Q: I was shopping on one of your sites that use your Cartamonga system, but when I went to check out, I got an error or my shopping cart was empty. What happened?
A: It does not matter what shopping cart system you try, SOMEONE will have a problem. We have had the opportunity to test quite a few systems that have issues with our shopping cart system. We have found four problems that interfere with it's operation. First is excessive Adware and Spyware on the buyers computer. Obviously, we are unable to resolve this issue for every computer in America, however, when we have this complaint, and any secure shopping cart system can, I recommend AdAware from Lavasoft USA and SpyBot Search and Destroy. I have run these programs literally thousands of times on hundreds of computers and have NEVER had a problem with ANYTHING they recommend correcting. They can both be downloaded from http://www.download.com. I am primarily a web developer, but my other identity is that of a super hero called 'Computer Repair Guy'. Okay, super hero may be over doing it a bit, but I have serviced over 600 computers on our island and surrounding areas and voluntarily maintain a few dozen computers for public use at our town's Computer Center.
Secondly, believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much security. A fire wall is a system that is designed to keep EVERYthing out. It must then be tweaked to let certain things in. With all the media hype over Internet security, people are scared into installing every security measure available and this can be more trouble than it is worth. I have actually seen hard drives that have crashed because someone installed two antivirus programs on the computer that created so much disk activity that it burned up the hard drive.
Unfortunately, AOL is not merely an ISP, they are primarily a marketing company. Now, they have improved a great deal from their former days when their software has been known to remove the software of the competitors (version 4 or 5 point something). However, they do spend a lot of their efforts marketing to the media induced fears that everyone is as much a target as the FBI and the CIA. (Trust me, it doesn't work like that) Anywho, their software occasionally needs some tweaks that can turn security too high to even browse to ANY web pages. You can have some real fun playing with their security settings. There is a point you can get to in the security settings where you can browse to NO web pages EXCEPT the companies that pay AOL to advertise. It can be quite humorous to see how far they can go to get a little more advertising money, eh?
If you use AOL, to test for this, connect to the Internet, then try using Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox to browse to one of these sites and try it again. If it works perfectly, the AOL conundrum is likely the culprit. You know how AOL does all those updates every week on their system? One update can stop some shopping cart systems from working. A few updates later, it will work again. AOL is not the only company that experiences this. We had a Microsoft update a couple years ago do the same thing. Even Mozilla Firefox updates (my preferred browser) have caused some interesting issues in other software we have developed.
Bear in mind, this is not just something we experience, other companies that sell on the web go through the same thing. Sometimes we just have to duck our head until the next update arrives. Occasionally we can do something about it. The reason for this 'duck and do' behavior is security on our web server. We could actually create a system that would never be effected by any updates from any browser, but to do so, we would have to drop our security levels so low that nothing would be secure. It is truly a fine line to walk, a line we have to make some hard decisions on occasionally. For ethical reasons we have to stay on the side of keeping your customers information secure. We have used this shopping cart system for many years (yes, with even our own updates from time to time) and the appreciation from buying customers has FAR outweighed and out priced the occasional lost sale. These lost sales numbers under a dozen in the past 4 years against thousands of sales that have been made. In fact, when we get contact from someone having problems and take the time to understand, these people have proven to be great 'return customers' and referral customers' over the subsequent years. I have always made it a point to take the time to help as best I can and people seem to appreciate both the help and the added security.
The third, confirmed problem we have seen is a result of outdated SSL certificate trust lists. This can be seen when you enter the checkout process. You may have a box pop up that asks the customer if they wish to trust the site's secure certificate. If the person does not take a second to read the box and closes it out or does not tell their computer to trust the site, the shopping cart info will be lost. I don't think this can be only attributed to operator error, sometimes the browser software does not get updated properly and this just happens.
The final issue that we suspect, simply because I have duplicated the error myself, is if someone uses the back button and the wrong time. This is true of many shopping cart systems. If you use the back button at certain points, shopping cart contents can be lost if used at the wrong step in the checkout process. Even some of the 'big boys' of Internet companies put notices on their site to 'not use the back button' occasionally.