By Joe Stoddard. Remodeling gurus agree: A fixed-price catalog is a must for service or handyman work. Here's a unique approach on how to set one up.
Amazon.com's "zShops" were created for specialty retailers, but they also offer remodelers advantages. For about $40 monthly, you can maintain an "online service department" or "online options catalog" detailing the description and prices of thousands of items and including photos of standard products. Some benefits include the following:
You get paid now. zShops uses "Amazon Payments," including major credit cards and online escrow. Best of all, no merchant account (typically required by banks or high-fee third parties) is required.
You complete sales on the spot. Your salespeople and customers can access the system from anywhere with Internet access.
You receive instant confirmation. zShops sends an e-mail the second a purchase is made. Sent to a cell phone or pager, you have a system that essentially dispatches your service call. Items can be detailed to say things such as, "Buyer's Note: This is an installed product and is available only within a 50-mile radius of Wethersfield, Conn."
You get easy accounting. Credit card proceeds are direct deposited every two weeks. (Transaction fees are about 2%.) You also receive an e-mailed transaction summary.
You gain credibility. Amazon.com is a recognized brand, allows customers to rate your service, and gives buyers some protection if a sale is disputed.
To set up a zShop, an Amazon "pro seller" account is required. Go to www.amazon.com for more information or to apply.
--Joe Stoddard is a technology consultant to the construction industry. firstname.lastname@example.org