Some example career paths which are fairly common in many communities:
- Some technical jobs
These job roles, in particular, may commonly benefit from having more familiarity with computer tools, or how to use them, than most people. Many companies might specialize in just one of these areas, referring people to other companies to perform other needs in this area. Other companies may decide to offer more than one of these services.
- [#jobit]: Information/Technology
“IT”, meaning “Information/Technology”, may have other terms such as “Technical Support”, “Computer Help”, or for specific implementations, “Help Desk”.
- The software side
Staff members fulfilling this role are typically trained in networking skills, interactions with operating systems (including setting permissions), and some familiarity with other software. The amount of familiarity may be fairly minimal, limited to knowing how to install software, make sure that network-wide permissions are set appropriately, and getting the software to communicate over the network. Additional familiarity, naturally, can be beneficial. However, detailed familiarity is often not required. Instead, staff members in this area end up using troubleshooting skills that include researching information, as needed, to accomplish tasks that are aren't so complex that pre-familiarity is required.
Often troubleshooting staff is at the mercy of the software designers: IT staff will have an easier time when the programs have few errors. Also, the troubleshooting staff benefit when existing errors result in generating logged details. These details can often be very useful for troubleshooting the issue.
People in this trade end up in positions where they need to be trusted. For example, they will often have access to a lot of data since these are the people who end up setting security permissions: they often have access with little restrictions because they need to be able to fix problems without restrictions preventing the problem resolution. An increased understanding of how a business operates may help people in this trade to be able to make some choices, including recommendations, that end up working well for the business. Therefore business managers/owners may be prone to share some details about the plans for this business. If working for an outsourced IT company which visits various organizations, there may be quite a bit of access and trust provided by the organizations which are being served.
- The hardware side
Tasks may include: repairing computers, building new computers, ensuring hardware compatibility, and cleaning computers that are being repaired or which simply haven't been cleaned in a while. (Such “cleaning” may involve talking the computer apart and introducing the hardware components to some form of compressed air.)
The section on Career in IT was made for further details about a career in this field.
- [#jobcode]: “Computer programming”/“Software development”
New programmers will often find themselves frequently subjected to the horrors of “syntax errors”, a term famous from BASIC's response, “
?SYNTAX ERROR”. Syntax errors often are detected and reported as “compiling errors”, and so may be referenced by that name.
After being able to make a simple program, some common skills include handling conditional/branching statements, looping, variable typing/declarations, and procedural/functional coding. Some later skills include memory handling such as using dynamic memory (which allows a program to try to not use large amounts of memory unless there is an expected benefit to using that memory), studying memory structures (such as those offered by the standard template library), and working with “objects” including handling permissions, such as designing inheritance of classes (including a technique such as polymorphism). (Designing class inheritance involves determining what properties and methods, as well as permissions, may exist for a subclass which inherits design elements from a parent class.)
Once some of these skills are well understood in one computer language, learning how to use known techniques in another computer language may require little more than learning the syntax used by the other language. Many languages will commonly have some similarities, enough that an experienced programmer in one language may often be able to understand the general intent of a program's flow. This can happen even in cases where the program being reviewed was written in a language with nuances that that aren't fully mastered by the observing programmer who is looking at the code.
- Multi-lingual confusion
The similarities between multiple languages can decrease learning curves, but also be more of a hinderance as programmers must remember the rules that are specific to a single language. Programmers familiar with multiple languages must be on the guard against remembering how one language operates, and then thinking that another language operates the same way. For example, various languages concatenate strings differently: The language called C uses a dedicated function (“
”), while the ampersand (“
“), and using a
member function of a string. If a person trained in multiple languages stops programming for a while and then starts up again, it can be easy to forget some of these finer details. General concepts (like concatenation) will likely be remembered, but remembering which approach is used by each individual language has substantial potential for a person to recall the approach which is only valid in a different language. Fortunately, errors of such a minor nature often result in syntax errors, which a computer might catch very easily. Also, helpful resources (including Internet search engines) may resolve those types of problems quickly.
Sometimes syntax issues might not be caught by simple automated syntax checking: Pascal uses a single equal sign as a comparison operator, but C uses that to change memory (and may then return a value after doing so). This may often cause substantial errors that are quickly detected (when a program visibly, terribly fails at accomplishing the intended task). Probably more difficult to (detect and) resolve are the things which are not as likely to be caught automatically, such as differences in precedence, or how comparisons are performed. These subtle differences can easily make it difficult for a multi-lingual programmer to keep using the correct syntax.
As examples, the fact that VBScript, like BASIC, requires the word “
” is frequently not found in other langauges like C. Some languages use an “
” command, while VBScript uses a specific (case-insensitive) “
” sequence of keywords. Technically C just uses its already existing keywords to allow a “
” branching keyword to cause a command to run, and that command mey start with the “
” keyword. This effectively has the same results as VBScript's “
” syntax. One can notice that VBScript isn't just employing the same sort of logic since VBScript requires a keyword (or keyword sequence) to end each branching command.
However, a failure to structure the conditioning branch may often lead to syntax errors that causes the entire program to not be able to be run. The error generally leads to an error message which is often specific enough that the error is rather easy to correct. There are some more challenging situations that are incorrect due to language nuances.
Wikipedia's section about “Exponentiation” being used “In programming languages” provides some different examples of how to specify that a number should be “raised to” a specific power (such as when a number is raised to the second power, which is also known as having the number be “squared”). This Wikipedia section notes that the
symbol is in BASIC (and many other programming languages and programs, such as
, MATLAB, and Microsoft Excel) for exponentiation, but is used for XOR in C and other languages. “In Pascal, it represents indirection. In” other standards, this represents string concatenation. This represented a “command seperator” in JP Software products (affecting how 4DOS processed a line in a batch file).
However, even multiple meanings for the same character isn't quite as devious as this problem can get. For instance, if one programmer was trying to raise a number to a power, and another programmer looked at the code, the other programmer might wonder why the code is performing the XOR operation. This could easily raise questions, leading to the error being quickly found. In other cases, the error might look rather correct and sensible when the code is being casually reviewed. If the code that is written looks somewhat sensible, a person may determine that the code seems fairly sensible. In an effort to locate a problem more quickly, people may be more prone to move onto looking at another section of instructions, hoping to find something that is clearly wrong (or, at least, looking more questionable). This type of situation can make an actual error be even more challenging to quickly identify.
string function is like C's
which performs an identical operation, but which uses a different syntax, causing different results in some cases (but not all cases).
A programmer might remember the syntax that has been used, but not remember the exact name of the function that was used before. Such a programmer may look up some reference material to remember the exact name of the function that performs this task. The programmer might very well end up finding some documentation that says the function called “
” can be used to accomplish the desired task. Then, the programmer may use the general syntax that is the programmer remembers. Because the function name (
) is not matching the syntax being used (which is the syntax the programmer remembered, from
), the programmer's confusion may lead to the creation of bugs. The basic cause of this error is that the programmer was incorrect by having confidence that the programmer knew how the
functions worked identically, and so this is an error that a novice programmer (unfamiliar with C's
function) may be less likely to make than an experienced programmer.
Another example of a language providing multiple ways to perform things is VBScript's use of AND logic. The results of this code are contrary to what would be intuitively expected, which is why it is heavily commented for this example.
2in binary is 010.
4in binary is 100. Doing
' a bit-wise
ANDcomparison of each bit of these
' values, determining truth, results in a binary
' value of 000 which is then
"This block of code will NOT run.")
True. The truth of
' values is determined before the AND
' logic is applied.
"This block of code will run.")
The fact that “
(Although it may not be obvious just by glancing at the code, the difference between “
” vs. “
”, in this case, is an issue of the precedence. Specifically, this relates to the precedence of when the comparison occurs, and when the conversion to binary occurs. As a general rule, coders should always question precedence anytime that precedence isn't definitely and clearly known. This is probably easier said than done.)
This example shows that Visual Basic uses the word “
” to perform “bitwise” logic, and a single ampersand is used to perform logic on the truth of the individual values. To add to the confusion, some other programming languages will use a single ampersand to perform bitwise logic, which is the exact opposite of how Visual Basic handles this.
Remembering the nuances of the differences in the intracacies of each language can be a challenge, particularly after a period of time of not using a language. However, any specific doubt can generally be overcome quickly, by using online resources that provide details of a specific langauge being used. The main thing to remember is that such differences exist.
Another thing to keep in mind is that particularly interesting logic may be rather advanced, and require some study to even remember how it works. Code that works well might not be as likely to be reviewed for improvement until after some time passes. Therefore, nice documentation can certainly pay off down the road. (The payoff may even be beneficial for the programmer who took wrote the code. To get this payoff, the programmer simply needs to invest enough time to just throw a comment about how the code works.)
For some technical information regarding this aspect, see coding section.
- An example:
According to OnlineCourseReport.com: Choosing a Technology Degree: Computer Science vs Information Systems vs Information Technology, computer programming fits squarely in the “Computer Science” group of technologies.
- Hardware design/engineering
Surely someone does this.
(This section may have little detail about this specific career path.)
The concept of “Open source hardware” has intrigued some people: Wikipedia's page about “Open-source hardware” may provide some information. However, even hardware based on a free design takes more of a financial cost than the costs generally involved in reproducing (copies of) software. (Building hardware requires parts which are often not readily available for other purposes; it tends to be more expensive than reproducting software which simply costs electricity and using data storage resources which are often already available for other reasons.) This barrier has made open source hardware more of a challenge to spread than FOSS.
This sort of barrier may also lead to fewer real-world examples, and so information may not be quite as abundant. However, here are some tidbits to help spark some interest. Note that currently none of these references are necessarily intended to be endorsements: Before plunking down any hard-earned cash (or other forms of payment), be prepared to determine what possible risks may exist.
Some projects that look to have fairly low introductory costs include Humane Informatics, PlayPower. An 8-bit video game system may be created using Uzebox's specifications. (As an example of purchasing this pre-built, mix the Sparkfun's Uzebox GameCard Baseboard and a 5V regulated (not unregulated!) power supply (like the SparkFun's part #TOL-08269 (5V regulated power supply) for under $40. More parts will be needed, including a chip like SparkFun's Uzebox AVCore Development Module which is a bit pricier, coming it at just under $50. Other components needed would be a “Super Famicom”/”Super NES” controller, A/V wires, and a television).
Phoronix news report: troubles creating an Open-Source GPU indicates that there may be fairly little market interest in this concept.
At the end of the year 2012, there has been a growing interest in “3D printers”. Such printers may be able to create plastic in a precisely given shape. The RepRap project (see Wikipedia's page on RepRap) created an early example of this sort of product. These printers may be largely made out of plastic, which allows them to be assembled using mostly components created by an already existing 3D printer. (This does not appear to mean that the machine assembles itself. This simply means that most of its parts can be made from another copy of itself.) At the time of this writing (probably earlier in 2012), 3d-printing.com.au offers a model pre-built for under $1,000. Prices are likely to have declined from that price (and may or might not continue to decline from whatever the current prices are).
- Website design
Improving websites, and designing new websites
(This section has been copied from the section dedicated to creating/improving websites.)
This is about creating new websites and/or web pages, including creating an updated version of older web content.
Website creation may involve creating content, designing a site's look and feel, creating back-end code run on a server, and engaging in “search engine optimization” (“SEO”) techniques that will hopefully increase a website's position on search engines. This often involves skills with using website standards, artistic skills, marketing skills, and some skills from computer programming.
So much information about ways to improve websites was available that the information has been placed into a separate section dedicated specifically to creating/improving websites.
- Additional job roles
Pretty much every business needs these sorts of job roles to be fulfilled. This means computer businesses, as well as other businesses. A business will likely suffer to the degree that it lacks in one or more of these areas. Since small businesses often involve people performing multiple roles, these tasks may be handled by someone who also performs a technical role. That can be fine, as long as the person is competant at performing the role. However, it can also make sense for a technical specialist to focus on the technical aspects they love, and allow other people to thrive at performing other roles. The exact best balance is not cookie-cutter: Different organizations may benefit greatly by trying something that would greatly harm other businesses.
Sales involves identifying available solutions that meet a customer's needs. The next most useful skill is identifying existing desires that may not have been expressed by the customer, but which can still be fulfilled once those needs/desires are identified. A related skill, similar to marketing, is to create desires for solutions that can be easily implemented. Naturally, if that desire is successfully created, there should be little difficulty in finding an available solution that meets the company's needs.
In addition to all this matchmaking which matches solutions to desires, the other key aspect of sales is maintaining and fostering client relationships: keeping happy customers happy and turning other customers into happy customers.
Sometimes, there may be some decisions available and, in such cases, decisions need to be made. For example, what is the best price to obtain for an item? How much product can be reasonably provided? For small firms, offering too much product may lead to substantial growth. Too much growth obtained too quickly can lead to difficulties in delivering a good experience, including being able to successfully supply the product as well as handling product returns, delinquency (late payments) and/or billing disputes, and/or other questions (which may or may not be related to each other). Therefore, some knowledge of an organization's abilities to fulfill an order may be needed to make sure things keep running smoothly.
- Data entry
- There was a huge calling for this career in the late nineteen-nineties as businesses wanted to get things converted from paper to electronic form. OCR technology was a fledging technology that still wasn't as reliable as it has since become. However, then something different happened. A lot of data started getting stored electronically to begin with. In the past, hard copies were often relied on more. Information travelled from one storage system (like a piece of paper or a computer file) to a piece of paper (by being printed out, or by a copy machine making a paper copy), and then transported (by mail or by fax machine) and then, if the information was going to be computerized, finally somebody entered the information into a computer. Now, one business often just has the information already computerized, and that business simply transmits it electronically so the other end has the information in a computerized format. Therefore, the need to get information into computers has diminished. Once a high paying job with plenty of work to do, this line of work has become less promising.
In addition, there are some skills that may be less technical in nature, but which many businesses need. Businesses should have some plan on how these items are taken care of: it may mean tasks being done by existing staff members, hiring new staff members as needed, or outsourcing the tasks. Quite a few people may think they can go into business for themselves, cutting out some overhead caused by other staff members and instead going into an organization (such as a consulting firm) which is smaller, even so small that it may be a one-man show. Then, however, the new business lacks ends up lacking some of the resources of the larger organization. Generally the areas needing the most help and improvement are the ones which the business owner may have planned the least, and often that is because the business owner found such areas to be the least interesting. Therefore, the business may not thrive nearly as well as envisioned because of how the less interesting thing is implemented. Being familiar with the roles of some organizations may help reduce how much this happens: before treading into uncertain waters, be sure to consider the following.
Making sure that money goes where it is
staff members and bills), that money is not going where it should not be going
(by having waste be approved), and that the location of money is well
understood. Another task is reporting income (at minimum, preparing
sufficient reports so that the requirements may be fulfilled for the
government agencies that require certain reports to ensure that taxes are
being properly accounted for).
Making sure that money owed (e.g. a paper “check” that was used as a method of payment) is successfully collected.
- [#getmoney]: Collecting money
(This section isn't about trying to figure out how to get people to want to pay. That may be a topic more related to the role of Sales. This is more about the technical process of actually obtaining the money that a person tries to provide.)
“Wikimedia Foundation FAQ: Why the Minimum Donation?” has stated that “it's not uncommon for people to use donation mechanisms such as ours to test stolen credit cards to see if they work. Those people typically use a very small dollar amount for their testing: we find a $1 minimum donation amount seems to deter them.
Methods of getting money include:
- In-person payments
- cash register
This can be quite pricey, namely because of the cost of paying a person to work behind the cash register
- Automated money acceptors
e.g. what is found by self-service machines
- Payment Card Industry (Credit card logos)
Credit cards, debit cards.
- Overview of some popular payment cards
At one point, most cards released by a company like Visa might fit certain numeric patterns, and some people would do a check that a card number was legitimate by making sure the card fit one of the known patterns. As time went on, though, the card companies started using other numbers. Perhaps the only patterns worth knowing now are the first digit, and the length of the card number. They are:
- Card starts with 3, and is 15 digits: AmEx
- Card starts with 4, and is 16 digits: Visa
- Card starts with 5, and is 16 digits: Mastercard. (Some debit/credit cards branded after a business may also do this?)
- Card starts with 6, and is 16 digits: Discover, or Novus/Discover
White space really should not be considered to be something that matters at all. In general, though, the cards have a space after the first four digits. Then, most cards simply continue the trend of placing spaces after each set of four digits. Amex is an exception: after the first space, Amex tends to have just one more white space after six more digits (leaving five digits left).
- Requested information
Most/all places that accept such payments will need the card number, and the expiration date. Some places may also request the name on the card. Some places may request the card security code (also known by other names: info at Wikipedia's page about “Card security code”. Some places have been known to ask for a postal/zip code. (These include T-Mobile payments made with a phone representative, and “ampm” terminals for people to pay for Arco gas.) In at least some cases, wrong postal/zip codes might sometimes work, while other times a payment could be declined for no reason other than having that information wrong.
- Methods of getting card payments
One way to start accepting credit card payments may be to use payment collection services provided by a local financial institution, or an online site.
Note: Some people have reportedly had problems with at least one vendor. Known aggravating actions include when a vendor implements charge backs or, perhaps more impactful, freezing an account. If Internet-based rumors are to be believed, these actions may happen to even legitimate users of such services. This website is not currently endorsing any specific option. Determine the risk of these, or any other activities that may be unpleasant.
Some software, such as online “shopping cart” software, may interface with one or more vendors. For the short term, it may be worthwhile to see if pre-made software code supports a specific vendor. If not, it may be worthwhile, for the short term, to just use a different payment collection vendor instead. (This decision would probably be most convenient to make before taking the time to sign up for a payment collection vendor.) Alternatively, if a payment vendor's rates are more attractive, it may be worthwhile to choose to offer customers a different shopping interface.
- Google CheckOut
- One well-known option is PayPal, well-known for use by people with eBay accounts, and eventually bought out by eBay. One method they used to become popular was to give $10 for each new account, and also gave $10 for each referral. The amount given was reduced (down to $5 for a while) before this sort of option was entirely discontinued.
Another provider for services to be able to receive payments, ProPay, also gave $10 for signups and gave $10 for referrals for a while: GetPaidToBeOnline.net documents that ended October 15, 2000.
“Why Choose ProPay?” mentions an option with no setup fee or monthly fee (except for inactivity fees after 6 months or longer). However, the hyperlink on the left of that page, “ProPay Features and Pricing”, mentions an annual fee. Sheesh. Who needs monthly fees when there are annual fees?
- Other (popular?) options
NOP's FreeCart supports Authorize.net, WorldPay, and LinkPoint. Some old notes indicated those three were also half of the offerings by CommerceSQL.com Shopping Cart Software (which uses MySQL): That ratio is no longer true as it seems that CommerceSQL.com's offerings now include at least seven providers. So, hardly extensive research, these early preliminary findings may suggest that Authorize.net, WorldPay, and LinkPoint are popular and/or easy to set up.
- Other options
For even more options, Wikipedia's list of online payment service providers provide some options. Another site, screw-PayPal.com's alternatives for eBay mentions some options that (according to the website) may be allowed by eBay's Accepted Payments Policy.
A credit card reader can be as simple as just having the parts needed to read a card that is slid through it, and a way to connect to another device like a smart phone. The actual computer processing would be done by the other device. This simplicity allows for the possibility of actual card readers that can be fairly small. Examples of organizations that may provide such a device include SquareUp.com and Bank of America's MobilePay on Demand.
Methods of reading a card rather automatically, without needing the physical swipe, include MasterCard's PayPass, VISA's payWave, and AmEx's ExpressPay.
- Electronic Checks
Perahps also known as EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), ACH (Automatic Clearing House), ECP (Electronic Check Payment)
- Other electronic payments
- PayPal is the most well-known. Its future was probably threatened significantly by eBay Payments, but eBay Payments had some troubles, and PayPal continued to be a smoother experience. The end result was that eBay discontinued their own Payments program, and eBay bought PayPal.
Dwolla started out offering a service similar to PayPal: Integrating with banks and providing a method for simple electronic automated exchange. However, the pricing structure is different. PayPal has provided free personal accounts, while charging businesses (particularly when credit card payments are used). Dwolla simply charges everyone, but for the fees that do get charged, the fees per transaction may be notably smaller (being just $0.25 USD on transactions over $10, and otherwise free) when Dwolla first launched. (This is not to suggest that the fees have since changed: see the page about Dwolla fees on the main site to see if those fees are still being shown.) The cost is typically only charged to the receiver, although a sender may choose to override.
The following was made (and noted to this text) before December 15, 2011: Dwolla's blog hyping up December 15, 2011. The page notes, “Dwolla will change as we know it.” “I hope you?ll save the date and join us for what will most undoubtedly be the biggest and most confusing thing we?ve ever done. It will also be the first thing we?ve ever done which instantly effects everyone who loves -and hates- Dwolla.” Okay, so let's not bother reviewing things now (Nov 22, 2011), as things may change very soon.
Run by VISA, this is apparently similar in concept to PayPal. It is able to integrate with PCI cards from the major vendors (VISA, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover).
- Amazon Honor System
- maybe more? (There might be some additional money-handling programs available?)
- Electronic Currencies
A currency called BitCoin started to be successful enough to gain a fair amount of attention.
BitCoin has been extremely volatile. In February 2011, the price was about $2 or less. In three months, it about doubled (to about $4) by May. Within one month, it skyrocketed to be worth over $30 (for each BitCoin). Then, during June or July, it dropped by half extremely quickly, and around August it halved again to get to be about $6. In the next three months, it halved again. Do not plan to accept BitCoin for goods, services, or debt payments until understanding this volatility!
Consider: are you willing to take a payment with a currency that lost 90% of its value in two months? This question is not meant to be rhetorical: some people find they like certain aspects of BitCoin, and so these people may be willing to utilize a currency with such an unstable value. However, it would be tragic if people started trusting the value of BitCoin but did not even having awareness of these sorts of value fluctuations. Not only are such value fluctuations possible, but they have, in fact, happened. So, before accepting a BitCoin payment as sufficient, make sure there's a clear understanding of this volatility and answer the question that was just asked (at the start of this paragraph).
Some people may consider that the volatility would be hard to cope with when trying to run a business, but may consider BitCoin to be okay for gifts/donations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”)'s June 20, 2011 announcement when the EFF stopped accepting BitCoin cites “complex legal issues” and “untested legal concerns” as reasons it stopped accepting the currency. The article says it by Cindy Cohn, who is Legal Director for EFF.
Trading is often done through a broker, which is a third party website (such as Mt.Gox or TradeHill for BitCoin). Wikipedia's article for Mt.Gox, from 3:06 April 12, 2013 A.D. makes the statement that Mt.Gox was “handling about 80% of all bitcoin transactions as of July 2011.” However, the reference cited is from Mt.Gox itself. Wikipedia's article for Mt.Gox from 11:20pm April 22, 2013 A.D. puts the figure at 63%. Either way, Mt.Gox does seem to be the broker that is used more than others. The most common method for determining the current value of a BitCoin may be to check the price of recent transactions found at Mt.Gox.
Unsurprisingly, BitCoin is not the only such currency. Other currencies, many similar to BitCoin, have also been created. Some may be listed at: BitCoin (Italy) Community Wiki: List of Alternative Cryptocurrencies.
- Inventory control/Purchasing/Product/Shipping
- Locating items
- There may be some guidelines: Some organizations might limit purchases so that they only come from certain suppliers. This could be as simple as looking up information in a database that keeps track of available supplies at available suppliers, or it may involve performing some research of marketplace offerings.
- Authorizing purchases
This might be done by the purchaser, who handles inventory control, or the salesperson who determines an item is needed, or management. The precise criteria will likely vary between different organizations, but clearly a purchase should be authorized before it is made. This may be a vague as making sure this is done by authorized personnel and making sure that the price is under a certain budget and making sure that the supplier is an acceptable location to be purchasing product from.
Equipment should meet the right technical specifications. If technology isn't a specialty of the purchaser, decisions (regarding compatibility, desired performance, etc.) may need to be authorized by somebody in a more technical department. Even still, it would be good for a purchaser to understand the basics so that if a mistake or miscommunication results in a silly-sounding request, such as a bunch of computer parts meant for a RAID-capable server but without a power supply and has five keyboards but just one hard drive, that the purchaser can respond by asking questions before blindly whipping out a credit card.
- Incoming product
- Handling orders for acquiring product (by proceeding with purchasing the product), tracking incoming product, receiving product from a shipping company, placing product in an expected location, informing relevant parties when the product is available to be used.
- Outgoing product
In today's society, many people who buy things want their things quickly. Taking a long time for an item to start getting shipped may result in a customer feeling sour about the experience.
It may be good to be able to have a tracking process that watches things from the moment the order is requested until it is shipped, keeping track of details along the way such as whether payment is cleared, whether the product is packaged up, all sorts of relevant shipping details (which carrier, how fast, how much insurance), and contact information. For a very small, brand new business which hasn't yet completed its first order, manual tracking may be a sensible option. Keeping track of multiple orders simultaneously (which may have been ordered at different times, and may have different products, and perhaps use different speeds of shipping) will quickly get unwieldy without a good organization system.
The following references to deciding on a shipping carrier, or other tasks like getting shipping supplies, are not meant as strong recommendations, but pointers that may help. There may be quite a few references to organizations like eBay. Such references might be particularly relevant when using eBay, but some may be quite applicable even when eBay isn't being used. The simple fact is that a lot of packages are shipped by sellers who use eBay, so some information may be available.
- Supplies by the shipping companies
For outgoing product, some shipping carriers have been known to partner with eBay sellers by providing some shipping materials (such as boxes).
When standing in line at a shipping company, it may be clear that certain shipping supplies are available for sale. However, certain supplies may also be freely provided. (Shipping companies may have decided to market these free offerings through partnerships with eBay.)
Note that there may be certain shipping requirements to be able to get certain supplies free. For instance, a box by USPS that is labelled “Priority Mail” may be ineligible to be used for shipping with the slower “media mail” service. Clearly items provided free by one shipping company are not intended to be used for shipping with a competing shipping carrier.
UPS Boxes and Tubes has shown some free shipping materials. My UPS page about ordering supplies says, “UPS Supplies are available free of charge to UPS shippers. If you use the same supplies over and over, My UPS allows you to easily reorder the supplies you use frequently.” (It appears that this may require using a “My UPS” account, which is probably free.)
UPS is said to provide free sticky labels that shipping information can be printed on. This information came from NewLifeAuctions.com Shipping guide.
Other information promoting UPS might be at UPS on eBay, UPS.com website: page about eBay, perhaps UPS information (in a PDF file) about using eBay recommends using “The UPS Store®”. That seems like advice that may frequently work, but may not be quite as inexpensive as free options.
- USPS shipping supplies
Order eco-friendly boxes, some of which may be free of charge in bulk (e.g. minimum 500 boxes). Those who need far fewer boxes (e.g.: one) might be able to get a local USPS branch to just hand out a box for free. Such free boxes may be Priority Mail boxes which the USPS will not ship using cheaper (slower) methods of shipping.
An eBay hyperlink for ordering free shipping boxes from the post office was found in a message from eBay.
- More shipping supplies
Make sure that any other shipping supplies, such as “cushioning” (e.g. “packing peanuts”, sealed plastic bags filled with air, or whatever other appropriate material) is readily available.
eBay's Shipping Center: page about ordering shipping supplies may provide a small number of recommendations, notably the hyperlink that says “From packing peanuts to postage scales, get supplies on eBay”. Hmm, that doesn't seem like self-serving advice at all, does it? Surely that is an option, but paying to have packing peanuts shipped just so to be able to ship a package could add notable delay to getting a package shipped out.
NewLifeAuctions.com shipping guide provides some options. (Be sure to check out not only the “Pack your items properly” section, but also the “Free packing supplies” section.)
Note that certain types of tape are considered too weak for packages, even if used in heavy abundance. Do not use “masking tape”. Also, standard transparent “scotch tape” is likely unsuitable, even though it may often seem similar to the standard transparent “packing tape”. Gorilla Tape may be a good choice: as seen by Gorilla Tape Review's photo of the packaging, the product identifies itself as “The Toughest Tape on Planet Earth”. Wikipedia's article for Gorilla Tape refers to the tape's “manufacturers claiming it to be 145% stronger than any duct tape on the market.” It is rippable by hand (for an adult), with some effort. (The “Product Detail” page has said, “the tight weave makes Gorilla Tape extra strong, but you can still rip it straight and easy.” However, the FAQ, “Can I tear Gorilla tape by hand?” has, as part of the answer, “You?ll need a good grip.”)
- Using a packing slip
When packing, include a packing slip inside the package. First, including a packing slip may also help local operations. If the packing slip includes the contents of the package, the packing slip may help to double-check that all needed items are included in the box. The customer may appreciate seeing, and checking off, a list of items that were expected to be in the box. Second, even if the packing slip just contains the address of the recipient, it may help disasters be recovered from more smoothly. This could include disasters caused by local shipping operations. For example, if some terrible mistake is made and two products have the wrong shipping label applied, and each gets sent to the wrong addresses, that may not be a real problem if the items being shipped are identical. In case they aren't, the including packing slip might have an order number, or other information, that may help the shipper/seller determine what happened. A packing slip could also help with disaster that occurs after the package is in the hands of the shipping carrier. If something terrible happens to the side of the package, and the shipping label is somehow removed or destroyed beyond readabilitiy, the shipping carrier may have no way to know how to handle the problematic package. Rather than sit on the package hoping that a complaint from somewhere around the nation helps them figure out where it should go, they may try to do some good by opening the now-unmarked package.
Great things to include on a packing slip include: recipient's address, a list of packaged items, and perhaps other order-specific details like the shipping method and/or a detailed itemized “receipt”. Other details, which probably don't even need to vary much or at all between different shipments (so this could be pre-printed on a “blank” packing slip), could include the sender's contact information (the address and phone number may help the shipping company contact the shipper most quickly; including other contact information like a website seems wise too), thanks to the recipient, a request for positive feedback by the recipient, and advertising to get additional business.
- Picking a shipping carrier
If information was provided to a customer, be sure to use the shipping company that was communicated.
Otherwise, having great options like providing free stuff may be a powerful incentive to choose one shipping carrier over another. See which ones might provide free shipping supplies.
There may be some choices. The following may include some well-known generalizations, which could at least theoretically change.
- Options in the United States of America
- [#usps]: United States Postal Service (“USPS”)
USPS should be the only company used for a P.O. box. (P.O. box stands for “Post Office Box”.) Competiting organizations may offer a “private mailbox”, abbreviated as “PMB”.
The post office, like many financial institutions, may sell money orders. They may be some limits, including how they are purchsed, the maximum value of a money order, and the intended usable area: an “international money order” may have a higher price than a domestic money order. However, financial institutions outside of the USA might not accept USPS's domestic money orders.
USPS: Requesting a free pickup (has since started redirecting to a “Schedule a Pickup” page) has stated, “Give us details on your pickup and when you'd like it. Your carrier can pick up your shipment free when he comes around if you're using an expedited service like Priority Mail®, Express Mail®, Global Express Guaranteed®, or Merchandise Returns services.” (A message from eBay has included an eBay Hyperlink to scheduling a USPS package pickup.)
- [#fedex]: FedEx
- FedEx may be used often for items that need to ship quickly. This might especially be true for documents. They are, at least sometimes, considered to be a high quality service, possibly with a superior track record compared to competition. However, this quality may frequently come with a higher price. They may also have ground shipping options available.
- [#ups]: United Parcel Service (“UPS”)
Using eBay? (Or, have an eBay account? (At the time of this writing, the author of this text hasn't checked to see how integrated these options are with actual eBay sales.)) UPS.com website: page about eBay says, “UPS Special Pricing Program for eBay Sellers or the UPS Savings Program for eBay PowerSellers. The programs offer discounts off UPS Standard List Rates of up to 32% for Air shipments, up to 25% for International shipments, and up to 23% for Ground shipments.” Those who qualify for the program for eBay PowerSellers will probably benefit more using that program.
UPS may often have low rates for parcels (packages), and have a business focus on getting boxes to the destination successfully. Items should certainly be packed well (with plenty of packaging materials) to protect packages from bumps.
Other shipping options may exist, even in America. One with a large coverage area, including international coverage, may be DHL.
- Shipping Internationally
Of course, other nations may use other carriers. For instance, rather than the United States Post Office, Canadians may interact more frequently with Canada Post and Britains may be more familiar with companies that are part of the Royal Mail Group.
Generally, a shipping company in one nation will be able to collect fees, and get the package to whatever other shipping company is needed in any other nation so that the package may reach the recipient. Fees are generally not needed to be paid to any shipping company except for the original one that receives the package. (Any costs by other shipping companies are handled between the shipping companies.)
Expect that international shipments may need more information to be filled on a Customs declaration. To identify an item as a “gift” may affect taxation, and doing so for an item that is sold may be fraudulent. (So, do not do this.)
- Selecting shipping prices
- Getting low prices
There may be one or more steps to take to get shipping prices reduced. As this is likely to be specific to a shipping carrier, see the section about picking a shipping carrier. (Specifically, UPS has an option for eBay sellers.)
Check out http://ups.com/discount (which has been known to provide a discount for businesses that log into the ups.com website).
- Delivery confirmation, and insurance
Often buyers may choose to pay to purchase insurance themselves. If that can be successfully done, then that is often the choice that works nicest for the seller. Insurance tends to come with signature-based delivery confirmation. If the buyer decides to pay for insurance, then the seller really doesn't need to determine whether to pay for insurance or other included services (namely delivery confirmation). If the buyer decides not to pay for insurance, and if the terms of sale do not require that the buyer pays for insurance, then the seller may decide to consider whether to purchase insurance and/or some form of delivery confirmation, mainly just to help protect the sller.
Be sure to get signature-based delivery confirmation for packages worth at least $250, a value reported by eBay's Upload-Tracking video, and NewLifeAuctions.com Shipping guide. The latter website notes, “Use delivery confirmation on all packages. Shady” ... “buyers will think twice before claiming they didn't receive your package. If the package really does get lost, you have a way to track it down.”
Note that delivery confirmation really doesn't do anything for the buyer/recipient for a successfully delivered package, so this may be a cost that primarily provides benefits (like peace of mind) for the seller, in most cases (where the item is, in fact, successfully delivered). Therefore, this cost may be something the shipper will just need to eat. The cost of simple delivery confirmation is likely fairly low (perhaps under $1, or maybe even under half that price?), so may the low price may be worth the protection for items of most prices. This might help the seller in case of fraudulent actions, like attempted charge-backs.
- Other costs
Passing on shipping costs to the purchaser is generally a great choice for business. Note that adding on any additional costs, to make a “shipping and handling” fee, is frowned upon by many (potential) buyers. Although such a fee may be legitimate, the discomfort level by those who don't want to be abused by such fees may be sufficient that it may be better to just charge a higher price for the item.
It seems that even eBay has encouraged eBay sales to offer free shipping. Know that any other amount of shipping may be considered high for some buyers, perhaps particularly when using eBay. Perhaps an exception, though, is to offer optional insurance. Many buyers may find that concept to be non-objectionable, and may even decide to happily purchase the insurance.
- Filling out the information for the shipping company (e.g. using an authorized shipping label)
It will be important to keep track of what shipping details were selected by the client.
Details may be provided in the section about getting free shipping supplies. (UPS has been known to provide shipping labels for UPS for free. For instnace, at the time of this writing, all of the labels on that page were provided for free.) If using eBay, then eBay Labels may allow printing straight from the “My eBay” section of eBay's website.
UPS.com website: page about eBay initially recommends printing shipping labels from “My eBay”. However, the page also notes, “If you have multiple sales per day/week, have packages with a declared value over $999, or if you need a solution that helps automate your international documentation or provides thermal ink-printed shipping labels, then you may prefer a solution other than PayPal Shipping, such as ShipGear, ShipWorks, ProStores, or eBay Blackthorne Pro.”
- Handling tracking number
Definitely get a tracking number.
Even more impressive is to provide the tracking number to the recipient. This can be done by E-Mailing the recipient. This is probably a great idea, unless another organization is going to be E-Mailing the user with the same information.
The recipient might have a way, other than just E-Mail, to see the tracking number in an interface provided by a company that was involved with the purchase. Such companies that may provide such tracking details could include PayPal and (its current parent company) eBay. Seeing such tracking information in such an interface can be a slick, convenient interface for a customer who might appreciate, and be impressed by, the whole experience when tracking is so painless. This may also help minimize the likelihood of a buyer making a dispute about not receiving an item, or may help dispute resolution be achieved more quickly.
To do this, options may be presented by whatever software and/or website is used to print shipping labels. Otherwise, a website may provide an interface. For instance, in eBay, the “My eBay” section allows a seller to select a sold item, and then to add shipping information. There is an available video by eBay showing “Upload-Tracking”: details on how to supply tracking information to eBay. Once the information is submitted, it may take a few minutes, and a web page may need to be refreshed. A web page on eBay about uploading shipment tracking information has stated, “tracking information and Delivery Confirmation plays an important role in the eBay dispute resolution process and helps you qualify for automatic 5-star shipping time DSRs.”
- Tracking info
Tracking numbers start with 1Z
(The following is only partially tested/verified.)
Packages can be tracked by using a URL that starts with: http://www.ups.com/WebTracking/processInputRequest?
tracknum= or https://wwwapps.ups.com/WebTracking/track?
Then place a tracking number at the end of that URL. e.g.:
Notice that the latter case says “
trackNums”. You can place a tracking number, and then add “%0a”, and then another tracking number. e.g.:
followed by a tracking number. Or... http://www.mysamplecode.com/2011/05/ups-tracking-link-url-html-sample-code.html provides: http://wwwapps.ups.com/etracking/tracking.cgi?InquiryNumber1=
- Getting item to shipper
For many organizations, the shipping carrier may be willing to pick up packages at the same time that the carrier leaves off packages. A store that regularly send items might even be able to get the local shipping carrier to check with the store, even if the store is not receiving items that day; such a thing is more likely if the shipping carrier is stopping at the same building anyway. (This is likely if the building is a major shopping center.) However, unnecessarily delaying the shipping of an item, hoping for a convenient day when a shipping carrier may stop by, could impact an end user.
For other places sending a package (including sending a package from a home), a shipping company may be willing to pick up the package for a fee. This may or may not be worthwhile: this would require that somebody is at the location when the shipping company arrives. However, if a person is likely to want to be at that location anyway, it may be more convenient than requiring that person to leave the place just to get an item into the shipping carrier's hands.
- Other tasks
- Ensuring the inventory records are up to date.
Providing and maintaining basic features, such as lighting. Heating and Air Conditioning can be an important part of this job.
This may include security, although security, especially security involving using people rather than automated products, is often handled by a separate department. However, in smaller organizations, simply being able to install some security may involve installing physical devices and so may involve the person in charge of facilities. Keeping facilities clean is also generally a requirement: this could involve outsourcing a janitorial service but, even in that case, the responsibility of keeping things clean may involve the facilities manager checking to make sure that the service does perform the task satisfactorily.
- Business leadership
What is the direction where the company is headed? How will goals be achieved? Are projects on schedule? How will resources be allocated?
Providing advice that helps a business, whether the business you directly work for or any other business that you may be indirectly helping (perhaps because that business is paying the business you directly work for) may be called consulting.
Are all permits obtained? Are contracts sensible? Is there a plan (such as whose expertise to use) that describes how to handle legal trouble if such a thing occurs?
There are some basic legal considerations which are good for professional technicians to know. Examples are: Making sure to remain within the rules, such as not getting involved with illegal actions including those that would involve illegal use of software. Handle legal investigations appropriately, in ways that don't compromise the efforts of forensics. Ensure that work is authorized. Do not do anything particularly foolhardy, including unauthorized work. Unless there is sufficient protection such as an appropriate waiver, do not work on systems which have information which has not been suitably backed up (unless such work assists with the major problem). Respect appropriate confidentiality. Make sure that user agreements are being handled well: know that they exist and that, to the best of your knowledge, know that they are being followed.
However, beyond that, there may be some additional need for the legal industry's involvement. A contract may need to exist and there may need to be verification that the contract serves its purpose well, including being legally enforcable. An expert who has received training in the legal field may be more likely to know how legally enforcable something is. Being familiar with computer forensics is also a sub-specialty which may be valued (although surely some environments will not value this sub-specialty as much as other environments, such as working for certain employers which may have strong involvement with government and/or some other legal community).
- [#rscsplir]: Researching suppliers/Marketplace offerings
What source provides the best offer for any needed parts/supplies? This may involve comparing different parts/supplies to determine what will provide the best solution. Prices may change: how much time is worthwhile to be investing in searching for newer, lower prices? (Investing too much time may involve wasting a bunch of time which isn't fruitful, while not investing time frequently enough could involve missing out on great deals. If competition isn't missing out on those deals, they may have an easier time being able to offer products for a better price.) If a company is offering an item for a higher price, is the product better, or the purchasing/delivery/installation process a better experience, and is the improvement worth the additional cost? Are some products, which used to work well, being discontinued in favor of newer products? Are the newer products better, or simply an attempt by the manufacturer to get more money? So, in the end, is it better to use the newer product offered by one supplier, or switch to a different product by another supplier?
There may be some other considerations, such as hardware performance and compatability. Some details on selecting systems/components may be provided by the section about computer hardware. However, even after a computer part (or complete system) has been selected, there may still be options about what organization to obtain the item from.
There may be some advantages to bulk rate discounts, or combination deals (where buying a complete pre-built system might be discounted over trying to purchase all of the parts separately), or buying parts in bulk and then self-assembling may offer some price advantage. This guide does not try to tackle all of those options.
Here are some options to consider:
- Automatic comparison shopping
An web browser add-on may be able to frequently figure out when the web browser is looking at a product from certain distributors, and automatically check other sources for that same part. Then, seconds later, it may show an info bar that shows whether the item being viewed has the best price, and provide a list of alternative locations. In practice, this may be must faster than checking several places automatically. There may be a few caveats: Sometimes a referenced location may be out of stock, and a purchaser should determine the anticipated reliability of the supplier. Therefore, such a toolbar isn't necessarily something that should be relied upon exclusively, but it may help by saving time and/or presenting a useful (money-saving) option which otherwise might not have been found as quickly (or may not have been checked for, and may not have been found at all).
These add-ons probably are sending information to a centralized server as a person is web browsing. Although this does allow a centralized company to be tracking a user's web browser experience, sending this information is also rather necessary by design: that behavior is simply how these pieces of software function. Also, note that sometimes these software tools may appear to offer savings, but the product which was found may actually be a different product. This is usually not the case: usually reported available savings are actual savings. However, just be at least a little bit careful, rather than making a purchase rather blindly.
- Invisible Hand
A web toolbar that can pop up with alternate prices when a better deal is automatically found. A review of comparison tools says, referring to browser add-ons of this nature, “In addition to Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari, this is the only extension that will work on Internet Explorer.” This add-on serves the German market (in addition to The United States of America as well as the United Kingdom).
PriceBlink for Firefox web page states (at the time of this writing), “PriceBlink Currently SUPPORTS US RETAILERS ONLY (We will be adding additional markets in the future).” (That means U.S. retailers, so American retailers.) In addition to the Firefox version, there is PriceBlink for Chrome (free from the Chrome web store) and direct download to PriceBlink for Safari. At the time of this writing, PriceBlink for IE page says “We're working hard on bringing PriceBlink to IE. Enter your email below to be notified when the new IE version is available.” (The web page has a form to collect an E-Mail address.)
Sometimes the add-on seems to not work: it simply won't pop up a message. Re-loading the page will, on rare occasion, help. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way with the addon to determine if the addon already completed a price check for the item being described on the visited web page, or if it simply did not do a price check.
The add-on has been known to be highlighted at the bottom of the default web page for Firefox, apparently as an attempt to highlight Firefox's capability of supporting add-ons. This may have helped the add-on skyrocket in popularity.
For some vendors, this add-on will report coupons that are available. That can be potentially useful, although it can get to be annoying. For example, every time any auction on eBay is checked, the same offers will be made (even after an offer has already been taken advantage of).
- PriceTrace Browser Add-on
- Online comparison sites
The site PriceWatch.com has several categories for computer parts (and some other categories, but they started out with computer parts and that appears to remain their primary focus). Sometimes some recognized large retailers, such as NewEgg, have been known to participate by sharing prices.
A review noted, “we’re using PCPartPicker to put together our builds. We love it, and think you should use it too-it gives you more flexibility in your part buying, helps you eliminate possibly incompatible components. Plus it makes sure you get he best prices for the items you plan to buy, even if it means you have to buy them from different retailers.” (This quote came from LifeHacker.com: PC builds at some price points. [sic] on “he best”)
- Online retail electronic s superstore(s)
Their motto is, “Once you know, you NewEgg”.
- NewEgg Combos
Before adding something to your cart, you might benefit from locating the “Customers Also Bought” section, and looking next to the “Recommendations” tab to see if there is also a “Combos” tab.
Here are a couple of examples to show why this could be so nice:
- On the American Thanksgiving weekend of 2018, the D-Link DIR-822-US AC1200 Wireless Router was on sale for $49.99. However, there was a combo deal: Combo 3878157 required also purchasing a D-Link Wireless Dual Band AC600 Mbps USB Wi-Fi Network Adapter (DWA-171) for $23.88, and then the combo provided a $41.90 discount so instead of $73.87 for both items, it was only $31.97. So instead of buying a router on sale for $49.99, a person could save $18.02 by choosing to get a free piece of related equipment.
On American Thanksgiving weekend's Black Friday of 2018, the Intel NUC 8 Premium VR Capable Mini PC Kit NUC8i7HVK was $799.99. Just below the item's total, though, was a note: “Great savings w/ combo purchase, ends 11/26”. (Actually, by Pacific Time late morning of Saturday Nov 24, the item sold out.) Instead of paying $799.99, a person could use Combo 3876859, “Intel NUC 8 Premium VR Capable Mini PC Kit NUC8i7HVK, CORSAIR Vengeance Performance 8GB 260-Pin DDR4 SO-DIMM DDR4 2400, WD Blue 3D NAND 250GB PC SSD - SATA III 6 Gb/s M.2 2280 Solid State Drive”. So by purchasing a WD Blue 3D NAND 250GB PC SSD - SATA III 6 Gb/s M.2 2280 Solid State Drive - WDS250G2B0B for its sale price of $54.99 ($25>31% off of the regular $79.99 price) and CORSAIR Vengeance Performance 8GB 260-Pin DDR4 SO-DIMM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) Laptop Memory Model CMSX8GX4M1A2400C16 for $61.99, a person could get the Combo Discount of $186.98. So instead of paying $916.97, they would pay $729.99.
- To summarize that, instead of paying $799.99 for a computer that had no required RAM and no data storage device, a person could pay $70 less and get a somewhat small amount of RAM and a data storage device which, while possibly being somewhat small, could often be plenty sufficient for the system.
Sometimes looking at Combos may seem like a waste of time. For instance, a person who just wanted an SSD could look at that last combo and see that they could add $675 to get an $799.99 computer and a RAM stick. While that is admittedly a notable savings, it's quite a markup from the $54.99 price if someone just wanted the SSD. But in other cases, like someone who was shopping for a computer, or a Wireless Router, the combos can be entirely beneficial compared to not using the combos at all. Sometimes combos have been made for multiple copies of the same item, in which case people may be even less likely to have reason to to feel like the available offer is involving a type of equipment that they have no current interest in.
Besides just seeing a “Combos” tab on an item, another way to find combos could be to go to NewEgg's Special/Combo page, sorting Combos by Biggest Discount.
It has been discovered that upon purchasing a combo, sometimes NewEgg may charge a card multiple times, and the charge for a single item might even be more than what that item seemed to be advertised for on the main site. However, don't freak out about the apparent overcharge, because some other item will be appropriately discounted so that the combo ultimately ends up at the expected price (after any shipping charges and taxes) which the website did quote as part of the ordering (and payment) process.
- Sort methods
During certain shopping events, such as “Black Friday”, NewEgg may have a section of web pages dedicated to that event. By going to the event's home page, there may be a “Sort by:” drop down box, in the same row as a “View:” drop down box that lets a person determine how many items to see on a page. The default of “Best Deals” may be based on NewEgg's unknown criteria, and might actually point to some of the best deals. However, the dropdown box may also have options like “Best Sellers” and “Biggest Discount”.
The “Biggest Discount” seems to be based on percentage, so this is where you can find the biggest discount from the declared base price. For instance, a person could find something like a Blue 24 inch Rosewill SATA 3 (6Gbps) 90 Degree Right Angle Cable for $0.99 instead of a regular price of $12.99 (saving 92%). While not saving a tremendous amount of money overall ($12), the $12 savings on a $12.99 item represents a tremendous percentage of the declared base price.
Unfortunately, such sort methods are enabled on only some pages. So if you explore various categories of items and then want to compare the available items, the “Sort By” drop-down box may lack the “Biggest Discount” option. Attempts to view patterns in URLs to hand-craft a custom sort did not seem to be accepted by the server. So, NewEgg's website only directly provides that option on the pages that NewEgg has selected.
By the way, since the “Best Sellers” sort was mentioned, let's point out how that can be nice. If you see a bunch of options but have no idea what's good, you could check out the “Best Sellers” sort. That may help you to see what other people (who often do know what they are doing) have determined seems interesting for them.
- The TigerDirect catalog, mailed through standard postal mail, is not the only way to use this company. They have a website as well, which is some rather “Direct” competition to other online retail electronic superstores.
- Online auctions
eBay has been so successful, that when “Yahoo!” decided to try competing by offering “Yahoo!” auctions, eBay remained the consumers' #1 choice. The large customer base means that items listed on eBay frequently sell, which is attractive to sellers. The attractiveness to sellers ends up causing a large amount of items that are ready to sell on eBay, so potential buyers very frequently find what they want. The biggest advantage eBay may have is this already-existing customer base that was generated, at least in part, by being an early offering before others saw and tried to mimic eBay's success.
It seems that eBay has branched out, from being strictly an auction site, to one where many products are simply sold outright. Many items may be available using the “Buy It Now” method, sometimes at a low cost (even lower than the price of some ongoing auctions).
eBay has, at least historically, been a fairly easy venue for a potential seller to start using. This widespread ease had led to open opportunities for unexcellent sellers to begin offering items for sale. Understand that items purchased through eBay are purchased directly from whomever is selling the item. Basically, the great benefit that eBay provides is to be a sort of “matchmaking” service, matching buyers to items offered by sellers. However, do not expect that eBay will handle returning items, as return policies may be up to an individual seller.
- eBay Rewards program
Many people who use eBay to buy things would benefit from an eBay promotional program. For generalized information, see: eBay Rewards FAQ.
- American eBay Bucks
For example, a specific program that is available for Americans is eBay Bucks.
As of the (start of the) year 2014, the program is only useful for someone spending $250 per quarter, and then making another purchase within 30 days of the money being provided. Other requirements, like having a PayPal account and an American address, are likely minimal for many Americans. For Americans who already were using PayPal, there is really no cost to the program beyond taking the brief time to sign up. The program seemed to be simply beneficial for many users before the year 2014, when the accumulated points for eBay Bucks weren't eliminated at the start of each quarter-year.
- Other nations
The eBay Rewards FAQ eBay Rewards FAQ has noted (and might still say), “If you are a resident of the United Kingdom, you may be eligible to earn rewards through Nectar.” Unfortunately, this eBay page wasn't kind enough to provide a hyperlink to eBay UK Nectar Rewards.
As dismal as the American “eBay Bucks” program changes may have been, the remaining program may still be better than the Canadian experience: eBay Bucks has closed for Canadian users. Maybe that will be enough incentive for the generally unpopular plan for all of the Canadian provinces to become states of The United States of America. Probably not.
Additional alternatives have existed, although they may have captured less market share.
- Search engine
Google Products, once known as Froogle (a homonym of “frugal”, but spelled in a way which looks a bit more like the name “Google”), attempts to find products for sale. Actually, the results of many searches using this service have resulted in many sellers which are out of stock. Sorting by relevance often shows items of mediocre or even slightly high prices, while storing by price tends to show the very cheapest results first, and those are typically cheap accessories of interesting items instead of the more interesting items themselves.
When Microsoft had released the failed “Live Search” search engine, there had been a “Live Search Cash Back” promotion. Basically the promotion details were that when the Microsoft search engine was used to locate an item, and then a purchase was made, and any other requirements fulfilled, then some money would be paid by Microsoft to the searcher who became a purchaser. When Microsoft's flopped attempt to compete with Google was replaced with another attempt called Bing, Microsoft did have a “Bing Cash Back” promotion for some time.
- Brick and Mortar
Large chains of large stores that sell electronics have been known to have websites offering the same deals. Some of these may frequently be excellent options, just as noteworthy as some of the companies that are more famous just from their popular websites.
Here are some “brick and mortar” options that are known to exist.
- [#fryselec]: Fry's Electronics
They bought out Outpost.com, and have several large stores.
- [#microctr]: Micro Center
Listed first on LifeHacker: Five Best Places to Buy Computer Parts
- [#bestbuy]: Best Buy
It once seemed they truely lived up to their name, offering actual low prices on many electronics. As they grew, they eventually took the road of seeking even more money, and have been known, at least in some cases, to actually be on the pricey side (contrary to the name of the company). Today, the company may be using its market strength to partner with other industry giants to offer people some technology solutions, even if those offerings are among the most expensive offerings available.
- Non-retail suppliers
These may require a business account to be set up before purchasing.
- Other generalized suppliers
Initially focused on being a bookstore, Amazon.com carries numerous products, including computers, computer equipment, and electronics.
- Office chains
- “Office Depot”/OfficeMax
Once competitors, these are now the same.
- Department Stores
Although others exist, such as KMart (which may also be known/marketed as “Big K”?), I havne't personally noticed many spectacular deals in technology. (The result might be “chicken and egg”; I may not be seeing them because I don't check often.)
- Grocery Stores and more
Some places that have commonly been known primarily as a grocery store may also have technology.
Costco sells technology, and can have has some very good deals. They require paying for an annual membership.
As another example, “Fred Meyer” is the name of a store that may sell groceries, clothing, and also having an electronics department. They've since been bought out by Kroger, yet retain the “Fred Meyer” name. (Thought: Do other Kroger stores typically do this?)
- B&H Photo
B&H Photo can also be known as “B&H Photo & Electronics Corp.”, has a logo indicatating “B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio”, and has sometimes been known as “B&H Photo Video” which is what their website domain, bhphotovideo.com, seems to be named after).
They have been known to have some leading deals. MarketWired noted pre-selling Google Wi-Fi. In 2016, after U.S.A. Thanksgiving, B&H Video's Xbox One S (White) with 2TB, and an extra controller was $372.95, when most places sold the Xbox One S for about $350 and then another controller was more. This may not have been the first time that they showed up as a leader for a video game system.
Tech Soup, BizSpark, etc.
- Commercial Suppliers
They might not sell to the general retail public. Perhaps there is little publicly available information. However, people who are going to seriously invest in this industry may want to be aware of such options.
Microsoft Partner site, Licensing, Cloud Connections lists four suppliers.
- Ingram Micro
- Tech Data
This Reddit thread also favorably mentions Provantage.
- Microsoft Program(s)
Perhaps for internal use only? See: Microsoft Partner: Microsoft Actions Pack Subscription (“MAPS”). (Perhaps see also: MS KB 2932638.)
Perhaps see also: “the cache of licenses in TechNet, which wasn't part of the original MAPS but is now included in Action Pack Solution Provider.” RPC article.
- Ongoing training
Businesses need to stay on top of developments. Adopting foolish new business methods or embracing products which don't work well can be costly. On the other hand, becoming unadaptable can also, at least over time, lead to stagnancy and dwindling market share. Research can help to combat these potential problems.
What new technologies are being offered? Are other businesses adopting a new way of doing things, and will following such paths lead to improvements?
- Full-blown Reseacher
The organizations that invent things will often have investments in “research and development”.
See: formal credentials (and specifically the section about a Ph.D.)
- Human resources, resource planning/scheduling/assignment
When new staff members are needed, how will they be attracted to the company and who will decide which candidates to offer a position and how much should be offered to the candidate?
What to do with resources that are being wasted, such as paying somebody who isn't being very productive? (Should that person receive training to improve productivity in the current position, be transitioned into a new position, or be expelled from the organization? If the person is such a problem that the person should leave the company, how will that happen without creating a legal liability, or other problems that the person may intentionally create before leaving?)
What schedules will people be working?
When decisions need to be made, who gets to make them? What guidelines must such decision makers be bound to?
People observing/owning/running many businesses that have struggled (or perished) have often cited a lack of cohesive management as a substantial struggle that may cripple a business. Having people trying to pursue what may be opposing goals may divide resources and may not show a clear unified effort to customers/clients, and employees.
Of course, there may be other types of jobs as well. The ones that have been listed are simply the ones that have been included in the list. If there are recognized additional categories of jobs that seem to be lacking in this list, consider reviewing the section about how to help ][CyberPillar][.