A Peek Under the Hood: Processing Fees

How does COMC calculate and charge processing fees?
This is a question that frequently comes up so I would like to take a few minutes to explain exactly how we calculate and charge processing fees.  This is particularly interesting recently because of our new partial deposit functionality.

The Basics
In case you didn’t already know, you don’t have to do all of the work to list items online when you want to sell them.  You can simply box them up and ship them to us.  We will do all the work to list them for you.  Learn more here

In order to provide this service, we need to charge some fees.  The least expensive service is our Basic service, and it takes 2-8 weeks for us to process your items through our patented system.  It only costs $0.25 per standard raw trading card for this service, and our goal is to process your items in less than 4 weeks on average.

Unfortunately, we are a bit behind at the moment because of the massive amount of work we have put in to building a new sports card catalog completely from scratch.  We are now 85% done with the basic catalog information, but that last 15% will take a bit of effort.  What this means is that some items have missed their 8 week guaranteed due date.  For those items we only charge 50% of our normal processing fees.

Well, that is what’s supposed to happen, but due to some growing pains we had a couple of bugs that caused these fees to not be charged correctly, and I will explain those below.  Last year, the odds of us missing a due date were about 1 in 700 and our system for calculating and charging fees was a bit simpler.  This year, we had to make some innovative changes to how we process items so that we can do everything more efficiently, but it is now a bit more complicated.

How We Used to Do It
For the past several years, when we received your shipment of cards, we would estimate the processing fees up front, charge your account, then begin processing the items.  When the processing was completed, we would deposit all of the cards at one time into your account, and we would update the estimated processing fees to the exact processing fees based on the items that went into your account.

If you were to closely monitor your store credit history doing this process, you would have noticed a fee charged to your account when we first received your items.  Later, once we completed processing all of your items, that original estimate would be removed, and the correct, final fee would be charged to your account.

How We Do It Now
For our Basic processing service, we no longer charge anything up front.  When your items arrive, we simply create a placeholder transaction.  We then process your items in efficient groups of similar items based on the themes for the week. When items are ready to be deposited in your account, we no longer wait until all of your items are done before letting you start to sell them.  Instead, we partially deposit the transaction and only charge you for the items we processed.

This is where the complexity has come in recently.  Because we have a huge demand for our processing service and because we are using many of our sports card experts to create the new COMC catalog, we have some items that are taking more than 8 weeks to process.  These items are supposed to be charged 50% of the standard processing fees.  That is how we stand behind our guarantee.  As you can imagine, we lose money if we don’t hit these due dates, so we are very motivated to do everything we can to meet those deadlines, but sometimes it simply isn’t possible.

Prioritizing Due Dates
We have 30 employees that all help with different aspects of our processing system.  This doesn’t count our shipping, administration, and other teams.  As you would expect, they have a variety of responsibilities, experience, and skills.  In order to give you the best experience possible, we only have certain employees tackle the hardest cards.  Many of the newer employees can help out with easier items and can pass on the more difficult items in order to avoid mistakes.  As a result, we do not process items in the exact order that they arrive.  So, some items that are more difficult to identify need to wait on some of our experts, while others that were easy to process may get done sooner.  Processing items exactly in the order they arrive is inefficient, so we have to charge more for that.  That is a significant part of why we need to charge $1 per Premium item in order to guarantee 3 day processing.

Bug #1
A couple weeks ago, we discovered the code that discounted the processing fees for past due items was only in the code path we use for final deposits when a batch of items is completely done.  This was the first time we missed any due dates with our new partial deposit system.  So I changed the code to make sure that we also give the discount when we calculate fees during partial deposits.

In order to fix up existing transactions that had been overcharged, we simply needed to do another partial deposit or do a final deposit.  In either case, we completely recalculate the fees, delete the old fee that was previously charged, and charge the newly calculated fee.

When we do a partial deposit, we send an email notification that explains how the fees were adjusted and what items were deposited.  In some cases, this resulted in people being charged a negative amount (a.k.a being credited) even when we deposited some items into their account.

Bug #2
Great, Bug #1 was fixed. We were factoring in our 50% discount guarantee and not overcharging our customers.  For the next couple weeks, everything looked good.  People were getting their overcharged credits back, and then I got an email yesterday informing me that we were crediting some people back even when they weren’t affected by Bug #1.

So I walked through the code and realized that I had missed one line of code when I incorporated the 50% discount into the partial deposit code path.  I forgot to recalculate exactly which items were now past due.  So the code assumed that everything that hadn’t been recalculated was past due if we were now past the due date.  It didn’t factor in any of the items that had already been deposited over the past couple weeks before the due date.

This bug has been fixed, and now people are being charged the correct processing fees.  Unfortunately, some people were affected by these bugs, and they got a couple confusing emails where there account was overcharged and/or undercharged and finally, correctly charged.

In Closing
I personally apologize for any confusion this bug may have caused you, and I want you to be assured we will own up to our mistakes and fix them as quickly as we can. I care deeply about the experience you receive with our service, and our entire team is doing everything we can to give you the best we can afford while also making it as cost effective as possible.  This is a hard challenge to balance, and we are not perfect.  However, at the end of the day, I hope you enjoy our service more than any other.  After all, that is our mission. “Optimize Enjoyment: Maximize what you care about; minimize what you don’t.

39 thoughts on “A Peek Under the Hood: Processing Fees

  1. Awesome Tim, Thanks for explaining the Bugs you encountered. I have a few ideas for you that can really upgrade the website’s shopping experience. But I will save my suggestions for later. It looks like you are simply too busy to consider new suggestions and ideas at this time. So, by the end of the year your catalogue will be complete?

    Regards,

    Drake

    • I am always open to new ideas. The next few months are focused on the new catalog. Currently about 15% of the data is still missing, and there is a lot of incorrect data to clean up. We hope to only have a few percent of data missing by the end of the summer, and by the end of the year we should have extremely high accuracy.

      • Ok Tim,

        Consider this, A majority of the cards sent in for COMC processing are from the past 30 years and for the most part are in that NM to Mint range. What is provided is a low resolution scan front and back and if there are some condition issues, it is so noted. PERFECT! That formula will work for 90% of just about everything sent in. BUT when I did my vintage card submission, I purposely cherry picked mostly EX to NM-MT cards that were from 1970-1978. The cards from the 1950′s and 60′s ranged wildly from poor to NM-MT. If you check out a sample Ebay listing I have (291028540288) scroll down and look at my own image hosting I have used for the vintage card listings. I also decided to have a professional help me create my own Ebay template. Notice how the black background contrasts nicely with the scanned image set at a higher DPI resolution. Many years ago when I first started selling on Ebay I had countless people asking me the exact conditions of various vintage cards because Ebay’s low quality picture resolution left potential buyers in the dark in regards to exact conditions on corner wear, edges and surface. I dont know how many countless requests I had asking me to send better photos to their e-mail address for their consideration.

        Suggestion 1: Scan vintage cards at a higher resolution with a black background. If a seller is asking $4.00 for a 1978 Chicago Cubs Team card that only books for $2.00, that potential buyer is going to want to see how beautiful that card really is and perhaps he would be willing to pay that extra $2.00 above book value price.

        Suggestion 2: Keep for example a 1960 Topps Luis Aparicio in the same category. Not three break off categories. That being Poor, VG-EX and the implied EX or better category which in fact is not accurate at all because that category has cards ranging from Poor to NM also.

        Suggestion 3: Take for example a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie that has been graded by Beckett, PSA or any other grading company and place them all in the same sub category of “Graded Rickey Henderson Cards” Not 10 different micro categories of BGS 5, BGS 8, PSA 9 and so forth.

        Suggestion 4: Take for example a 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. that may have 130 up for sale. Currently the page view is 12 cards per page. I would recommend a 20 card per page format. Keep in mind that the vintage card commons may have 18-22 identical copies up for sale on any given card with the first 12 being the OC and VG cards. Maintaining fewer pages to browse that card issue can create a better window shopping experience.

        Ok Tim, that’s it for now on my suggestions. Keep up the good work. Your COMC site is fantastic! I am glad one of my customers told me about you. I would have never listed most of these cards I sent off to you simply because I am too busy to list every single card that has selling potential.

        Regards,

        Drake

  2. Tim, I have made a lot of money from your site. You have made a lot of money from me as well.

    How can you justify that I spend money to list a card with you, yet you take more than the time listed for processing. Then, beyond all that, when you list the item, which is already overduee, you then list it without a name (this means missing name)
    Are u serious? Why am I paying for this service

    • I am glad you have made a lot of money on the site. We know that the current service is not up to par with our high standards. This is why we have given so many discounts recently. We are doing the best we can while also dedicating a huge portion of our team to building out our new catalog. Everything we do is more difficult right now because of the missing and incorrect data. Some things that used to take seconds are taking minutes. It will be a couple more months before we get back to full strength.

      A few more things… #1 We don’t charge you anything until the items are deposited in your account. #2 We give you a 50% discount if we miss our due dates. #3 We don’t charge storage fee if we are missing any portion of the set name, the card number, or description. We also don’t charge storage fees if there are pending edits or correction requests.

  3. Tim, I appreciate all of this. My biggest concern is the amount of incorrect names that are being inputted by your staff on new cards added. It seems that nearly 5% of cards added have an incorrect name. Wouldn’t it be easier for your staff to correct these as they process the cards instead of making errors that will take longer to fix down the line?

    • Great question. I wish it were that simple. A huge portion of the catalog has been generated by our crowd sourcing effort. More than 4,000 people have contributed to the COMC Challenge. In order to build out the catalog as quickly as possible we asked very simple questions like what what team is on the card, what is the card number, and what are the player’s first two letters of their first name and first two letters of their last name. We then process this data and make a guess as to which player is on the card.

      If your estimates are correct, our guesses for the player names were correct about 95% of the time. We will be doing a series of additional challenges over the next several months to increase our accuracy.

  4. Any news/ideas/sneak peek on an IPO or FSO (Founder Stock Option) if you plan to go that route?

    I’m anticipating the coins section. It Should bring a hoard of people to your site, pretty much a whole industry.

    During the challenges, I thought I saw some memorabilia. Are you experimenting already?

    • We have no public information to share regarding the possibility of an IPO or some other investment opportunity.

      Yes, coins is huge, and we hope to get their next year. What you saw the challenge was probably a miniature jersey. These were likely box-toppers or redemptions from some card product. We expect to support more programs, ticket stubs, 8x10s and other flat small memorabilia this year, and we will evaluate other memorabilia next year.

      All of our time schedules have been thrown for a loop with this new catalog that is taking our primary attention most of this year.

  5. Tim,

    Just as quick check, my latest batch contained 208 cards. I obtained three “partial” distributions and the total is 52.00 (208 / ,25). It is correct so the important part (the total calculation) is right. However, the progress indicator shows 95% complete (not right). But understanding your minimization philosophy, it’s not important and can be left alone.

    Keep up the good work

    • Hello qz7cbz, Your batch is now completely done, and the $52 is correct. We completed your items within 8 weeks and actually averaged just under 4 weeks. The reason your batch was at 95% is because we needed to do one last step on our end to confirm that everything was done and send you a final email verifying that there are no items remaining. I just looked at your batch, and that is the case. We plan to start getting caught up on these last verification steps this week.

  6. Thanks for taking some time to reply

    I have made it clear to Moe (who does a great job by the way) that I disagree with the way you are handling the processing service currently.

    I understand your desire to do what is best for the site and it’s users long term and I can appreciate that the new system is more efficient for the future.

    That being said, I believe past due items deserve to be moved in front of all non past due items.

    The items we your send to COMC can not be held up for 9+ weeks. This hobby / business is too time sensitive for that and in cases like mine it leads to thousands of dollars in inventory being tied up which represents a healthy percentage of our overall inventory.

    My past due cards are even more frustrating because of their value. I sent about 15 cards to COMC that are worth well over $100. While I understand that these should have been marked as premium, I simply have never batched my cards out like that because you guys never missed my deadlines before and I was prepared to go up to 2 months waiting

    I have a business plan around my online card business and I value COMC immensely as a partner. By the end of 2014 I am hoping to have 20,000 items on your site and I am very excited for the future of my business and yours. Please consider the damage being done to your consignment sellers businesses by missed deadlines and think about giving past due items priority over all other items until you catch up.

    Thanks again for your time

    • I Love the site but have been frustrated with the uploading since the updates. Definitely appreciate the 50% discount for missing the due dates but I don’t like how they ignore the discounted batches for new batches. I understand the financial aspects but…IMO “just do it” and “do the right thing”.
      My sales have not been affected at all by the updates. My sales are awesome for such a novice collector, I guess that’s why I’m so eager for my new batches.
      Regardless, COMC is a winner imo.

  7. In regards to the issues with many names being incorrect, in hindsight, and in the future, using three letters from first and last name would have probably made the “guessing” exponentially greater. In my opinion having the names wrong on even 5% is too much. Early in the process I know it was way worse than 5%. Just an idea.
    I do see things improving fast, and I am excited for the future of the site. Thanks.

  8. Hello,

    Is anybody even reviewing the “edits” for cards that have missing information? I have sent in at least 50 player names, set names, etc from the “edit” tab on items in my inventory that are missing, or have incorrect data.
    I have not seen one corrected yet (I have been doing this for 2 weeks now).

    Just want to see if I am just wasting my time sending teams/names/set names in on items that are incorrect in my inventory.

    • We have a large backlog and limited resources. So we have focused on manually reviewing edits of the most expensive items, and we have built challenges and written code to try to fix up other common errors so that many of these edits resolve themselves. Right now we have limited resources and we are trying to do as much as we can.

  9. You are wasting your time. The powers that be have decided that crowdsourcing and algorithms are substitutes for common sense. And they don’t have “validation resources”. I hope they are in business a year from now.

    • Crowd sourcing and algorithms are the quickest way we can get the first round of data in the system. We always said that our goal is to have the most accurate data by the end of the year. In the first 3 months we collected about 85% of the data, and now we are going to spend the rest of the year doing a number of techniques to identify incorrect data and improve our accuracy. Remember, the other guys spent decades building their system, we have to use modern technology to do this in one year.

    • Easy. No one wants you to stop sharing your opinion. Maybe think about how there might be better ways to accomplish things besides using cynicism. Every pending task has a priority, and clearly they are focusing on higher priorities. Is it your opinion that their priorities are wrong?

      They have all the data. They can see what happens when they try something different. From that, I draw the conclusion that they have the critical thinking skills necessary to prioritize in a way that gets as much progress as possible.

      I’m an Astros fan. If they win 70 games, I’ll be happy. Right now, COMC are the Astros. I’m sure it thrills them to be compared to them.

  10. Is there a way to submit corrections for non-basic information about a card? For instance, the below card is described as autographed, but the auto is a facsimile. Should one just submit it under “report error” (the link seen when the cursor is placed over the card image), or is there a specific way, as there is for correcting attributes such as player name and set name?

    http://www.comc.com/Cards/Baseball/2007/Bowman_Chrome_Gold_Refractor/149/Roy_Halladay/3642038

  11. Here is an idea. Let people fully edit their own inventory, meaning instead of submitting these edits for your review, they go live. Then implement a system that items that have been confirmed by your team have some kind of designation next to it (perhaps even simply putting comc confirmed data next to the item), unconfirmed items have a different designation. As it stands now the data on many items are still completely wrong, so you lose nothing by doing this.

    I agree with some of these other people, which is if I take the time to send in an edit and it hasn’t been accepted a month later, it’s a waste of my time.

    • What’s stopping me from misidentifying my inventory and selling it via port sale? Having more icons might confuse buyers anyway. Have you ever looked at a listing on eBay?

      • 1. reporting the distortion and shutting down the seller. 2. like wrong numbers and missing numbers that will persist until the end of the year? 3. yes

      • There are probably 100′s, in your case likely 1000′s of misidentified items in your inventory already. I certainly understand your concern regarding people essentially being scum, but the truth is you’d have to go through a port with a fine tooth comb now, otherwise a bulk purchase would be careless at this stage of things. To that end I would amend my original suggestion to include not being able to edit-in the designation of a card being autographed or perhaps even below a certain serial number, I’ll go with 100 as I like nice round numbers. From what I’d guess, based on the content of the challenges, you couldn’t edit a brian dozier card as an aaron rodgers topps chrome rc for instance.

        Having more icons might confuse buyers as you say, which is why I think it should actually be a direct phrase indicating whether or not comc employees have confirmed said data. COMC confirmed data vs COMC hasn’t confirmed this data, followed by a link to report it if it’s not, might be a better alternative to the present reality. They have stated that they are working their way down from the most expensive items on the site already as well. But if we are being honest, having guys with the wrong names and so on for an indefinite amount of time is equally, possibly more confusing for many than the alternative I’m suggesting. But perhaps this is a feature that only certain sellers should be allowed to do in the beginning, and add more at certain intervals so that it doesn’t become a mess as you suggest it would.

        The truth is though that while these guys have done a good job with the hand they were dealt, there are a few holes in the boat still.

  12. First things first. Let’s edit in names and numbers so they are correct. Not all items are created equal, something crowdsourcing algorithm writers and designers seem to have forgotten.

    As far as lying, any time there is more than one item a “scum’” who renames his Joe Blow to ‘Mickey Mantle”..it will be noticed by another seller who will correct it. The invalid change and correction will be noticed by staff who will disable “scum’s” ability to update.

  13. I think it’s time to give some sellers the ability to edit their inventory.

    It’ll save YOU time AND resources;
    I’ll spend MORE of my own time;
    And the inventory will be correct.

    Of course, that is, if you trust us.
    We trust you will turn this around in many months from now, but this can be corrected much sooner.

    What I would like to have access to is simple: Editing info.
    The ability to remove incorrect names, teams, etc. and linking the appropriate names, teams, etc.
    I’d wager that 85-90% of the buyers on COMC are knowledgeable about the items they’re about to purchase, and the scans help bump that percentage up to 90-95%.

    I undertand this is your site, but if the crowdsourcing algorithm is being tweaked, don’t let editing fall to the wayside because of it – especially if it can be done by the seller.

    (Luckily for me, I’m not one of the big boys who’s selling hundreds of thousands of cards.
    Unfortunately for me, I don’t have a crew to whom I can hand off the editing.)

    Tim and gang, I applaud your efforts and reception of criticism.
    I want COMC to flourish, not for my sake, but for the hobby’s.

  14. Thank you for your post. I have been saying this for two months but Tim has either stopped listening or too tied to his catalog design and it’s smart algorithms to address here and now IT production issues. I really hope those close to him and business oriented can covince Tim to focus on real customer concerns before COMC starts to go completely downhill and be a laughing stock in the hobby world. The future of COMC is at risk because a balance has not been acheived between Tim, the IT visionary and architect, and Tim, the customer oriented business person. An experienced IT person knows, business needs must trump “architectural purity” because customers will not stay wilth a company working through IT bugs. With published checklists, there is no excuse for not having complete and accurate checklists for all Topps issues right now. Not ‘sometime this year’. All we get are excuses and reasons why ‘we can’t do this’ from his COMC followers. Where are the business people?

    • He’s on the vacations. He’s coming to you on the Tuesdays for reply. Thanks so much.

      You’re not even the founder.

    • While I don’t share your rancor for the issues that have spawned since the Beckett system departure, I can imagine you echo some sentiments of some sellers out there.

      But not all.

      I want COMC to succeed and, by offering my opinion on the matter, hopefully persuade the company officers that they’ve already “off-shored” the catalog build to its users, so why not have the same users help edit and regulate the card information, especially their own (even for a small window like the summer months)?

      If COMC wants to limit it to those who have earned the “Founder” mark, then so be it. I really don’t care.

      I care more about the correct information being attributed to the card. It’s a disservice to the sellers to have erroneous information tied to their inventory. It’s a disservice as well to the buyers who are looking for cards but 1) can’t because the attributes are missing, 2) there is incorrect information leading to the wrong card, and 3) the COMC verifiers are so backlogged that it may well be a month until it’s done.

      My offer was to assist the site with the pains it’s still going through and to relieve resources so they can be better focused on more pertinent areas.

      • I failed to mention that the first part of my reply was directed towards “qz7cbz”.

  15. I agree with 77ncaachamps 100% and apologize for the tone of my earlier posts. I have been a small seller (< 2000 inventory) and buyer for five years. I just sent in a new batch just today and very much want COMC to continue to succeed. I really hope a cultural change occurs soon so that decision makers understand that 1) a core COMC business function (the ability to locate all items in inventory with a: year + name + vendor + number seach) is unreliable (meaning broken) and 2) I and other sellers would work to help address this issue if we see our efforts makes a difference.

    As a 35 year IT professional, I would be fired if my response to an unreliable core business function is 'our guesses for xxxx were correct about 95% of the time. We will do a series of additional xxxxx over the next several months to increase our accuracy.' But I am a hobbyist from the business world and the COMC culture is different.

  16. Well said 77ncaachamps. I 100% agree that COMC has essentially off-shored a ton of the work done on this transition to their users. With that in mind letting some of the most devoted contributors edit their own inventories is a very logical next step. By doing this you would be giving these users the opportunity to have the first accurate listings on the site since the change, a tangible reward for their extreme efforts on your behalf. In addition to that you would also be limiting the amount of ports effected by this change, so that you could then judge how effective this idea is before giving more users this ability. Unless it is impossible from a programming standpoint, I’m not real sure why this hasn’t been done already.

    I will also add that while I am not a big time user by any stretch, I have gone from looking up and regularly buying items on a daily basis to someone that might look up cards 5 minutes a week now on this site. The purpose of that statement is not to complain, I get why that is, but at this point you guys might want to consider another approach to expedite this process. I’m sure I’m not the only person whose site activity has plummeted. The general suggestion to let users edit their own inventories seems like the best idea I’ve seen

    • My site use has bottomed out as well. I’m strictly a buyer here and I was doing anywhere from $60-100 per week. April 1, my buying came to a dead stop and I just haven’t felt the need to start back up again. This isn’t a complaint, because I’m 100% positive that I’ll be buying cards on Comc again, I’m just not buying right now. Very off putting that the first thing you see on the home page is: “Pardon any missing or incorrect descriptions while we transition to our new catalog over the next several weeks.” Not that I dont trust comc in the event that any mistakes are made with my order, I just dont feel like dealing with any hassles. I’d rather sit on the sidelines until the bugs are worked out.

  17. Wow,

    I can’t even imagine how the buyers FOUND the few cards I have sold. I guess I made a HUGE mistake submitting my first batch of cards to the site a few months ago.We have “1992 Wild Card” under football now….thats it. There are 5/10/20/50/100/1000 stripe parallels, insert sets, and stripe versions of the insert sets as well. EVERYTHING is just under 1992 Wild card. Edits submitted weeks ago/ month ago, no change.
    How long does it take?
    I know what my cards ARE…I feel helpless, every edit I submit is just sitting there, not being updated. What a mess!

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