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Christopher

What's your biggest decision factor when choosing your vendor?

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Hey Folks, 

When making a choice to purchase from a vendor what is your biggest deciding factor? Price, store design, security, shipping cost, hardware selection, eliquid selection etc?

I know I often hear shipping is a biggie and I'm curious what effect it would have if we lowered the free shipping threshold. Of course sometimes it's simply a matter of "where you started" but I'd love to gather more feedback as we continue to make changes at the VT store. Our inventory is quickly expanding, we can order almost any request within 48 hours but often time it's more than just selection. What's your personal "must have"  

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7 minutes ago, VapeMama said:

Security is my #1. Followed by shipping cost and price.

Thanks Mama. We are PCI compliant and actually provide a certificate upon request but we don't advertise it (we just wouldn't consider anything else honestly). I'll add that information to the store as it might provide some more confidence :)

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Chris, bottom line is overall value for me...

I'll pay a buck or two more for things if the shipping is free, and I don't mind paying flat-rate shipping per order if I'm buying enough to make it worthwhile, but I despise paying $7.95 shipping when I'm only ordering a pair of batteries.  At that rate, I'm better off paying B&M prices.  Free shipping thresholds after you spend $50 is pretty reasonable, but some sites only do that if you spend $100 or more... and their standard rates are not in-line with standard weight/rates for what you are buying.

Selection is a biggie, but I've been known to order from a small site if they have the item or items I want at the right price.  That said, I also like to get my bang-for-buck, so if the selection (and price) is right, I don't hesitate to order $100+ worth of stuff at a time.

Security of my info is always top of my list, and I do tend to avoid sketchy places.  I also check security certificates, SSL/PCI-compliance, and read feedback form other buyers of a site before I trust them with my info.

The last thing I look for is "how fast can I receive my stuff?"...  Fasttech (and other Chinese vendors) are notorious for being slow, but some US sites are also insanely slow on filling an order and shipping it out.  I won't order from a US site that can't ship within one business day, and won't use Priority Mail at least.  First class has it's place, but Priority Mail or UPS are my preferred methods because of tracking and delivery within 2-3 days.

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1 minute ago, Earthling789 said:

Chris, bottom line is overall value for me...

I'll pay a buck or two more for things if the shipping is free, and I don't mind paying flat-rate shipping per order if I'm buying enough to make it worthwhile, but I despise paying $7.95 shipping when I'm only ordering a pair of batteries.  At that rate, I'm better off paying B&M prices.  Free shipping thresholds after you spend $50 is pretty reasonable, but some sites only do that if you spend $100 or more... and their standard rates are not in-line with standard weight/rates for what you are buying.

Selection is a biggie, but I've been known to order from a small site if they have the item or items I want at the right price.  That said, I also like to get my bang-for-buck, so if the selection (and price) is right, I don't hesitate to order $100+ worth of stuff at a time.

Security of my info is always top of my list, and I do tend to avoid sketchy places.  I also check security certificates, SSL/PCI-compliance, and read feedback form other buyers of a site before I trust them with my info.

The last thing I look for is "how fast can I receive my stuff?"...  Fasttech (and other Chinese vendors) are notorious for being slow, but some US sites are also insanely slow on filling an order and shipping it out.  I won't order from a US site that can't ship within one business day, and won't use Priority Mail at least.  First class has it's place, but Priority Mail or UPS are my preferred methods because of tracking and delivery within 2-3 days.

Great feedback. I think the board wouldn't disagree to lowering the shipping to a $25 threshold. In fact, first class mail is generally pretty quick if the order is small (larger orders first class are always logistically slower). What are your thoughts on offering free shipping no minimum first class, and say a discounted rate for USPS priority (We charge $6 now but could likely lower to $5 and then free over X amount) 

As for security, as a web guy by trade I am stupid paranoid when it comes to user info. We've been PCI compliance since before most new vendors even knew it was a merchant requirement. (though we go further than that, print an invoice twice? We shred the extra invoice) But we don't list the icons on the website because I've always felt it's not aesthetically pleasing. But given the priority on it (and it's been mentioned twice now in this thread) I'll see if I can't post up our PCI cert and include some clickable verification links. 

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I'm in total agreement with Earthling's comments. If a vendor has what I want at a price point I'm looking for... I'll make a small order just for that product.

To add to Earthling's post, I would also add customer service. If the place I'm buying from doesn't provide at least a minimum or better customer service, that's that last they'll see of me and my money. There's one vendor that many on the forum like, but they'll never see my business again because their customer service was lacking so much. To make mistakes or have something go wrong -- well, that can't always be helped, but how it's handled after that makes or breaks it for me. I don't expect the vendor to bend over backwards, just a reasonable level of customer service along with a sincere, "I'm sorry" and that works just fine for me. If they want to do something more, that's just adding a reason for me to think of them first next order.  :) 

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7 minutes ago, Tam said:

I'm in total agreement with Earthling's comments. If a vendor has what I want at a price point I'm looking for... I'll make a small order just for that product.

To add to Earthling's post, I would also add customer service. If the place I'm buying from doesn't provide at least a minimum or better customer service, that's that last they'll see of me and my money. There's one vendor that many on the forum like, but they'll never see my business again because their customer service was lacking so much. To make mistakes or have something go wrong -- well, that can't always be helped, but how it's handled after that makes or breaks it for me. I don't expect the vendor to bend over backwards, just a reasonable level of customer service along with a sincere, "I'm sorry" and that works just fine for me. If they want to do something more, that's just adding a reason for me to think of them first next order.  :) 

My favorite thing used to be calling up a customer after they were completely furious with me on the phone. (Usually over a small mistake) Sean, Ashley and I used to quietly bet how quickly I could get the customer to laugh. It became a challenge and some of our most pissed off customers became the most loyal. 

While I can't promise mistakes won't be made (you've experienced it Tam) everyone on the forum is always welcome to PM me and I'm a phone call away :)

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32 minutes ago, Christopher said:

My favorite thing used to be calling up a customer after they were completely furious with me on the phone. (Usually over a small mistake) Sean, Ashley and I used to quietly bet how quickly I could get the customer to laugh. It became a challenge and some of our most pissed off customers became the most loyal. 

While I can't promise mistakes won't be made (you've experienced it Tam) everyone on the forum is always welcome to PM me and I'm a phone call away :)

Yes, I've experienced a few hiccups in the past, but you've always made it right and usually in a spectacular way. That's even before I became an admin here. You've more than earned my loyalty, Chris.  :)

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Security is important, and price is important to me, I only buy vape stuff online. Free shipping is nice, but in my opinion shipping is never free, somebody is paying for it in the end.  When ordering vape gear I add stuff until I get past the shipping minimum, usually $75 or more depending on the site. personally I think your $50 minimum is pretty low. I can't remember the last time I spent less than $50 on vape gear, usually its over $100. Just putting my 2 cents in.

Also selection is important to me, I don't want to have to go to 2 or 3 sites to get what I want.

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Hi Chris,

For me generally it's site security,price shipping price and speed and customer service. I concur with most people here that I'd be happy to pay a little more to buy things from the USA if it's worth it. I always comparison shop on every thing I'm looking for. Which ever company has the bulk of what I want at the best price factoring in shipping and overall service gets my business. If there's only less than a $5.00 difference and they're here I'll go by price plus local.

That said; being on a very tight budget though if an item is twice the price of Fasttech for example I'd rather deal with their slow shipping than pay that much more.  I really prefer to support US based company's but sometimes it just can't balance out.

Since I lost my job due to layoffs... I'm a slave to my budget truthfully.

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11 hours ago, Christopher said:

Great feedback. I think the board wouldn't disagree to lowering the shipping to a $25 threshold. In fact, first class mail is generally pretty quick if the order is small (larger orders first class are always logistically slower). What are your thoughts on offering free shipping no minimum first class, and say a discounted rate for USPS priority (We charge $6 now but could likely lower to $5 and then free over X amount) 

As for security, as a web guy by trade I am stupid paranoid when it comes to user info. We've been PCI compliance since before most new vendors even knew it was a merchant requirement. (though we go further than that, print an invoice twice? We shred the extra invoice) But we don't list the icons on the website because I've always felt it's not aesthetically pleasing. But given the priority on it (and it's been mentioned twice now in this thread) I'll see if I can't post up our PCI cert and include some clickable verification links. 

I agree that First Class shipping is generally a good way to ship, as long as the items are small/lightweight.  I would not be opposed to using First Class in that manner, and I think it would expand your business of Internet sales... especially if you broadcast the shipping perks in 90-pt font, lol... one of my biggest pet-peeves with any retailer is having to sacrifice small animals in order to reveal their shipping policies/rates BEFORE I'm at the final stage of check-out, lol.  If a company is going to provide free shipping at $x.xx sales, then it should be posted on the home-page (header), cart, FAQ, and probably a few other places as well (shipping page, and/or footer)?  I do whole-heartedly agree with @FXRich ...  nothing is "free", because somebody pays for it either through higher prices to the consumer or reduced profits for the retailer... but that is a decision for you and the board to make... where is the break-point to remain profitable?

Yes... icons to show your PCI compliance would be good... I like it when I don't have to dig for them or send email requests to be able to see the certificates.  They don't have to be big or in the side-bars... something tasteful at the footer would be perfectly fine, but they should be available and easy to spot. :D

Edited by Earthling789

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Security is a good point.

next, I look for completeness of inventory.  I don't want to have to make more than a couple of transactions to get what I want if possible so I want a large selection. I mean, some of that is unavoidable, it's rare that any one site has it all but I do tend to spend more if they carry more. One area I find lacking is accessories. But I undersTand that carrying a lot of small ticket items does not probably pay off, still, I would spend more on accessories at a site that carried them. Things like drip tips, storage cases, tools, vape bands, 

I also like complete and accurate descriptions and pictures. Nothing turns me off faster than poor pictures or incomplete descriptions, typos, poor layouts.  I want to know dimensions, compatibility, materials etc. I like crosslinks to similar items, and I like a good search engine. I like customer reviews and comments.  If a coil fits more than one product, I want to know that and I want to see them listed. I like lots of information. 

Good customer service. Good contact info. Hand written notes in shipments is a plus. An occasional perk in the shipment. These are all things that generate loyalty. Fast, well packed shipping. 

I've liked Sweet Vapes and have used them with no problems for over 3 years now. Recently, I've strayed from them and not because of recent security allegations. My allegiance to them started to wane before that. I have nothing bad really to say about them.  They carried a lot of stuff I used. But do you know in three years I've never had ONE personal contact with them. No email saying "hey 10% off this weekend".  Do you know how many sales I've missed?  No discount code offered after spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars there.  Essentially, I don't know how they feel about me as a customer at all.  I've found someone new. 

"Don't it make your brown eyes blue"  lol

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Thanks for all the feedback and for taking the time to write such lengthy posts. We are now offering free shipping on all orders in the VT store according to the following: 

Orders Under $50 - USPS® First Class 2-3 Days FREE!
Orders Under $50 - USPS® Priority 1-3 days - $6.00
Orders Over $50 - USPS® Priority 1-3 Days FREE!
Canada Over $100 - USPS® 4-6 Day FREE!
Europe Over $100 - USPS® 4-6 Day FREE!

Shipping info is displayed at the bottom of the store and is easily viewable. I believe that to a pretty fair policy and should cover most who just need to order a couple small items in between big orders. In terms of Inventory we've expanded this week alone but I'll always need help from the members when it comes to carrying more items. (There are so many products on the market now it's nearly impossible to carry it all, but send me a PM, give us a call, send a post card and we'll get it in generally within 48 hours) 

For security I've added visuals to the store. We are fully PCI compliant and SSL secured. In fact, unlike many store we don't just SSL the checkout, the entire browsing process (and even search) is encrypted. :)

1 hour ago, Bebop said:

Security is a good point.

next, I look for completeness of inventory.  I don't want to have to make more than a couple of transactions to get what I want if possible so I want a large selection. I mean, some of that is unavoidable, it's rare that any one site has it all but I do tend to spend more if they carry more. One area I find lacking is accessories. But I undersTand that carrying a lot of small ticket items does not probably pay off, still, I would spend more on accessories at a site that carried them. Things like drip tips, storage cases, tools, vape bands, 

I also like complete and accurate descriptions and pictures. Nothing turns me off faster than poor pictures or incomplete descriptions, typos, poor layouts.  I want to know dimensions, compatibility, materials etc. I like crosslinks to similar items, and I like a good search engine. I like customer reviews and comments.  If a coil fits more than one product, I want to know that and I want to see them listed. I like lots of information. 

Good customer service. Good contact info. Hand written notes in shipments is a plus. An occasional perk in the shipment. These are all things that generate loyalty. Fast, well packed shipping. 

I've liked Sweet Vapes and have used them with no problems for over 3 years now. Recently, I've strayed from them and not because of recent security allegations. My allegiance to them started to wane before that. I have nothing bad really to say about them.  They carried a lot of stuff I used. But do you know in three years I've never had ONE personal contact with them. No email saying "hey 10% off this weekend".  Do you know how many sales I've missed?  No discount code offered after spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars there.  Essentially, I don't know how they feel about me as a customer at all.  I've found someone new. 

"Don't it make your brown eyes blue"  lol

I want to address this directly. Perks are always a plus and I completely understand the need for accurate descriptions. I have to admit, we've fallen short on this a few times. (May as well be honest) The instagram profile I run for VT actually says "if it's not typo free it's probably not me" - I'm horrible about typos. But, I'll have some of the staff members browse over our selection to ensure everything is correct and accurate. In the event we did happen to send a kit that should have included more, you bet I'll do whatever it takes to make it right :)

(I've seen drip tips mentioned a lot, I'll do my best to get these in. They are a pain to add and track in inventory but I'll work on it) 

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Chris,

I really appreciate  your  personal involvement in getting everything right for the customer! I also really respect your willingness to listen to feedback too!

Once I have money coming in again I know where I'll be shopping more. I'm still pretty new to VT so I've had limited time and money to spend. I can't wait to fully support you all though! Are you thinking of getting in some Avocado's? I like the Youde goblin mini too. It's going to be awhile before I shop so no hurry but I will shop at VT first if they're there :)

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3 hours ago, Edna said:

Chris,

I really appreciate  your  personal involvement in getting everything right for the customer! I also really respect your willingness to listen to feedback too!

Once I have money coming in again I know where I'll be shopping more. I'm still pretty new to VT so I've had limited time and money to spend. I can't wait to fully support you all though! Are you thinking of getting in some Avocado's? I like the Youde goblin mini too. It's going to be awhile before I shop so no hurry but I will shop at VT first if they're there :)

We hadn't, but I'll add them to the list! :D

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My decision is made mainly by who carries everything I use in one place and consistently get them to me quickly and without mistakes more than cost or who is cheapest. Most everyone's cost is pretty close. I don't want to get this here, this there and deal with more than a couple vendors if possible. Basically I have one hardware supplier and one liquid supplier unless there are stock issues when I need something on the fly which is rare since my vaping cabinet usually looks like a small store on its own lol. I generally order liquid 500ml at a time, coils 100 at a time and have a drawer full of batteries and tanks I use.

Edited by bcartervol98

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I buy most of my vape gear and liquid from the local B&M.  Their prices aren't always the cheapest, but they are 5 min from my house and open 7 days a week, I figure buying from them at a small premium is worth it. I do however shop for deals online, watching for sales. In the last few months I have bought around 100 each of the coils I use for my 2 main tanks, subtanks and Nautilus minis, for between $8 and $9 a box of 5. The one thing I regularly bought on line was juice from one source that was $1 per 120ml more than the local B&M, but that supplier mixed to my tastes every order, and I wasn't stuck with either a 50/50 or 70/30 (vg/pg) mix that I get locally. Sadly the Deeming regs seem to have shut him down.

I have bought a couple mods online that the local B&M wouldn't or couldn't get, but I waited for a sale.

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@Squid  I hear you on supporting the local B&M's.... I use to buy a lot from my local B&M, especially juice, but once I realized I was spending ~ $100/month there, it hit me that I wasn't really saving that much over former smoking costs.  Once I switched to only online purchases (comparing prices, looking for sales / coupons), and DIY juices, I've gone from $1200-1500 annual costs for vaping... to averaging $400/yr over the past 2 years?  Yes, the local B&M's need support, but I'm not willing to pay them $79.95 plus tax for a 50W Subtank kit when I can get them online for $28 all day long... or $12-29 per 30ml bottle of juice when I can buy them online for half that price... or make my own (flavors and ratios I like) for about a buck a bottle :)

 

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