The Most Un-Bear-Able of Checkouts

So, the other day I was ordering a gift for DJ Waldow’s new baby girl, @evawaldow.  (Congratulations DJ!)

I wanted to get her something from Vermont but at a week old, I didn’t think she’d have much use for Ben & Jerry’s, maple syrup or cheddar cheese.  To be honest, cheddar cheese is what I should have gotten her – she’s from Utah and those people think cheddar is orange.  I mean really.  Bunch of crack smokers.  But I digress…

I wandered over to Vermont Teddy Bear, found a cute little bear, added it to my cart, proceeded to checkout and then remembered why whenever I want something from Vermont Teddy Bear, I ask someone else to order it for me.

I’d rather have root canal without anesthesia through my belly button than deal with their flipping train wreck of a checkout.

I guess when you sell chi-chi-la-la stuffed animals, you can get away with telling people that you don’t want their business in the rudest of ways.

I mean really…

Before you place your order it is REQUIRED to tell them “what advertising reminded you to visit our web site today” and “for what occasion are you sending a bear?”

You may as well ask me what sexual position I prefer while you are it. 

And if it’s not bad enough that they ask the question, they don’t do it with something quick and easy — they do it like this.  (Please click on the picture for a better view.) 


To ask: “Radio: We need the specific station or D.J.’s name please” is one thing…

But to say “Search Engine: Please specify search engine (Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) and what you searched for” is altogether another.  (Yes, that is one of their choices.  For the love of all things holy, someone please alert them that Google Analytics is FREE.)

Granted, you can fill in the boxes with garbage but if you leave them blank, you will get an error message (like the one above.)

Now, before you pick up your sword, mount your stallion and rush to Vermont Teddy Bear’s defense,  you should note that I get why source codes are important.  I got my start in the offline catalog/direct marketing side of the world (back in the days when the fax was the greatest thing since sliced bread and road warrior salesmen ruled the world) and I know how important it is to know where your orders are coming from.  However, I also know there is a time and a place for everything and this is NOT at all how an e-commerce company should do it.  (Especially since giving them my e-mail address is OPTIONAL.  (This is horrifying in itself.)

In checkout, you need to ask the questions that are relevant to the order.

Relevancy is determined in the user’s mind.

If I come from “the internet” (in Vermont Teddy Bear speak that is someone else’s web site), you already know, so asking me is just a waste of my time…. And completely irrelevant.

If you want to make sure that I am not buying my bear for a secret ritual sacrifice, ask me after the order and not before.  Survey questions are totally appropriate after the order has been completed.  In the middle?  Not. So. Much.

Remember, in the web world, there is a time and a place for everything.  You can get what you want out of folks but you need to do it in on their terms, not yours.


  1. says

    Hmm so they failed on rule one of ‘Get someone else to use the site and tell you where it’s bad!’. In the IT world they call this ‘User acceptance testing’ The user doesn’t accept it – it doesn’t go live. This is a good principle by which to test your website I think.
    I wonder how many bears they would sell if it were a great checkout?

  2. says

    Hi Hayley — Thanks for the comment — VT Teddy Bear could definitely use some (ok, a lot) of user acceptance testing. Sadly, it’s not just the checkout that needs work. Interestingly enough though, they have some really good (and very sophisticated) upselling/cross-selling strategies. Cart before the horse, I guess!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *