Anyway, with heavy amounts of traffic and lots of people to market to via an email list, you can imagine how much money could be made if people responded to links like these. And some of these affiliates pay direct commissions like say $45 to sign someone up for a credit card. When you start multiplying these numbers by hundreds or thousands of visitors, you can see how it’s “possible” to make $10,000 per day or more.

Now, mix this with Google AdWords and you have a recipe for worldwide domination! Imagine, you could spend some money promoting just an affiliate link and started receiving thousands of clicks per day. Let’s look at an example:

You have an affiliate offer that pays you $45 for every signup. You have an advertising budget of $10,000 per day. You decided to advertise your offer at $0.25 per click. This means you’re willing to spend $10,000 per day for as many 25 cent clicks you can get, which happens to equal 40,000. Google runs your ad campaign and off you go. The next day you look at your numbers. Your ad was shown over 1 million times and received 12,430 clicks. Those clicks cost you $3107.50. However, out of those 12,430 clicks, 153 people signed up for the offer you were pushing. At $45 per signup, you just made $6,885. After soaking up your losses, you made $3777.50 profit.

It’s starting to make sense why you see all over the Internet, ebooks on how to make thousands of dollars per day on Google. Well, maybe not so much anymore because Google caught on to this mayhem.

Google Cracks Down

No, Google was not against making money online and no, they weren’t out to punish the top marketers for utilizing a completely legal system to make tons of cash. What happened was that they realized that everyone was doing this and as a result, legitimate companies were being squeezed out of the sponsored results and/or having to pay much higher dollar amounts to stay on top of all the junk. Remember, it’s a bidding process and the highest bidder gets to be number 1.

What Google did back in 2009 was eliminate the ability to create ads for affiliate links through AdWords. They did this by implementing a harsher review process and most likely huge lists of unacceptable domains and websites. Their goal was to keep the search results clean by only allowing ads to be created that linked to legitimate websites offering real content, products and services.

Of course the debate was launched as to what qualifies as “real” and “valuable” to the end user, but Google’s belief is that the end user would rather be sent to a page that has unique content and important information regarding their original search. An example might be if you searched for how to make money on eBay, you probably would much rather be sent to a page that offers real help and tips for how and where to get products you can sell or techniques on how to make your listings look better instead of being sent to a one-page affiliate link that offers to sell you the super secret eBay sellers handbook for $97.

Personally, I agree. In short, you can no longer (legally according to Google’s terms, not the law) purchase ad space through the AdWords system for direct referral and affiliate links.

The Rockstar Alliance

[success_box]Discuss this topic in the forums![/success_box]

This is no joke…that’s their name. For the low price of $1997 plus $297 (or $197 depending on a sale or not) per month, you can have access to a software suite The Rockstar Allianceand training materials that will help you cheat the system. Now, they point out that by using this system, you’re not actually breaking any laws, so you can’t be sent to jail or anything, but you can have your AdWords account suspended or banned. It’s ok though because they will teach you how to create new accounts and show you how to keep them from getting banned. That’s good…I was worried for a second! Ok, moving on…

Before I continue, I want to say that I’m not here to blast these guys and pass judgment on what they’re doing. Personally I would only care if I was somehow losing important visitors and money because of their bogus ads. Fortunately I’m not, so feel free to form your own opinions on this. I’m not here to police anyone, but I thought I’d help inform people so they know upfront what they are getting into if they decide this is for them.

Since I’m not a paying customer of this system, I can’t explain everything that it entails, but from what I’ve seen, I can tell you the following:

They are running a cloaking service via multiple AdWords accounts and proxy servers set up all over the world. The gist of what you do is you create an ad in their system that has two URLs, the real one and the fake one. Once in their system, you then take the fake URL and build an ad around it in Google AdWords just as you would any legitimate website. When the Google bot goes to review the content, they see a legitimate link that contains real content related to your purchased keywords and your ad is approved.

However, when a user clicks on your ad (after seeing a legitimate looking URL, site description and preview image) they are redirected to the REAL URL which is the landing page for your chosen affiliate program. You know…the landing pages you see everyday that always sell something that started out at $197, then got cut to $97 and then got reduced again to $47…oh but only for a limited time, so act fast!! If those figures look familiar to you, it’s because almost every single one of those affiliate offers uses the exact same business model and pricing! I think it’s lame and unoriginal.

To most unsuspecting users, they will either signup for the offer or click the back button, so these guys probably feel like they’re not hurting anyone, but I disagree. For example, if I’m a reputable company that is spending my good hard-earned cash on trying to get people to my site, I don’t think it’s fair that I have to compete with junk sites. Google maintains this thinking and so do many others. The reason for it being unfair isn’t just about money or competition, it’s about quality. Let’s say out of the 10 sponsored links, my company is number 6 and the first 5 are junk affiliate links. A Google search is performed and the user clicks on the first link, finds out it’s junk, clicks back and clicks on the second link. He/she finds out that’s junk too and tries the third link. Feeling frustrated, he/she might try just one more and after finding out the fourth one is also a junk link, they stop clicking on sponsored links.

In this extreme example, my link never got clicked and I could have lost a customer. Of course you could also argue that because my link never got clicked, I also didn’t spend any of my advertising money, but that’s not the point. Google is trying to create an exceptional user experience for both visitors and advertisers. I find that kicking out the affiliate-only websites is a great first start.

My two cents

I’m not a hater. I didn’t try this system and fail so now I’m here to be bitter. As I said in the beginning, I’m a simple blogger running this little website and I make some small about of money doing it. Because of this, I feel like since I’m playing the game by following the rules, I don’t like when I hear that others are not. Plus, in the near future, I might be launching a business in which I will require the services of AdWords and I don’t like the idea of competing with people running these cloaking services.

The other point I always seem to gravitate toward (even when I see money-making ideas on tv) is that if these people were really making tens of thousands per day or even per month, why in the world would they come out and tell the world about how they’re doing it?! Even if you argue that they’re doing it to be charitable and to help out the “littl guy”, why would they feel the need to sell it?

I’ll tell you two facts right now. 1. If I found a way to consistently make $10,000 per day, I wouldn’t tell another human being as long as I lived. 2. Even if I decided to tell someone, I would be making so much money, I wouldn’t need to sell it.

If you’re making $300,000 per month, what would another $2,000 do for you?! At that point, it’s just pocket change. Naturally, these are my opinions and I know that greed is a powerful force, but I think you can see my point. And if you look back into the annals of time, you’ll notice that every single great money-making idea that ever appeared on tv or the Internet has failed in one way or another…bankrupting many people along the way.

All I can say is that this system does work…I saw it work and I know with the right amount of work and dedication, you can make lots of money. Nobody is arguing that. The problem I have with this system is that it’s ethically wrong and once Google finds out how to plug this loophole, the game is over. At least I’ll still be running my little site that keeps growing and growing the right way.

Amazon's Entry Into The Tablet Industry: Kindle Fire

On September 28th, Amazon launched a new addition to their Kindle family called Kindle Fire. In true Kindle style, it’s being marketed as a reading device, but this one is much different. Up until now, all Kindle devices were small, lightweight, monochrome devices that didn’t even had touchscreens.

The Kindle Fire is poised to be a real contender to Apple’s iPad, but at the same time, it may not be. What this means is that the Fire seems to be geared for a particular market. That market belongs to people that have yet to find a use for a $500+ iPad, yet they want something bigger than their smartphone.

Kindle FireIn terms hardware, the Kindle Fire has a smaller screen, lacks any type of camera or microphone, only offers 8GB of storage and has no 3G option. Any respecting Apple fan would probably be jumping at the opportunity to slam the Kindle Fire right about now, but let’s take a more practical approach.

Unique Kindle Fire Features

  • Access to the Android app market – Every single app you can access for your Android phone will be available for Kindle.
  • Access to and the Kindle store – Purchase items from any part of Amazon and have them delivered to your house or your Kindle.
  • Amazon Silk web browser – Amazon’s new web browser that takes caching to a whole new level.
  • Amazon Cloud Services – All your Amazon-purchased content is stored in the cloud freeing up precious storage space on the Kindle Fire.

First of all, I used to own an iPad and although I really liked it considering I own a MacBook and was using iPhone for over 3 years. However, I noticed I wasn’t using it as much as I thought I was going to and in the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t find my niche. Ergo, I decided it wasn’t worth the $629 I paid for it.

Second, the iPad may not be superior in hardware specs compared to other tablets on the market, but that’s not the reason why it’s the number one seller. What makes the iPad (and every other Apple product for that matter) sell better than most everything else is iTunes. Whether you’re conscious about it or not, iTunes is the lifeblood to all Apple mobile devices. Consumers want to be connected to a central outpost to get all of their apps, games, books, movies, tv and music. So far, nobody has succeeded at this because nobody else but Apple runs iOS and iTunes.

That is until now. Amazon has been building their network into a full-service venue. Currently, you not only have access to everything you can get on iTunes, but you can also purchase just about anything you else you could think of. Amazon Prime members not only get free two-day shipping, but also unlimited access to streaming movies and tv shows. At the rate Amazon is going, they can potentially replace iTunes, Hulu and Netflix as the goto place for everything digital. All they need now is a device to wrap everything up in a nice package. Come November 15th, we’ll get to see their first attempt.

My two cents

Do I think the Kindle Fire will kill the iPad? Not at all. There is always a market for premium products and Apple is the headliner in that market. The Kindle Fire is geared to bring digital book readers into the vast world of digital media and entertainment. Those people who’ve been on the fence about getting their hands on a tablet or trying to justify the expense of doing so no longer have an excuse not to. The Kindle Fire is priced just right at $199 and even though it’s missing some features compared to the iPad, you have to ask yourself are you going to miss those features? Seriously, when are you ever going to hold up a huge iPad and use it to take photos?

The bottom line is that the Kindle Fire can do practically everything the iPad can do in terms of the “actual” use you’ll get out of such a device and given its smaller size, you should be able to hold it in one hand. Try that with an iPad and not only will you get tired fast, but you’ll be afraid of dropping it.

An Inside Look At Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime has been around for a while, so I won’t be reporting anything new, but I would like to shed some light on the subject for those of you who are on the fence about joining or not. Maybe you need to see some more value in it before making your choice. For the record, I am now a member of Amazon Prime and hopefully when you’re done reading this, you will be too.

What is Amazon Prime? started the program back in 2005 as a way to keep customers buying at Amazon rather than other retailers. This is a common business practice no doubt, but instead of employing other commonly used tactics for keeping customers around, Amazon chose a unique strategy. They decided to offer free two-day shipping on millions of “qualified” items throughout the Amazon online store. What exactly deems an item as “qualified” is beyond me, but I have yet to see any items that were not able to receive two-day shipping.

In February of 2011, Amazon decided to include the streaming of thousands of movies and tv shows to Amazon Prime members at no extra cost! Attention Netflix users…

The current cost of Amazon Prime is $79 per year (about $6.58 per month). This fee is charged up front, but considering that two-day shipping can cost upwards of $7 or more, if you only buy 1 item a month, you’re already saving money. New members can try Amazon Prime free for one month.


  • Unlimited FREE two-day shipping on most items fulfilled by Amazon. One-day shipping becomes $3.99 per item.
  • FREE release-date delivery on video games and movies.
  • No minimum purchases.
  • Shipping to anyone in the US costs the same.
  • Unlimited streaming of everything in the Video on Demand library. (Not during any trial period)

Amazon Prime Student

Amazon Prime Student
This is the one that really pushed me over! As a student, Amazon is not only giving away Prime with a 6-month trial, but they are also slashing the price!! After your 6-month free trial is up, you only pay $39 per year for all the same benefits listed above! However, you can only get this deal for a maximum of four years. When your four years are up, you’ll be back at the regular price.

To join as a student, all you need is a .EDU email address to verify your eligibility and you’re off. The only drawback during the trial period is that you won’t have access to the streaming service. However, you can upgrade your account at any time to the discounted rate if you want to add streaming to the mix.

Amazon Mom

Just like the student deal above, Amazon Mom caters to a group with specific needs. In this case it’s the mothers of the world!

The membership is free and is open to any mother or caregiver that can provide proof of eligibility and offers these benefits:

  • 30% off diapers
  • Exclusive offers and discounts
  • FREE two-day shipping
  • FREE 365-day returns

More information about the Amazon Mom membership can be found at

My two cents

I joined Amazon Prime for two main reasons. One, because I do most of my online shopping at Amazon and two, because I’m curious to see how well the Video on Demand service turns out. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t allow trial members to access the streaming content, so I have yet to experience my second reason for joining. But, all in all, I’m really enjoying the free two-shipping option and once I decide to upgrade to a paid account (or let me trial run out), I’ll be exploring the wondrous world of Amazon Video on Demand! Look out Netflix…I’m looking for a replacement!

California Affiliates for Amazon Welcomes Nexus Law Repeal

On June 28th, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a nexus tax law (ABX 1-28) aimed at online retailers doing business in California. Almost overnight, this new law shut down countless affiliate marketers who work from home selling products from online retailers such as The law’s intention was to quell the complaints from small businesses that operated traditional “brick-and-mortar” storefronts and couldn’t compete with the low prices of their online equivelents. Adding to this the fact that online retailers could run their operations in states that charge lower taxes for business, retailers like Amazon could sell goods to California residents at lower prices than anyone else.

For as long as California has been collecting taxes on businesses, the law stated that any business operating within the state that had a physical presence there would be subjected to state taxes. When online retail took off, companies were able to skate around this law by simply not have a physical presence in the state. The new law was to close that loophole and essentially define California-based affiliates as the “physical presence”. While this may have been a huge sigh of relief for local small businesses, it dealt a heavy blow to the thousands of affiliates who depend on commission sales for a large portion of their income.

Of course, Amazon was opposing this law from the start and over time has contributed over $2 million to have it repealed. It appears that this day has finally come. Now that Governor Brown has signed the repeal, here is how the process will work:

  • The California affiliate nexus provisions of ABX 1-28 enacted on June 28 are repealed and no longer of any effect, and also will not be enforced with respect to the period from June 28 through the effective date of AB 155 (i.e., the date Governor Brown signed the bill);
  • If no federal legislation is adopted over-ruling Quill before July 31, 2012, then the California affiliate nexus provisions (as re-stated in AB 155, with one important change, noted below) will become law on September 15, 2012;
  • If federal legislation overturning Quill is adopted by July 31, 2012, and California does not implement the requirements of such a federal law by September 14, 2012, then the California affiliate nexus provisions (again, as restated in AB 155, with the change noted below) take effect January 1, 2013;
  • If federal legislation over-turning Quill is adopted by July 31, 2012, and California implements the requirements of such a federal law by September 14, 2012, then the affiliate nexus provisions of AB 155 will NOT take effect.

My two cents

As a former and now current Amazon affiliate marketer, I am all for this repeal and hope it remains permanent. After all, Amazon has been fighting this battle for some time now when other states have enacted similar laws and received no major positive results. In fact, those states reported more bad than good. California’s attempt at finding new revenue streams has failed in this case and as a marketer myself and online shopper, I applaud their efforts and hope that California will never look at this law again.

PirateBay Founders To Start New File Sharing Service – Legally?

Two of PirateBay founders have started a new file sharing service called BayFiles. The name is a fitting reminder of just where these guys came from, but according to details about how the service works, it will not operate like PirateBay—in other words, BayFiles will operate legally. Despite this claim, some still believe they are operating in a gray area plagued with many problems.

As opposed to PirateBay, among other illegal file sharing services, BayFiles intends to run its service much like MegaUpload or RapidShare in that users can upload whatever files they want, obtain a “private” link and be able to share this link with their friends. What makes this different is that at no time will anyone be able to search a database looking for files and then download to their heart’s content.

However, sharing links with friends is a loosely restricted process. Of course BayFiles is reducing a great deal of copyright infringement, but just like with MegaUpload and RapidShare, who’s going to stop someone from posting the “private” link on the Internet?! Once that happens, how long will it take for an influx of copyright infringers to disseminate the content?

It looks like BayFiles has the answer to these questions. They say that they are geared up for the takedown of any infringing content that’s reported to them by copyright holders. The catch is that since users are not able to search endlessly for files they want, copyright holders can’t either. This means that copyright holders would either have to get lucky by stumbling across their illegally shared content out on the Internet or they will have to actively search for it themselves through other search sources like Google.

A beast of this nature would never hold up against U.S. copyright laws, so instead BayFiles is being run out of Hong Kong. Since their terms indicate that they do not tolerate the uploading of copyright-protected content, BayFiles will be able to bypass any copyright laws provided that they follow through with removing the infringing content. This way they can claim that they had no prior knowledge of these files being made available to the public.

The service has both a free and paid options, with paying subscribers being able to upload and download without any limitations on size and speed. The monthly price is €5 which equates to just over $7.

My two cents

As mentioned, this service will be near impossible to monitor for infringing material, but the silver lining could be that if users can’t search for stuff, then maybe your stolen content won’t reach that far into cyberspace. On the other hand, if it spreads like wildfire, then you’re likely to get wind of it just as fast as anyone else.

Either way, there may never be a final solution to stopping digital piracy because there are just too many ways to get stuff these days. So unless all of the countries adopt similar laws regarding copyright policies and then begin to pursue violators, then we’re sure to see more and more avenues leading to stolen materials opening in the future. I’m sure even if BayFiles fails, they’ll be 5 more startups ready to fill the void.

eBay and PayPal Resolution Center Problems

I needed to vent this after having some personal experience with eBay and PayPal and their item/payment dispute process through the resolution center. First of all, I’ll say that despite the issues and complaints I’ve had, I’m still glad they have these services in place. Reason being; it’s great to have help when you need it most.

However, unlike in the past, eBay and PayPal transactions are heavily buyer-focused and rarely favor the seller except in certain cases. While I’m here, I’ll also be grouping in eBay’s feedback system into the mix because it also shows a bias toward buyers. Now, this doesn’t mean that the seller never has any ground to stand on—it just means that the buyer has more leeway in the overall outcome of cases.

My current experience

I sold an old iPhone 3G to a buyer in the Ukraine. The auction, ending on August 14th, went off without a hitch, the buyer paid for the item plus shipping charges the next day and I, as a responsible seller, shipped the item within an hour of receiving payment. I sell a lot of stuff on eBay using through two eBay accounts, therefore I’m always at the post office dropping packages off.

The item went out in a Small Flate Rate Box which according to USPS, takes anywhere from 6 to 10 business days. The item shipped out on August 15th, therefore making the estimated delivery date fall between August 23rd and August 27th (not counting weekends).

Despite these facts, the buyer had sent me six emails asking the same question, and I quote: “Dear seller! Have you sent the goods?!” The first two emails were sent on August 15th, the next three were sent on August 16th and the one was sent on August 19th. Each time, I responded with a YES as well as some detailed information about how the buyer could track his/her purchase through their eBay account along with the estimated shipping information outlined by USPS. The buyer replied once through all this simply saying, “Thanks!”

So I figured either this person has been scammed before or doesn’t really understand how eBay works. To clarify, I use every aspect of the MyeBay account meaning if you bought something from me, you are notified instantly with an invoice, your order status is always visible in your account, a tracking number is inputted instantly since I ship directly through eBay and feedback is left based on the performance of your payment. I find that this is the simplest way to do business on eBay.

However, on August 21st, the buyer opened an item dispute case through PayPal contesting that the item has not been received.

Resolution Center

My complaint is very simple. How can a bidder open a case stating that the item hasn’t been received before the start of the estimated delivery period?! Also, why doesn’t PayPal see that tracking information has been clearly entered into eBay while also seeing that a shipping label was bought and paid for through PayPal? When eBay and PayPal merged, it was supposed be mainly to help integrate the two systems to allow for more transparency between the dual transactions (auction functions and payment functions), but it appears that no matter how integrated these systems are, the buyer retains the upper hand almost every time!

While this resolution center is helpful in certain situations, I don’t see how allowing buyers to open cases without meeting specific criteria should be allowed. Granted, normally I would complain about this, but it’s the other side of this story that really irks me. It’s the fact that when a case is open, PayPal immediately withdrawals the total amount of money received from the won auction which may or may not put your account in the red. It did in my case because I don’t keep money in my PayPal account.

Another side-effect is that these cases are always tied to your account for record purposes and I don’t like black marks on my account.

My two cents

I’ve already vented my frustrations with the resolution center, but another gripe I have is with the feedback system. Another feature they removed was the ability for a seller to leave negative feedback. The seller is now only allowed to leave positive or neutral feedback. The reason for this is clear: most sellers would wait until they received feedback from their buyer and then based on that comment, leave one in return. This opened the door for retaliation. So if a buyer left a negative comment because the seller was slow at shipping, the seller could then leave a negative comment back for revenge.

This doesn’t jive well with the whole point of the feedback system because sellers should be leaving feedback based on how fast a buyer paid for an item and nothing else! The buyer is then left to create feedback based on the overall auction experience. eBay could have solved the retaliation by forcing sellers to leave feedback first. This way, before a seller could get their comment, they would have to rate the buyer based on payment speed.

Anyway, I’ll keep this posted updated with any changes, but as of today, the dispute remains open even though the tracking number shows the item moving through the system.

UPDATED: September 8th, 2011

After waiting out the lengthily official “review” process by PayPal, the case has been closed and wouldn’t you know it…the payment was reversed! That’s right, I have now lost the $211 paid by the buyer for my iPhone and since I shipped the iPhone to the customer, I no longer have it either. Well done PayPal! You decided to favor an eBay member only 4 months old who jumps the gun on shipping times and stealing money from a customer that has been loyal to you for many years—not to mention that I’ve been selling on eBay for 12 years.

What’s truly sad about all this is that there’s no recourse. The buyer now has his money back and he will certainly, if not already still receive the item. What’s going to prompt him to repay me for the phone? Absolutely nothing. All I can do now is move forward. However, this time I won’t be taking it so lightly. I’m looking for ways around using PayPal and in short time, I’ll likely be moving my sales over to Amazon.

For all of those out there who take a proactive approach to weeding out potential deadbeat buyers, here’s another username you can add to your blocked list:


New Computer Chips That Think Like Humans

Ever since the first computer was created, not much has changed with how they process information. Sure they’ve gotten faster, smaller and way more functional, but if you move all that aside and just look at how a processor processes, you have the same exact thing: user inputs a function, function is stored in temporary memory, processor takes that function and performs a task.

The simple way to look at this process is to know that the processor and memory are still two very separate functions. Imagine if every time you wanted to do something, you had to write it down first and then go through the list one step at a time to make the task happen?! That’s what a computer is doing.

However, IBM has developed a computer chip where the memory and processing functions are one and the same. Darmendra Modha, the researcher leading the project, says, “It is IBM’s first cognitive computer core that brings together computation in the form of neurons, memory in the form of synapses and communication in the form of axons.” One example of how this will change the way we use computers is if you had a traffic signal being monitored by computers and video cameras. A brain-like computer can monitor these signals 24 hours a day and be able to detect anomalies (like traffic accidents) and be able to dispatch the needed support faster than waiting for an emergency call.

Another example would be to use such technologies in the oceans to monitor and detect abnormal changes in the temperature and overall condition of the water to know if things like rogue tsunamis are headed for a coastal town.

Researchers tell us that the brain-like chips are nowhere near the abilities of the human brain at this stage, but these new chips do show promise. Currently, they have 256 neurons-like nodes that allow the chip to contain 262,144 programmable synapses which is enough to drive a car through a simple maze.

My two cents

It’s kind of interesting and scary at the same time! On one hand, if a computer can make decisions for itself, we might be close to creating the perfect human, although it’ll be non-human if that makes sense. This could mean that it is always correct and nothing could corrupt it. However, it might be quite the opposite. If a computer can think, does that mean it can also be lied to? For example, if we got to the point where we created a robot with a real computer brain, could you tell it false information without it knowing whether it’s true? If so, could it really act on that mis-information just like a human does and make mistakes?

We might have a few years to wait before we know, but I can tell you we’re heading down a very interesting road in the technology sector.

AT&T and T-Mobile Merger Comes With Conditions – More Regulation

Although the merger has practically been approved, AT&T might be facing more regulation and monitoring by the FCC in order to maintain a competitive cell phone market. As it stands now, if AT&T and T-Mobile merge, there will effectively be two cellular powerhouses (AT&T and Verizon) and one underdog (Sprint) left on the playing field. The FCC is concerned that this merger will reduce competition that could cause AT&T and Verizon to have no repercussions should they wish to increase their prices.

Although Sprint may be a worthy competitor now, what would happen when T-Mobile is absorbed by AT&T? It’s clear that AT&T’s only true competition is Verizon and by taking over all of T-Mobile’s customers, they are likely to get larger than Verizon. The two of them together could create an unstoppable duopoly forcing the majority of cell phone users to have less choice in their carrier as well as subjecting them to potentially higher prices.

The FCC aims to prevent this from happening. They have warned AT&T that close monitoring will be in effect after the merger and that regulations may follow. At this time, AT&T has already been actively selling off certain assets to reduce their market power in anticipation of a merger. One aspect of the merger might force AT&T to sell some of its cellular spectrum to Sprint to help maintain it’s competitive advantage.

Years ago when Verizon was merging with MCI, the FCC stepped in and forced them to lease fiber optic lines to business customers in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. However, due to the size and nature of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, more regulations are expected to be put in place and it may take much longer for AT&T to abide by the new rules.

My two cents

I never liked T-Mobile personally. I don’t know what it is, but it always seemed like the red-headed step-child in the Cellular world. Maybe it’s because you expect great phone service from companies that have been around for a hundred years or more and T-Mobile ended up looking like a higher-class Boost Mobile. I don’t even know what any of this has to do with anything, but the point it, I don’t mind that AT&T will soon take them over. My concern is with the power struggle that will come from it.

AT&T has been broken up many times before due to becoming too large of a company and maintaining various monopolies over customers. In fact, that’s how Verizon even exists today. I just don’t want to see something like this causing prices to rise while service quality and customer support falls.