A few weeks ago I got mail from one of our readers asking where her order was. She had made a very large order and we had given her a break on pricing. At first I thought that the order hadn't gone through the online store, and I knew I never entered it by hand. So I told her that we had screwed up. Since it was a preorder and we didn't order any extra shirts beyond t-shirts we couldn't fulfill the order as originally made, so after some back and forth we finally came to an agreement about refunds and replacements. Then she mentioned that she had, in fact, ordered through our store. I was so relieved, because I knew that all orders coming through our store went right into our database, and I knew that every order there got shipped out. So I told her it was simply delayed.
Every week since she has pinged me, and every time I have told her that Parcel Post is just undoubtedly slow (which it is). But today I heard again. She still hasn't gotten it. I finally looked in the database and lo and behold it isn't there. This is inconceivable ("I do not think that word means what you think it means" - The Princess Bride) because PayPal did record the order and they send every order to our website, where it is duly recorded in the database. But it isn't there. Somehow that order didn't get through. I don't know why. I can't posit a technical explanation. I just know that not only did we not send a big order, but I have repeatedly been reassuring the customer that we did.
I'm glad we have a store. It provides us important cash flow and allows us to sell higher-quality merchandise than if we used CafePress or similar. But when something like this happens I just want to kill the store. Can it possibly be worth the headaches? Answer: yes. But I still hate it.
It's probably worth mentioning, however, that this is the only lost order we've ever had out of thousands total and over 600 since we switched to the current system. And, not to sound too whiny, that it's probably PayPal's fault and not ours.
Update 3/25/04 - PayPal seems to have lost a second order. Yuck. We are back on the old way of doing things since the DB seems to be unreliable.
Update 3/26/04 - Mea culpa. PayPal is innocent of all charges. It was valiantly sending us the order, but because I had made a field in the DB too small we were failing to store said order. This only happened with particularly large orders. The three affected customers were exceedingly gracious about the mixup. We have great fans.