Monday, August 20, 2007

Mrs Grudy takes on eBooks - Part 1

In case you were wondering, Mrs. Grundy is alive and well in cyberspace. I know because I ran into her last week. And here lies the tale. . . .

eBooks About Everything (in fact the whole eBooks About family of stores) depends on our credit card/e-check clearing company. We have a classic e-commerce business. The standard operating procedure is that customers give us their credit card or banking information, the clearing company verifies and authorizes the information and holds the funds. The customer downloads the file(s) and then the clearing company transfers the money into our bank account.

Things have been going swimmingly. We opened the store, customers have found us and bought books and our credit card clearing company has been doing their job so that each day we end up with a deposit to our bank account. I was happy and I assumed, based on the fees they charge, that they were happy.

But not so fast. . . woke up the other morning with a message in my mail box:

Authorize.Net Corp. ("Authorize.Net") has determined that your business is in violation of Section 2.10 of the Authorize.Net Acceptable Use Guidelines . .. These sections include, but are not limited to, any form(s) of adult, sexually oriented, vulgar or obscene marketing materials, products or services (for example, the display of nude images, the sale of adult phone or escort services,fetishes, or the sale of adult media, entertainment and/or toys). Accordingly, your ability to access and use the Authorize.Net Services will be terminated on August 31, 2007 . . have any questions about this termination notice, please contact.


I am serious about not selling inappropriate materials to minors. I am, after all a parent. So, unlike many of my competitors, I have clearly segregated all erotica and other information for “mature” audiences. In doing so, I have created a situation in which it has proven difficult to clear credit cards. Being the eternal optimist, I figured we had a simple failure to communicate, so I sent them back an email:

I am very puzzled by this letter. We do not sell, distribute or promote pornography. My understanding to the Service Agreement was that the policy covers pornography and other truly adult information and products. Our titles are not pornographic in nature but are considered erotica by major publishers (Harper Collins, Harlequin, Random House, Simon & Schuster), distributors (Ingram Micro, Baker &; Taylor, PGW, IPG) and retailers (Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Amazon). Please take a look ( to see what we actually sell. We have put a “gateway” page on the erotica section of the bookstore, because we are a family friendly site and wish to make sure that we stay that way. Please reconsider your decision


If you read the policy, we do not allow anything adult; this includes anything that is sexually orientated. For further information on our acceptable use policy see our website. Our decision stands, you will need to remove the adult orientated items as explained in our policy or we will be forced to terminate your Authorize.Net account on August 31, 2007.

All righty then. . .

We can just move over to Chase who has been soliciting business for a while. But better safe than sorry, so I called Chase and thoroughly explained our site to the sales guy. I had him look at the site and showed him the erotica gateway page. He assured me that there was “no problem”.

I filled out the application, faxed off 25 pages of financial info and answered five different emails from the underwriting department. Five days into the process I get the following email:

I have been reviewing the web site for the changes requested and do not see those yet. However, looking further at you site, I see that you are planning to open a section for over 18/Adult section on this site. We will not be able to process for this account with those products on the site. Those are prohibited by our credit policy.

I got the same answers from Payflow and a couple of other companies as well. Makes me wonder about how all those porn sites we keep hearing about actually do business. Ultimately, I did find a good and reputable company to do the clearing but I took some real effort and persistence on my part.

See I told you – Mrs. Grundy with her thin blue lips really IS alive and well in cyberspace!

So that is my sad tale – tomorrow in Part 2 I will explore the deeper meaning of this story.

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