Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Avoiding the Scam

Well, we dodged a scam yesterday. I hate it that people are out there trying to pull these scams. Late last week we got an inquiry on one of our products, where they asked about price, availability, size, color, etc... The emails were very basic, with no company name or contact information, and it was a gmail account. The guy was going by the name Jeff Stockman and after requesting more contact information, provided the following information:

Company Name: Hill side Company

Contact Name: Jeff Stockman

Contact Physical Address:2704 Tallavana trail, havana Florida 32333

Contact Phone Number:321 215 7332
Contact Email j.stockman1960@gmail.com

You can see that there are some capitalization issues and his emails contained grammar errors as well. He said that he wanted to ship 70 units to one of his companies in Iceland, so I figured English is a second language and gave him the benefit of the doubt. This was a nice sized order so we were pretty excited. He was good with the pricing and requested a final total. Once I provided a total, he requested that we get a shipping quote. Following is one his emails:

Thank you once more, I understand that and i'd like to proceed further. Please kindly obtain a freight quote and get back to me with the total cost including freight charges from Merchant Line Shipping.(merchant_linefreighters@live.com) They will carry out the pick up when the order is ready to go. Please provide them with the information below.

The pick-up address
Contact person and telephone number
The total weight,number of pallets and dimension of the shipment

Delivery Address:
Gundumur Jonasson
34 Bogartun,
135 Reykjavik

Send me an email with the total cost including freight charges from the freight company for me to proceed and finalize the full payment with my MasterCard. 

I thought it was unusual for a shipping company to have a @live.com email address. Once I got the quote back, it looked legitimate, but then I noticed the shipping company address in Accra-Ghana. That is a huge red flag, so I searched the company name and address without any luck. Then I decided to search Hill Side Company in Havana, Florida and it came back as a residence. There was another search result that showed two male and five female people living there. Ok, maybe a mom and dad with five kids, but it also showed they were all adults, with many over 50. 

By now, I am not feeling good about this order. I was lucky to come across a forum that discussed many similarities in other scams called WhoCallsMe. As I read the various accounts of who had been scammed, I came across the same ship to address in Iceland. That clinched the deal! 

Good ole Jeff emailed me a couple times, saying that he had received the shipping quote and was ready to proceed with payment. I decided to reply and say that the shipping quote was too high and we could ship with a less expensive company. 

His reply:

Hallo ,
I will be happy to use FedEx or USPS to ship the items, but at the moment by partner in Iceland prefer using my recommended freight company. As it stands at the moment, I want you to add the freight quote to the order and email me back with the final totals cost for full totals payment before pick-up.


Hallo? Anyway the way this scam works is they pay us with a stolen credit card number. We then have to pay the shipper with a wire transfer or bank draft. You think you have the money in your account to pay this, but several months down the road, the credit card company will come back and say the card number was stolen and you have to repay the funds. So, you are out your product, the cost of shipping, and then you have to repay.

Many people have unfortunately lost thousands of dollars to this scam. We would loved to have had the sale, but I am at least happy that I recognized this as a scam before losing anything other than my time. And I am losing some more time writing this post, but I want another account of what happened on the internet for the next company searching for answers. Thank you WhoCallsMe!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stinky gear

If you have been around sports gear and or locker rooms, you are familiar with that unique smell that permeates the air. What causes the odor? Well it is a combination of factors starting with athletes sweating from their physical exertion and usually ending with gear that has sat in a gear bag or laundry hamper and never dried. This wet environment allows bacteria, mold, and mildew to grow and thrive. 

My personal experience with wet and stinky gear comes from playing and coaching hockey. I have coached teams from mites, through high school hockey, and finishing with a college club team, with several travel and all-star teams in between. When traveling for weekend games, teammates would share hotel rooms to cut costs. The unintended consequence was multiple, very fragrant hockey bags of gear confined to a small space.

After the first game, back at the hotel and ready to commence their mini-sticks game in the hotel, they spread out their gear to get some dry time. A short while later, the stench reached my limit and said "let's put the gear in the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan, and close the door". That at least got us some bearable rest time, but good luck trying to use the bathroom. Multiple players' worth of elbow pads, gloves, helmets, skates, etc... spread all over the bathroom. You needed a hazmat suit and a GPS to make it to the toilet.

The next morning, I thought of a rack that would hold the gear and hang from the shower curtain rod. They say most inventions are born out of necessity and boy did I have a need. We built a couple of prototypes that my son has used for the past twelve years and the two of us finally decided to see if others would share in the need for this product. You can visit our website at www.ratzproducts.com and check out our 'Sports Equipment Drying Rack". It is portable, weighs under three pounds, works great in helping to dry hockey gear, and helps to relieve 'the stink'.

After 18 years of coaching, my son is still playing hockey in a men's league. We started him on the ice at three and now he is in his late 20's. Fun times, but boy I can do without the stink.